This Little Piggy Goes to Market

Dear Mr. Gold:

On your recommendation, I frequent Alexander's Prime Meats in San Gabriel for beef, lamb and their great sausages. But to me, the cuts of pork there don't seem much better than what you can find at the supermarket. Where can I get high-quality cuts of pork in the SGV?

—Neel, Alhambra

Dear Neel:

Just a couple of days ago, I went to see a man about a pig. As you may have read in Squid Ink, Nathan McCall, of the Los Feliz shop McCall's Meat & Fish, acquired a lovely Berkshire hog from farmer Lefty Ayres, who had been raising it on milk and acorns on his farm in Lake Hughes. I showed up too late to buy a piece of the pig, but McCall let me look at the head and some meat he had stashed for a customer in his walk-in. The belly was especially amazing — meaty and almost lean, but layered with dense striations of fat that glowed like Carrara marble.

Anyway, I love Alexander's Prime Meats, which is one of the few remaining real butcher shops in the Los Angeles area, and I am always thrilled to see the hanging beef carcasses dry-aging in the rear. I think the shop's pork is much better than commodity supermarket pork — I buy shoulders and loin roasts there all the time — but you're right, the pork on display in the butcher's case may not be quite as special as the beef. There is always frozen kurobuta (Berkshire) in the back; mostly racks, but if you give them a day or two, they can get pretty much everything.

But the pork you find in the small How's supermarket chain is decent, and tends to be cheap, especially if it happens to be one of the weekly specials — they sometimes have Berkshire pork, too. And I reluctantly admit that the pork at Whole Foods can be really, really fine, although the butchering can be less than immaculate. (I finally learned to trim and tie roasts myself after one too many misshapen hunks of their meat.) The pork at Schreiner's in the northernmost corner of Glendale tends to be good, although I prefer the smoked meats to the unsmoked there. I often get pork chops from one of the Mitsuwa markets, kurobuta when they have it, although their regular stuff is great too, and perfectly cut for tonkatsu, panko-crusted Japanese fried pork.

Still, if Mr. Ayres ever decided to raise more than a pig or two a year, we'd all be a lot more cheerful. Until that happy day comes, you can always browse around the Heritage Foods site and dream of the sustainably raised Red Wattle, Duroc, Tamworth or Gloucestershire Old Spot quarter-hogs that could soon be waiting at your door.


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