BBQ pork shoulder, carne asada, fresh sausages, mesquite turkey, chicken under a brick, a really good steak. If you haven't gotten your summer fix beyond burgers, the four-week grilling countdown to Labor Day has begun. Time to check in with your small local butcher.
Of course we're thrilled with the current era of Butcher's Guild manifestos and meat-Tweeting shops like Lindy & Grundy, but we're talking about the introspective, camera- and website-shy guys who for decades have been quietly cutting 2-inch-thick steaks, stuffing fresh pork-pecorino sausages and spatchcocking chickens to fuel our backyard grilling habits. Guys like Richard Schwartz at Bob's Market.
Schwartz is the friendly, silver-haired guy stationed behind the meat counter, or working somewhere in back, whom you can always count on to get stock bones when you need them, in any size ("How many bones do you want? I'll cut them right now"). He's also happy to share his tips on how to cook a rolled turkey breast: "Well, don't kill it," he says, always smiling. "Overcooking is the worst and most common thing people still do with turkey breast."
And if you're still not convinced that turkeys today have finally moved beyond their driest years, and you tell him exactly that, Schwartz probably will say he can get you "anything you want" by the following day. Or shortly thereafter, depending on what sort of grilling meat you're after. [And be sure to try the turkey anyway.] Sausages? He has those, too. Chicken-apple, chicken-cilantro and plenty of classic styles if you're still in that height-of-summer, beer and brats mood.
Schwartz will even grind your sausage creation if you hand him the recipe and commit to the minimum poundage. Actually, come up with a few recipes and name them after chefs (Sure, why not? The Ludo Chicken Sausage, the Kogi Kimchi Pork Brat), add a few growlers of local beer -- Bob's also has a solid craft beer selection -- and you've got a pretty great end-of-summer party idea.