If you live anywhere near Los Feliz and you haven't been getting your fresh baguettes and croissants, your Kouign-amann and country loaves, at McCall's Meat & Fish Co., then maybe you haven't been over to Nathan McCall and Karen Yoo's shop recently. Like, since January. McCall's has been one of the best butchers in town since it opened in early 2010, a small artisanal (as in the actual definition of the word, not a casual modifier) shop run by a husband-and-wife team who trained as fine dining chefs, working at Sona and Daniel before leaving it all for whole-animal butchery.
McCall's was never a large shop, and thus when it expanded, taking over the space next door, the couple pretty much doubled their square footage. McCall and Yoo tore down the wall between their butchery and the adjoining location, which was previously a salon, and decided not just to expand their counter space but to open a bakery. This is not really as odd as it may seem: Yoo trained as a pastry chef and baker. Although the bakery opened in November, bakery production didn't really start until the end of January.
"It was always something we'd hoped to do," McCall said yesterday, pausing to chat, his young son on one shoulder, a basket of freshly baked baguettes near the other. What held up the baking was a matter of the oven, explained Yoo, who is pregnant with the couple's second child. "It got stuck in a container on the ocean for a while." The vicissitudes of restaurant life.
Unsurprisingly, given Yoo's training, this is not just a casual bread operation. The bakery produces baguettes, country loaves, burger buns and brioche bread -- all perfect accompaniments to the glorious meats and seafood that are sold if you stroll a few paces down the long counter to the butchery side of the shop. But McCall's also produces the kind of pastries that an old-school boulangerie or patisserie would be happy to turn out: croissants and Kouign-amann, pistachio tea cakes and lemon tarts, French macarons, caramel S'mores, chocolate cookies and summer fruit trifles, even pate de fruit, house-made granola and dog biscuits.
Joining Yoo in the pastry kitchen is pastry chef Robert Tarlow, a veteran of Lucques, Grace and Sona, David Myers' late and much-lamented La Cienega restaurant, which is where Tarlow met McCall and Yoo. Fine dining may or may not be cycling out, at least for now, but if the result is that one can find three white-tablecloth vets happily working together in the open kitchen of what seems very much like a traditional European shop, baking bread and deboning lamb while one of their children samples ripe peaches, then maybe it's all for the best.
The expansion of the original shop also has meant more fun stuff in the cases, things that can come in mighty handy when you're stopping for dry-aged rib-eye or some mussels and clams. A shelf of Maldon salt, togarashi and Urfa chile. One refrigerated case with milk and cream, butter and eggs and ghee; another with fresh burrata, Hook's seven-year cheddar, Epoisses and Humboldt Fog, Nueske's bacon, Grimaud Farms duck confit and La Quercia prosciutto.
"It's nice to be able to do what you want," mused McCall as he fed his son another slice of peach. Yes, it is. And it's nice when what the chef wants is pretty much what the rest of the neighborhood wants, too.