This week, let’s talk about meat.
I spent many years living my life as a vegetarian, and I loved it. I learned a lot about cooking, and flavor, and creativity because I couldn’t count on meat and animal fat to give me flavor. I was fit and trim and healthy and happy, and my GF and I never felt like we were missing out on meat. I ate fake bacon, fried in Earthbalance, and I truly enjoyed it. I respect you, Vegetarians.
I also have a lot of respect for the vegan diet. I’ve never done it, but I recognize that it is not only healthy, but humane. Vegans, you’re better people than me. I admit that.
So, let’s not all attack ol’ Stu Helm now that he eats the meats again. I have already admitted that I am a bad person, much worse than you, so you don’t have to remind me of that, or send me horrible videos of baby pigs being slaughtered with sledgehammers, or anything like that. I know all about the crimes against nature committed daily by the factory farms of America, and the world. Just the other day I saw a post on FB about some hellish foam that was being used to suffocate chickens. Chickens! No!!! I love to eat chickens. I don’t want chickens to suffer before I eat them. I like animals, you can believe me on that, but they’s gonna get eaten, that’s a fact. It’s a dilemma for many people, including myself. I think most of us who eat meat want to eat animals that live happy and healthy lives before they gleefully jump onto our plates and into our stomachs.
Enter Mike Quirk and family, of Barnyardsville. I’ve known the Quirk-Tavolacci fam for a lot of years, and they are friends of mine. I’ve watched them go from a farm that mainly had two horses for fun, to a full-blown family farm that raises meat for sale. They feature “heritage breeds” and treat their animals with the highest respect, love, and freedom I could imagine. They have chickens, pigs, goats, and usually a cow. They still have the horses too. You can visit them, look at their website, and learn more. You can buy directly from them most weekends in downtown Weaverville, and for the rest of the winter at the Reynolds Mountain Farmers Market. Look for Razor Mountain Heritage Breeds (RMHB).
The rest of this article is about some of the various meats they gave me, or cooked for me, and asked me to eat it in my new role as The Food Critic. I was happy to comply!
Tom Quirk, Mike’s son, gave me two fillet Mignon, flash frozen in plastic. I thawed them, and cooked them the way Mom taught me: I seared the fuck out of both sides in a fry pan loaded with real butter, on high heat, and then reduced the heat and sauteed them until they were medium rare. Holy fuck, that shit was outstanding.
I don’t usually use high-fallutin’ words like “marbleization,” but daaaaaaag, them fill-its was perfectly marbleized, which disperses the umami throughout the meat, makes it tender as fuck, and chock full o’ flavor. The taste and texture of this meat was well above par, and I’ve et me some nice fucking cuts of meat in my day! RMHB’s fillet made it in the top 5 pieces of meat in my mouth of all time, easily.
One thing I noted is that it didn’t taste different than the meat I’m used to, just better. Wayyyyy better. Y’know how sometimes, you’ll get a high-end family farm piece of meat, and it’ll taste different? Like, if it’s apple fed, or whatever, it’ll just be different than what you’re used to, so that no matter how good the meat is, you can’t get past the fact that it tastes different? You know how that happens? Well, that didn’t happen.
DINNER AT THE FARM
Next, Mary Tavolacci, Mike’s better half (wayyyy better) invited me and Dawn out to the farm for dinner. As an appetizer, she prepared a pork tenderloin ham, and served it with biscuits and mustard butter. Mary is a good fucking cook. The tenderloin ham was cut into small, thick pieces, that were so tender, it was like eating wee little savory pillows made out of brined and slow cooked pig. The mustard butter was mild and awesome. The homemade biscuits? Fucking forget about it. YUM!!!
She served a meatloaf for dinner (yeah, I’ve been really meatloafing it up lately) made with ground beef and pork from their farm. What can I say? Mary really is a good fucking cook. I stuffed my face with that delicious meatloaf until I was groaning like an extra on The Walking Dead. Was it better because it was humanely raised by people who give a shit about their animals? YES IT WAS!!! Make no fucking mistake about that, Jack.
GROUND BEEF CHALLENGE
Mike sent us home with two packages of ground beef. One was Black Angus (not a heritage breed), and the other was a heritage breed that he seems particularly proud of called an Irish Dexter. Dawn and I did a compare and contrast with a couple of toaster oven cheeseburgers the next day. The Black Angus was fucking excellent. Again, no weird/different taste, and the quality was as good or better than many of the high-end burgers I’ve had around town. The Irish Dexter, however, blew it the fuck away.
Now, this Dexter fella did taste different than what we’re used to, but in a very good way. It had a warm, nutty, comforting flavor that we both agreed was something special. If a five-star restaurant served me this burger, along with the story of the breed, I would feel like I had just been treated to something awesome. I’d flop down 12 or 13 bucks, plus tip, no probs.
Finally, I mixed the rest of the two different kinds of beef into a meatloaf (yes… more meat loaf) and it was outstanding. I’m not a bad fucking cook myself. It retained that nutty flavor of the Irish Dexter, but was more subtle when mixed with the Angus. Both were great, and I should mention that there was barely any fat. I sometimes buy ground chuck from Greenlife, and man, that shit is fatty. Which is what I expect for $4.99/lb, so I ain’t complainin’. Jus’ sayin’. RMHB’s ground beef has to be, like 90/10, if that.
Okay, there you go, Ashetown. Happy animals, delicious meat, locally raised, by an actual family, and available directly to you, the meat-eating public. What more could you want? How about the fact Razor Mountain Heritage Breeds is developing a Barley Fodder system, which is an organically grown, sustainable, feed supply, that will further reduce the farmer’s need for store bought feed.
On top of all that, RMHB hosts Operation Pegasus, a program designed to help suffers of trauma, that is focused on veterans, first responders, LEO, firefighters, and others who have suffered trauma and live with PTSD. Hanging out with animals is apparently very helpful for that.
I’m telling you… These are good people. This is fantastic meat. You gotta get you some.
Stu Helm is an artist and writer living in Asheville, NC, and a frequent diner at local restaurants, cafes, food trucks, and the like. His tastes run from hot dogs and mac ‘n’ cheese, to haute cuisine, and his opinions are based on a lifetime of eating out. He began writing restaurant reviews strictly to amuse his friends on Facebook in 2013.
“I seared the fuck out of both sides in a fry pan loaded with real butter, on high heat, and then reduced the heat and sautéed them until they were medium rare. Holy fuck, that shit was outstanding.” wote Stu Helm.
I simply cannot call you a critic of anything based on this statement in a publicly published review. So, you want to write reviews? I love food, I love restaurants, and I appreciate reviews that are well written. I even like to curse a few times a day, privately, to emphasize something, whatever that something is good or bad. But I cannot get past your ill chosen words for your your review. They were awful. I simply cannot trust that you know anything about food, if you choose your descriptive words in such poor taste. How would you know whats tastes good.
Grow up and get a food thesaurus or the equivalent. All the best to you in your endeavors.
So Stu, if you loved being vegetarian so much, why did you go back to eating meat? This question is not meant in the spirit of sarcasm or anything else negative, just curiosity. Disclosure: I could not live without meat and will never apologize for it. I agree with you that our meat animals should be treated humanely, up to and including the end.