Most people in the USA are car dependent. When you need food you get in your car and drive a few miles to a SUPERmarket where they have more brands and types of everything you need stocked on the shelves. You can check out at the kiosk and never really interact with another person.
Cheese comes in a blister pack of plastic – untouched by human hands, same with butter and meat from the refrigerated section.
In The City, SUPERmarkets just don’t exist. We go into dirty storefronts, some unchanged from the last century where they plop a mound of cheese on paper, wrap it up and hand it to us (how unsanitary!). You go to the butcher shop where you pick the piece of carcus and the butcher cuts and grinds your beef/port/veal/chicken/venison/ostrich/duck to order. Wraps it in paper and off you go.
I’ve been going to the same butcher “Ottomanelli’s and Sons” for over 40 years. The old man Ottomanelli, long dead, was the first person to extend credit to college student dan (myself) when i was 17 for a rib steak. I paid him back on my next visit. In retrospect he was teaching me about credit – even though I wasn’t his kid. It really does take a village – Greenwich Village. Now i have a long standing relationship with the Ottomanelli Sons. Each one is an authority on a different kind of meat, and cut of meat. My favorite meat is Rib. So I deal with Frank. Frank the butcher. He greets me like an old friend when i come in. He knows my famly history and I know his. We have, sometimes, intimate and emotional discussions. We both like the same exact aspects of our Rib Steaks and Roasts.
A couple of months ago I asked for a skirt steak. Skirt steaks are not usually dry aged. Frank showed me that he had gotten a dry aged skirt steak and essentially told me that i wanted it. As he cut it up I thought it looked pretty bad, but I trust Frank. It was so rich in flavor and tendor that I told him that whenever he gets one in to just give me a call and i’ll come get it.
About a month ago I walked into Ottomanelli’s on Franks day off. I went to order something and Franks brother, Joe says “Frank left this for you.” It was an aged skirt steak. I didn’t question anything I just took it. It was sublime.
Last week I walked in trying to decide what to order and Frank is holding this package As I walk in the door.
another dry aged skirt steak with my name on it.
He trimmed it up with his usual incredible skill. it’s humbling to watch the speed and accuracy of Frank with a butcher knife.
This is one of the regular experiences one has living in NYC. remind me again why i need to go to a SUPERmarket, or a SUPERstore? and i don’t have to drive there, i walk or ride my bike.