Find the New Foodie Fashion at Butchering Parties

We’re a savage bunch, it seems.

Over the next month, two butchering parties are being held in the North Bay.

As in animals. As in the art of preparing meat to eat.

Roasting meats at Napa Primal 2009

If it sounds a bit macabre, it’s not, really. Considering that meat is a large part of most human appetites, the events are designed to help people connect with where their food comes from, and also to celebrate the remarkable skill it takes to be a butcher.

Small family farms rely on whole animal butchery to compete with commercial plants, with the advantage that they can prepare meats in artisan methods, and promote humane, sustainable practices. The idea is that meat should be locally sourced instead of shipped from assembly-line farm factories across the country.

Besides educational, butchering events are entertaining, as chefs and meat cutters show off remarkable knife tricks, and crowds get into the testosterone-fueled spirit. At one butchering party held last year, tall wooden gallows stood by the event entryway, hung with full carcasses for a powerful statement. The highlight, naturally, is in the consumption: all the meat that is presented is eaten.

Primal Napa – Saturday, September 25 in St. Helena. Renowned chefs and butchers from all across America will gather for a virtual Cirque du Soleil of butchery and wood-fired roasted meats. The outdoor event at Chase Cellars winery will showcase heritage breeds and the important trend toward whole animal utilization, often called nose-to-tail cooking.

A Primal chef

Top talents will demonstrate breakdown demonstrations from lamb to whole sides of beef, emphasizing how necessary it is to not let any part of animal go to waste. Then, meats will be fire-grilled, and presented alongside and craft beers and boutique wines from dozens of vintners.

The line-up is remarkable: Ryan Farr, 4505 Meats; Avedano’s Holly Park Market; Dave the Butcher; Joshua Applestone, Fleisher’s Grass-Fed & Organic Meats, New York; Craig Deihl, Cypress, Charleston; Todd Humphries, Martini House; John Stewart, Black Meat Pig Co.; Duskie Estes, zazu restaurant + farm / bovolo; John Sundstrom, Lark, Seattle; Peter McNee, Poggio; Sheamus Feeley, Farmstead; Peter Jacobsen, Team Toast; Rob Larman, Cochon Volant; John Fink, The Whole Beast; Mark Pasternak, Devil’s Gulch Ranch; Mark Dommen, One Market Restaurant; Dave Varley, Bourbon Steak DC (and 2010 Grand Cochon winner); Michael Sullivan, Blackberry Farm, TN; Chad Colby, Mozza, Los Angeles; Polly Lappetito, Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant; Matt Kerley, Magnolia Brew Pub; Jonathan Bodnar, Tall Chef Catering; John Sorensen, Sorensen Catering; and the “Who’s Your Butcher?” Contest winner, Kari Underly of Range Inc., Chicago.

In all, more than two-thousand pounds of naturally raised meat will be featured, from Long Meadow Ranch, 4505 Meats, Black Meat Pig Co., Devil’s Gulch Ranch, Biagio Artisan Meats, and Hudson Ranch.

If the event is fantastical, it’s also quite serious. The more people know about their food, the more they respect it, say supporters of the butcher movement. Yet that’s not to say that Primal’s organizers don’t have a sense of humor. Next to the Artisan Sausage Demonstration will be a Wood-Fired Slathered Breads showcase, Fire-Dancing Roasted Rabbits, an Heirloom Bean and Haut Dog Station, and the Bacon Hall of Fame Tasting Bar.

Details: Primal Napa, Saturday, September 25, from 2 to 7 p.m. at Chase Cellars, 2252 Sulphur Springs Avenue, St Helena. Tickets are $75 per person, with VIP packages for $125 and including reserve wines, cured meats from around the country, wood-fired oysters and artisan bacon bar. To purchase, visit or call 404-849-3569.

The meat of the party

A Day of Artisan Butchery – October 30 in Vacaville. Soul Food Farm and Slow Food Solano are joining together to host an artisan butchering demonstration and al fresco meat dinner at Soul Food Farm’s 55-acre pastured chicken and egg farm in Vacaville.

Four Bay Area star chefs will join Dave the Butcher to illustrate why there has been a recent renaissance that has turned progressive meat cutters into culinary idols. Butchers are now celebrity choppers, inspired by a locally driven, nose-to-tail approach that is redefining the way Americans respect beef, pork, fowl, and game.

Working with a steer donated by Agricola Grassfed Beef, “A Day of Artisan Butchery” will begin with a live butchery demonstration followed by a meal prepared by chefs Paul Canales (Oliveto’s), David Tanis (Chez Panisse), J.W. Foster (Fairmont), and Tia Harrison (Social). Ingredients for the meal will be sourced by Soul Food Farm owner/farmer Alexis Koefoed and will feature organic olive oil donated by local purveyor Katz and Company, plus wines and beers from LaTrappe, Pacific Brewing Lab, and Winter Hawk Winery.

Details: A Day of Artisan Butchery, October 30, 2 to 6 p.m. at Soul Food Farm, 6046 Pleasants Valley Road, Vacaville. Tickets are $99. To purchase, visit

If all the carving is too much for delicate constitutions, it’s still possible to get a taste of the action. Many restaurants all around the Bay area host frequent nose-to-tail dinners (such as Oliveto in Oakland, and the Weekly Beast at One Market in San Francisco).

On November 3, Left Bank Brasserie in Larkspur will hold a Wild Game Dinner, featuring wild Scottish game birds and Millbrook venison.

An a la carte menu will showcase Scottish Red Leg Partridge, Wood Pigeon, Grouse and Pheasant, plus Millbrook Venison from New York’s Hudson Valley, served from 5 to 10 p.m. and priced from $32 to $48.

But you need to make reservations now – since the specialty meats need to be pre-ordered, no seatings will be accepted after October 26.

Details: Left Bank Brasserie, 507 Magnolia Avenue, Larkspur. 415-927-3331.

Tip: Incorporating sustainable habits into your daily eating is good and earth-friendly. It’s a philosophy that should translate to your transportation, too. Contact Pure Luxury and carpool in style – the chartered vehicles are certified “Green.”

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