April 12, 2008

My Favorite Butcher (I confess)

I have a passion for cooking. I tend to lean toward meat and potatoes, true to my Irish roots. My favorite meal, by far, is a well marbled rib-eye steak done to medium rare on the grill.

My frugality lies in direct opposition to my taste. Of course, to find some of the best rib-eye steak, you can pay up to $18 a pound. To eat steak, except on a special occasion, is cost prohibitive....or is it?

Now for the confession part of this article, and I hope, some useful information. Steak that looks and tastes like steak from a premium butcher does not have to cost a fortune. For that matter, it does not have to come from a premium butcher. That's right, it really doesn't. What is the secret? Read on.

When is the last time you went into your local market and spoke directly with the butcher? Never? That does not surprise me. With supermarkets getting larger and larger, and our society getting more and more tolerant of prepackaged food, few of us even realize there is a butcher there. Not only are they there...they are LONELY!

Years ago, while perusing the meat aisle for some good looking rib-eyes, I was looking pretty dejected. Although the steaks were on sale at a GREAT price, there was not much for me to choose from. All of the steaks in the case were cut 1/2" thick, and looked more like minute steaks, then the big juicy rib-eyes that I envisioned. There was a meat man in the aisle restocking the ground beef who noticed my indecision and asked if he could help.

I explained my frustration, told him what I needed, and he said, "No, problem...let me see what I have in the cooler". He came back with a full rib and asked how I liked my steak. He too was a steak lover, and cut me the most beautiful steaks I have ever seen. He wrapped the package and handed it to me, and I thanked him profusely for his assistance. He said....(Listen closely as this is the key to your future steak success)..."Thank you sir! Anytime I can assist, my name is Rich. Ring the bell and I am happy to cut you whatever you need!"

When I got over the giddiness of finding what I wanted, I took inventory of what just occurred. Rich had just rocked my world with some awesome steaks. Being a sales type...I wrote a letter to the Big Chain Store gushing about Rich and my experience and thanking them for the service. Guess what happened two weeks later when I was looking for a nice steak?

I rang the bell, the window behind the meat case opened and my new best friend Rich beamed. Before I could say hello, Rich started thanking me for the great letter I sent to his Employer. Although it was sent to the president of the company, 2 states away, the letter worked its way down the chain of command until it got back to my local supermarket. Rich was given a plaque for customer service that month and was given a small raise as a reward for his customer service.

From that time onward, Rich was my personal butcher. He always went out of his way to get me the best available beef, and never disappointed me when he made recommendations. I never forgot to look him in the eye and thank him when he handed me my package. I knew that every time I thanked him I ensured the next time I came in I was top on his list.

I have moved 3 times since I met Rich. In each city I moved to, I always made my way back to the butcher window and rang the bell. I always gave a genuine thank you to the butcher that helped me, and if they were good, I always wrote a letter to their boss. Needless to say, for years now I have been the recipient of some of the best beef my local store has to offer.

The advantage of being known to your friends and acquaintances as a food and wine lover is they make assumptions. Most believe I do not drink cheap wine, and only will eat the best steak. The truth is, I will only drink GOOD wine, regardless of price. As for the steaks? My personal butcher ensures I eat only the best....

Bloom SupermarketsMy new personal butcher is Mike at "Bloom" supermarket in Rockville, Maryland. Mike has gone above and beyond to make my experience with him fantastic. Thank you Mike. A letter is on the way to corporate letting them know how lucky they are to have you in their employ. I look forward to working with a man that knows his craft and is proud of what he cuts. Although you are a bit further then my local store, you are worth the twenty extra miles.

So there you have it. An old fashioned way to buy at newfangled markets. Ring the bell!

1 comment:

  1. Ditto for the guys at Harris Teeter in N.Bethesda/Rockville. They are super nice and very up on their stuff. Great resources!!


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