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December 14, 2012 6:01 pm
“Butchers work hard. If you think it’s an easy life, forget about it.” April Bloomfield, the British-born chef who rose from The River Café kitchen in London to co-own The Spotted Pig gastropub and two other celebrated restaurants in New York, is more expert with the knife than the cleaver, but she is just as passionate about good meat as any butcher.
When we meet in London earlier this year, she is finishing off a large and late dim sum lunch at 5pm in Gerrard Street. The preparation for her brief residency at St John Chinatown had overrun, and she had repaired with her friends Fergus and Margot Henderson to a nearby Chinese restaurant for food and wine.
Bloomfield later leaves London with a suitcase’s worth of compliments; her cohorts and former colleagues (from Stevie Parle to Thomasina Miers) all praise her instinctive, hearty and heartfelt cooking. In New York, she is famous for her blue-cheese burger, parmesan-and-ricotta gnudi and other elegant pieces of gluttony. Underpinning all this is her curiosity about quality – she changes her meat supplier as often as she can: “We buy from all over, the farmers’ market, we buy pigs from friends upstate, Amish farms – we’re constantly changing, to find new produce and see what we like. We might hear about another pig that’s really delicious.”
Bloomfield “loves” New York for its cheap and brilliant food, but has talked about a possible outpost back in London: “Maybe we’ll figure it out some day. I’d love to come back”. (Perhaps understandably, she later declines to comment on the recent application by Gordon Ramsay Holdings to register the UK trademark of The Spotted Pig with the Intellectual Property Office, a move publicly criticised by her chef friends.) In the meantime, to cook like April Bloomfield, here are her top three picks of meat suppliers in New York City. To eat like her, she recommends steak at Maialino in Gramercy Park.
The Meat Hook, Brooklyn
Bloomfield is extremely fond of this “amazing” example of butchery becoming a hip pursuit in New York. “It’s kind of like a local shop; but they don’t just do butchery – they also do really cute kitchen equipment from the 1950s and 1960s. It was set up by a group of people who are really passionate about food and where it comes from. They make sure the cattle are well looked after on the farms, and they just keep wanting to learn. You can buy beef, lamb and pig – they make copious amounts of sausages.” The Meat Hook also offers confits, fresh produce and cooking classes upstairs. It has a long table for guest chef nights. “It’s a little Brooklyn hub,” says Bloomfield.
The enterprise is run by Brent Young and Tom Mylan. The latter used to work at Marlow & Sons and “then he decided to do this thing on his own; he’s a super intense guy; it’s nice to be able to buy from someone like that, it’s infectious”.
The Meat Hook, 100 Frost Street, Brooklyn, +1 718 349-5033
Union Square Greenmarket
“I buy a lot for my own personal use from here.” Bloomfield, who says she has a “super small” apartment, prefers to make simple things at home. To that end she has become “obsessed” with Belle Rouge chickens from Violet Hill farm in Herkimer County. “They have good balance between the size of the thigh and the breast; I love poached or roasted chicken for a day off. Simple food is quite handy. Skirt steak; rib eye, things like that … ”
The north and west sides of Union Square Park are open on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, from 8am to 6pm
Ottomanelli & Sons and Faiccos
These two family-owned Italian butchers, both on Bleecker street in Manhattan, have “been there many years. We used to buy our sausages [for the Spotted Pig] from Faiccos but we make our own now.” At Ottomanelli “you can buy everything – chicken liver, guinea fowl, they can chop up bones for you. You walk in and it smells like meat – fat, sawed bones, the beef, the poultry … it’s a real old-school place. There’s always a place for a supermarket but I think people will want to go back to the traditional local butcher”.
Ottomanelli & Sons Meat Market, 285 Bleecker Street, Manhattan, +1 212 675 4217
Faiccos, 260 Bleecker Street, +1 212 243 1974
“A Girl and Her Pig”, by April Bloomfield, is published by Canongate (£25). For a recipe for Bloomfield’s steak, watercress and chillies go to FT Recipes
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