Two popular local chefs beef up the Monterey Peninsula’s foodshed with a new artisanal butcher shop
They know their farmers: Chefs Jason Balestrieri and Kevin Hincks visit the heritage Mangalitsa pigs being raised for them in Cachagua.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY CAMILLA M. MANN
Our Monterey Bay-area foodshed abounds with artisanal bakers, jam creators and even candlestick makers—but butchers, not so much. That’s why it’s so exciting to watch The Meatery taking shape in Seaside. The project of beloved local chefs Jason Balestrieri and Kevin Hincks, the new artisanal butchery at 1534 Fremont Blvd. is set to begin offering homemade sausages, custom-cut meats and deli sandwiches in a friendly, old-timey setting in early 2018.
The 2,200-square-foot space had been stripped down to the bricks when Balestrieri and Hincks walked me through in October. They are going for a hip yet classic butcher shop feel by installing a pressed tin ceiling and using lots of white subway tile and reclaimed wood. The design includes three coolers—one for dry aging, one for curing and one for general use. They are also putting in a large communal table, where customers can enjoy high-end sandwiches and a rotating menu of hot foods, as well as monthly pop-up dinners.
Balestrieri and Hincks met when they were both chefs at Cantinetta Luca in Carmel where Balestrieri was executive chef and partner for more than a decade. First colleagues, then friends, the chefs have embarked on opening a modern butcher shop that will connect customers to their meat. “We’re passionate about meat,” explains Hincks. “We’re good Midwestern boys, after all.” Balestrieri grew up in Wisconsin. Hincks hails from Illinois.
Through the artisanal craft of butchering and handcrafted charcuterie, they are committed to building relationships within the community and bridging the gap between producers and consumers. Balestrieri looks forward to making salumi more accessible to local consumers—especially prosciutto, salami and lardo, like he created and served at Cantinetta Luca.
“In this day and age, in this community, people go to markets and are connected to the people growing their fruits and vegetables,” Balestrieri says. “We want to support that growing awareness with meat.”
To that end, The Meatery will offer customers a full-service butcher where you can pick up fresh cuts of meat; a deli with made-to order sandwiches; a cold case packed with housemade salumi; and hot food offerings that you can take to go or eat in the retail space. The owners also plan to host cooking classes and community dinners. Additionally, they will use the kitchen for catering outside events.
“We want a higher level of community,” Hincks says, “and people deserve to know where their food comes from.” Through their collective years in local kitchens, both chefs have fostered relationships with ranchers who are producing sustainably and ethically raised animals. One afternoon I accompanied Balestrieri and Hincks to the Keaton Family Farm in Cachagua. “Hug the shoulder of the road and stay right on our bumper,” Hincks instructed before we headed out to visit three of the Mangalitsa pigs they are raising out in Carmel Valley. The Mangalitsas are a wooly heritage breed pig indigenous to Hungary that has battled back from the brink of extinction because their creamy lard is prized by chefs and diners alike. The Slow Food Movement lists Mangalitsas in its Ark of Taste, a catalog of endangered heritage foods that are sustainably produced, distinct in flavor and uniquely relevant to the food chain. The Ark of Taste actively promotes conservation through cultivation for consumption by identifying breeds that are worth saving—and worth eating.
Balestrieri explains the uniqueness of the Mangalitsa lard, “It melts at a lower temperature than other pigs’ lard because it contains more unsaturated fat.” He admits it’s not well-suited for use in charcuterie. “I tried to use it in salami once and it didn’t turn out well. It was too soft.” But he knows the luscious fat with titanic thickness is well-suited for lardo, a traditional Italian cured pork fat, and plans to make that as soon as the pigs are fully grown.
These days, many people demand the meat they buy be raised free range and humanely outdoors. The Mangalitsas are raised under those kinds of ideal conditions, but the chefs will also offer meats that are less expensive to produce. “I won’t go as far as saying it will be all grassfed, all organic,” Hincks admits, noting that would be price prohibitive, but The Meatery is committed to sourcing ethically and sustainably raised animals and will offer grass-fed, organic and local meats when available.
At the Seaside City Council meeting for their building permit, the partners were asked if they would carry rabbits, goats and other specialty meats. Balestrieri answered that that is their intention. “We want people on the Peninsula who have been driving north to go to el Salchichero, Freedom Meat Lockers and Corralitos Market & Sausage Co. to find what they want at The Meatery.”
Two Seaside residents hearing about the project expressed delight. “I will definitely start getting my meats there,” gushes Undine Lauer who grew up on a ranch in Oregon. “We don’t have anything like this.” Jennifer Fletcher agrees she’s looking forward to having a reliable, reputable butcher in the neighborhood. Having lived overseas, she recalls visiting butcher shops in London. “It demystifies the process and, I think, will encourage more adventurous eating since people can ask the butchers, ‘How do I prepare that?’”
Hincks says, “With enough lead time, we’ll be able to get whatever our customers want.” While they will be focused on meat, he says that because they are breaking down the whole animals, they’ll be able to offer everything from bones and offal to bone broth and dog treats. Because they are designing The Meatery to connect consumers to the meat, their entire process embraces transparency. Large glass windows will offer a behind-the-scenes view of the shop where you can see the butchers at work.
For this new venture together, the partners are thrilled to be in Seaside, where artisanal businesses such as Acme Coffee have a foothold and the new Other Brother Beer Co. is set to open in 2018. “I think Seaside is trying to reinvigorate itself and I’m happy to be a part of that growth,” Balestrieri says.
1534 Fremont Blvd., Seaside