The recent profusion of bespoke butchers is only bringing good things to light. The formula is pretty clear, small front of the store featuring house cured salumi, select cuts of locally sourced animals along with local foodstuffs that round out a picnic or appetizer plate like cheeses, butters, and pickles. Fatted Calf was one the style’s pioneers and has now refined it to a model in their Napa store up to the relief casts of bones running along the ceiling. We’re just so fortunate to have all this action and that’s despite all the complaints about the preciousness and expense because the quality is just off the charts.
My latest encounter with this species came over the weekend in Petaluma where Thistle Meats’ tiny store front on the main drag of Petaluma Boulevard checks all the boxes: A trio of cold cases up front with a work area stretching into the back. On Saturday the main butcher table was a study in Nigel Slater minimalism, just a few shanks rested there ready for a photo shoot or braise.
But the real action is all in those cold cases. The cacciatore salume is perfectly fatted, at room temperature it almost melts in your mouth. Their Milano is a reminder of just how negligent we’ve been with simple salumi, Thistle’s version is so fresh and light that it’s a siren call for a glass of rose.
Once you dig further into the meat case the picture only improves. The house made Bologna is a budget steal. It’s all beef and not the fully emulsified meat mixture you might expect. It’s a bit chunky and you can actually taste the beef. Oscar Meyer, eat your heart out.
I could go on, the full range of charcuterie is well represented and the diversity in sausages includes seldom seen European classics like the Bavarian Weisswurst and a Toulouse. Not to say that the meat case is polluted by Eurocentrism, the wave of innovative American sausages are all there like the rosemary scented rabbit which is an instant classic. Then the cuts of meat are just so vividly colored testaments to their freshness. Oh and they carry Andante, one of the prides of Sonoma cheese making. The one weakness is a lack of bread. Fortunately Della Fatoria is right across the street.