Sunday, October 17, 2010

Meat to please you

Hardly an Auckland secret, but I wanted to devote a few paragraphs to the Westmere Butchery, a local institution which receives almost daily visits from me during barbecue season. When I converted from vegetarianism about 18 months ago, I vowed as far as possible to only eat meat from a trusted, ethically-sound source, and also to cut back on my use of pretentious words like 'vow'. As you can see I'm still struggling with the latter, but having the boys from Westmere nearby has certainly helped with the former.

Westmere Butchery sells only free-range pork and chicken, as well as organic beef and lamb. There are lots of reasons to go organic, which you'll find eloquently documented on many websites better researched than this one. Suffice it to say organic meat is healthier, better for the environment and nicer to the animals too, and you'll be pleasantly surprised to hear that prices are often comparable to the supermarket. This means that you don't need to be a liberal Grey Lynn cougar or her slightly wet husband to shop at Westmere Butchery, although it will certainly help.

Butchers do a lot of things that supermarkets don't, most significantly hanging the meat for a decent amount of time before selling it to you. This gives flavour a chance to develop and stops the weight of the meat being artificially inflated by residual water which runs out into the pan as soon as it starts cooking. Unlike supermarkets, butchers will also give you advice on how to cook your meat and a bit of cheeky banter too – although this last feature might need a bit of fine tuning at Westmere, where said banter largely consists of a deadpan 'No' to any of your requests deemed too earnest by the attending staff.

Local favourites include spatchcock chicken marinated in peri peri sauce – quite spicy and particularly helpful if you, like me, find yourself wishing you'd organised an overnight marinade about 60 minutes before your dinner guests arrive. Pork teriyaki steaks are good and easy too, and seem to stay delicious and moist no matter what sort of heat and cooking time you throw at them.

Westmere is always packed with customers, and butchers too, with about a dozen of them working across the week. Apparently they've even produced a glossy Westmere calendar, featuring these same butchers in various states of bloody undress. Good news for the Grey Lynn cougars, who get to stare at the calendar all week before wandering in Saturday morning to suggestively ask Mr October if he can recommend “a nice big SAUSAGE or even a bit of RUMP?!”

No” is the usual deadpan reply, offered in what the butcher thinks is flirtatious good humour, but comes across more like stern admonishment – not quite the tone you're expecting from a man who's spent the last 17 days hanging bare chested in your guest bathroom, with nothing but a strategically placed ox-tongue obscuring the downstairs view.