It wasn’t all that long ago that I was afraid to talk to the butcher in my grocery store. I’m not sure why, exactly—fear of appearing foolish, I suppose—but I would go to just about any length to avoid ordering something or asking a question. If it didn’t come shrink wrapped in a little foam tray, I didn’t want it.
Now, visiting my local butcher (Wally’s Quality Meats on Sheridan near 112th) is part of my routine, if not weekly, at least monthly.
It’s a nice metaphor for my evolution as a foodie, but more than that, it says something about the current food movement in general that I have a local butcher to visit in this suburban jungle—not to mention Herb’s Meats in Broomfield or the aptly named Your Butcher Frank in Longmont. That shops like this can not only exist, but thrive, speaks to the desire consumers have to get back to their culinary roots.
And it isn’t just butchers making a comeback. Specialty shops are popping up here and there, filling the little niches and needs we didn’t know we were lacking. Cured in Boulder is a little foodie paradise with a case full of cheeses and cured meats and a well-curated wine room in the back. Or, you can visit Cheese Importers in Longmont and tour its incredible, warehouse-sized walk-in refrigerator case for a crash course in cheese appreciation.
I recently had the pleasure of touring Ritual Chocolate, a startup chocolate maker based in Denver. They do one thing: very dark, very beautiful chocolate. And they do it extraordinarily well. They fly to Costa Rica to buy their own beans, grind them in an antique mill that once belonged to Scharffenberger, then mix, temper and mold their chocolate all by hand. They have no interest in introducing other flavors, in truffles, in additional products. They are happy to stay focused on producing the most superb product possible.
Conscious Coffee, another local company, was recently named coffee roaster of the year for its exquisite beans. Visit The Cup on Pearl Street at 9 am on the last Saturday of the month (beginning again in January when their roaster returns from Australia), and the owners, who are about as passionate about good coffee as it is possible to be, will give you a free lesson in tasting, in origin and farming techniques, in grinding and temperature.
These companies harken back to a different era, a Continental aesthetic, in which artisans spent their lives perfecting a single trade, be it slicing the perfect steak, baking the perfect baguette or brewing the perfect cup of coffee. But they aren’t just for the elite. On a tight budget this month? Your local butcher can help with that, suggesting economical cuts. Your cheesemonger can sell you just the amount you need. That way, you’re supporting the most local economy of all: yours.
In fact, specialty shops are a rallying cry against big box homogenization and corporate hegemony, and they are a stepping stone to local foodsheds, stronger community and, frankly, better food.
1. Wally’s Quality Meats: 1187 Sheridan Blvd., Unit 8, Westminster, 303.439.8024
2. Cured: 1825 Pearl St., Boulder, 720.389.8096
3. Cheese Importers: 33 S. Pratt Pkwy., #3, Longmont, 303.774.7626
4. Kim & Jake’s Cakes: 641 S. Broadway, Boulder, 303.499.9126
5. Robin Chocolates (see above): 602 S. Airport Rd., Longmont, 720.204.8003