October 27, 2009

Last week was a much-needed break in between rounds of book edits (am in the home stretch, woooo!), so I took advantage of my deadline-less state to drive to Napa for dinner (destination: the intimate Terra in St. Helena—still wishing I had leftovers of the spaghettini with tripe in my fridge), to play hooky and have lunch at Osteria Stellina in Pt. Reyes on that gorg fall Friday we just had last week (oysters are delicious on pizza, who knew?!), and to attend my second whole animal event in one week.

Not just any whole animal event: famed butcher Dario Cecchini (and his delightful wife, Kim) were in town for a variety of events, visiting from his family's famous butcher shop, Antica Macelleria Cecchini in Panzano in Chianti, Italy. For those of you who read Bill Buford's Heat, you know exactly whom I am talking about. Nopa hosted the intimate event on Saturday afternoon; it was an honor to watch this remarkable artisan so confidently and skillfully do his craft. Cecchini was full of character, quotes (see the title of this week's missive), and charisma. (Photo by Arthur Perley.)

He began the event butchering half of a pig from Devil's Gulch Ranch, and then moved on to half a cow from Marin Sun Farms (here's a photo album I took of the event). As he reverently and confidently broke down each animal, he'd drop proclamations like, "Wasting beef is the greatest sadness," and "Meat shouldn't be particularly tender—it's why we have teeth." Oh yes, and let's not leave out this gem: "I think the filet needs to be left with some fat on it, otherwise nature wouldn't have surrounded it with it." Amen.

Every chef and butcher and home cook in the room watched him so closely, with occasional moments of total breathlessness over his technique (to wit: the removal of the pork ribs, amazing, and the massive porchetta he rolled up looked astounding). I've wanted to see this man do his thing for a long time, and can't believe I only had to walk four blocks to do so (thank you nopa for hosting, thank you Marin Organics for getting him here!). It was a dream to be able to taste a succulent bite of bistecca alla fiorentina, cooked so perfectly by the nopa kitchen staff (here's a video I took of Dario cutting it up just after it was grilled, and here's a video of him butchering the thigh).

I also have a link to more pro pictures from Arthur Perley who was photographing the event—this one from the beginning with the half pig is particularly commanding, and for those of you with butchery skills (or trying to hone them), you'll want to take a closer look at all of them.

Okay, enough meat for a moment. How about sherry?! Be sure to take a look in today's socialite for all the details on the upcoming tablehopper sherry tasting on November 10th at Stable Cafe! It's shaping up to be a stellar one. See you there!

Have a swell Halloween; I have always particularly loved Halloween because it means my birthday is coming the next day (which I will be happily spending over a home-cooked meal with my darling family on Sunday). Last week was all about "there will be blood," but this Sunday, there will be bubbles.

Cheers from here,
~ Marcia