MAKING THE CUT
Local butchers are devoted to their craft.
WRITTEN BY HEIDI BETHEL
PHOTOS BY CHRIS HOLLOMAN
Considered an art by some, the ancient craft of butchery demands hours of apprenticeship and practice to make those perfect cuts. While commercial processes and modern kitchen appliances may have expedited the form, many local butchers embrace traditional methods, sticking to their roots to provide customers with quality products. Meet six area professionals who have earned their chops in the butcher shop.
Butchery in the blood
Ken Jolly remembers from his childhood his family’s love affair with meat.
“It always just seemed like butchery was in our blood, and it was something we were meant to do,” says Jolly, who co-owns Butcher Boy Meat Market in Reno.
After graduating from high school, Jolly became a third-generation butcher when he went to work as a cutter and sausage maker for his uncle, who, at the time, owned Reno Meat Co. His uncle went on to open the popular Butcher Boy Meat Market in 1974 in Sparks. Jolly purchased Butcher Boy in the early ’90s and opened a second location on South Virginia Street in Reno in 2007. He closed both locations in 2009 and reopened Butcher Boy Meat Market at its current location in the Plumgate shopping center last July.
What is your favorite cut of meat? “Well, I have two: the prime rib and rib eye. Both have immense flavor with a great texture and tenderness.”
How about your preferred preparation method? “Marinating is, by far, the way to go. At Butcher Boy, we marinate several different cuts. Tri-tip is an ideal option for this because the meat takes on more flavors and is tenderized with the acidity. We have a house-made burgundy pepper marinade that just hits the spot.”
If you could tell our readers your best tip or trick, what would it be? “Buy the best quality meat that you can. You have to start with a good piece of meat to make a good meal.”
In his teen years, Bob Mastelotto, co-owner of Ponderosa Meat Co. in Reno, spent his spare time learning how to cut meat from his dad and the partners who helped his dad run a few local butchery businesses. More than 42 years ago, Mastelotto’s family went on to open Reno Frozen Foods, now known as Ponderosa Meat Co.
“We’ve always been dedicated to providing the best quality products to our customers,” Mastelotto explains. “This is something that has kept me going in this sometimes grueling business throughout the years. I appreciate knowing that our hard work is benefitting the families and businesses we serve.”
Ponderosa Meat Co. processes local ranch beef, lamb, and hogs that the butchers sell both wholesale and retail in the shop.
What distinct cut of meat do you recommend most? “It’s definitely the boneless short rib. It makes for a nice braising cut and comfort food, especially in the spring when it can be too cool to grill outside.”
Speaking of grilling, do you prefer grilled or smoked meats? “I like them grilled. It’s quick and easy. I recommend a New York strip steak, rib eye, or tri-tip. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!”
If you could tell our readers your best tip or trick for preparing meat, what would it be? “When braising, be sure to add a richly flavored chicken broth with onions, carrots, and celery to a nice big stockpot heating on low on the stove. I love to stuff the cut with garlic. Brown the piece of meat before you stick it in the pot, and then let it sit for hours. When it’s finished, the meat just falls off the bone.”
Jess Curtis and Brandon Uresky, co-owners of Mountain Valley Meats in Truckee, met working as lift operators at Alpine Meadows ski resort. When Uresky went on to pursue his culinary aspirations, the two stayed connected.
“I had a roommate who dated one of his roommates, and that led to all of us hanging out,” Curtis says. “Most of the time we found ourselves at barbecue cookouts.”
They both ventured to culinary institutes on the West Coast; Curtis went to California Culinary Academy and Uresky studied at Oregon Culinary Institute. Years later, this friendly duo reconnected in Lake Tahoe with the idea of making delicious sausages. They quickly found an empty space and within five months, in 2013, they developed Mountain Valley Meats, where they operate by the “never-ever” rule: The animals they use in their products never are given antibiotics or hormones. All are humanely raised on farms that follow sustainable practices.
What is your favorite type of offal? “We both like pâtés and rillettes,” Curtis says. “Pâté is a smooth spread typically made with liver, fat, herbs, spices, and aromatics. Rilletes are similar to pâté. They are made with pork, duck, goose, chicken, game birds, or rabbits, heavily seasoned, and cooked in fat, shredded, then cooled, resulting in a coarse, country-style spread.”
Gas or charcoal grill? “Both,” Uresky says. “Gas makes a great quick-and-even heat. If you have the time, a charcoal grill with nice wood briquettes is the way to go.”
What tip or trick would be your favorite to share with readers? “We prefer to poach our fresh sausages in beer or water before grilling,” Curtis says. “We stress that poaching does not mean boiling the liquid, but rather a slow simmer. Boiling overcooks the sausage. By poaching, you’re able to cook the sausage most of the way through, then get that crispy brown skin on a hot grill.”
When he was 14 years old, Eric Halstead, co-owner of Village Meats in Incline Village, got a job as a cleanup boy in the local gourmet meat market in Manhattan Beach, Calif. By age 15, he was learning the trade, breaking beef while elbow-deep in all things butchery. About 12 years ago, Halstead got a tip from friends that a meat market was for sale in Incline Village. He knew that this was the opportunity for him, having always wanted to own a shop. Today, Halstead runs Village Meats alongside his wife and two of their three sons.
What often forgotten or overlooked cut should be reconsidered? “I would say the outside skirt steak. It has great flavor, is versatile enough to cook on the grill, and is delicious when sliced for taco and fajita meat.”
Spice rub or barbecue sauce? “I’m a purist myself. We sell some incredible, high-end meats, and when it comes to our beef and pork products, we suggest just a little salt and pepper. The steaks and chops will provide amazing flavor that needs just a hint of spice.”
Please share your best tip or trick with our readers. “Learning to grill indirectly is a must, especially for ribs and large cuts such as prime rib. Indirect grilling is similar to baking or roasting, but with the added benefits of flavor and texture you can’t get in an oven. To do this, you light the heating element (charcoal or gas burners) around the cooking area rather than underneath. Then let the meat slow cook to perfection. Adding smoke chips enhances the profile and is a great way to cook anything outside.”
Brian Cohen’s father opened Overland Meat and Seafood Co. in Apple Valley, Calif., nearly four decades ago. When his parents tired of the area, they moved to South Lake Tahoe, where, in 1987, they established a new meat shop by the same name. In 2005, Cohen and his wife bought the family business and went with a strictly free-range, hormone-free, and antibiotic-free mentality.
“It is our mission to provide the products our customers want,” Cohen says. “Nowadays, there are fewer butchers than ever, and it’s becoming more difficult to survive. Luckily, we are seeing some resurgence with small shops gaining popularity in places like San Francisco and New York. Hopefully this is a trend that sticks.
“People shop with us because they want options outside the grocery store,” he adds. “Folks want choice and quality. That’s why I got into the business, and that’s what we’ll continue to provide.”
What is the most flavorful meat, in your opinion? “There are two: the chuck, which is the shoulder, and the rib eye. These two cuts literally are next to each other on the cow. And they are both very tender and cook nicely on the grill or in the oven!”
Do you prefer meats cooked on or off the bone? “I don’t think it matters. It’s really a matter of preference. The bone does give flavor, but if you cook a great piece of meat in a punchy sauce, you’ll never miss it.”
If you could tell our readers your best tip or trick, what would it be? “Buy a meat thermometer. Time, temperature, texture — those are the most important components to cooking … well, anything. It’s a crime to cut into a steak or burger to see if it’s done. Use a thermometer. Then, when the piece of meat comes off the grill or out of the oven, let it rest anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes because it’s still cooking inside. This will leave you with a juicy, delicious protein.”
Heidi Bethel has had a few memorable experiences with butchery. Perhaps the most noteworthy is a visit to a cattle ranch outside Elko when she was in high school. She’s also had the opportunity to visit Wolf Pack Meats in Reno and learn even more about the trade.
Looking for a neighborhood butcher shop? Visit any one of these places for a great selection of cuts, and be sure to ask the pros for their takes on the best meat for the occasion. This is not a comprehensive list.
Blue Ribbon Meat & Butcher Shop
1436 Prater Way, Sparks
A third-generation, family-owned and -operated business that started in 1946, Blue Ribbon Meat & Butcher shop embodies the old-fashioned look and practices. Try its house-made sausage links, a true customer favorite.
Butcher Boy Meat Market
530 W. Plumb Lane, Reno
With locally sourced, hand-cut meats, Butcher Boy Meat Market has been Reno’s trusted neighborhood butcher shop for more than 40 years. In addition to quality steaks, chops, and roasts, it offers sausages, hams, bacon, and other prepared meats.
Butler Gourmet Meats
1909 N. Carson St., Carson City
This shop carries a variety of tasty meats that runs the gamut from beef to lamb, pork, and poultry. Butchers here also process wild game and offer bulk packages such as half hog sales that include pork chops, spare ribs, sausage, pork roast, spare ribs, hickory-smoked ham, hickory-smoked bacon, and pork steaks. Don’t forget to grab a sandwich at the deli.
Mountain Valley Meats
11209 Brockway Road, Ste. 101, Truckee
Using only antibiotic-free, hormone-free, pasture-raised animals from sustainable farms, Mountain Valley Meats sources all products locally as much as possible. In addition to the traditional cuts, Mountain Valley sells house-made sausages and duck confit, marrow bones, venison medallions, and rabbit.
Overland Meat and Seafood Co.
2227 Lake Tahoe Blvd., Ste. C, South Lake Tahoe
South Lake Tahoe’s only full-service meat market, Overland Meat and Seafood Co. features all-natural meat with no hormone implants, antibiotics, or animal by-products. Also offering fresh seafood, wines, sauces, rubs, cheeses, and side dishes, this is a one-stop shop for that next meal.
Ponderosa Meat Co.
1264 S. Virginia St., Reno
Ponderosa Meat Co. serves top-quality meats cut freshly every day. The business’s sausages, bacon, and all-beef patties are created on site, and the helpful staff always is ready to assist. It offers a variety of bulk packages and delivery services.
770 Mays Blvd., Ste. 2, Incline Village
The owners of Village Meats — a full-service gourmet butcher shop, smokehouse, and deli — take pride in their products. Try the flaming jerk, a beef jerky with a kick, or the beef summer sausage, pork bratwursts, pork ribs, wild king salmon, trout, venison, elk, or bison.
Wolf Pack Meats
5895 Clean Water Way, Reno
For the past 49 years, the University of Nevada, Reno has operated a meat-processing plant where students are able to get first-hand experience in meat production, retail distribution, and packaging. Customers can purchase bulk items such as half or quarter beef, as well as popular cuts packed individually.