Chop, Chop

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A couple of weeks back I had a brief chat with Eric from Chop at the PSU Farmers Market (there’s a blurry pic of him at the bottom of this post), he suggested I call round to see his stores, so once I’d finished at KitchenCru I headed over to the City Market. I introduced myself to co-owner Paula who cut a few slices of coppa for me. I was interested in trying more of their products as I’d bought an incredible chicken liver and bourbon mousse at the PSU FM which I’d gobbled for breakfast one morning with some artisan bread.The setting for the store is really quite lovely. Five or six businesses share a common space and provide an incredible array of quality produce (there’s Chop supplying meat, a fishmonger, green grocer, pasta maker, wine merchant), it’s like a high end supermarket (and for those who remember it, it had the feel of the old food hall at Howells department store in Cardiff). Chop are the fourth(I hope I’ve got that right) caretakers of the meat stall at the City Market, and I’ve used the word caretaker as it seems the store has passed on both its recipes and its customers from one owner to the next, it makes for great provenance. Like I’ve mentioned of so many other stores, design, marketing and presentation is everything. Chop have a wonderful, bold honest feel to their brand – and when I met with Eric later I could understand how reflective the brand was of his values.I headed across town to Chop’s second store at The Hub, I didn’t have much time to wander, but the Hub appears to be a building made up of an amalgam of food businesses. Chop is tucked away in a back corridor next to a bustling eatery called Tasty n Sons. The store again was impeccable but with a greater bias towards charcuterie and sandwiches. I enquired whether Eric was in, and was kindly invited into his realm at the back of the store. Here they have their USDA approved salami production facility and you can see the salami’s drying in the ageing room through a glass window in the store itself. Like the Link Lab facility I’d visited in Seattle, the space was an excellent exercise in minimalist design – the space was utilised to its fullest and there was nothing to clutter the space other than the tools needed for the job – I can learn a lot from Eric!I had the full tour of the facility and we spent the best part of an hour chatting. We share some common values when it comes to producing good, honest, simple food. It was good to talk breeds too with a butcher, more often than not breed is dismissed – there’s an obvious difference between undeveloped breeds like the Mangalitza and modern breeds but there are also subtle differences between developed breeds which share many similar characteristics. I was pleased to hear praise for the Mangalitza, which they’ve sourced from Heath Putnam. Feed, husbandry and slaughter conditions are all equally valid when it comes to meat quality but breed is often dismissed unless something specific such as a Mangalitza is being used (sorry for keeping on about them, but I’ve got to publicise my pigs!).

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