The Joy of Butchering.

Chefs like pigs. If you have watched any food shows on any of the food show networks, you know this, and have most likely seen the tattoos outlining the primal cuts of these animals adorning their forearms. The pig is king in terms of versatility, ease of butchery, and nose to tail eating that many chefs and home cooks are geared towards.

The excitement of buying a whole pig was, for Webster’s kitchen crew and myself, like the childhood excitement of waiting for a Christmas present you suddenly realized you had to have. We dreamed of what we would do with it, how we could make the most of it, and most importantly, how we could get our hands on one. It was our Red Ryder BB gun.

Nate Shaw and myself

There was no waiting once we made up our minds, we made a few calls and decided that we would go with our friend Henry Graber. Henry is an Amish farmer from LaGrange, IN. There, he owns The Old Home Place Farm, selling pork, chicken, and beef. He was kind enough to sell us one of his freshly harvested pigs, a cross between Duroc and Berkshire breed, at a reasonable rate. One week later, he pulled up and we unloaded 168 pounds of opportunity onto the biggest cart we could find. There are certain looks given when unloading that much dead weight wrapped in plastic and ice from the back of a station wagon piloted by an elderly gentleman and his Amish passenger, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. The pig was home safely and we would begin our butchering that night.

After service, we cleaned the kitchen, moved to a larger prep area, and began setting up our workspace. Tables were wrapped with plastic, cutting boards were laid out end-to-end, sharp knives and bone saw, and classic rock in the background. We were ready. We had different containers for scraps of meat for grinding, fat for rendering, and skin for crisping. I am not sure if all butchering is as ritualistic and careful as our first experience, but I imagine it should be to make it as enjoyable, safe, and successful as possible.

Joe Pearson and his pork belly

Now we get graphic. The pig was halved lengthwise for ease of transportation and butchering, its basketball sized head still whole and attached to one of the halves.  First task was head removal, it is exactly what it sounds like, a few swipes with the bone saw and into a large pot of cold water for cleaning it went. The next task was removing the front leg and shoulder (picnic ham and Boston butt). Easily done, pork shoulder being an extremely versatile cut, perfect for slow braising or grinding into sausage (fat to meat ratio is almost perfect for most sausages). The picnic ham will most likely be cured and smoked. Next is the midsection, containing the most popular grocery store cuts, the loin, tenderloin, ribs, and belly. After counting ribs, making a couple well-placed cuts with the saw and a sharp chefs knife, we have all these wonderful parts separated and ready for their next journey. Then comes the ham, the big, powerful thigh muscle and its leg, separated from the hip at a massive joint, it looks amazing, a prosciutto or country ham in waiting is looking right back at us. Skin is removed (and saved!) from large cuts where it is not needed, bones are cut for making a thick, deep, gelatinous pork stock, and fat is reserved for making that clarified, solid mass we call lard (biscuits anyone?). After wrapping the large cuts, vacuum sealing the smaller ones, and being on our way for the night, we had our vision and our homework, figure out how we can sell it to our guests, and make them as excited about it as we are.

Can’t find all this at the grocery store.

Bacon tastes better when you know the belly it came from, when you have it in your refrigerator for 6 days under salt, pepper, and a little curing salt, and when you can slice the pieces as thick as you wish. The aroma of fresh bacon and ham coming out of the smoker is something everyone should experience once in their lives. We will have the world’s best BLT in our lounge on certain nights with that thick cut bacon, local hydroponic lettuce and tomatoes, and the magical condiment we call Kewpie mayo on house-made, grilled sourdough bread.

Happy Halloween!

We also will be featuring some of the odd bits of the animal, after all, no pig is made entirely of belly and pork chops. Take for instance a dish named Porchetta di Testa (literally translated as “pork of the head”). I will credit this idea to our Executive Chef Stefan, who referred us to a video of Chris Cosentino (chef) breaking down an entire head into one cohesive piece of meat, skin, and fat. We were fascinated. One of our cooks, Joe Pearson, decided that this was his type of challenge and off to work he went. After thoroughly cleaning the head, and with the precision and steady hand of a brain surgeon, Joe removed all of the wonderful meat from the head (in one piece, think Halloween mask), seasoned it heavily with garlic, rosemary, lemon, salt and pepper, and rolled the creation into a pancetta-like roll. This roll was then tied, vacuum-sealed, and poached slowly to 190 degrees, ensuring that the fat and natural gelatin had time to seal any gaps and naturally bond the roll. After a quick chill and a couple days rest, we unwrapped this incredible creation and sliced it very thin, tasted, and were introduced to a new world of pork flavor. Milder than we had anticipated, clean flavored, just the right amount of salt and herbs. This will be served with fresh arugula, shaved radishes, Pecorino, cranberry coulis, and olive oil, a must try for the semi-adventurous eater.

Porchetta di Testa ready to roll

Last but not least, we will have fresh fried Chicharrones (pork rinds). First, the pork skin is boiled to soften the fat which is attached, this fat is then scraped off very carefully, the skins are dehydrated overnight, then fried quickly, puffing to about four times their original size. These little guys are incredible seasoned with a little salt, pepper, and cayenne, and something that if you have not tried, I suggest stopping by to give them a shot before they are gone. Check out pork rinds in action below!

For our first time butchering our own pig, I would say it was as fun and rewarding as it could be. If you have the time, the space, and a family to feed for the winter (or just really like pork) then I would say that whole or half hog butchery could make for a rewarding afternoon. Make friends with your local farmer at the farmers market, search for local pig farms who sell half hogs, if you are serious about knowing where your food comes from and how it was raised, then it is well worth your time. Do some Googling on the subject, maybe even pick up one of the many excellent books on the subject of butchering and charcuterie, and be proud the next time you serve pork chops and kraut for dinner, grind and stuff your own sausage for tailgating, or cure and smoke home made bacon for breakfast.

Jud McMichael
Sous Chef

K-Wings Hockey…Experience the Change!

Last winter on a gloomy Saturday afternoon I found myself looking for something to do in Kalamazoo.  With football season long over, I was in desperate need of a live sporting event fix.  I decided to take some family members out to Wings Stadium that night for the K Wings game; we ended up having a blast. The night combined two of my favorite things: live sports and great food and beverage! The addition of friends and family made for a great night.

New video board ready for gameday!

Fast forward nine months and WOW! Wing’s Stadium has seen the most significant change since 1974! I was able to preview the changes as I helped prepare the stadium’s food and beverage outlets for last Friday’s home opener.  The great things about the experience are still in play (aka a great hockey team, stadium food and ice cold beer), but the new additions and upgrades make it more than just a fun night out.  As you walk into the stadium the first thing that you notice is how clean everything looks, smells, and feels!  The new “Ice White” and “True Blue” paint throughout the concourse makes an incredible difference, but is nothing in comparison to the Cowboy Stadium-like big screen display – this thing is huge! Wing’s Stadium now has more digital feet of video per fan then Jerry Jones! Just by peaking through the section entrances, spectators can get a glimpse of the enormous 4-sided video board above the ice.  Like a semi-truck suspended above the ice, this screen will definitely let you see the blood, sweat and tears of these amazing Kalamazoo players up close!  Over 12,000 pounds and over 1,000,000 pixels make up and incredibly clear picture. You have to check it out!

Webster's Chef De Partie, Jud McMichael, Hard at Work!

Webster’s Chef De Partie, Jud McMichael, Hard at Work!

The upgrades continue in the food and beverage department of the stadium.  Fans can still enjoy all major stadium food groups: delicious Pop Corn, Hot Dogs, and Cotton Candy, but the stadium also offers an assortment of other culinary treats. Delicious temptation lurks around every corner of the stadium! Be sure to visit the Smoke House for some delicious smoked pulled pork, the Pizza and Wing stand to try the stadium’s version of chicken wings (“K-Wings” as they have been cleverly titled), the Burrito Bar for a build-your-own treat from south of the border.

Never again will you have to worry about missing a key play while refilling your beer at Wing’s Stadium;  brand new flat screen TV’s surround the entire concourse so you don’t miss any of the action.  Whether you’re standing in line for that second hot dog, or visiting one of the full service bars for a celebratory round of beverages, the game is right there!  The whole place is family sports mecca – hockey and sports are everywhere right in our own back yard!

At this point, you may wonder what this all has to do Webster’s Prime (besides a shared love of good food and drinks). Wing’s Stadium and the K-Wings are now part of Greenleaf Hospitality Group and we love to shout about and support what is great around our company and the community.  We here at Webster’s are so excited about all the upgrades at Wing’s that we decided to take our entire management team out to help last week’s season opener go off without a hitch.  

Mixologist Angie Jackson

Great things are also happening on the home front at Webster’s as well… As many of you know, the first Friday of every month is Art Hop in Downtown Kalamazoo and Webster’s always has something special going on in our Tasting Room to support the Art.  Next Friday we will have live music as usual with Megan Dooley, as well as special guest and friend, Mixologist Angie Jackson.  Angie will be mixing up some delicious cocktails alongside our bar tenders and will be drawing winners for 4 sets of K-Wings ticket vouchers for an upcoming game!  All we need is your Name, Email Address, and Phone Number! So come out and support the Arts, Webster’s, and the K-WINGS!

Come for the party, stay for the game!

Ryan Cunningham
Restaurant Manager
Webster’s Prime

Click here for Webster’s K-Wings ticket giveaway information!

Do you have a passion for beer?

As some of you may know, I have started a beer list challenge for myself.  I started four weeks ago, by sitting down in the Webster’s Prime Tasting Room, and popping the tops off of two of our local brews.  The first two on the list were from Arbor Brewing Co. in Ypsilanti, MI.  But this week I hit the Tasting Room for a round of the next four on the list, the Arcadia Ales, made in Battle Creek, MI.

Now, I’m sure some of you have heard the hype.  Arcadia Brewing Co. is building a second location right here in Kalamazoo!  They will be building a barbeque-themed brewery and a production facility right on Kalamazoo’s riverfront at 701 E. Michigan Ave.

Interesting to note, company president, Tim Suprise, lived in Kalamazoo for many years!  He established the brewery in 1996 in Battle Creek, but has said he was originally inspired by Kalamazoo’s own, Bell’s Brewery!  Tim Suprise was also inspired by Shipyard Brewing Co., which brought on his love for British-style ales and the way the British brew their beer.  Arcadia uses British equipment, and their Malted Barley comes from the U.K.  They also use an open fermentation process, in an open air environment.   (A style quite typical of British brewers.)

So, I started with the Arcadia Anglers Ale; a very nice, 12 oz, English- style, pale ale.  Slight sediment, slight hops (subtle), light, and very easy to drink.  The brew was especially carbonated, which I enjoy, and a slight floral note.  Not a whole lot going on with this beer, I could easily drink several of these before I became satiated.  Charming image of a fisherman on the bottle, this beer is a nice one to try, when you are looking for something safe.

I moved on to the Cocoa Loco next, Arcadia’s triple chocolate stout!  I had no idea what this beer consisted of when I ordered it, BUT I was pleasantly surprised.  It is a stout brewed with chocolate, molasses, and lactose.  From Arcadia’s ‘Brew Crew Big Beer Series’.  It was 12 oz of delicious chocolate notes, not so much on my palate at first, but the finish was lovely.  It is very dark in color and a stout that I can actually enjoy – for dessert!  Can I please have a scoop of Vanilla Ice Cream next time?

Ooookkkk, so Arcadia Hopmouth was next on the list.  A beer that just by the photo on the front, I was not excited to try.  It is Arcadia’s Double IPA, and I am NOT a “hop-head.”  Nevertheless, I don’t know if it was just the perfect end to a long day, or the perfect balance in the beer, but this was delicious!  I don’t know what I was afraid of!  It had a dark amber hue, and notes of toasted malt and caramel.  Did I mention absolutely delectable?  Please do not be scared by the angry looking, green leaf man, on the front of this bottle; he portrays a much meaner beer than what’s inside.   I had imagined an overly heavy taste of herbs and pine needles but I was wrong.  Deeeeelicious!

Last, but not least, was Arcadia’s Sky High Rye.  It is a West-Coast style, pale ale.  This was more of what I was expecting from the Hopmouth.  I’m not sure if it was the rye malt but it was to floral and hoppy for me.  Yuck, I didn’t finish the 12 oz.  (Gasp, I know!)  Sediment was light and subtle, yellow-orange hue, and light carbonation,  Love the beautiful airplanes on the label though!

Check in, in a few weeks, as I explore the Atwater beers from Detroit, MI!

Do you have a passion for beer?  Stop into the Webster’s Prime Tasting Room, and enjoy one of the many local brews we have to offer.  Don’t forget Hoppy Hour 5:00 – 7:00pm, Monday – Friday, 1/2 off all beer, and start your own beer list exploration.

Please remember to always enjoy responsibly.

Alana Fisher
Event Coordinator

MY LOVE OF WEBER

Brisket

Let me begin by saying that in the battle between the two grilling communities, Charcoal and Gas, I will always fly the charcoal flag. The caveperson inside all of us is allowed to come out when we light something on fire and cook over it. Our friends at Weber have perfected a way for us to tap into the primal instinct of cooking meat over open flame, and put it in a durable, reliable, and functional package. I am not a paid spokesperson for Weber Grills (although I would gladly accept the position) but I have some pretty deep-rooted brand loyalty to the work of art that bears the Weber name. It remains one of two tattoo ideas I have considered. Weber is my “Harley-Davidson” of things I love, it is shiny black with beautiful stainless steel accents, it annoys my neighbors when I fire it up and smoke drifts into their house, and when you park one in your driveway, people know you mean business. Don’t mess with that guy! He grills on a Weber! I own two of these beautiful machines, a One Touch Silver, and the lesser known Smokey Mountain Cooker.

Both have been a part of my family for several years, and if treated right, will last me as long as I want if I take care of them. The kettle grill is the grocery getter, the everyday steak burner and chicken griller. The smoker is more of a special occasion “Sunday driver” if you will, reserved for things like ribs, brisket, turkey, whole chicken, pork shoulder and even rabbit.

Grilling Rabbits

For me, the reward comes from the all-consuming bed of red-hot coals that lies beneath my food, ready to either destroy my dinner or perfect it, depending on my skill and attention. Charcoal brings a much deeper satisfaction than push-red-button-to-light, low-medium-high dials and hoping that my propane doesn’t run out. I may not have the biggest, hottest, most expensive sports car of a grill, but my little reliable Weber will beat the other tanks off the starting line every time. I know the rebuttal, gas grills are cleaner and more convenient, I can come home from the office and have a quick steak, I wont burn down my porch*. I agree, gas grills are cleaner, you don’t have to wait as long for your heat source, and you run slightly less of a risk of having to call the fire department*, but aren’t all of those things what make grilling a rewarding experience? The charcoal lighting ritual and careful tending of the coals should be part of what we enjoy about making dinner. Grilling should be enjoyed when you have the time, when you are not distracted by a clock or a deadline or a blog entry that is due, it should be a time to experiment and learn about your grill and your skills as a cook, adding a few new coals if necessary to keep the party going. Last but not least, grilling is not just a summer sport. It does not go into storage with the boat! During the colder months the grill more often than not has a little path shoveled to it and the snow surrounding it is melted away. Yes it is cold out, the wind is blowing, but that will keep your coals hotter and your face and fingers will be kept nice and warm by the glowing heat. Don’t be a fair-weather griller, bring the grill out at all times, all year, eight out of twelve months is not enough for me, and you should not settle for wonderful grilled goodness for two thirds of your days either.

*Please Grill Responsibly

Jud McMichael
Sous Chef

Can a restaurant have a Tasting Room?

Can a restaurant have a Tasting Room?

Webster’s Prime is a great steak place, has fresh awesome seafood, is becoming known for fresh produce and unique applications on our Local Tasting Plate, and we have a Tasting Room.  In a recent Marketing Meeting we discussed our Tasting Room and what it is and what it means and all that it could be.  Those of you with Marketing degrees can chime in anytime…

We define our Tasting Room as a nice spot to have a Michigan Craft Beer, a wonderful glass or bottle of wine, a killer flight of scotch or vodka, as well as sample some of our dry aged and wet aged beef or a $12 house cured pastrami sandwich.  It is not a typical winery or vineyard ‘tasting room’ and that is where the confusion comes in.

When you think Tasting Room do you envision a place of spit buckets and long wooden tables with cheese and retail offerings?  Our tasting room has couches and way too comfortable chairs that encourage you to linger.  

When you visit a Tasting Room do you see a sommelier telling you the nuances of a pinot noir’s stone or soil or do you see a bartender who can find you the wine you like based on what you like at a reasonable price?

House-Cured Pastrami Sandwich

We like our Tasting Room.  We stand by it and encourage the atmosphere of comfort and ambiance.  We like the fact that we have live music on Wednesdays and Fridays.  We hope you enjoy ‘Hoppy Hour’ and our stellar sandwiches like Croque Madame.

A Guest Enjoying the Croque Madame Sandwich

We may be redefining was a Tasting Room is and we like our version.  If you haven’t tried it, check it out and give us your opinion.  Love to hear your thoughts.

 

 

Stefan Johnson
Executive Chef
General Manager

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