Review: Fatted Calf, Please Throw Me a Bone

Featured Posts, Home Chef, Local Chef, San Francisco Food Experience — By KF Louis on September 22, 2012 at 10:02 pm

I greatly appreciate that Fatted Calf is in my SF neighborhood, and the meat/product quality that it delivers to every corner of the shiny glass case.  The staff is simply awesome.

lamb loin chops

The lamb loin chops from Fatted Calf are superb, but $27/pound. But I'll still stick with $13/lb chops from New Zealand.

The issue I have is this: they charge an outsized premium for what they do, and so I rarely come out of the shop with a bag and a dinner plan.  Netted out, the meat costs are routinely 35-50% higher than when I shop at Whole Foods, and that is saying something.  And I’ve done enough  the side-by-side taste comparisons (4x now) to decide the taste is close to even, edge given to FC.

Yes, I realize Fatted Calf is an artisinal butcher, and that tasty meat is not cheap.  But I don’t appreciate “artisinal” pricing and packaging habits that extort the customer.  Compare a rib chop of lamb from Whole Foods (or in SF, Bryan’s or Faletti’s) to one from the Fatted Calf, and you’ll There is 1-2 more ounces of fat and bone per chop, and that adds up to another $13-26 if you buy 8 of them to feed 4 people for a single meal.  Same goes for the pork chops, which are cut to carry a lot of extra bone and fat, and also the porchetta (loin cut to belly, rolled up like a pinwheel for $15/lb).

Sure, the butcher told me:  ”we spend more time preparing it, and you’re getting a lot more FLAVOR because of the way we cut our meats.”  To which I responded — “Let’s be honest.  The second you trim the excess bone and fat off of that loin chop, you can’t sell it for $26 a pound.  It goes in the scrap pile that sells for much less.”

I remember ten years ago when Whole Foods became known as “Whole Paycheck,” and in those days, I refused to shop there much because there weren’t many product options besides the premium ones.  (Most of the time, I do not prefer $10/pound pasta that was cut from artisinal brass extruders –  I want DeCecco for $2.) The company has since done a great job of combating that image with price discounts and offering a broader variety of goods so that I don’t feel skewered if I don’t have time to shop somewhere else.  Today you can get a pound of pasta for $2, and butter for $3-12…you choose.  I hope Fatted Calf will someday follow in Whole Foods’ footsteps. When it does, it will command a larger part of my discretionary food spend.

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