When I started cooking more seriously again in college, I found myself dependent on discount grocery stores and occasionally a specialty food shop (at the time known to me as the famous Ukrop’s, Richmond VA’s brilliant equivalent to Whole Foods) to supply my kitchen with meats, produce and the like.
My affair with grocery shopping grew more expensive and tailored over time after returning to New York City in 2005 with exposure to such places as Citarella, Agata & Valentina, Kalyustan’s and Grace’s Market on the Upper East Side. But it was not until the fall of 2009 that I found my first dedicated purveyor of meat and poultry since childhood – Esposito’s Pork Shop, located on 38th at 9th Avenue.
Though I don’t need to extol on the benefits of a local butcher (fresher meats, locally grown and at cheaper prices), I implore you to uncover a local butchery near you. I’m often shocked by the consistent high quality of the meats I purchase at relatively phenomenal prices compared to places like Whole Foods, Gristedes and Food Emporium in New York. You absolutely cannot beat USDA Prime Beef Shell Steaks at $8.99/lb (just check out my Steak Au Poivre recipe to see the result (*Esposito’s pricing subject to change…naturally).
A relatively spare facility, Esposito’s hides an excellent assortment of beef, pork poultry and deli meats behind the bright reflection of its glass display cases. But the average passerby should not discount the industrial looking interior to this pork shop, Esposito’s has a long family history in New York and cult following from many home chefs in NYC for their delicious and freshly made Italian sausages. One of the largest distributors of sausage in the City, I am a frequent buyer of Esposito’s Hot & Spicy Sausage for my Italian dishes, but you can find a whole range of sausage varieties there, including:
*And for all my non-New York readers, you can actually purchase them online via their website if you like!
So take a look around your neighborhood, you may find one of the best culinary resources around the corner for helping you take your skills to the next level. I know my friend Robert Esposito (pictured below) has certainly done so for me.