By Andy J. Gordon
The first annual Los Angeles Times Food Bowl features events, panel discussions with world-class chefs and a series of themed dinners at restaurants around the city, all happening in and around Los Angeles from May 1 to 31, 2017. One of those themed dinners took place at Belcampo in Santa Monica on May 18, 2017. That butcher shop and restaurant hosted a farm-to-table dinner and discussion about farming practices, animals and how the company works to harvest the best meat naturally.
The event began in the butcher shop, where JP, the company’s cattle manager, talked about their efforts to mimic the natural environment and behavior of cattle. They allow the herds to graze on grass, move them to appropriate locations and take every step possible to be environmentally friendly while maximizing sustainability. The calves are about two-and-a-half years old when harvested for the best possible meat.
Belcampo’s farms are in Gazelle, at the northern edge of California, and their animals are raised solely for the company’s butcher shops and restaurants. All their meats are certified organic. The cattle are a specially bred combination of Wagyu and other species that produce efficient animals that result in meat cuts that taste amazing.
During the discussion, the wait staff presented guests with a choice of two signature cocktails. The “Beets By J” was a hearty combination of Arette-aged tequila blended with beets, citrus-spiked agave nectar, lime and lemon juices, as well as smoked salt. The other cocktail was the “Chess Park,” a tart highball made with premium vodka, Chareau (an aloe-based spirit), lemon, lime, cucumber, candied tea and pickled strawberry.
After the discussion about Belcampo’s sourcing methods, we took our cocktails into the nicely appointed dining room of the restaurant. We enjoyed a family-style meal featuring several of their excellent meats and local farmers-market produce. Things started with lardo-wrapped bread sticks, pickled and deviled farm eggs and muffaletta sliders.
The lardo was unbelievable. It was creamy, delicious and melted in our mouths. The eggs looked like a work of art with their pink hue and decorative herbal splashes. The sliders were filled with a variety of salumis, provolone, pickles and an olive tapenade – as good as any we’ve found in New Orleans.
Steven Infield, the restaurant’s general manager and wine buyer, offered a nice selection of wines to go with the meal. The 2014 Hocus Pocus Syrah, 2013 Whitcraft Pinot Noir and 2013 Cold Heaven Viognier all tasted great and paired nicely with the food selections.
After the appetizers, the servers brought out a light and refreshing farmers-market salad. It contained delicate greens, shaved asparagus, grapes, a sweet pea puree and Meyer lemon vinaigrette. Fresh-made fettucine followed the salad. The star of the pasta dish was the amazing chunks of guanciale – a smoky, flavorful bacon, made from some of the pigs harvested on the farm.
The main course consisted of overflowing platters of whole roasted rib racks with grilled asparagus, heirloom carrots and fingerling potatoes, all in a red wine reduction. The meat was incredibly tender and flavorful, while the vegetables were perfectly cooked and complemented the meat.
Dessert was completely unnecessary, but the restaurant chose wisely by presenting a light, tart goat cheesecake decorated with fresh strawberries, pistachio nuts and a graham-cracker crumble. It was a fine finish to an amazing meal.
Belcampo is a great source for a wide selection of premium quality meats and poultry. Their Santa Monica location has a fine-dining restaurant, while their other Los Angeles area locations are butcher shops with limited fast-serve dining options. Check their website for additional information, locations and hours.