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Oh Wonderful Sonoma County meats!

I grew up in a typical working class, New York City Italian-American family. Food was a constant big topic of discussion. Grocery shopping was a family affair. Pursuing the "good stuff" at the farmer's markets, delicatessens, and supermarkets was a competitive sport. My parents would haggle with fruit vendors and fish mongers. My father would berate the butcher when the cut of pork was too thin or too fatty. It was mandatory for meat to be the meal centerpiece. My mom was an adventurous cook. Organ meats from all sorts of animals regularly made their dinner time appearance. Some of these preparations were not met with glee by my sisters & me. I won't go into vivid detail about fried lamb brains. But 95% of the time mom hit a home run with both the mundane and the exotic. Pig trotters in aspic one night, hamburger & noodle casserole the next.

As I grow older, I've noticed that I'm eating less & less meat. Not really by conscious thought or planning. It's as though I just lost interest. The thought of having steak for dinner doesn't fill me with hungry anticipation, even when dining out in our Sonoma Valley restaurants which I do more than 7 meals per week. Lately, I'll choose a meat dish only if the preparation seems really interesting. The growing economic expense isn't a real factor for my waning interest. Neither do I harbor any lingering shame over the necessary animal slaughter to feed us all. It's just meat isn't that tasty anymore. Well, my tastebuds have become more trained and sensitive to the nuances of fish, vegetables, wines, spices, even gourmet bubbly water. So that rules out my tongue going south due to advancing age. And then a small epiphany happened really recently - Like last week.

I've been passing the gated entrance to BUD'S Custom Meats on Petaluma Hill road for the past 20 plus years. Bud's Custom Meats , The small sign has always intrigued me but I never visited. I figured this was a country butcher that would require that I purchase at least half a cow to fill a freezer with a lifetime supply of meat. Boy was I wrong! You drive down a 1/4 mile entrance to the small building with the Traeger meat smoker units for sale on the front porch. Step inside. The small sales area has just 2 glass front double door refrigerators and one freezer. And inside you find Meaty Paradise. Cuts of prime, organic pasture fed beef. Ground buffalo, Ostrich steaks, Elk steaks, cuts of pork, just a couple of wonderfully fat clean ducks. Ooooo and the beef brisket. The object of my quest and my happy re-entry to meat consumption. I purchased a few small packages of various other meats as well. Prices for the top shelf quality, locally farm raised and butchered on-site meats are lower than COSTCO.

The next day four people came over for dinner at my place. We made the brisket. Everyone at the table is a well traveled, middle (ahem) aged fellow foodie. We all agreed that this was the best beef brisket that we've ever eaten. Yo! Bud's Custom Meats, you rock! If you live here, go to Bud's. Get something, cook it up. You'll love it!

So the lesson to my personal meat story is that the supermarket level stuff just doesn't have much flavor anymore. Factory raised cows fed on a low budget mixture of chemical grains and steroids do not make a delicious steak. You don't find top grade choice beef often in markets anymore. The best stuff is sold to the high end restaurants and gourmet butcher shops. Morale of this story: Want good meat? Buy from your local rancher / butcher.

If you're a visitor from far away, loading up your luggage with Bud's Custom Meats is probably not an option. But do not despair. Here's some places that make real good meaty Bar-B-Que:

Bluegrass Bar & Grill - A newly opened restaurant in the old "water mill" in Glen Ellen. A little out of the way, a lot in the know about dry rub Bar-B-Que. This is the good stuff for surprisingly low prices. The dining room is rustic quaint. The bar has Whiskey sampler tastings. You'll mix with knowledgeable locals. Bluegrass hasn't been "discovered" yet.

Lombardi's Gourmet BBQ Deli - This delicatessen has a few picnic tables on the porch next to the smoker. Regulars use the words "orgasm" and "brisket" in the same sentence frequently when eating Lombardi's chow.

Happy hunting!