In this modern day, meat in your grocery store is proverbial to the stork delivering newborn babies on your doorsteps. It remains mostly unknown to consumers how the cattle were raised and slaughtered before it arrived in your local grocery fridge ready for purchase. Regardless, it’s there and you still need to make that pot roast tonight. One California based meat company dares to go back to basics to provide the much needed transparency into how their quality meat products arrive at their butcher shop. As a vertically integrated company based in Larkspur, CA, Belcampo Meat Company owns ranches, slaughter facilities, meat processing plants, as well as butchers and eateries. In essence, they grow and slaughter their own cattle, then age the meat in their own plants, and lastly have their own butchers cut it for you. Through the invitation of Belcampo’s PR firm, I visited their newest location in Palo Alto at Towne and Country Village to see the butcher counter and eatery. Towne and Country Village itself has the design of a quaint small town plaza with strips of tile roofed businesses. The shops seem like boutiques and the restaurants like they are mom and pop owned even if it is a chain. In the farthest corner of this plaza sits a small butcher shop with décor reminiscent of the 1950’s, an era where people actually did need butcher shops.
Pristine white tile walls are interrupted only by brown butcher paper and a diagram illustrating that sustainably raised, grass fed, organic meat goes into their product. On the left side, a tall butcher works behind a glass display case full of fresh red meats, organized in sections by beef, goat, lamb, pork and labeled by cut.
I was greeted by the store manager who walked me through the different offerings of the butcher section and gave me a background on the company's mission. Then we arrived at the ordering window where the good stuff truly starts. I ordered the following delicacies.
($3.50) Cup of Posole pork stew with hominy and dried chiles.
I thought this soup tasted good. The flavors were balanced and hominy is a good soup choice. However, I didn't find it filling or spectacular. I would not get it again only in favor of trying other menu options instead.
($5) Braised lamb belly bun with arugula, caramelized onions, spiced yogurt and feta cheese.
I thought this was a very good preparation of lamb. Just a faint hint of that lamb taste and not enough to be considered gameyness which most people dislike about lamb. Very flavorful seasoning and just the right portion size for a lamb sandwich.
($12) Philly cheesesteak with peppers, onions, and house cheese sauce
Philly cheesesteak is one of Phil's favorite sandwiches, perhaps because his name is in it? I too would love a Ngocwich if one existed. He was very satisfied with this cheesesteak. Although we both think $12 is a bit much for a philly. What do you think?
($6) Spiced broccolini in a flash fried manner with chiles and a touch of lemon.
As a vegetable lover, these are hands down the best way I've tasted broccolini. My guess is that it's flash fried only because it's crispy all around and not burnt. Seems different than sauteeing it. The chili and lemon combo is simple and genius. This was to die for!
($3.50) Cup of bone broth on the left side. Bone broth is made from boiling down many different types of bones and then finished off with some vinegar at the end. Belcampo sells them in large frozen tubs, or by the cup for immediate consumption. Bone broth has been a health rage lately. All I can find online about it is that there are health benefits for babies and for your skin, yet the store manager tells me it isn't just mothers and expectant mothers who consume it. They get customers of all types for this item.
It tastes really clean and nutritious, exactly as expected from the steps described to make it. I did taste the vinegary finish at the end but it was not over powering. I would definitely have bone broth again as a healthy side or palette cleanser. I would make it Asian style by tossing in chopped green onions and cilantro.
The Towne and Country Plaza in Palo Alto is a cozy and bustling area. Great for getting the offerings of a small town with bigger city people watching. Belcampo's company mission and vertical integration is something to be applauded. It can't be cheap to operate everything within the same company. I trust that the butcher knows what he's doing, I trust the store manager understands the company's values and her store's products. In terms of the butchery, I would definitely come back for squab, grass fed beef steaks, and a frozen tub of that bone broth.
The prices are not cheap and you should understand why before you come in. You're there for the experience, to chat with the butcher about the meat and how to best prepare it. You are not there to pick up a Saran wrapped styrofoam plate of ground beef from a fluorescent lit store. I would reserve a trip to the Belcampo butcher for nights where your in laws are coming over for dinner and you need to impress them with a perfectly prepared lamb chop. Or for when the dreaded time comes that you need to entertain an important manager from work.
On the other hand, I would gladly come back to the eatery for lunch any time. I thought $5 for a lamb slider was decently priced because it's lamb. The Philly cheesesteak is a bit high priced. So is the broccolini but that vegetable prepared in that manner is so worth it. For price sensitive folks, I think you can get a decent meal by ordering a combination of soups, sliders, or sandwiches. It's cooked on the spot and comes out piping hot.
Belcampo on Yelp
Belcampo on Yelp