McCall’s Meat & Fish
It always feels good when I walk into McCall’s Meat & Fish. You are always greeted with a smile and I like how the main counter is right there in front of you, with a designated section for fish, for meat and for pastry. A cheese case, a spice wall, a dairy cooler and shelves with dust free gourmet dry goods line the perimeter. Against the window on the other side of the front door is a bench that I have used quite a few times and every time I sit there I am thankful for a moment to just chill and gather my thoughts (self, meat, etc).
Despite a good amount of my childhood spent in rural Oregon, it was not until I spent time living in Edinburgh, Scotland that I actually went to a stand alone (not in the back of a grocery store) butcher shop. That experience was a practical one: go in, see what they have, order and move along with your package. The stand-alone butcher was my jam from that day forward. What I made for dinner was based on the packages I collected as I wandered up and down the Scottish streets. I fell in love with shopping and cooking like that and have made a point to seek out my favorite places everywhere I have lived.
When I heard a butcher shop was opening in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles all the way back in 2010, I had high hopes that I would be able to add a “meat place” to my at the time, very short list of beloved places to get great things to cook and eat.
From a practical point of view, I started my personal chef service in 2010 and more than once McCall’s has come through with some obscure, highly desirable, unique item that has made me look like an absolute rock star to my clients. Shopping for quality ingredients lights me up, fires me up and is hands down one of my favorite things about being a cook, both on a personal and professional level. To me, part of the experience of making a wonderful meal is assembling all the ingredients. I doubly enjoy the process when I am able to invest the time and money with a trip to a place that I feel good in like McCall’s.
It’s the kind of butcher shop that takes me away from the scene of LA and provides a space for me to just straight up nerd out over some high quality meat and fish. I find that escape is refreshing and important, but of equal importance is McCall’s consistent high level of quality, attention to detail, professionalism and all their years of experience.
McCall’s has been instrumental in more than one memorable meal I have prepared for my husband, my clients, my friends and myself. And it’s also no accident they have really good stuff. Nathan McCall and Karen Yoo, both went to school at Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena, CA. Nathan finished the entire program at LCB and Karen focused on the pastry portion of the school program. Although they both attended the same school they actually met in the kitchen at Sona, an innovative and amazing restaurant that was way ahead of its time.
They both worked their way through some truly badass kitchens, namely “Daniel,” a three Michelin starred joint my husband had the amazing experience of also spending time in. At Daniel, Karen, worked under Dominique Ansel who is now known for inventing the famous cronut. They also have worked at Campanile with Nancy Silverton, Azark in Spain and the list continues!
In any aspect of the restaurant business there is just no time. As Nathan says, “you have to think ahead, or else nothing will get done.” So on a one-month break at Daniel, Nathan proposed to Karen. During that brief moment they decided they wanted to move back to California and get the wedding rolling. Within a four month window they flew to Hawaii, got married, moved back to Los Angeles and settled back into California.
Originally, Nathan & Karen had planned to open a restaurant, but after a year of looking for restaurant spaces that were very expensive and even more expensive to build into, they decided to go with something a little more low key. It was also very important to both of them to be the sole investors. They did not want to go down the road of having the pressure of investors. They also knew the restaurant biz could be pricey.
As well, Nathan did a lot of recipe development during the time while looking for a restaurant space and found he had to travel to a lot of different specialty stores to find ingredients. Living in NY they liked going to the butcher and fish markets and thought, why not combine the two and be the place that has these hard to find quality ingredients!? A Chef driven atmosphere where one can find ingredients you can’t get other places. They started the butcher business with a restaurant mentality and McCall’s Meat & Fish was born! They opened their doors January 2010 and expanded with the bakery in 2012.
This married couple-shop owners-chef duo is working as smoothly as butter. To me a good leader is not always defined by how they behave, but it’s how the members of their team behave. It seems very clear that this team is encouraged to have and voice their own opinions, and to take the time to discuss the food with their customers. Plus, they have the knowledge to answer even the random questions someone like me comes at them with.
Nathan actually grew up around 60 acres of all varietals of plants. His Father owned a nursery in Fresno. As he says, he’s a country boy, “I’m not a Silverlake hipster butcher!”
This is not the butcher shop that will suggest you go home and throw it all in the crockpot. Nathan & Karen know technique, they respect their clients love of food and they deliver exactly what they say and they stand by what they sell. I really, really, really, appreciate that! I have never felt like I was given the wrong advice or sold the wrong product after a trip to McCall’s. Coming home and staying happy with my purchases from start to finish is crucial, my end result is always as enjoyable as the experience of shopping there itself. The entire team at McCall’s loves this type of interaction with their customers and it’s what makes them stand out as a butcher.
Professionally, I have needed to come to McCall’s Meat & Fish just for a rare product. Rabbit is not always easy to get and one of my client’s had made a request for it. With a phone call I was able to order the rabbit, run in and get it super efficiently, then freeing me up to begin freaking out about how I was going to then cook said rabbit. In the end the rabbit was delicious, McCall’s kept me and my client well supplied and in the future I know where to go when I just happen to need some rabbit (which makes a gelatinous, delicious and aromatic broth, by the way).
McCall’s Meat & Fish walks the perfect balance between no-frills and all the frills that any cook may need. If you need espelette pepper, foie gras, quail eggs or pork cheeks, they may just be fully stocked, or you can order it ahead of time and they will source it for you. Karen makes some mind blowing pastry that tempts me to no end: it’s as tasty as it looks. For the Real Food minded McCall’s has a decent supply of broth making bones and parts, but that is not really their thing.
The 100% grass-fed at all costs is not a big part of the McCall’s philosophy, because this can make the meat tougher and leaner, and that changes the flavor profile. You don’t get that nice fatty marble that adds flavor to your meat from grain fed cows. Although they do offer some cuts that are 100% grass fed.
They do believe in antibiotic and hormone free meats and prefer meat that has been humanly raised. Including when the cow is introduced to grains. The majority of these farmers who stuff their meet with antibiotics and hormones also start feeding the calves grain at three weeks. The farmers that McCall’s sources from don’t introduce grain until the calves have fully developed and are able to digest it, which is around 9-12 weeks. The cows are growing at a natural rate and you get a better product in the end.
Since Revivalist Kitchen is where taste and health meet: we appreciate a space that allows us to feel safe with our choices when it comes to preparing Real Food that is as good as it looks and tastes. At McCall’s Meat and Fish we get to come in and buy what we fancy, without feeling limited by self-imposed rules and dietary requirements. Recently we ordered two very large buckets of duck fat and about 12 duck to make duck confit for our Harvest Dinner! Check out that post here.
McCall’s lovely array of retail, gourmet, ingredients, is as well set at a very high standard. As Nathan said, “I’m not going to sell something just for the sake of selling something. If I can’t stand behind this product I’m not going to sell it. Just because it’s organic, or it’s local, or it’s this or it’s that. If I eat it and I don’t like it or I’m not excited about it I’m not gonna sell it! I want people to be confident and have a sense of comfort, even if it’s something they never tried before, knowing it will be a good product coming form McCall’s.”
I applaud the choices that Karen & Nathan make in regards to their business. They have a clear point of view that comes from having the experience needed to develop their own philosophies on what is good food, while not being overly swayed by the ebb and flow of trends in both the culinary & nutritional worlds. What McCall’s provides to me is more than just good meat: they foster a sense of community that inspires me and allows me to develop my own philosophies. Keep up the good work over there, Revivalist Kitchen loves you.
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