How To Get An Education In Meat


It’s a cold night in December and John Poiarkoff, the executive chef at The Pines in Gowanus, Brooklyn, takes me outside to their large walk-in refrigerator. Inside are cases of wine and five ducks hanging from their feet. I see their black eyes, their beaks, tiny holes below their heads. Underneath is a tray to catch drips of blood. Rusty pink and bumpy with raised dots, the ducks will age for two weeks before hitting the menu. Poiarkoff gets his ducks from John Fazio in the Hudson Valley. His ducks are not shot in flight and retrieved by a cute dog, but rather walk into a machine that loops their legs, flips them around, and shoots a bolt up into their neck and out through the back of their brain. I pull my eyes away from the birds and glance further into the walk-in.

“Here’s the rib eye,” Poiarkoff says, taking a tray off the top shelf. The giant slab is dark; almost the color of a purple beet still covered in dirt, or a scab, and it’s developing a tacky coating called a pellicle. The beef has been air-drying in Poiarkoff’s walk-in for over a month. He pointed to a fan that helped the air circulation that was so necessary to the process. A few weeks earlier I had eaten a rib eye at The Pines that had been aged for 120 days. Sprinkled with a tiny bit of finishing salt, and nothing more, it was the tenderest piece of meat I had ever placed in my mouth.

When Poiarkoff took over as executive chef, he overhauled everything—the fresh vegetables, how often the menu changes, the wine list, and where he got his meat. “For me, its cool supporting the little guys, and its also the quality of product,” he told me over beers. He used to get his meat from Pat LaFreida, the same guy who seemingly supplies anyone and everyone in New York’s culinary scene. But Poiarkoff will be the first to tell you that buying from LaFreida doesn’t mean you know where your meat comes from. Much of what LaFreida sells—all high-quality—comes from the Midwest, which is anything but local to a chef in New York.

Written for Vice/Munchies. Read the full story here.