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Dear Customers,

              When this ad week ends on Sunday, we’ll be nearly half-way through the month of March, the last month of the worst quarter of the year. Spring is about two weeks away and everyone’s thoughts generally turn to warmer weather and sunshine.  We know that while it can still be a ways away its somehow reassuring to know that it’s coming – and sooner rather than later!

            One herald of Spring that isn’t weather dependent is our March Meat Bonanza.  In the early days when we first ran a Bonanza, it was only three days: either Thursday, Friday and Saturday or Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  These meat-centric sales became so popular that it occurred to me that there really wasn’t any reason to limit it to a few certain days, so we began running the additional specials on meat for the whole week – Monday through Sunday!  It’s your chance to really stock up on beef, poultry, pork and sausage as well as some specialty items that don’t really fit into any of those primal categories. 

            When it comes to beef, there are several grades which are determined by marbling, animal age, plus color and texture of the muscle.  Marbling is simply the small flecks of fat within the beef muscle.  While you may look at it and think, “oooh, that’s too fatty!”, in reality that fat provides the flavor, the tenderness and the juiciness which improves its overall deliciousness!  There are about 9 grades of beef; 1). Prime (available only to upscale restaurants), 2). Higher Choice, 3). Choice, 4.) Select, 5.) Standard, 6). Commercial, 7.) Utility, 8.) Cutter and 9.) Canner. The last 3, Utility, Cutter and Canner grades are from older cattle with no marbling and they’re used to make cheap ground beef, hot dogs or pet food!  Actually, a tenth determination is No Roll or Ungraded beef, which just means “voluntarily ungraded” by the beef plant.

            Grading for quality is entirely voluntary and must be paid for by the meat processors themselves.  That’s why some beef is sold as ungraded because the beef plant didn’t want to incur the expense of paying to have it graded.  When you buy no-roll or ungraded beef it’s always way cheaper than the USDA Choice, but it’s kind of a crapshoot.  You might get a delicious, tender piece of beef that you’d swear is as good as Choice . . . or, you might get a piece that will put the integrity of your teeth to the test!  It’s hard to tell when you see it in the case unless you’ve had a career with the USDA.  We carry it, along with USDA Choice, simply because of its price point and the fact that many customers have requested it. 

            For years, I’ve wondered why a piece of steak purchased in a nice restaurant always tastes better – beefier and more succulent – than one I cooked at home.  The secret, as I’ve discovered, is to baste the beef with butter while it is cooking.  You can certainly add your favorite herbs and spices (such as chives, garlic, tarragon and thyme) to the butter as well and it’s used in addition to any rubs you care to employ.  Butter adds a fresh, light flavor that balances with the richness of the meat.  The herbs you add give it a complex flavor without masking the meatiness of the steak.  Seasoned butter is also great on fish, chicken, vegetables, bread, pasta, and popcorn!  You can make it ahead and it will last in the refrigerator for weeks or freeze it for up to a year!  So stock up this week, you’ll be glad you did!