Bona fide Butchery: Proper Meats + Provisions

Northern Arizona’s Mountain Living Magazine, January 2019

Written by Gail G. Collins

The Shambles is the oldest street in York. Its name descends from an archaic word meaning slaughterhouse. The market of butcher stalls is mentioned in The Domesday Book of William the Conqueror, an 11th-century grand survey of England. Soon after, the Butchers Guild, a professional organization, who held sway in matters of hygiene, weights and measures and so on, formed to oversee the trade.

Fast forward in history to 1865, when Chicago’s meatpacking industry utilized a vast network of railways, and few decades later, the advent of reliable refrigeration generated potential. In the 50s, neighborhood butchers promoted their offerings with recipe booklets, such as A Medley of Meat Recipes. In those days, a shopper popped into the green grocer for fresh produce and the fish monger for today’s catch, but the butcher often suggested supper. Cleaver in hand, he would point out specialty cuts and how to prepare them.

This golden period—captured in ambience and action—still exists at Proper Meats + Provisions, newly relocated on Route 66. Chunky, custom, butcher block tables meet leather benches with their backs fastened by leather pulls against rough paneled wainscoting. Chalkboards advertise the menu choices. Iron shelving contains practical goods for dining plus items for sale—olive oils, fresh pasta, cutting boards or cast iron pans. Kim Duncan Design fashioned the vintage air.

Behind a long glass case, filled with sausages, steaks and unique offerings, Joe Fiandach stands ready to provide advice on locally-sourced animals with a sure pedigree.

“The goal is to buy meat, like wine, from single farms,” said owner Paul Moir. “We have three sources in the case today:  Arizona Legacy from Humboldt, Pierre’s Prime from Rimrock and Creekstone Farms out of Kansas.”

Award-winning restaurateurs Paul and Laura Moir also founded Brix and Criollo Latin Kitchen in Flagstaff, and originally opened Proper Meats in Southside in 2014. Now occupying the former Grand Canyon Café space, the new location expanded the shop in multiple ways.

“It gave us opportunities to spread out the kitchen space for production and preparation and include a new seafood case with wider selections,” said Paul. “It also provided more space for retail and expanded hours.” Meal options, like a bucket of fried chicken, homemade stock or Bolognese, sausages or charcuterie and more, are prepackaged in a case for easy access. Even Fido can benefit from homemade dog food.

Proper Meats drives to Perkinsville to pick up animals each week. “There is no place that delivers whole animals to your door,” said Paul. Processing the whole animal from nose to tail yields by-products, such as lard, tallow, soup bones and organ meat. Nothing is wasted at Proper. Still, a pig only has two bellies, which doesn’t near the numbers needed for Saturday sales of bacon. Two briskets won’t fulfill a day’s order of sandwiches either, so certain cut are supplemented.

There is an educational component to shopping a neighborhood butcher like Proper Meats. Pierre’s Prime Beef is dry-aged for 25-30 days. The grass-fed and grain finished meat is darker with a gamier, concentrated flavor. Arizona Legacy Beef’s Criollo cattle are lean. Paul advises basting the ribeye with butter before cooking it in cast iron.  “It’s about keeping expectations in line with new products and techniques,” he said. Sausages blister on the grill and flame, so poach them first, then finish them off.

“The sandwiches are ridiculously big,” said Paul, “because that’s what I want to eat.” The fried chicken po’boy is piled high with house-made smoked andouille, slaw and spicy remoulade made with guajillo chili. It’s as good as it gets outside of New Orleans. Sweet and spicy wings on mizuna greens go Asian dressed with roasted garlic and toasted sesame. The PMP cheesesteak is shaved, tender roast beef with triple peppers, onions and provolone on a hoagie. The pastrami is the best-seller for a reason. It’s an eight-day process of brining, smoking and steaming the higher fat, flavorful briskets. A peppery stack of meat with Swiss on grilled bread makes for a melty meld with fries and a pickle spear.

The charcuterie board varies; this day with prosciutto, fennel salami, house capicola—a Corsican cold cut—three cheeses, including barely Buzzed coffee-rubbed cheese, sourdough toasts, pickled peppers and onions, honeyed apricots and figs plus wholegrain beer mustard. Toss back a local beer or sip an Arizona wine for the perfect indulgence.

 “Keep an open mind—try new cuts and take the butcher’s advice on how to cook an imaginative recipe with specialty cuts,” said Paul. Benefit from higher quality meats or learn about value cuts that aren’t available in supermarkets. Either way, a better dinner is served with choices from Proper Meats + Provisions. NAMLM

Proper Meat + Provisions, 110 E. Route 66, is open daily 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.