Carne Bellingham

Nice to meat you

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Although I’d heard rumors that downtown Bellingham had a new neighborhood butcher shop, it wasn’t until a friend of mine started gushing about her new sustainable meat habit that I knew it was time to check out Carne.

“First off, you’ve got to try the bacon,” my carnivorous friend had stressed to me. “Oh, and don’t forget the brats. They’re the best I’ve ever had in my life. While you’re there, you might as well pick up some ground round. It’s amazing.”

With these helpful hints in mind, my fella and I made a run to the Carne last Friday with a list already in hand. Owner Chad Johnson had just opened the shop for the day, and he was happy to fill us in on why, after more than 40 years, downtown Bellingham now has a dedicated butcher shop again.

“I’d been working at grocery store chains for five or six years—first at Fred Meyer, then at Haggen—and saw a need for more locally sourced meat. I learned the basics, and have taken it from there.”

After a successful Kickstarter campaign last spring provided Johnson with the funds to purchase a grinder, sausage press and band saw (among other things), it wasn’t long before he decided on the former Green Frog space at the tail end of State Street as a venue.

What I first noticed about the meat—the GMO-free pork chops, pork belly, top round, bottom round, marrow rounds, brats, bacon, etc.—was how beautiful it was. “Food art” is the best way to describe it.

“Nothing’s frozen; everything’s fresh here,” Johnson told us. He also informed us that what they offer will vary as they continue to build relationships with local farmers.

Menu items customers can expect to find on the regular include bacon (“we keep pretty big piles around”) and ground round. Hearing that, we placed our order for a pound of the grass-fed beef from Skagit Angus, half a pound of dry-cured bacon from Oregon’s Carlton Farms, and two housemade brats, which are created with pork and veal from a special recipe Johnson concocted. Our total came to about $16.

Through the course of the weekend, we polished off our choices. Saturday morning brunch included bacon and eggs, and our guest—a recent transplant from the midwest—declared the bacon to be “better than Iowa bacon, and that’s saying a lot.” It was plump, not overly smoky, and the shrinkage was minimal.

The two fat bratwurst links were braised in beer and added to leftover penne pasta later that night. They were savory and succulent, and everything you’d ever want a brat to be.

A late Sunday night supper featured my guy lighting up the barbecue for what might be the final time of the season. The hamburgers he created from the Skagit Angus were masterfully meaty, and their flavor was distinct and memorable.

Now, when my friend tells me about how amazing the meat she got from Carne was, I can nod my head in appreciation and say things like, “I know! Have you tried the Berkshire pork yet?”

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