With restrictions on restaurant dining in Ohio, many couples will set a romantic table, light candles, and dine at home this Valentine’s Day. A renaissance in boutique butchers specializing in locally sourced meats gives home cooks more choices in 2021.  The menu, area butchers say, could be and should be, something more interesting than a cliché filet.

“Given the current dining scene and pandemic, this year presents an opportunity to challenge your cooking skills at home,” says Melissa Khoury, owner of Saucisson in Cleveland’s Slavic Village. Khoury and Penny Barend Tagliarina started the storefront butcher shop in 2013, to provide unique and hard to find products. From hand-cured meats to specially spiced sausages, Saucisson supports local family farms that are humane and hormone-free.

Khoury says she’d start the Valentine’s Day celebration with a meat and cheese board. “We have so many local cheesemakers around Northeast Ohio that you’re bound to find a few makers that will satisfy everyone’s preference.”

“When it comes to actual dinner, beef tenderloin, ribeye and higher-end cuts are always an option. But at Saucisson we push lesser-known cuts. A sirloin, for instance,” she says. “Most folks don’t consider roasting a larger cut of sirloin to medium-rare and slicing just as you would with beef tenderloin. But, in my opinion, sirloin has better marbling because it’s a muscle that works a bit more for the animal than the tenderloin. The result is a marbled, delicious piece of beef for a quarter of the cost of tenderloin.”

Willingness to experiment is wise given higher demand for better-known cuts. “Because Saucisson sources from small, family farms we have a limit supply of the higher-end cuts,” she notes. “So, we work hard to utilize the entire animal. Not to mention many cuts are just a damn, good piece of beef.”

Khoury recommends potato sarladaise, as a side dish, basically potatoes cooked in duck fat. Saucisson sells duck fat for recipes like this. Something you’ll understand once you try it.

Braised, Frenched beef short rib from Ohio City Provisions in Cleveland.

Trevor Clatterbuck, farmer/co-owner of Ohio City Provisions in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood, also recommends charcuterie and Ohio cheeses as a starter. Started in 2015, OCP is part grocer and part whole animal butcher. The butcher shop features freshly cut, pastured beef, heritage and heirloom varietals of pork, pasture-raised chicken, and occasional specialty meats such as rabbit, lamb, duck, turkey, venison, and goat. They also cure meats and create terrines/pates for use on charcuterie presentations.

“Valentine’s Day is for sharing …

Chef Nate Fagnilli

“I would serve a spreadable, cooked charcuterie known as ‘ciciolli,’” says Clatterbuck. “It’s soft with tender pieces of pork belly braised in white wine and herbs; the entire spread is whipped together with house-rendered lard and dried cherries.”

He suggests pairing it with the Elmsted Ash, triple crème camembert from Marchant Manor cheese of Cleveland Heights.  Rosemary-black pepper crackers and ground cherry preserves by local makers and sold at OCP, complete a basic board for two.

“For an entrée, I would spend the time to braise a frenched beef short rib,” he says.  “This cut is economical, intensely beefy and well-marbled. It will require careful attention from the cook. With a low, slow braise, it is fork tender and delicious.  When tied to the bone, it is an impressive presentation.”

“I’d finish the short rib by glazing it in a pan with demi-glace. Then, I’d rest it atop a bed of parsnip puree, plate it with roasted baby carrots and top with a drizzle of pan sauce.” And yes, OCP sells a homemade demi-glace so home cooks don’t have to spend hours making it.

Valentine’s Day is for sharing, says Nate Fagnilli, butcher/owner at Na*Kyrsie Meats in Geneva. Fagnilli opened Na*Kyrsie in 2016 as a sidebar to his gig as chef at Crosswinds Grille in Geneva-on-the-Lake. Today, he specializes in whole animal butchery and cured meats.

He recommends sharing a chuck eye or tri-tip roast. Fagnilli says, “I prefer to indirect grill them on a charcoal grill.  The key is to extend the cooking time as long as possible while still cooking to medium-rare 124 F.  Low heat is needed to do this, and grilling makes it possible. I like indirect grilling as it will also caramelize the outside,” he says. “An alternative is to roast in a 200 F oven to a temperature of about 115 F. Then, sear the meat on the stovetop or on a grill.”

As a side, Fagnilli suggests roasted sweet potatoes or a cauliflower puree and seasonal vegetable.

Catherine Chuha, livestock farmer/owner of G.A.R. Horizons in Chardon suggests a stuffed flank steak. She and her husband Steve choose a spinach/cheese/mushroom combination.

Photo by G.A.R. Horizons LLC on November 01, 2020. Image may contain: food.

“Flank steak was a cut I was never familiar with, but so many of our customers asked for it,” she says. That sparked her interest and she started trolling Pinterest. “I tried this recipe once and it is a household favorite.”

The sliced presentation adds elegance to a plate. “Our favorite sides are a fresh, local hydroponic-grown salad and our own farm fresh potatoes,” she says. The flank steak, potatoes and other locally made products are sold at the small, farm store she started in 2018. Prior to the store she sold freezer meats at local farmers’ markets.