If changes at The Piggy Market is any indication, the trend may be that we’re actually looking to spend more time in the kitchen, not less. In response to as many as 10 requests a day, Dave Neil, co-owner of Westboro’s upscale deli and take-home food shop, has added a new focus to the existing operation: raw meat. Last month, Neil shut down for a brief hiatus (including a research trip to Toronto), renovated the space slightly, and re-opened as a gourmet butcher shop.
The timing of Piggy’s re-invention comes (unintentionally, no doubt) on the heels of the abrupt and somewhat surprising demise of Murray’s Market, a downtown shop based on a similar concept, offering high-quality butcher cuts from small producers, a wide selection of locally-sourced charcuterie, as well as take-out meals, and various gourmet food products from the region. Neil and his partner Warren Sutherland (who is also a part of the Smoque Shack team) seem to have been building this business at a slow but steady pace — starting out as a market stall at the Lansdowne Market and growing in increments. Since setting up their retail space in Westboro, Neil says he’s just continued responding to the demands of the neighbourhood.
Judging by what’s happening in other cities, the appeal of old-school butchery continues to rage as a major food trend alongside the enduring obsession with all things beefy and bacony. Recall that author Julie Powell’s follow-up to her famous Julie & Julia was called Cleaving and chronicled her decision to become a butcher’s apprentice. The New York Times‘ Kim Severson predicted the rise of “butcher love” in her article “Young Butchers Gain Rock Star Status in the Food World.”
The Piggy Market works directly with local farmers and “walks the walk” when it comes to a nose-to-tail cooking philosophy. But even with a golden mountain of fresh fried pork rinds (chicharrón) and an entire prime rib in its display fridge, the vibe in the Wesboro shop retains a button-down, rather than Indie Rock vibe. Neil continues to bring in whole animals (no longer exclusively sourced locally) and transform them into take-out goodies such as pulled pork, sausages, soups, stews, luncheon meats, and the popular homemade sausages and Jamaican patties.
Now, with the ability to offer raw cuts, Neil’s job becomes even more of a juggling act — butchering on-demand, filling phone orders, and ensuring that meat is processed into take-home meals once they age to a certain point. The bigger challenge might be an issue of education. In North America we are accustomed to buying our meats butchered and pre-packaged. It’s one thing to buy a bag of sausages or a tub of pulled pork, it’s another to be reminded just exactly where it all comes from. It will be interesting to see who’s putting their money where their mouth is.
Here’s a list of some of the items that are/will be available:
In the Butchery:
- local beef (O’Brien Farms) – steaks are cut and beef is ground while you wait
- Ontario pork
- heritage pork – Large Black, Berkshire, and Tamworth
- turkey (local or local organic)
- suckling pig
- duck – Lac Brome
- red deer (once a month)
In the Deli:
From Dolce Lucano of Woodbridge, Ontario
From Seed to Sausage in the Sharbot Lake area
From Niagara Food Specialties (Mario Pingue)
The Piggy Market, 400 Winston Ave. 613-371-6124