At Home on the Range
Dish got a big telephone raspberry from Niman Schell, the tony meat purveyor, without even being able to ask this innocent question: Do happy animals taste better?

“We're not interested in talking to you guys after that story you did on Bolinas,” said the stern man on the other end of the line. Niman Schell is in Bolinas, and SF Weekly's July 12 story popped that precious Marin town's utopian bubble.

The fact that boutique cattle ranchers have no use for reporters doesn't mean they produce bad meat. Robert Dorsey, the chef at Firefly in Noe Valley, uses Niman Schell meats (including beef, pork, and lamb) in the restaurant's dishes. He particularly likes the well-marbled rib-eye steaks and the leg of lamb. The cost of Niman Schell meat “is up there,” Dorsey acknowledges, “but it's not overpriced.” Besides, he adds, “they cut us deals” because Firefly uses Niman Schell exclusively.

But Jim Carey, meat manager at Real Food Company's Polk Street store, sells Bradley Beef from Texas and thinks it's better. Could he distinguish the two in a taste test? “I think I could tell them apart,” Carey says. “It would be an interesting test.”

There is something chilling about animals bound for the slaughterhouse being described as “happy” (as they were on Firefly's first menu two Novembers ago), but everyone Dish spoke to agreed that reducing the stress on animals makes their meat tastier and more tender.Carey, who used to work at Niman Schell, prefers Bradley products because the animals — Angus cattle — are raised “naturally” and “humanely.” “They're not given any hormones, antibiotics, or steroids,” he says. “They're range-fed, and then given some grain feed in the last 120 days to mellow out the flavor.”

The result, says Carey, is beef with “superior taste” that's “much more tender” than ordinary varieties. It's also expensive; some cuts cost “twice as much” as they do at Safeway. But the price premium doesn't buy merely gustatory pleasure. It's also a small gesture of decency on an awkward and sometimes disturbing subject.

Bean Counting
All San Franciscans know that the city desperately needs a greater choice of coffees, and the venerable See's Candies now rides to the rescue. They're introducing Hazelnut Spice and Chocolate Butter coffees to “appease the palates of discriminating coffee drinkers.” So now you can have your candy and drink it, too. The two newcomers join See's Bordeaux flavored coffee. Prices have not been announced (memo to See's: Coffee prices are in free fall).

By Paul Reidinger

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