S.B. News-Press: Santa Barbara Public Market, part four


(this is a reprint from May 15, 2014)


Belcampo Meat Co. might only have a handful of seats at its dine-in counter, but the view is more than worth any wait.

As customers munch on Belcampo Burgers and Meatball Sandwiches at the small counter located at the far end of the shop, they are offered a front-row seat to head butcher Hans Liebl in action. The precision with which he carves, slices and fillets is matched only by the exacting standards of the food that emerges from the kitchen.

“All of these sandwiches are excellent,” said Simon Taylor, 32, who had traveled from Ventura for the day and was enjoying lunch with two friends. “And the guy doing the carving is a real whiz. We’ve been sitting here talking about how cool this is. It’s really great to see where the meat you are eating comes from.”

The source of its product is something Belcampo Meat Co. takes seriously. While the public face of the company in Santa Barbara is this neighborhood butcher shop and eatery, it also owns and operates a 10,000-acre farm located at the foot of Mount Shasta in Northern California’s Cascade Range. It also operates a nearby processing plant.

The goal of Belcampo Meat Co. is to offer organically and humanely produced meat that customers can feel good about consuming. All of the meat, be it cattle, sheep, goats, swine, rabbits or birds, sold in the butcher shop and restaurant is raised on the farm.

Certified organic by California Certified Organic Farmers and deemed a humane handling facility by the Animal Welfare Association, Belcampo prides itself on its animals having the freedom to graze on natural pastures and the ability to express their natural herd mentality. The company also runs its own processing facility, designing it to ensure the most humane handling possible.

“It’s very much an old-style farm,” said Carrie Mitchum, the store’s manager and head chef. “The animals are pasture-bred and have an incredible quality of life, which I think translates into the product. We never use antibiotics or growth hormones and there is no stress in the lives of our animals. That even extends to the processing facility. It was designed to reduce stress, which creates a hormone called cortisol, and that translates into the meat.”

There is no questioning the degree of pride Belcampo Meat Co. has in its product. The display cases that line the storefront are filled with fresh cuts of meat, each impeccably presented and tagged to identify the part of the animal from which it was derived. The tag for the Boston Cut ($7.99 per pound), for example, features a diagram of a swine with a shaded shoulder, while the shanks ($9.99 per pound) have a lamb with shaded upper legs; the Ribeye ($34.99 per pound) shows a cow with a shaded area above the ribs.

“What you see in the cases and in the hanger window behind the butchery is what we are currently raising at the farm,” Ms. Mitchum, 38, said. “And what’s being cut in the butchery is also what goes onto the menu. The meat in the cases gets ground and cut for burgers and sandwiches, so it’s always really fresh.

“The menu boards change depending on the butchery. If we get a huge rush on lamb, like we did at Easter, then the lamb sandwich comes off and something else goes up in its place. It’s a very symbiotic relationship, all the way from the farm to the restaurant.”

The menu offers a selection of mouth-watering sandwiches, each about $12. The Belcampo Burger features a 5-ounce dry-aged and grass-fed beef patty, cheddar cheese and caramelized onions; the Pulled Lamb Belly sandwich comes with harissa aioli, arugula and cilantro; the Poblano Pork Cemita, another type of sandwich served on a roll, comes with braised shoulder meat, chipotle, avocado, salsa and queso fresco. Sides, $3.50 to $6 or so, include Hand-cut Fries, Spicy Fried Broccolini and Bone Broth.

“What we’re doing here is a model unlike any other,” Ms. Mitchum said. “The burgers here are more expensive than at a fast-food burger place, but they’re made to order using ingredients that are really second to none.

“I can tell you exactly what cut of meat is in the patty, where it came from, what that animal was fed and how it was raised. There are very few places with that much control of their product.”

Belcampo Meat Co.: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, butcher hours; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, restaurant hours; 770-7800 orwww.belcampomeatco.com


What would a marketplace be without a quick service grab-and-go outlet At the Santa Barbara Public Market, that place is Flagstone Pantry.

Lining the counters and cases is an enticing selection of soups, sandwiches, salad bowls, whole-grain salads, sides, baked goods and snacks that, in true Santa Barbara Public Market fashion, all come with a gourmet touch. Everything at Flagstone Pantry is prepared fresh using the finest ingredients available locally.

“Just because something is already prepared and ready to go doesn’t mean that it can’t be fresh and delicious,” said Kristen Desmond, 45, owner and chef. “We prepare everything fresh on a daily basis in ridiculously small batches so what we offer is the very best it can be.”

A UCSB graduate with a background in management consultancy for firms such as IBM, Ms. Desmond moved to New York City in 2008 after deciding on a career change. After graduating from the Natural Gourmet Institute’s chef training program, she completed an apprenticeship with executive chef Jeremy Bearman at NYC’s Michelin-starred Rouge Tomate, where she focused on modern, healthy American cuisine.

After a stint in Washington, D.C., Ms. Desmond returned to Santa Barbara in 2010 and for two years worked as a baker at Metropulos before launching Flagstone Pantry in 2012. Working from a commercial kitchen on Santa Barbara’s Eastside, she prepared gluten-free baked goods, including muffins, brownies, blondies, cookies and scones, for Handlebar Coffee Roasters.

All the while keeping an eye on the developments at the Santa Barbara Public Market.

“I knew the Santa Barbara Public Market was on the horizon so moving into wholesale baking was a great transition toward that,” Ms. Desmond said. “I started out small, baking for Handlebar Coffee, which was a great fit. They didn’t have any whole-grain items or special diet products, so it was a way to get the Flagstone name out there and start creating awareness while our store at the market was brewing.”

At the new storefront, the trays of lavishly presented sandwiches, all of which are $8.95, include the signature Figgy Piggy, featuring prosciutto, fig butter and an herb ricotta cheese spread, and the Wine Country Cob , made in a hollowed loaf that is layered with Italian meats, pesto and roasted red peppers, then cut into wedges.

Various heat and serve soups, ranging in price from $5 for 16 ounces to $10 for 32 ounces, are offered, but hurry because they sell out fast. The daily salads retail for $8.95 while sides such as grains and vegetables sell for $5. The store’s trademark Snack Packs, which for $5 feature either artichoke spread or fruits, nuts and cheese, are perfect for enjoying with a glass of wine at the market’s wine bar.

For those craving something a little more substantial, individual-size savory entrees include a Savory Tart, with its melt-in-your-mouth crust, for $6.95, and a lasagna-style Polenta Napoleon for $8.95.

“The entrees are proving very popular with people who are finding us on their way home,” Ms. Desmond said. “They can pick something up, take it home, and they have a delicious and healthy dinner in an instant.”

Also proving popular are the store’s baked goods. Along with a Chocolate Cookie, which comes with a sprinkling of sea salt, there is the Cowboy Cookie, with chocolate chips, peanut butter, coconut, and oats; both sell for $2.50. The Chocolate Brownies and Peanut Butter Blondies are prepared using gluten-free recipes and retail for $3, while the muffins and scones are $3.35.

“The whole idea is to prepare fresh food on a small scale daily,” said Ms. Desmond. “So we are constantly cooking in our kitchen and everything that is out there is constantly being replaced with fresh batches. We prepare our food the way that our most mindful customers would at home.

“We juggle choices between sustainable, seasonal, organic, local and what’s available,” she added. “Not everything is all of those things at once, but we’re making good choices and delicious food.”

Flagstone Pantry: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily; 617-4568 orwww.flagstonepantry.com


As every coffee connoisseur knows, good coffee stirs a passion, and the team at Green Star Coffee certainly has a passion for coffee. Whether it’s the steamy espresso or the rich, dark drip, you can taste the perfectly roasted, flavorful beans in every cup.

A lot of that comes from the company’s hands-on approach that spans the entire process. From the organic, fair trade beans it sources, to the meticulous roasting, the company seeks perfection, from bean to cup.

It all begins with the beans, which are imported from all the major growing regions, including Indonesia, Africa and Latin America, with Colombia, Guatemala, Peru and Ethiopia being four of the largest sources.

“There are other countries producing great coffee, but if it’s not sustainable, we’re not interested,” said Daniel Randall, co-founder of Green Star Coffee, whose name is a nod to its philosophy. “Kenya, for example, has wonderful coffee, but good luck finding any organic coffee there.”

The company buys from farmers directly or through an import broker who recommends and then sources beans from a specific farm. Mr. Randall selects the beans based on both their characteristics and the blend he wants to create. Sometimes he is seeking a bean with a chocolate note, other times it is a hint of floral or an essence of citrus he is after.

Green Star Coffee’s drip coffee, which comes in blends such as Italian Roast, Firehouse Dark Roast and Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, is sold by the cup: $1.75 for a small, $2 for a medium and $2.25 for a large. The espresso selection includes Macchiato, Cappuccino and Caffe Latte. It also offers Masala, Chai Latte, hot chocolate and hot tea. Like what you taste You can buy bags of coffee beans and tea to take home. The 12-ounce bags of Cafe Mia, Italian, French Roast and Espresso retail for about $12 to $13 while 4-ounce bags of loose tea, including Jasmine Fancy, Earl Grey, English Breakfast, Mint Green and Rosehip Hibiscus, sell for $7.

When Mr. Randall, 43, and his partners established Green Star Coffee about a decade ago, they not only wanted to offer coffee that was environmentally and socially responsible, but tasted as good as it possibly could. The company quickly established a local wholesale presence that has seen its coffee served at eateries such as Wine Cask Restaurant, Jane and Cajun Kitchen.

“There were reasons why we stayed out of retail — staff and training being one of those — but the evolution of the specialty coffee market has meant there are now some really interesting coffees that we want to showcase,” said Mr. Randall. “With wholesale, it is really difficult to introduce a new product. Those customers aren’t accustomed to changes. They buy what they like and what their customers are used to.

“But the retail outlet gives us the ability to introduce customers to new coffees that excite us,” he added. “So when we get our hands on a small batch of some amazing seasonal beans, we can share them with the customers through the store.”

Green Star Coffee: 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily; 683-2555 or www.greenstarcoffee.com