The State of Beef

When life hands you a lemon, said a wise man, make lemonade. The American beef industry is hurting badly, largely because the United States Department of Agriculture has stymied beef producers' efforts to convince consumers that American beef is safe to eat by testing all cattle headed for market for the deadly BSE disease. Individual producers have defied the USDA by having their own cattle tested. Now the entire state of South Dakota is flipping Big Ag the bird. This spring, the state Legislature passed and the governor signed a bill to provide state certification for beef cattle born and raised and butchered in South Dakota to a strict standard of nutrition, humane treatment, and isolation from any source of BSE contamination. Safe passage for salmon In the past two decades, the monthlong Copper River salmon season has become as much a Seattle thing as the Running of the Bulls is a Pamplona thing. The salmon, caught off the shores of Cordova, Alaska, are prized for their unusually rich flavor and texture—largely the result of their high oil content, which has been widely cited as a boon to heart health. And according to Metropolitan Market seafood buyer Rick Cavanaugh, who's worked in the local fishing industry for 35 years, it's going to be a banner season. "The salmon are in really good shape this year, and we should have a lot of fish coming out of the gate," he told Hot Dish recently. "They actually considered opening the season early this year. And in all the years I've dealt with this fishery, they've never talked about opening it up early." Why the plenitude? "A lot has to do with river conditions," Cavanaugh explained. Too much ice means not enough water flow to permit the salmon safe passage to their spawning grounds. The grocery chain's marketing director, Ilga Westberg, added that the stores' focus this year would be on specimens "25 pounds and up that are super fat-bellied." Copper River season started on Monday, May 16, and should continue until the middle of June. The latest squeeze Oliviers & Co. (the local outpost of the international chain is on the ground floor of Pacific Place) recently unveiled 24 new-harvest olive oils and a bounty of thrilling spreads, sauces, and pastas. Cuvée Frantoio olive oil from Azienda del Carmine hits on the essence of the olive itself, trumping the oily overtones of lesser-quality brands. Even better is the Cuvée Les Tulieres olive oil from Dozol-Autrand, a sultry olive accent for cuisines both sweet and savory. These oils are pricey (up to $45 a pint), but they're used as a condiment, not for cooking. Among other O&Co. products, olive-lemon jam promises that your crêpes—if they taste anything like the divine offerings at O&Co.'s recent olive oil tasting—will never be the same again. And speaking of tastings, you can sample the company's oils every day, but once a month the staff, headed by former Four Seasons chef Suhara Hashim, pulls out the stops and prepares hors d'oeuvres using ingredients like olive oil with lemon and green olive and almond tapenade! The next do falls on Saturday, May 21, from 6 to 8 p.m. Plan to nibble at O&Co. before the movies. Food and/or beverage news? E-mail Hot Dish at food@seattleweekly.com.

 
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