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This weekend we had a chance to get out of the city for a bit when we were invited to a customer appreciation dinner at Dietzler Farms in Elkhorn, WI (I wish I could say that the Ladies actually eat so much Dietzler beef that they had to invite us, but we were really tagging along with our friends in the JDY Meats crew. Thanks Dave and Carrie!) Anticipating a long drive, we loaded up on precious calories at Feed.
After brunch we enjoyed the long drive through Lake and McHenry counties, finally crossing into Wisconsin near Lake Geneva, a quaint Midwestern town if there ever was one. Google Maps only got us to within a few miles of Dietzler, and we had to ask a gas station attendant for help finding “the ‘ol Dietzler place.”
As soon as we arrived we were whisked off to the shooting range. The lovely Michelle Dietzler (who lives in Chicago and handles much of the farm’s sales and distribution) told us we would really be missing out if we didn’t empty a few shells before we started drinking.
Michelle was totally right–even though we hardly hit anything, there’s few better ways to spend a lazy afternoon than on a little target shooting. After unleashing our pent up aggression, we were ready to eat. Unfortunately the juicy Dietzler beef burger with Dunbarton bleu cheddar disappeared into down our gullets too quickly to snap any photographs, but if you’ve ever eaten a Dietzler burger (maybe the famously delicious one Paul Virant’s been putting out at Vie) you know the meat is sweet, tender and most importantly, unmistakably beefy.
After lunch it was time to make friend with some farm animals. Dietzler has two ranching facilities, one in Wisconsin and another in Colorado. There were about 40 animals in the WI herd for our visit, largely consisting of mama cows and calves in the 3-6 month range. Michelle and her brother Bob explained to us that they prefer to harvest animals at around 16 to 18 months, when they have more or less peaked in weight gain but before they’ve started to convert too much muscle mass to fat. That’s how a mostly grass-fed herd like Dietzler’s can produce beef that is both tender and lean.
We’re firm believers that happy animals are tasty animals, and this bunch hardly seemed displeased with their lot in life. The small size of Dietzler’s herd means they can only kill a few animals a year, and as of now, supply for their product outstrips demand. Some chefs, like ex-Carnivale guru Mark Mendez, would love to put Dietzler on their menus but can’t because Dietzler simply can’t produce the hundreds or thousands of ribeyes a week that a huge busy restaurant goes through. Mendez has still been a great supporter of Dietzler, offering their products as a special whenever possible at Carnivale (and his presence at the barbecue suggested he will be continuing that relationship when he and his wife open their rumoured next restaurant in the near future).
We rounded out the day by racing around on John Deere Gators, roasting marshmallows, and trying to fill our lungs with as much fresh farm air as possible. Now that I’ve seen what a fine job the Dietzler family and crew do in running an environmentally and ethically responsible farm, I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for their tasty beef on menus around town. You can also pick up your own every Saturday at the Green City Market, and if you want to visit the farm yourself, City Provisions is hosting a farm dinner on October 2nd. Say hi to Bernie for us!
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