Cafe Society

First look: Western Daughters Butcher Shoppe opens Thursday in LoHi

Months ago, I had the pleasure of spending the day butchering a pig with Kate Kavanaugh and her fiance, Josh Curtiss, the two of whom have spent the last few years conceptualizing, cultivating and building Western Daughters Butcher Shoppe, a new-school, artisanal chop shop of saws, hatchets and butcher blocks, meat hooks and hand hooks, cut-and-slash gloves and chainmill aprons, whole beasts and beautiful cuts of meat, all of it sourced from less than 250 miles from their front door. And tomorrow, the couple will open their LoHi butcher shop to the public.

See also: Photos: Western Daughters' homage to pig butchery

"We're really thrilled to open around the holidays," says Kavanaugh, who, along with Curtiss, trained under rock star butchers Joshua Applestone, Bryan Mayer and Shiloh Partin. In fact, the couple spent an entire year mastering the art of butchery at Fleisher's Meats, Applestone's famed butcher shop in New York. They traveled across the United States, too, exploring butcher shops in Pennsylvania, Texas, Kentucky and Tennessee. "We wanted to do some exploratory research trips to other places that had great butcher shops, but we were also interested in the feeling that you get when you walk through the doors of the shops, too," Kavanaugh adds. "Our goal at Western Daughters is to have a shop that's a warm and welcoming environment, especially for those who might be unfamiliar with full-scale butchery."

To say they've succeeded would be an understatement. The small space, formerly Pig & Block Charcuterie, is lovely: Rusticated wooden racks and shelves display an impressive collection of dry goods, including several products made in Colorado (Elevation Ketchup, bloody Mary mix and jarred pickles from the Real Dill, Horsetooth hot sauce, 5280 salsa and Grumpy's barbecue sauce among them) as well as products, points out Kavanaugh, that are new to Colorado. "When we were driving across country, along the way we picked up some of our favorite products that you probably haven't seen in Colorado," says Kavanaugh, pointing to a shelf that's artistically arranged with Heyden Mills pizza flour, pancake mixes and polenta, sourced from a mill in Arizona. Jars of all-natural, non-GMO bacon mayo, procured from a company in Brooklyn share space with ghost pepper mustard and barrel-aged bourbon maple syrup.

A refrigerator, dedicated to locally-produced milk (including chocolate), farm-fresh, pasture-raised, brown-speckled eggs from Cottonwood Creek Farms, whose tagline is "no pens, happy hens" and Noosa yoghurt doubles as a small grab-and-go breakfast stage, which turns into a full-fledged breakfast of champions when you've picked up a pound of bacon or maple breakfast sausage from the meat display cases, which are visual showstoppers of house-cured deli meats, plump sausages, common cuts of beef (dry-aged ribeyes and strips) and more unusual off-cuts like flap steak (also known as bavette), osso bucco and hanger. Pork cuts, in every guise, are available, too, and the sacrificial whole pigs that supply the pork hang in a secured, temperature-controlled meat locker just behind the shop. And all of the meats are antibiotic- and hormone-free and can be custom cut to order.

Kavanaugh and Curtiss source their pigs exclusively from Cottonwood Creek Farms, on the Eastern Plains, and when it comes to pigs, these are the king of the pasture. Half Berkshire, a quarter Yorkshire and a quarter Duroc, Curtiss describes them as "beautifully marbled, caramelly, buttery, almost nutty and just delicious," and he stresses that he and Kavanaugh have developed a personal bond with every rancher and farmer from whom they procure product. "We think it's really important to establish a relationship with the farmers and ranchers, so we visit each and every farm prior to determining what we want to source for the shop," explains Curtiss. And the pigs, he notes, which spend their days roaming free on land strewn with cottonwood trees, "produce the best tasting pork we've ever had."