Whenever Seattle Weekly’s annual “Best of Seattle” awards are announced, I have never disagreed enough to care–or cared enough to ever write a blog post– about them, but I have a beef with this year’s awards, specifically the one in the category of Seattle’s Best Meat Counter, given to the Capitol Hill Safeway.
In a paper that annually recognizes bands, bars and restaurants that are so Seattle I’ve never even heard of them, I can’t believe Seattle Weekly didn’t recognize Seattle’s true Best Meat Counter–or maybe it’s just My Best Meat Counter but really it should be yours, too: Rain Shadow Meats on Capitol Hill.
Rain Shadow reminds me of the neighborhood butchers of my childhood in Queens, minus the sawdust on the floors. The counter holds whatever meat they have in stock, though they always have the standards–steaks, pork chops, bacon, etc., but, like the neighborhood joints in Queens, you could get almost any cut you wanted if you called ahead because Rain Shadow has it all (even whole rabbits last time I was there), and again, like the neighborhood joints, they actually butcher all of the meat, which you can see hanging in the walk-in cooler through a window.
I have been eating meat from Rain Shadow almost exclusively (Some from Blue Valley Farms and the PCC in Seward Park.) since we found out Jaime was pregnant in April. Fearful of all the shit and hormones in meat and how that would affect our baby-to-be, I wanted to make sure we were eating well, and Rain Shadow is one of the few butchers that carry organic, grass-fed meat fresh from local farmers. After our very first steaks, the rib-eyes, we were both hooked.
Beyond the politics of meat (which I can sum up as grass-fed is better for the animal and better for the environment), grass-fed meat is so much better for your body than the grain-fed stuff you buy at Safeway. It is lower in calories and fat, rich in omega-3s, has more vitamin A and E, higher levels of antioxidants and up to seven times the beta-carotene. Since I began eating grass-fed in April, I’ve lost about 25 lbs. and don’t feel bloated each time I eat a beautifully grilled steak–even if it’s bigger than a deck of cards, as most of the steaks are at Rain Shadow (Thankfully!).
But let’s be real here: If you want to eat right, you have to pay to play. Meat at Rain Shadow isn’t outrageously overpriced, but you won’t find the 5.99/lb rib-eye sale Safeway has about once a week. Rib-eyes and porterhouses are 14.99-17.99/lb generally, which isn’t much to pay for what will be one of the greatest steaks you’ve ever eaten. They’re so good A-1 will only drown out the natural flavors–a little salt, pepper, maybe some granulated garlic; that’s all you need. Rain Shadow’s pork chops (about 7.99/lb), short ribs (about 7.99/lb), sausages (about 6.99–the brats are my favorite!) and bacon burgers (sometimes 6.99/lb, sometimes 9.99/lb) round out my almost weekly purchases, none of which are priced that much higher than your local Safeway or QFC. (Maybe the pork chops, but trust me… They. Are. Worth. It.) Rain Shadow’s prices are mostly sensible. They may fluctuate a bit, probably based on their own expenses and supply, yet the prices reflect the true cost of eating meat from animals that aren’t stuffed with grain and/or hormones to expedite growth and living in prisoner of war conditions.
The slight increase in cost has altered my perspective on meat consumption. In the past, when we’d shop at Safeway or any other supermarket, our meat purchases were dictated by what was on sale and how much more meat we’d get at that price, meaning we were buying more than we needed and eating more than we should. Shopping at Rain Shadow puts my meat consumption in check and makes me ask myself some tough questions about my eating habits: Do I need the Safeway Value Pack of 85% ground beef, from which I’ll make a hamburger the size of my face? Should I eat meat seven days a week? And if I do, shouldn’t I avoid meats with the words “natural flavors” on the packaging? I was raised not to question where my food comes from but simply to consume as much as I could before the sale ended, before mom’s paycheck was all gone. We didn’t know any better, and now that I do, I’m making a healthy choice for myself and for my family.
I have shopped at a lot of Safeways since moving to the West Coast, but none have ever sold meat that comes close to the deliciousness butchered behind the counter of Rain Shadow. Don’t listen to Seattle Weekly–Rain Shadow is the best in Seattle.