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Reintroducing meat into diet...where should I eat?

Hi everyone. I've never posted before, but I've been reading posts for about a year now, and I've enjoyed many incredible meals as a result. Thanks chowhounders! Thus, I knew where I could go with this dilemma.

For a number of reasons, I have decided to reintroduce "land meat" (for lack of a better word) into my diet. I already started eating seafood about a year ago, and I was vegetarian for about 10 years before that. Growing up, food was not a particularly important thing in my family (I love my parents, but gourmet they are not). Meat was never something I really enjoyed because it was never very carefully prepared, and thus it was not at all difficult to give up. But now that I live in the Bay Area, where food is lovingly prepared, and one can get meat that is not a product of factory farming, I am willing to take the plunge. But now my question is, where should I do it?

I'm not yet ready to prepare meat myself, so I thought it would be good to eat at restaurants that prepare it well to establish a standard. I'm not quite flush enough to go really high-end, but mid-range suggestions would be great (I've enjoyed Lulu, Canteen, Range, Limon, B44, but always veg or seafood). We live in Oakland, but SF is fine as is anywhere accessible by a reasonable public transit trip. I prefer a restaurant that takes seriously a commitment to sustainability and fair treatment of animals, although I imagine most restaurants in the Bay Area do this without necessarily having to announce it. Any cuisine is okay, as long as it's not too spicy (I am a spice wimp).

So, please, suggestions for where to get:

1. Fabulous meat entrees (maybe separate suggestions for beef, pork, chicken other meats?)

2. Bacon (This is the only meat product that ever really tempted me when I was vegetarian, so I think it deserves a separate experience)

3. Other cured meats (in a restaurant or in a deli)

Sorry for the verbose post. Thanks in advance!

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  1. Why not check out the Fatted Calf stall at the Berkeley farmers market (Saturday). There are plenty of ready to eat options if you're not ready to cook meat, try their fegatelli, salami or mortadella. You may even be tempted to take home some bacon for easy cooking...

    1 Reply
    1. re: rabaja

      I wholeheartedly second and third and fourth everyone elses suggestions for fatted calf bacon. I have been a vegan and a vegetarian inmy past and for a long time I never even liked bacon much. That's all changed. This stuff is amazing. Every one I introduce it to just raves. You can just put it in the frying pan and leave it til it gets to your required doneness (only one turn, use tongs). Then drain of the fatt and hey presto. It is thick cut and stays flat in the pan, it doesn't curl. It is the best thing ever. I freeze it and then use it in everything. Current fad fatted calf bacon and potato salad with vinaigrette.
      Ok - I'll shut up now. Enjoy!

    2. If I were you, I'd ease into meat eating by having your favorite Asian vegetarian dishes made with the addition of chicken or pork, so as not to shock the system too much.

      2 Replies
      1. re: chocolatetartguy

        Not too many Asian restaurants serving sustainable meat, unfortunately. Andy & Cindy's Thai and Renee's Place are a few notable exceptions. It's too bad, I miss Asian food.

        1. re: Morton the Mousse

          Not so. Bear in mind that free-range chickens are common at Vietnamese and Chinese restaurants from local purveyors. They're not necessarily organic, but they are from sustainably farmed sources. Rocky's grandfather was a Chinese free-range bird. And, I'd bet that kurobuta pork (Berkshire pig) is served at more Japanese restaurants locally than non-Japanese places.

        1. Definitely Cafe Rouge.

          Funny you said that about bacon -- that's a pretty common weakness among vegetarians. I think there are quite a few "baco-vegetarians": vegetarians who make the occasional exception for bacon.

          For your bacon fix, I suggest you go to Baron's Meats in Alameda and have them cut you some thick slices of Neuske's bacon from the slab then cook it to your taste at home. Personally, I like my bacon well-browned but still moist. Ummmmm.... pork fat!

          3 Replies
          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            Yeah, I'm SO with you on that Neuske's bacon, Ruth and if the OP wants to do a test run without cooking it 900 Grayson in Berkeley, just off Ashby has it for breakfast and lunch. Here's a link to my report about the restaurant ant the bacon

            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

            Today's 900 Grayson discussion

            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

            Until Neuske's, Hobbs bacon was my favorite. The place I recall that sells it at breakfast is the Hayes Street Grill stand at the Saturday Ferry Plaza Farmers market. If you are there when they have the soft shell crab sandwich with hobbs bacon, I highly recommend that.

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              I agree on Cafe Rouge. How can yo ugo wrong with a restaurant that has their own meat counter/ butcher? I like the burger, the ribs, the steak frites... well, basically anything meaty there is good.

              1. re: vliang

                Cafe Rouge's chef's connections are hard to beat. Marsha McBride introduced Bill Niman to his first pork supplier, and occasionally gets goat from her cousin in Rio Vista.

                The fries aren't quite as good as when they used 25% beef tallow in the fry mix.

            2. mortons steak house - nuff said