Fennel & Spice & Everything Nice
It’s 8:30 a.m. at Zane’s Kosher Foods, but Peter and Vivienne Price’s workday is already two hours old. Since opening their kosher meat shop on La Cienega Boulevard in May, the couple have risen early and stayed late to prepare the fine cold cuts, sausages and smoked salmon their new customers crave.
With the constant whir-whir of the stainless steel processing machines in the large rear kitchen and the wonderful smell of hickory smoke pouring from the wood oven, it seems people can’t get enough of the Prices’ meat.
Zane’s claims, after all, to keep the only Glatt kosher sausage factory in Los Angeles. And the place is so spotlessly clean you’d be surprised all sorts of meats are prepared right there. “The Orthodox come in,” said Mr. Price, 57, a Sabra with a thick Israeli accent, “and say they haven’t seen anything like this — not even in New York!”
The sausage-making process is indeed impressive.
One recent morning, Mr. Price cleaned and de-boned five 14-pound turkeys and set aside the turkey breast to be ground into 25 pounds of turkey Italian sausage. He then scooped the ground meat into an enormous, freestanding mixer, adding fresh-ground fennel, oregano and “secret spices” that only he and his wife know the recipe for.
Mr. Price then added ice water to the mixture to keep its temperature below the regulation 40 degrees. And he used his plastic-gloved hands to combine it some more, inspecting it in fistfuls.
“Italian sausage has to be coarse,” he explained. “You want to see the grains and the spices.”
In a few minutes, the mixture was ready for the sausage stuffer. This is a stainless steel, tubular machine operated by a foot pedal. Mr. Price packed the meat down the opening by hand (“can’t have bubbles or there’ll be bubbles in the sausages”), attached a plastic sausage casing to a spout on the side (“manufactured casing-not animal insides”) and a moment later out came one amazing 25-to 30-foot-long sausage.
Mr. Price pulled it towards him, forming coils on a nearby table. Then by deftly twisting and tightening the sausage around itself, he formed 6-inch links. The approximately 10-minute process resembled the construction of those multi-colored, animal-shaped balloons sold at zoos and carnivals.
The sausages cook by hanging one hour over low heat in a stainless steel oven, then they’re sprayed with cold water to stop the cooking process and cut into individual links.
“There are no preservatives, and it’s only 10% fat,” explained Mrs. Price, 52. Like her husband, she is kind and warm-hearted, eager to accommodate a customer’s request and suggest how to prepare a Zane’s purchase at home. This, in fact, is quite easy, since the meat is fresh and flavorful, requiring only a little warming.
“It’s a mechaieh to eat!” said Mr. Price, his eyes twinkling.
He’s absolutely right. The turkey Italian sausages are light and tasty. Sauté them with onions, garlic and peppers, and they make a quick meal. The Prices sell both mild and spicy varieties.
Mrs. Price mostly tends the front of the shop, which offers a selection of kosher grocery products in addition to the meat. There’s gefilte fish, bread crumbs, honey, salt, canned olives and grape juice, to name a few. But she also does some of the cooking, and there’s plenty to do once the shipments of koshered meat arrive from the Prices’ Iowa supplier.
They proudly show off their specialties, which include bologna, rib-eye steak, chuck roast, sweet-and-sour chicken, corned beef, Louisiana-style hot dogs, South African-style sausages, beef fry and salamis of all sorts. Beef fry are strips of kosher beef that can be fried or grilled (deliciously crisp and chewy). Then there’s turkey pastrami (perfect for sandwiches, nice spicy flavor), turkey picanté (with olives), turkey hot dogs, honey turkey and dark turkey.
“We’re mostly poultry eaters,” said the Prices.
Ironically, their two sons who work part-time in the shop are…vegetarians. “But we respect meat,” insist Darron, 25, and Tahl, 22, and they plan to carry on the family business into a second generation. They’re gradually learning their father’s charcuterie skill, and they help slice and seal the prepared meats in vacuum-packed plastic bags for sale.
Perhaps, however, things have already come full circle. The younger Prices’ first taste of vegetarian cuisine can be traced back to the ’70s, when their parents ran one of the first vegetarian restaurants in London. Mr. Price was an “expert salad-maker,” and he prepared elaborate vegetable platters. He credits his mother-a “brilliant” cook-for cultivating his interest in food. In the ’80s, the Prices ran several downtown London sandwich shops, and Mr. Price did restaurant consulting.
But sunny Southern California beckoned, and the family moved to Los Angeles two years ago. Now Zane’s occupies the space of a former butcher business, tucked into a curve of La Cienega Boulevard just a block south of Venice.
Why not Pico or Fairfax? “Because,” said Mr. Price, beaming behind his apron, “I’m different. I feel I can be an attribute to the Jewish community and give them kosher food and expertise like they’ve never had. So here I am!”
Zane’s Kosher Foods is located at 2627 S. La Cienega Blvd. (310) 202-1080. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Certified kosher by Kehilla, mashgiach on premises.