One of my beefs (sorry) with the Irvine farmer's market is that while you can get amazing produce, baked goods, fish, even olive oil, there's not much in the way of meat available. So when I took a Friday off to go have breakfast at Break of Dawn and go to the Laguna Hills market, I was stunned to find a big sign saying "GRASS-FED BEEF AVAILABLE HERE TODAY," with a big guy in a Stetson sitting next to it.
It turns out the guy in the Stetson is named Frank Fitzpatrick, and he raises Barzona cattle on Irvine Company land up in Trabuco Canyon, as well as out in the Mojave Desert, and sells the resulting beef under the brand 5 Bar Beef. We had a discussion about the foot traffic at the Irvine market, and a couple of Saturday mornings later, Frank set up shop in Irvine, across the aisle from Dry Dock Fish.
If you take a package of Frank's ground beef ($6 a pound) and compare it to the ground beef sold at supermarkets, there's no mistaking which is which. The grass-fed beef is deep, dark red and leaner. It practically begs to be turned into inch-thick hamburger patties and slapped on a grill, which is exactly how the first package of ground beef went chez Ubergeek.
Also usually on offer are steaks and roasts ($9-$12 a pound), which are rich and grassy. A tri-tip, seasoned only with salt, grilled and sliced against the grain, won rave reviews from recent dinner guests. The only product with some issues was some tough breakfast steaks, though that could have been the cook's fault and not the beef's fault.
Not everything is available all the time, so if there is something in particular you want, it might be worth a call to find out if it'll be available. Also, the website says that purchases of 50 pounds or more will be delivered free in OC, but since I don't have a freezer capable of storing fifty pounds of meat, that will have to remain theoretical.
Try the beef while you can--next week all that pastureland could be Rancho Nueva Suburbia.
5 Bar Beef, P. O. Box 41, Silverado. (714) 749-5717
Irvine Certified Farmer's Market, Campus Rd. and Bridge St., Irvine. Saturdays, 8 a.m. to noon.
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