In the world prior to COVID, I wasn’t very familiar with subscription boxes or even ordering groceries online for that matter. I preferred to do my own grocery shopping because I’m a self-admitted control freak and need to select my own produce, meat and, well, everything else. With that being said, I had ordered a few meal-prep boxes from time-to-time but that was about it. Then the pandemic hit and it turned all of our worlds upside down and changed everything. Of course, subscription boxes and online ordering from local growers and butchers were around pre-COVID but they certainly took off to new heights because of it. In addition to supporting local businesses, you’re getting quality items delivered safely to your door. It’s an obvious win-win situation. There are lots of companies to choose from but one that definitely should be on your radar is West Side Beef.
I was graciously offered one of West Side Beef’s butcher boxes as well as one of their produce boxes and to say it was awesome would be a massive understatement. The box arrived on a Friday via contactless delivery and it was like Christmas morning all over again. I couldn’t wait to see what goodies I’d get. I received a produce box as well as their Essentials Box which consisted of ground beef, bacon, breakfast sausages, beef sausage, chicken stock, farm fresh eggs, ground pork, pork chops, chicken breasts, and more.
The contents of the produce boxes are always changing due to what’s being grown and mine included enoki mushrooms, beets, greens, rainbow carrots, heirloom tomatoes, red onions, a cucumber, turnips, cabbage, and apples.
As a foodie, I truly love going to the grocery store because I get so much inspiration from seeing what’s in season and looking good that day. I was worried that I wouldn’t feel that spark upon opening the boxes from West Side Beef and I was glad to be proved wrong. When I opened the boxes I was so freaking excited to get in the kitchen and create. I think I felt more joy and drive to cook than I have in a long time.
Over the course of a couple of days, I used the lettuce, beets, and carrots to put together a delicious salad. I roasted the carrots in honey and red wine vinegar to give them a tangy sweet and sour vibe. I whipped up a quick maple balsamic vinaigrette and added in goat cheese, and roasted hazelnuts.
I couldn’t think of a better way to eat up the bacon than to make a mega BLT sandwich. I used the heirloom tomatoes and some iceberg lettuce and piled it high on some soft brioche bread. In my opinion, there’s nothing more satisfying than a juicy sando!
To make the best use of the chicken breasts, I seared them in a hot pan with oil and butter and got the skin super crispy. If you’ve never eaten salty, crispy chicken skin, you have to try it — It’s like the most flavour-packed potato chip ever! I transferred them to the oven and made a quick pan sauce and served it with an orzo salad with feta, dill, cucumber, and some leftover tomatoes.
I’ll save some time and not walk you through everything I made using the produce and Essentials Box but let me just say that everything was happily used up and I cannot wait to order more from West Side Beef. I love that you aren’t forced into a subscription program either. You can order once or subscribe if you want to.
Want to know more about West Side Beef? I got to chat with WSB’s Owner Jeremy Losier and Director of Operations Matt Oliveira a few q’s!
Blair Stutz: What led you to launch West Side Beef?
Jeremy Losier: West Side Beef Co was started by Ryan Donovan, Carl Heinrich and their buddy Kurt Krumme. Carl had been buying our meats for his restaurant Richmond Station since I started The Packing House and we have similar philosophies when it comes to agriculture and the importance of buying meat that’s raised responsibly and sustainably. Both he and Ryan were looking to move on from doing home meat delivery and wanted to concentrate on the Station. They asked me to take over and I immediately agreed. My existing infrastructure with wholesale and experience in retail butchery made it the perfect fit. I was so excited to showcase the hard work my farmers have put in directly to the general public.
BS: Why is it so important for West Side Beef to source meat without antibiotics, hormones, or GMOs?
JL: My golden rule has always been that I would never sell a single piece of meat that I wouldn’t eat myself or serve to my family and friends. That is why I always ensure that all of my farmers never use antibiotics or hormones (either fed or sub-therapeutically) in any stage of the animal’s life, or grow or buy GMO rations. Our farmers rarely have to use antibiotics on the farm and when they do they are segregated from the herd and sold to another market. Growth hormones are illegal for pork and chicken, however hormone implants are often used to make beef cattle grow at a much faster rate. We pay our farmers extra to have their heifers and steers grow at a natural pace and often to an older age. We feel this results in a much superior and more flavourful product.
GMOs are a tricky bit of business because they drastically reduce the price of cash crops for animal feeds. One of the reasons most MEATS are inexpensive is because the grain used to fatten the animals are genetically modified. We prefer them not to be used because they are harmful to the surrounding ecosystems and potentially to human health. What is especially telling is, if for example a group of cows are shown two piles of grain, one of which is GMO and the other is NON-GMO they will 100% of the time choose the NON-GMO pile. The meat industry as a whole is mostly laden with secrecy and disguised marketing techniques which can often mislead or confuse the everyday consumer. People come to West Side Beef because they are making a conscious choice and trusting us with the health of themselves and their family. This is something I take very seriously.
BS: Do you have a favourite box?
JL: I have to be honest, my wife does most of the ordering and grocery at home. She usually gets the Essentials Box, a Veg box and adds bacon. Then she’ll get the Chicken Share a week later and rotate. We like to have lots of options around for quick meals.
Matt Oliveira: I don’t think I have a favourite box but the Essentials Box offers great value on a budget with many of the components being able to be stretched into larger dishes serving many plates/meals. The Family Pack offers larger options for cooking which cuts down on prep/cooking as you only need to cook 1 protein instead of multiple, and serves multiple plates/meals. I believe grilling is the best cooking method due to the look and flavour that grilling imparts onto the food, and thus love the diversity of cuts found in our King of the Grill Box. And I of course love the original Beef, Pork and Chicken Shares as they represent the concept of whole animal butchery and cooking on which West Side Beef was founded.
BS: What’s your favourite thing to cook up in the kitchen?
JL: This is an easy answer for me: roast whole chicken. I am a sucker for chicken roasted over whole onions and potatoes and then making chicken soup the following day – there just something so nourishing about it. In the winter (especially this winter) I add heaps of ginger. turmeric and garlic to give my immune system a boost.
MO: My favourite thing to cook is anything that falls under the umbrella of “Large Pot Cooking”. Things like pasta, chili, curry, stew, etc. I am not fancy and believe that as long as something tastes excellent, it doesn’t need to look “pretty”. This style of food is often referred to as “Soul Food” or “Comfort Food”. Not only is it delicious, but in my house, I only cook once per week and eat leftovers the rest of the week. Thus, these foods also serve a very functional and efficient purpose which provides me with more time throughout the week as I do not have to devote time to cooking meals multiple times.
BS: Can you give us a sneak peek of what’s to come in 2021 from WSB?
JL: I am very much looking forward to adding a 100% grass-fed lamb box to the site and offering a little more diversity when it comes to our 100 % grass-fed beef. We have been looking very hard to find a supply that meets our demand and our standards when it comes to farming practices and of course taste! We have also been in talks with a local 100% grass-fed purebred Wagyu beef farmer
MO: We are working on launching a couple of new boxes around lamb and grass-fed/organic beef as well as working to expand our restaurant-made heat at home section of the site to help support more restaurants throughout the GTA. We are looking for any and all active partners who want to participate in this program and get their food out to more people at home.
Feature Image: West Side Beef