True story: I stopped into Beef Palace the other day for blue cheese. Well, I was after a certain cut of beef, too, but on a previous visit I was impressed by a piece of Roquefort I’d bought—of all the blues, this French sheep’s-milk cheese is the most difficult to find in great condition. Now, a visit to this Huntington Beach institution is a valuable twofer—I can get the cut of tenderloin I want for chateaubriand, and a hunk of blue cheese.
This time, I had another surprise: the big knife trimming the tenderloin was expertly wielded by a petite young woman. Apparently, O.C.’s quietly been on the avant edge of the chick butcher phenom. Jennifer Schultz has worked at Beef Palace for 16 years, and grew up in the city—she used to ride her bike to the store as a child. I was glad to learn all this, because the female butcher trendlet has been kind of struggling for traction. One half of the couple who owned now-closed Wheat and Sons at the Anaheim Packing House is female, and of course both Lindy & Grundy of the former boutique butcher in Los Angeles are women—but that shop closed nearly a year ago. Julie Powell went on to butchery training after her “Julie & Julia” blog-book-movie trifecta, but hasn’t been able to match that earlier success.
I hope it doesn’t sputter out completely—I did hear that we might see a new Wheat and Sons project in the coming months. Still, it’s kind of funny to think that throughout, Schultz has been there behind the counter at Beef Palace, honing her craft. She helped me with my cheese, too—a nice piece each of Roquefort and the other blue-veined cheese the store carries: orangey English Shropshire, equally rarely seen outside of specialists like Vin Goat in Newport Beach. And please, whether you’re at Beef Palace for meat, cheese, or both, don’t forget your free potatoes.