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Craving veal dinner supports Erba Verde farm

Chef Adam Goetz is one of a small but growing group of Buffalo restaurateurs whose pursuit of the best ingredients has driven them to build relationships with local farmers.

On April 24, at his restaurant called Craving (1472 Hertel Ave.), Goetz is holding a fundraising dinner for Erba Verde Farms. The star will be a veal calf.

Unlike factory-farmed veal, the calf was raised with his mother, growing fat on her milk and grazing on pasture at the East Aurora farm, said Bryan Strzelec, head of Erba Verde. As far as animals raised for meat go, that calf had a great life, with one bad day, he said.

Strzelec is a fourth-generation farmer who runs Erba Verde as truly modern farm. The farm’s products are diversified, as was the custom a century ago, yet they are sold with the help of the Internet. Its website, erbaverde.com, puts potential customers in touch with its core product: a milk and yogurt share program.

Besides the dairy black market, one of the only ways to get a reliable source of raw milk – full-fat, unpasteurized, from grass-fed cows – is to join a dairy collective. Customers buy a share in the herd of Jersey and Jersey-Holstein cows, and get a weekly share of its milk.

When the cows have male calves, they stay with their mother, instead of being separated and fed formula, Strzelec said, as with most commercial veal calves. They are butchered at about 90 days old, having grown to about 300 pounds.

Goetz is a huge fan of the product. “It’s unlike any other veal I’ve had,” said Goetz, whose farm-to-table menu led to an invitation to cook at the James Beard House culinary showcase in Manhattan last year. “It’s red, not white, with great fat and a distinct flavor closer to beef.” All of Craving’s chicken already comes from Erba Verde.

[Learn more about Goetz and like-minded New-School Buffalo chefs here.] 

Erba Verde’s operation hasn’t grown to the point where it can supply as much meat as Craving and other like-minded places can use, Goetz said. He tried to pay ahead for veal to be delivered later, and Strzelec declined, Goetz said. So he’s doing this instead to put some money in Strzelec’s pocket. The staff is volunteering their time, and all proceeds go to Erba Verde.

The April 24 dinner, including cocktail hour hors doeuvres (veal sausage, agnolotti) and five courses (carpaccio, salad with crispy veal, ragu, roasted leg, dessert) with wine pairings. It’s $150 all inclusive, and starts at 5 p.m. Reservations: 440-4826.

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