Forbes Meat Company owner and butcher Ben Forbes started his food industry career with his shop in Portland, Maine fifteen years ago.
Now in Tucson, Forbes subleases a space in Rincon Market next to the legendary fishmonger Yuri Rabayev. While dry-aged steaks and other cuts of meat are available, one of the main lures is his sausage with custom spice blends that he toasts himself. The sausages have even made their way onto the menus of Ermanos Craft Beer & Wine Bar, the Parish, Mama Louisa’s, and Charro Steak.
Additionally, Forbes offers whole animal butchery for hunters and ranchers. This also includes smoking and sausage-making out of whatever animal provided. The company is still growing, so keep an eye out for additional services soon.
1) What was the first dish you had that changed your perspective on food?
Oh that’s a tough one. I’ve been in the food business for well, really since I was a teenager, so like five years now. As a butcher, my whole career has been in the meat industry working in mom-and-pop grocery stores at first, then in high-end grocery stores like Whole Foods Market. It was the butchers at the store I started working at in Newport Beach that changed my perspective. Watching them break down whole sides of beef, pork, and lamb. That perspective got lost, but now I see it, I see it on the faces of local chefs I’ve been privileged to teach the trade to. When I showed up to Charro Steak with a side of beef for Gary Hickey, he had that look in his eyes, his perspective changed, I know it did.
2) What are you eating these days?
This time of year I’m grilling a lot. As a butcher I have access to all the best “butcher cuts” — not New York strips, not rib eyes, not that I don’t love a good dry-aged strip, but I love hanger steaks, sirloin picanha, flat irons and chuck sierra steaks. I just finished a chiltepin chimichurri with aji amarillo chili powder. This is so good on top of any of these steaks or grilled king salmon. Oh and sausage, lots of sausage, I’m a butcher. It’s what we eat.
3) What was the first dish you remember cooking?
That’s an easy one. It was a pot roast for my friends family when I was 15. It was my first year as an apprentice, and looking back this was when I fell in love with my trade, though I didn’t know it at the time. I guess when you fall in love you don’t always know it. Even now I find myself cooking food and taking it to my friends and shop neighbors.
4) What concept, ingredient, or food trend are you experimenting with these days?
Foie gras, pork liver, heart, tongue, and all those obscure cuts. I’m really into pates and terrines. They are both simple and yet complex and there are so many variations to all of them whether you are using a rabbit, a duck, a goose, or a pig.
5) Who would you most like to cook or eat dinner with?
Locally I think Travis Gary Peters and I might be very similar in our crazy creative minds. He seems to really like to push himself to the limits of obscurity. That’s half the fun and I know he’s having a blast and that’s what I want to do for work, work hard and have a blast.
This is what I want to do — I want to get Travis Peters, Gary Hickey, Michael Elefante, Obie Sirius, CJ Hamm, Ramiro Scavo , Matt Kraiss, Devon Sanner and Janos Wilder, Janet Jones, Sam Krajnak, Paulo Im just to name a few of us, together for a family meal. I’ve already told them I’ll buy a whole pig and give them anything they want from it to cook and then we can all get together and drink and eat and just be who we are, no judges, just good food and good people who love what we are all about here in Tucson and in our trade. Tell me you wouldn’t want to go to this party.
6) What city, other than Tucson, is your favorite place to eat?
Well Portland, Maine where I used to live and work for over a decade is pretty amazing. I’ve heard it has more restaurants per capita than San Francisco. Eventide Oyster Co., who just won the James Beard Award. Andrew Taylor and Mike Wiley who also lead Hugo’s that I did some work with as well. Duckfat with Rob Evans, Central Provisions with Chris Gould. Pai Men Miyake with Masa Miyake, just to name a handful. Sam Hayward of Fore Street Restaurant approached me at my shop and asked me if could could supply him local dry aged beef. That relationship grew week after week and I started doing lamb and pork and fine fowl like duck and quail with them as well. There is some awesome talent in the Northeast.
7) Speaking in junk food terms, what is your favorite guilty pleasure?
Chocolate cake and ice cream. Done.
8) Which three Tucson restaurants do you frequent the most, aside from your own?
In-n-Out Burger times three, just kidding. I told a good friend sometime ago that I wanted to eat my way through all of Tucson and I’m slowly working that way so honestly there aren’t three. I’m trying to hit them all. It started with Penca, the Parish, Charro Steak, Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails, Welcome Diner, Mama Louisa’s, Ermanos Craft Beer & Wine Bar, Hacienda Del Sol Guest Ranch Resort, and well that’s just the tip. I’m gonna get to them all this year and get fat.
9) With a figurative electric chair in your immediate future, what is your last meal?
Meat and cheese board loaded with a bottle of wine.
Dennis Maroney’s Churro Lamb. Crown roast of lamb with artichoke polenta and another bottle of wine.
Chocolate lava cake with fresh raspberries and Whiskey Del Bac ice cream and a bottle of Whiskey Del Bac to wash it all down.
Peace out Tucson.