Persimmon Provisions in Barrington, RI
Buy Local RI partner
"Full Service Artisan Butcher Shop"
338 County Rd
Barrington, RI 02806
Offering fresh meats, charcuterie, house-made sausages, sauces, stocks, some cheese, dry goods, and a handful of prepared foods (from the Persimmon kitchen).
10 am - 6pm.
—Champe Speidel, Owner
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Barrington, RI - “It was insane,” Champe Speidel recalls the holiday cooks that rushed into his newborn butcher shop, Persimmon Provisions. “There was so much more business than I expected. Three hundred people or more were trusting us with their Christmas dinner. We had just opened before Thanksgiving, and we didn’t know if we could get it all out.”
“We really stepped up,” says David Crowell, who has just finished arranging artisan cheeses on top of the refrigerated display case.
“We just said we’re not going to stop,” says Champe, shaking his head in amazement, “Way more than I ever thought.”
I have biked to the top of Prince’s Hill to ask Champe about the inaugural three months of Persimmon Provisions. I am thrilled to have an artisan butcher in Barrington – living in a town with six banks and no bars is stultifying for a man of twenty-two. Barrington needed new blood.
Champe, his assistant David, and I have been talking beside one of the two stainless steel display cases in the center of the storefront. The butcher shop smells of meat the way a lumberyard smells of sawdust. Fine cheeses, charcuterie, and photogenic cuts of meat fill the cases, while both sidewalls are stocked with artisan ingredients and cheese plate fare. Presiding over the store on a deep red wall behind the counter is a black and white diagram of a steer.
Champe’s apprentice butcher enters through the front door.
“Hey, Michael,” says Champe.
“Good morning, chef” Michael Swartz replies.
Michael calls Champe by the title of his other role, chef at the Bristol restaurant Persimmon. Champe co-owns Persimmon with his wife Lisa. Everywhere the lines seem blurred between the butcher shop and the restaurant; David works at both places and calls on his experience in the Persimmon kitchen when giving recipes to customers here. Michael continues to the back room.
Champe tells me why he launched Persimmon Provisions. As Persimmon restaurant grew, the limited counter space in the kitchen prevented him from butchering as much as he wanted. Even when he did buy a full carcass from a local farmer, it was difficult to sell the entire animal one plate at a time.
“I needed a place to break down these animals,” Champe says, “It's also nice to have another retail outlet. Now all of the meat that we use for the restaurant comes from here.”
Over Champe’s shoulder, I watch Michael put on a black apron and enter the walk-in cooler through a heavy steel door. He emerges with a tray of eviscerated ducks, knocking on the door as he exits to alert anyone on the other side. It is an essential practice in a butcher shop full of razor sharp knives.
Champe picks up a curved butcher’s scimitar, and my attention returns. He recalls his teenage years butchering animals in the meat department of a Florida grocery store. “It was something I loved doing,” he tells me as he demonstrates knife technique with a piece of scrap meat, “I worked there for ten years. Butchering paid for college and led me to cooking. It’s not an easy business. You have to have an intimate knowledge of each animal.”
It is a pleasure to watch this man work. His posture is erect but relaxed – light eyes fixed to the small piece of pork and the knife.
“Once the knife becomes a part of your arm,” he says, “then you begin to be an efficient butcher.” He finishes with the scrap and tosses it in a gray trash bin underneath the counter. “Supermarket ham, even prosciutto, all tastes the same. The pigs are raised the same way, eat the same things, live on top of one another. It’s ‘get ‘em to slaughter quick.’”
We see a mustached deliveryman push the front door open with his shoulders and wheel in four cardboard boxes from d’Artagnan, a high-end food distributor. Champe tells me he uses d’Artagnan to supply unusual items or popular middle meats, like ribeyes and strip steaks. I ask about buying local.
“What I’m really concerned with is how the animal is raised. If we can get enough locally, great. It's good to keep dollars local,” he says, “but when people come in here and ask, ‘Is all your meat local?’ I cannot emphatically say yes. We are purveyors of high quality first.” Champe gets some beef from the Oregon-based Painted Hills Natural Beef, a co-op of ranchers raising Black Angus without antibiotics or synthetic hormones.
Champe tells me he is still beginning his business and wants to expand his line of local products. He points to a photograph on the wall, which I recognize as the cover of the last Edible Rhody magazine. It’s a black and white image of Anne Marie Bouthillette with two of her Black Angus cattle at Blackbird Farm in Smithfield. Champe carries Blackbird beef, along with Narragansett Creamery cheeses, Aquidneck Honey, and some meats from farmers in Southern New England. When growing season comes, he will stock pastured chickens from Pat’s Pastured in Jamestown.
The d’Artagnan deliverer sets his load upright and shimmies the handcart from under the boxes. As he leaves, Champe grabs a clean knife and cuts through the packing tape, and he and David move vacuum packed fois gras and Serrano hams to the cooler. When they finish, I ask Champe for a tour of the shop.
We move to the back room where Michael, the butcher apprentice, is piecing out the ducks. He flips each bird onto its back and, beginning on the right, separates the breast from the ribcage with brisk strokes of his knife. He is focused on his task. I would not be surprised if he could tell me the length of his incisions to the millimeter.
Looking around at the stainless steel and white tiling, I ask Champe about the building. His architect friend, Cory Kallfelz, designed the store according to government regulations and Champe’s specifications. Champe points to the steer diagram on the partition wall. Cory found the image, and Champe had an artist from Warren copy it. He laughs as he tells me of the nine sinks he needed to install according to the Department of Health. Nine sinks in 850 square feet.
Champe tells me he needs to step out and, seeing me eye the display case, directs me to David at the counter. To go home and cook yet another tofu stir-fry would be blasphemous; I am determined to try something new. I inspect different trays of beef and lamb until Michael’s duck breasts seduce me, and I ask David for a recipe. He responds with a dish from Persimmon restaurant – pan-roasted duck breasts, sliced thin and fanned out atop duck confit. He tosses out ideas for side dishes and sauces as I frantically scribble everything down.
That evening, I set the sizzling plates of duck in front of my family. I went with roasted potatoes and parsnips for sides and a bottle of Pinot Noir for libation. My mother needs reassurance that the duck is supposed to be cooked to medium. She takes the first bite and chews slowly, then smiles. The dish, she decrees, is fit for a first-class restaurant.