A Paris on Oak Street

Business is organic meat market, cheese shop, deli and caterer

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A little piece of Paris has surfaced on Oak Street in Steamboat Springs now that Marco Pauvert has opened Epicurean.

The new business is part custom organic meat market, part gourmet cheese shop, part deli and part catering business.

"It's not a restaurant," Pauvert said. "It's more like a little bistro you find in Paris."

Pauvert should know. A native of France, he is also a master butcher (that's "boucher" in French), and a licensed charcutier -- a person qualified to make pÕtes and sausages.

At 9:50 a.m. on a Wednesday, Pauvert excuses himself from a guest to run into the kitchen and place a thermometer in an aromatic pan of pÕte.

"It has to be 160 degrees," he announces. "It's perfect!"

Working with Pauvert are his two adult children, daughter Anandine and son David, who recently graduated from culinary school. When they aren't helping a customer, they're apt

to be conversing in their native tongue, and for a moment, it's possible to imagine that one has been transported from rural Colorado to the City of Lights.

Epicurean is at 825 Oak St., in the space formerly occupied by Cugino's.

The atmosphere is deliberately unpretentious. There are five little two-top tables with custom tile surfaces made by Marco's wife, Rebecca (a well-known Steamboat chef). The floor is concrete, the walls aren't decorated, and the room is dominated by a large refrigerator case. Don't look for posters of the Eiffel Tower -- the walls surrounding the tiny dining area are stacked with colorful boxes of French crackers. It all adds up to an air of authenticity.

Epicurean marks Pauvert's second business in Steamboat. He opened the French Bistro in Ski Time Square in January 2002, but the location wasn't right. He's been looking for a new location for two years and takes the bustling noon business at Epicurean as a sign that he's found a good fit in the building close to Old Town's residential neighborhoods.

There's one significant difference between Epicurean and the original French Bistro: This time around, Pauvert is placing a heavy emphasis on custom butchered meats -- all of it certified organic. That includes locally grown lamb from Lou and Lydia Dequine at Flying Horse Ranch Suffolks in South Routt County. Epicurean also offers organic beef, veal, chicken and pork.

"People are looking for organic meat," Pauvert said. He says he is the only local source for fresh, cut-to-order organic meats.

Watching Pauvert prepare an order of ground beef for a customer is an eye opener for anyone who has grown up with supermarket meat on Styrofoam trays. If a shopper asks for 2 pounds of 90 percent lean ground beef, he brings a sirloin or chuck roast out of the kitchen and presents it for the customer's approval. Then, he returns to the kitchen, where he custom grinds the meat. Pauvert stresses that he is meticulous about sanitation and cleans his meat grinder twice a day.

The price of 90 percent lean ground beef is $4.99 a pound and 80 percent lean is $4.29 a pound.

On average, Pauvert said, his customers will pay about $1.50 more per pound for organic meats than they might pay for a similar cut in the supermarket.

"My meat is aged," Pauvert said. "Beef has to age 16 days to be guaranteed tender, and lamb has to be aged 10 days."

Pauvert is able to purchase one to three fresh lambs at a time from the Dequines, and he custom cuts the carcasses.

Lamb chops are priced at $16.99 a pound.

Pauvert says he's eager to educate his customers about organic meats and the best ways to prepare them.

For busy cooks who don't have the time to prepare meals from scratch, Epicurean offers hearty French soups, such as beef stew Burgundy, and Marco's specialties, which include Chicken royale -- chicken breast stuffed with conte cheese and wrapped in genuine prosucitto di Parma.

There are also some intriguing salads and appetizers in the refrigerator case. With a little notice, Pauvert will make a special order of beef Wellington en croûte in a Madeira mushroom base. Or, with three days notice, he'll provide special cuts of meat, such as crown roasts, for special dinner parties.

Customers for Pauvert's pÕtes include Hazie's restaurant at the ski area. His authentic French delicacies include country pÕte, duck mousse and smoked mousse.

If you're unable to hop a jet for Paris this winter, cruise over to Epicurean.There's plenty of parking next door in the Eighth Street lot.

-- To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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