Last July, while you were wiping sweat from your brow in the heat of a scorching summer day, William Ryan, owner of Crisfield’s Prime Meats, was thinking about turkeys.
Thanksgiving turkeys, that is. And Christmas turkeys, too. And prime rib. And filet mignon. For it’s in July that the market orders its products for the holiday season and tries to make sure that whatever its Rye customers want will be on hand when the weather turns cold and the Christmas tree goes up.
It’s definitely a busy time for the Rye institution, which is located in a 900-square-foot storefront at 61 Purchase Street and entered from the municipal parking lot behind Purchase Street. Just as customers pick up the last of the 600 turkeys and turkey breasts for Thanksgiving dinner, the staff at Crisfield’s turns its attention to Christmas.
The market has been in operation since 1970, but Ryan purchased it nearly two years ago and runs it along with Rooster’s Market in White Plains.
“Once you dive into Christmas, things get a bit more varied,” he said, noting that among Rye customers, the favorite menu is filet mignon or prime rib au jus with roasted or mashed potatoes, green beans and, of course, dessert. Crisfield’s sells a lot of ham for the holidays, too. Ryan expects to sell between 150 and 175 filet mignons and between 80 and 100 prime ribs of varying sizes.
But Rye customers are getting more adventurous, he said, requesting duck, capons, turkeys, and geese, but also elk tenderloin, venison, ground antelope from Africa, bison, yak, and boar. Ryan has one customer (who shall remain nameless) who orders Japanese wagyu beef every year, which sells for between $200 to $250 per pound. If you’re interested in wagyu, but not in that price range, Ryan also sells American wagyu (which is beef from American cows bred with Japanese wagyu cows) for $75 to $95 “depending on the cut.”
He attributes this newfound sense of culinary adventurousness to social media. Frequently customers come in and say, “I saw this guy cooking elk on Instagram and I want to try it.”
“We can get anything as long as we have enough time to source it,” Ryan said, adding that if customers order by December 18, it makes everything easier (though shoppers coming in after that date will not be shut out). As for Ryan, he himself is “a prime-rib man. Very traditional.”
The good news is that after the pandemic-inspired inflation that sent grocery prices soaring, meat prices have stabilized over the last year or two. Making your Christmas dinner won’t be cheap, but it probably won’t be more expensive than it was last year, Ryan said.
His advice to customers about planning such a dinner? “Less is more. It’s so stressful to get everyone in one place. Keep the menu simple and remember that being with family in the most important thing.”
One thing that lessens Ryan’s stress is the people who work at the market. “I have such a wonderful staff and management team. You have to realize how hard they all work to provide a wonderful experience for our customers.”
But come next July, Ryan will once again be counting turkeys and planning for the holidays all over again.