Not only is he an expert with the cleaver, he could give lessons in customer service (Ladies, in cured meat and cheeses, please take note.)
He's never too busy to explain his product and what product it is -- dark marbled lamb chops, pale skinless D'Artagnan rabbits ($5.99 a pound), plump-breasted chicken.
Beautiful glistening mounds of meat greet the carnivores at his ultra-clean counter in a gorgeous display of excess.
No order is too small (like yesterday's pound of ground beef mixed with pork when what I really wanted was a lovely rabbit). He is too kind to make any disdainful observation about your market basket and gently dashes your hopes of rabbit with the average price of $30 for a mature roaster.
I breezed in from the beach, body still tacky with sea salt and hair unkempt, to shop for a few comestibles to take home - pickled mushrooms, a sour cherry and clabbered cream parfait,
the Russian version of ravioli made with veal, latkes, Challah, blackly ripe sweet Bing cherries, smoked chicken.
I love shopping the aisles with the Russian women dressed like they just stepped from the pages of Vogue - even if I feel slightly frumpy by comparison. Yesterday I negotiated the aisles beside a stunning brunette - with that perfect skin cultivated only in Eastern Europe it seems - in a floor-length, fitted white dress and spike heels that could put an eye out.
But my butcher treats me like one of the glamorous women, giving me a courtly bow and pretending to think I'm Russian by greeting me in his mother tongue then fluently switching to English to accommodate the foreigner in Little Odessa. He is chivalrous when it is not necessary to be so, and since it is a quality I find sadly lacking in modern life, I lap it up like sweet cream.
And even when he knows (the way a good salesman knows the depth of his customer's pockets) that my choices are utilitarian rather than frivolous, he asks if there isn't something else he can get for me. He assumes there is a day when I will spend more.
Thank you, my beautiful butcher.