Question of the Day: Is David Fhima going to put a new concept into the Martini Blu Sushi and Grill space in the Grand Hotel? Let me know what you know . . .
OK, now to the topic at hand . . .
Everyone loves beef, and despite our best efforts there seems to be quite a divide these days between our goals (health, wellness, less fat in our diet, small portions, eating more grains and vegetables, etc.) and our reality (big portions, fat-laden foods, an addiction to beef, etc.).
Anecdotally, I think Minnesotans are eating more meats than at any other time I can remember and even the most popular new restaurants these days seem to all serve big portions, and mostly seem to be steakhouse-themed or feature meat-associated menus. And the trend is everywhere. Even the latest Zagat guide for NYC makes note of the fact that more steakhouses have opened in NYC over the last ten years than ever before. Wolfgang Puck has a new steakhouse in LA that I ate in recently that is fabulous, and David Burke’s new beefery in Chicago is the toast of the town—and worth a visit, by the way.
Famously, a few years ago even the fast food chains all came out with healthy menu options, and just as famously are now phasing them out. Hardee's or Wendy’s, I forget which one, even threw a flack out in front of the assembled media a few months ago when it debuted some new quadruple-stack burger and said, “The public asked for more healthy choices a few years ago, but apparently they were wrong,” referring to the menu flip-flops and responding to a question aimed at pinning down the rep on how they make menu choices in the first place. As my buddy Dan always says, “You can’t make this stuff up!”
Anyway, today on Slate, Mark Schatzker has a small piece on what beef tastes best and why, and his hands-down winner might surprise you. And while his taste test is just one man’s opinion, his essay provides answers to many of the questions we routinely field from readers about choosing and selecting beef for dinner. You should check it out. But he asks a rhetorical question that I find fascinating . . . and a statement that is ironically and vaguely untrue. He writes:
“Before you walk into your neighborhood butcher and say, 'Three rib-eye Angus steaks, please, pastured in the Rocky Mountain foothills, finished on barley, but with a hint of oats, and dry-aged for twenty-eight—no, make that twenty-nine—days,' keep in mind that as a consumer, such choice does not exist. That said, if you scour specialty butcher shops or Google "steak," you'll discover other options, including naturally raised, grain-fed, and grass-fed beef. Which leaves carnivores with the question: Which steak tastes the best?”
Well, the irony is that such a steak and such a choice does exist, in a sense . . . . At David Burke’s new Chi-town steak joint, called Primehouse (he is partnering with my old NYC boss Steve Hanson), you can order a steak that is essentially grown to order. Go to DavidBurke.com and click on Primehouse. Then click on the line at the bottom about the steer they bought to keep the restaurant rolling in steak—the same steak—for years to come. According to them,
“We bought a Black Angus senior herd sire Creekstone OB45/174 207L and named him Prime. Prime is the result of a planned mating between Summitcrest Scotch Cap OB 45 and one of Creekstone's most prized and proven donor cows—GAR Max 174.
"OB45 is a legendary sire of high marbling cattle and still ranks number three in the Angus breed for the carcass trait of marbling. At Creekstone, 'Prime' is being mated to daughters of Creekstone's Opportunity 8310. Creekstone lost Opportunity this past summer, but in the most recent sire evaluation, he is still ranked as the number one bull in the entire Angus breed for the trait of marbling.”
So now steakhouses control the genetic make-up of their beef source, allowing the customer to eat ‘the same steak” each time they dine at Primehouse. Wow! A tad Stepford-ish, but it does bring quality control to a whole new level. And Primehouse is worth the trip next time you hit Chicago for a weekend. And I guess cloned foods would be the next step—and trust me on this, it is being worked on right now.