The Generour Pour: Capital Grille

Great steak and unbeatable wines.  That combo made for a spectacular meal this week at The Capital Grille at Legacy Village.  They’ve got a summer promotion worth toasting to, The Generous Pour, that we had the pleasure of experiencing this week.  

The wine tasting event brings you seven of “The Critics’ Darlings,” which are 90+ point California wines that should please even the pickiest of oenophiles.  You can plot it out however you’d like, depending on what you’ll be dining on.

We knew we were coming for a long, indulgent meal.  And since we’d been to the steakhouse before we also knew what we’d be ordering, so we worked with our fabulous server, Tommy Violante, to map out our pairings.

To start we went large!  Out of the gate we ordered the Cold Shellfish Platter and Fried Lobster Tails (off the menu but a house speciality).  Pass the lemon wedges and the seafood bibs! All were prepared to perfection.

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For that, Tommy brought us the first three tastings, all whites.  We had a lovely WillaKenzie Pinot Gris from the Willamette Valley (90 points), a Matanzas Creek Sauvignon Blanc from Sonoma (92 points) and my favorite of the trio, a Cambria, Clone 4 Chardonnay from Santa Maria Valley.

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This was a surprise, because I don’t normally favor Chardonnay, and it’s rare to see that variety come out of the Santa Barbara area.  THIS is the reason you experience wine tastings like these!.

Knowing I had a SERIOUS steak coming at me shortly, I responsibly ordered a kale salad (and no decadent sides, like I wanted to!).  Then our server brought out the other four tastings for us to sip on through the rest of our meal.  If ever one struck us more than the others, or if all of them did, he offered to top off the glasses. Generous Pour, indeed.  They were not stingy with these high end wines.

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So, out came a 90 point Siduri Pinot Noir, also from Willamette Valley, and Arrowood “Sonoma Estates” Cabernet Sauvignon (2014) from Sonoma County, a 91 point Edmeades Zinfandel out of Mendocino and a 92 point Mt. Brave Cabernet Sauvignon (2012) from Napa Valley.  Each offered rich flavors and a few surprises.  The Pinot Noir had just enough body to it for this phase of the meal.  The Zinfandel was far stronger than you’re used to and very smooth.  But the Mt. Brave Cab was by far my favorite, and worth savoring!

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Oh yeah, there was steak too!  On our server’s suggestion, I tried a bone in filet for the first time. The cut was enormous, compared to what you usually see in a high end steak house and it wasn’t all bone….lots of velvety meat seasoned beautifully.  My husband had a bone in ribeye, and wasn’t disappointed.

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And just as the words, “I could use something sweet to finish the meal” came out of my mouth and hung over the intimate booth we were dining in, Tommy brought over a Creme Brûlée and Flourless Chocolate Expresso Cake.  The perfect note to finish the meal, and the wines!

To me, it’s the service that sets The Capital Grille apart from other steak houses.  The cuts are spectacular, no doubt.  But it’s the experience, like a chance to sip on The Generous Pour, perfectly paired with our personal meal selections, that makes it a worthwhile dining destination.  The best part? This summer promotion is only a $28 add on to your meal.  And you can win a bottle of all of seven of the wines featured.  Just head to The Captial Grille location near you before September 3rd.

Disclosure: I was invited by the Captial Grille Public Relations team to experience this promotion.  But as always, all opinions are my own.

Butcher Class at Urban Famer

I won’t shop, cook or cut meat quite the same from now on.  I had the pleasure of attending a Butcher Class at Urban Farmer recently.  They went above and beyond to teach, answer questions and arm attendees with the information and know-how they’d need to select the best cuts of meat, and best utilize less popular, yet more economical cuts.  

Head Butcher and Urban Farmer Sous Chef, Vincent Delagrange, lead the class.  He’s been professionally cutting meat since 2011.  He knows his stuff.  He whizzed through the prepared Beef 101 slides, covering the basics, like “What is a steak?” (2″ thick or under with a quick cooking method) and “what makes it tender?” (It’s inversely related to the amount of work a muscle has to during the life of the animal).  Fat is flavor, and the fattier the beef, the beefier the flavor.  This is an equation I can study. 

Here’s what I learned: 

Delagrange also touched on U.S.D.A. grading, explaining that most meat we see in a butcher shop of the meat counter is Prime (highest designation, less than 2% of cattle) or Choice (less marbling, but widely available), occasionally Select (lean and less available, potentially tough).

And then there’s is Wagyu.  It’s the Cadillac of cows, people.  It has a high percentage of marbling which far exceeds that of USDA Prime. Yes, please. And get this: “Kobe” beef isn’t really Kobe beef unless it is from Tajima breed cows raised in the Hyogo prefecture of Japan, and you’re eating it in Japan.  They don’t export it.  So all those times you THINK you’ve purchased or been served Kobe beef…you were duped. How about that?!


We did a blind taste teste comparing the Prime cuts they source at the restaurant, versus a Choice cut offered at a large (unnamed) grocery chain.  Not a tough call.  

Delegrange was happy to answer all kinds of questions the group had about shopping for beef too.  Like “What day is best to shop for meat?”  Answer: find out which day of the week your local butcher or grocer gets their shipments.  And that’s the day!  Likely Friday morning is good.  For large chains, Delegrange suggests checking their ads.  The first day sales take effect you’re sure to find the freshest product.  And for markdowns…try Sunday evening, or Monday.  What I was surprised to hear was those markdowns haven’t been sitting there for days…only a couple of hours.  So scoop them up, check the freshness or sell-by date and save!

I learned that you can identify high quality meat by look and touch. There should be exterior fat (remember, fat=flavor!).  Press on the side of that fat.  You’ll want it spongey, or to bounce back, not firm.  And you’re looking for a good balance or ratio of interior or marbelized fat to exterior fat.  


Delegrange also suggests secondary cuts to satisfy your beef craving and your budget.  Swap Ribeye for Chuckeye, Tenderloin for Sirloin and Strip Steak for Coulotte.  The idea is to buy a piece of meat that can be grilled and sliced to serve a larger number of people.  The guy has four kids at home.  I trust his advice!  He also favors the flat iron, tri tip, Babette and ribeye cap.     


The group also got a first hand look at how dry aging is achieved and how animals are broken down at Urban Farmer’s in house butcher shop.  And get a lot of their charcuterie program! Meat me, please! 


We were given a handful of great recipes from Delegrange, plus some helpful handouts to help decider between corn-fed, grass-fed and dry-aged beef for the purposes of shopping and ordering at our favorite restaurants.  And BONUS: there were swag bags with “Beefy” t shirts (which I admittedly had my eye on at the hostess stand) plus some seeds to start our garden this season.  


If you’d like to sign up for one of these comprehensive classes, their next butcher class is Saturday, June 17th from 10:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. This one is a showdown between the Carolina’s versus Texas BBQ.  Event details here:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/urban-farmer-butcher-class-carolina-versus-texas-bbq-tickets-31904464111?aff=erelpanelorg

A Celebration of Beef: MEATing of the Minds

I’ve eaten so much beef in the last week, that there is a serious chance I might actually turn in to cow.  But how do you turn down the kind of meals I’ve had of late? (Brazilian steak house, Ruth’s Chris VIP night for example). Two incredibly talented chefs and their teams put together a 7 course menu that would satisfy the most sophisticated foodie and the hungriest of cowboys.  Chefs David Kocab and Matt Mytro combined forces and creativity to put together a “Celebration of Beef,” part one of a two part partnership that puts Ohio beef on a pedestal.


The host for the first night was Restaurant Trentina, the University Circle location known for its innovative Menu Bianco, inspired by the Trentino region of Italy.  Mytro’s restaurant, Flour (Moreland Hills), will host part two.  The pair called it a tasting menu series, but the portions were more generous than your standard tasting meal (see the whole beef shin that came out family style to a table of just six!)


Before service began we were treated to beef charcuterie prepared by the in house chef for Certified Angus Beef Brand, Ashely Breneman.  Then the beef flood gates opened.


First course: Beef Tartare with smoked oysters, toasted yeast emulsion, and pickled radish.  Chef Kocab came out to the dining room to explain his first offering which used strip steak to put his spin on it.  It takes a brave stomach to start here, but I was all in.  And it was a great entry into this well known classic.


Second course: Beef Carpaccio with Nduja, bone marrow Laredo, lemon and shiso.  This was more bright and spicy than you would expect at first glance, and the perfect portion size.


Third course: Potato Gnocchi with pot roast, braised greens and ricotta salata.  This delivered that melt in your mouth flavor that you want from a comfort food that often gets a bad wrap from fine dining restaurants.  Not this time! This dish even made my kale-hating husband a believer in the super food.


Fourth course: Beefy Bucatini.  This dish fooled the eyes and the palate.  Chef Mytro said the mushroom bolognese didn’t actually contain any meat.  Instead they used mushrooms to provide the meaty mouth feel of a classic bolognese, and the pasta was cooked in beef broth to impart the beefy taste.  Genius.

Full yet? Yes, but that wasn’t stopping us.


Fifth course: Braised Beef Shin Peposo.  Made in their pizza oven, wrapped in a tender and tearable bread and served with an herb salad. This, to me, was the show stopper.  It was grand and impressive, served family style.  So. Damn. Good.


Sixth course: Short Rib with Farro, fermented tomato sugo and wood oven carrots.  I think I can count on one hand how many bites of vegetables I took during this meal.  #sorrynotsorry.  These carrots were a welcom respit from meat on meat on meat, as was the skillfully prepared faro.  But that’s not to take away from the short ribs which didn’t require a knife.


Seventh course: Bone Marrow Budino with ricotta cake, sour cream semifreddo and toffee. How do you incorporate beef into dessert? Make toffee with beef fat, of course! Flour’s pastry chef, Emily Laboue created a balanced sweet finish that incorporated the impossible (beef, as dessert) for a last course that even those of us who said we were stuffed, couldn’t help but finish.

Like what you’re reading?  Licking your lips?   You didn’t miss out. Round two of this Celebration of Beef is already on the calendar for May 1st, with a BRAND NEW MENU.  Call Flour for tickets.  Can’t wait to see what these beef ambassadors have in store.  

Better Beef: Certified Angus Beef Brand

We all know what a good steak is when we taste it. But what factors into that perfect bite? The beef experts at Certified Angus Beef brand know exactly what makes the best beef the best.  And they’re spreading their message and their meat to as many retailers and restaurants as they can. 

Their efforts seem to be working, as 95% of consumers recognize their brand on labels and menus, and 84% are willing to pay 10% more for CAB steaks and burgers. Their popularity seems to be growing, too.  There was more than 1 billion pounds of Certified Angus Beef sold last year, for the first time ever.  On average, Certified Angus Beef end meats (from the chuck, round) tend to get $0.50-$1.00/pound over low choice.  Middle meats (rib, strip and tenderloin) can see premiums around $2-3 over choice price.

 
Until recently I had no idea that CAB was headquartered in Wooster. But it’s an incredible resource to restaurants and chefs who are eager to learn more about this high quality meat, how to highlight it, and how many different cuts that can be made restaurant quality, beyond your ribeye and filet.


I was invited along with five local chefs, to spend the day at CAB HQ. We were given the run of their Education and Culinary Center. The day started with a history of the 40 year old non-profit brand, who they are and who they serve.  Owned by the American Angus Association, the brand was born out of the desire to identify the best of angus beef being raised across the country.  Only 3 in 10 angus cattle meet the 10 standards required to be labeled Certified Angus Beef.  The brand deals with ranchers, feeders, packers, chefs, vendors and consumers.  It was amazing to discover just how big the organization is (130 staff members) and to hear about its global reach.


In terms of categories, they have their standard Certified Angus Beef, their Natural option (animals are fed a vegetarian diet, free of hormones and antibiotics) and their Prime options, which only make up 2-5% of the industry. Many have interest and questions about what these cattle are fed.  CAB reps say they work with feeders to ensure that the animals start with grass, then are introduced to corn and carbs, alfalfa and hay.  But most of the CAB influence starts at the packing plant.  Inspectors look for black hides, which are then inspected for safety, chilled then graded.


After our quick study on the organization, it was was time to put the butchers’ coats on and get the knives out.  Meat Scientist, Diana Clark gave us an extensive lesson on the 10 quality specs the sides of beef must meet to get the CAB stamp of approval.

USDA uses the ribeye to evaluate the quality, because it is the most conservative and the most indicative of the rest of the animal. Inspectors check out the marbling and intramuscular fat.  Since CAB reps can’t be present for grading, the only way for them to influence the supply of beef that meets their standards is to work directly with the ranchers to improve product.


So what sets Certified Angus Beef apart? It’s fine marbling, according to Clark. The first three standards deal with consistency of taste. (modest or high marbling, plus medium or fine marbling texture and “A” maturity).   The next three ensure consistency in product (10-16 square inch ribeye area, size of carcass and less than 1 inch fat thickness), and the last four consider appearance (muscling and other aesthetic details).


For the next several hours I watched in awe as Clark broke down a 440 pound side of beef, with ease, and showed 5 male chefs how it’s done. What boy’s club?!!  It was fascinating to see how each cut took shape with every slice, saw or cut she made.  Several of the chefs on site with me were preparing for an event, which brought in a whole cow to be served in its entirety day of.  So it was great to see light bulbs go off and inspiration ignited as they saw how to make restaurant quality dishes with more economical cuts.


When we broke for lunch we were served an incredible meal, prepared by in house chef, Ashley Brenemen. To my surprise, we started the hearty meal with beef charcuterie.  It’s not widely made…but it should be.  Chefs Brett Oliver Sawyer and Mike Schoen couldn’t stop themselves from reaching for seconds, thirds and fourths.  


Next came a dry aged short rib.  Which, admittedly, Chef Breneman said she wouldn’t do again, as it was quite labor intensive and didn’t yield enough to make the process worthwhile in a restaurant.  But for this special occasion, her time was not wasted. Wonderful. 


Next she rolled out bucatini from Flour Pasta Company, a gift from Chef Matt Mytro, and a 65 day dry aged strip steak.  Can’t believe it’s taken me this long to try a dry aged steak.  Why??!!  First impression?  Tender and funky.  But as Chef Matt Mytro put it…it’s the best kind of funk there is. 


It was a crying shame not to finish it, but I was getting full, and a little birdie told me that even in a beef-centric place like CAB HQ, they have a house pastry chef.


After lunch Diana and the chefs put a couple of the new cuts they’d been introduced to (like a culotte, tri tip and the Denver steak from the chuck roll) onto the grill to get an idea of the texture and mouth feel. As if we had any room left!  
We also got a look around the rest of the facility, including the photography studio and the printing room where they can help clients print everything from table ads to menus and other marketing literature. Then there was the last of the animal to break down.  We started talking more about applications and preparation, as Clark gave the chefs and me a few different cuts to experiment with.

I left CAB with so much more knowledge about beef, and what makes their brand superior. I can honestly say I look at menus, meat counters and butcher shops far differently now.

Wholey Cow!

Culinary worlds will collide at a mouth-watering event, hosted at a cool new venue.  Local Sol presents the first annual “Wholey Cow” event on Sunday, February 28th.  And like the title suggests, they’re bringing in a whole cow.  Yowza.

chef michael schoen

Chef Michael Schoen has recruited five other talented local chefs to develop the menu and prepare the feast.  He’s got my buddy, and former Iron Chef competition partner, Matt Mytro, plus Joe Lang, of Flour, Chef Mike Keyerleber, from Great Scott Tavern, Hunter Toth from The Morehouse, and Paul Hamalainen, of Beach Club Bistro.

Whole cow

The team will divvy up the cuts and make a monster sized buffet that will satisfy any appetite.  Oh yeah…and it’s all you can eat.  SOLD!

If that wasn’t enough to clear your calendar…they have also paired up with Platform Beer Co. to offer featured brew, also all you can drink.  CHEERS!

The buffet will also be stocked with items for Vegans, Vegetarians and those adhering to the Gluten Free lifestyle, so no need to stay home if you follow any of those diets.

I had brunch at Local Sol (38257 Glenn Avenue Willoughby, OH 44094) over the weekend, and loved the transformation they’ve pulled off in the space.  What used to be the formal dining room of an Italian restaurant (Gavi’s) is now a cross between a cantina, a tiki bar and a Salvador Dali painting.  So many cool design elements that you might miss if you’re not looking for them.

Loved the ceiling, the Bloody Mary bar, and the drift wood decor.  And your eye is immediately drawn to the lights hanging down the middle of the main dining room, brought in from St. Mary’s Church in Painesville, Ohio.

Local Sol church lights

It’s easy to see how this space will become a great party atmosphere.  To amp up that aspect, the event planners have live music lined up throughout the afternoon and evening. “SB and the Lovelies” And “DJ Shawn Brewster” will be spinning records 3-5, trio 5-7, and DJ @ 7:00pm.

Tickets will run you $75.  Click here to buy.

But I have your chance to WIN A PAIR of tickets to this foodie bash.  Mark your calendar, and set an alert.  The twentieth person to call Local Sol at 2pm on Wednesday, Feb. 17th, will win a pair of tickets to Wholey Cow.  (440) 918-1596. Good luck.  See you there!

Ohio City Provisions: a new, and true Farm to Fork concept

The term “Rise and Shine” was made for people like Trevor Clatterbuck and Adam Lambert.  They have been getting up before sunrise for months, working long hours readying their new project.  And it’s pretty exciting.  Both are heavy weights in Cleveland’s local food scene independently, (Trevor is the man behind Fresh Fork Market, a very popular CSA business (community supported agriculture) in Cleveland.  Adam is a well-established local chef, who’s logged hours in the kitchens of Bar Cento, and The Black Pig, to name just a couple) but together they’re doing something that isn’t being done anywhere else in town.

OCP Rise and Shine

The plans are to open up a market and butcher shop in the Ohio City neighborhood of Cleveland, near St. Ignatius High School.  The two plan to grow or raise everything they’ll sell there.  Fans of Fresh Fork will find all the good quality produce they’re used to (sourced from farms within 75-100 miles of Cleveland, organic when possible, and picked at the peak of freshness).

OCP produce

But what’s new, innovative and mouth-watering…is what they’re doing with hogs.  The pair have been experimenting with animal husbandry and feed to develop meat that you can’t get anywhere else in the state.

OCP hogs

I got a tour of the property in Holmes County where they have about 150 hogs on site.  Mangalitsa, Berkshire, Mulefoot, Red Wattle…all new vocabulary to me.  But what they have planned is not…charcuterie.  Yes, please!

OCP jen and a hog

They’ve got a supply chain in place, thanks to their “adventures in hog sourcing.”  The details of which the pair chuckle about, but don’t care to share.  After all, learning about heritage breeds is new territory for them too.  Clatterbuck has a background in business and political science.  Lambert is a self-taught chef.  But the two both seem right at home on the 200 acre property where they plan to get a lot of their product.

OCP Wholesome Valley Farm

They’re promising the best pork in the state.  The red wattles are said to be more tender.  The mangalitsas, used for things like Jamon Iberico.

OCP mangalitsa

What takes time, but will be worth the wait, I’m told…is controlling the product…all of it…from start to finish.  They are playing with breeds and what they feed the animals to get optimal product.  These hogs are given specific ratios of barley and grass from the fields.  Lambert says they have marbled loins, and even appear more red than pink when you cut into them.

Red Wattle Pig at Wholesome Valley Farm in Holmes County, Ohio

Red Wattle Pig at Wholesome Valley Farm in Holmes County, Ohio

Plus, they’re also raising other animals.  They have laying chickens, meat birds and heritage birds, whose pens and coops are moved weekly to insure exposure to fresh grass and soil for them to feed on, not to mention fresh air.

OCP mobile coop

They’re also working on ways to make heritage poultry more affordable. (which currently takes 18 wks.)

OCP heritage birds

The Hereford beef they are raising will be grass-fed, sustainable and have better flavor, according to Clatterbuck.  Those with smaller frames, he says, are easier to finish without incorporating high energy corn and grain.  Their plans also include growing non-GMO (and eventually, organic) corn and soy beans on site so the animals can feed off that.

OCP beef

There is so much in the works it’ll make your head spin.  The infrastructure is already in place for maple syrup production.  There are hives on site, for bees to pollinate the produce and generate honey.

OCP maple syrup infrastructure

They have secured their cannery, bakery, frozen foods and ferments permits.  OCP has acquired heavy machinery like bean snippers and corn huskers to handle the volume when fresh produce “comes in like a hurricane,” as Clatturbuck says.

OCP canned goods

When the store is up and running you can expect incredible products.  Believe me, I’ve had some of Chef Lambert’s charcuterie and it is unbelievable.  A true art.  But he’s even upped his game.  Clatterbuck and Lambert are fresh off a 2 day charcuterie workshop in Gascony, France.

forage with strangers charcuterie

And since it costs more (time and money) to raise these kinds of hogs, you can bet they won’t be selling them as pork chops.  You’ll see smoked and cured meats, specialty sausage and charcuterie.

Rendering of the Ohio City Provisions storefront

Rendering of the Ohio City Provisions storefront

Clatterbuck and Lambert are aiming to open Ohio City Provisions in January.  Can’t wait to see what will fill their cases, and the bellies of Clevelanders once they open their doors.

Pot Roast Dumplings

I was recently given a “Cheftovers Challenge” by a friend of mine: Do something interesting with leftover pot roast.  Challenge accepted.  She said most of the time she just breaks it up and loads it on a pile of egg noodles with the rest of the gravy for “round two.”  I call that unimaginative, and unexciting.  Gotta do better for your family and your guests. And I was ready to be adventurous and try something out of my comfort zone, Asian cuisine.  I was going to make dumplings with this!

leftover pot roast

This past week I made what was likely the most tender and flavorful pot roast I’ve ever prepared.  (Let me know if you want the recipe for that too)  It was very juicy and much too much for our family.  I blame it on the BOGO deal at the grocery story (only large ones left).  There was plenty left, that I tore apart easily with a pair of forks.

In the interest of full disclosure, I don’t ALWAYS have EVERYTHING I need to execute the ideas I have for my leftovers.  In the same way it “takes money to make money” sometimes it takes food to make food, so to speak.  I finally ventured into to the Asian Food Mart just a couple blocks from my house to get what I needed to make my dumplings, won ton wrappers.  They were $1.99 for a frozen block of them.

leek filling

Next, I surveyed the fridge for more things that would complete the filling for my Pot Roast Dumplings.  I uncovered some sauteed organic leeks I had remaining from the Sunday morning quiche I made.  Hate to have any organic produce go to waste.  I added those to a small food processor and slowly poured in some heavy cream until it became the thick (slightly sticky) and creamy consistency I was going for.

green onions

Then, for variety, I grabbed the beautiful green and purple organic green onions I also had, beckoning to be utilized in an Asian dish.  For this filling, I thought I’d try cream cheese, and I had some chive and green onion…perfect!  I used the same food processor to blend those ingredients until it was enough to bind to the leftover pot roast.

green onion filling

Now it was assembly time.  I did refer to a couple of other dumpling recipes to see if I was on the right track on portion size, filling and assembly/cooking instructions.  I placed a half dozen won ton wrappers on a large cutting board and put about a tablespoon of one of the fillings, then an equal amount of the shredded pot roast.  I had enough to make about two dozen dumplings.

filling pot roast dumplings

Then, I moistened the wrappers around the filling with water and a small pastry brush, gathered the edges and pinched them together.

assembling pot roast dumplings

I put about a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a frying pan and placed the dumplings in batches in the hot oil to fry until the bottoms were brown.  Then I carefully added about 1/4-1/2 cup water in the frying pan and covered it until the dumplings were steamed and cooked through.

frying pot roast dumplings

For the dipping sauce, I first read through a handful of recipes, and worked on a soy ginger version, something that was hot and sweet.  I sauteed some garlic and ginger in a little vegetable oil.  Then I added soy sauce, brown sugar and a pinch of red pepper flakes until it thickened up.Now I was on to something!

beef pot roast dumplings

Challenge completed.  I’d taken some tasty pot roast, a few kitchen staples, some special organic produce, and a single “new buy” to make what was easily the best heavy appetizer/light dinner I’d made in a while.  My guests gobbled them up.  So, now that I’ve tackled pot roast, whatdayahave for me?  I’m ready for what you throw at me.