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.

IMG_8362

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.

IMG_8372

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.

IMG_8384

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!

IMG_8380

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.

IMG_8382

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.

Advertisements

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.

The Fabulous Food Show

My favorite food event of the year is always the Fabulous Food Show, at the I-X Center.  It shines a national spotlight on all that the Cleveland food scene has to offer, to 30,000 people over the course of a weekend.  Vendors, purveyors, artisans, chefs, foodies, students and avid eaters gather for three days celebrating all things FOOD.

ffs-steak-cake

This year they offered new things like a Baking Pavilion, Cocktail School and Friday night fund raising event, Savor Cleveland, to raise money for No Kid Hungry.  It was a fun evening attended by some of the celebrity chefs in town for this dynamic event.  The floor was also peppered with samples, and special offers for everything from salsa, to knives, to artisan cheese.  The neighborhood stage was a great showcase for local talent to demo techniques and recipes.  And the main stage offered presentations and Q&A from celebrity chefs like Aaron Sanchez, Daphne Oz, Michael Symon, Damaris Phillips and Melissa D’Arabian.

Once again I was honored to participate on a main stage event.  CLE Cooks for a Cause was expanded this year to include 8 teams of two, a local celeb and a local chef-going head to head in a “Chopped” style cooking competition.  Each team selected a charity to compete for.  The show itself donated $500 to each of our charities, plus donated the proceeds from reserved seating.  I was playing for the Hunger Network of Greater Cleveland.

It was a rematch.  Chef Matt Mytro, of Flour, and I went back at it against Matt Fish, of Melt Bar & Grilled and Jeremiah Widmer of Q104 FM. We’d been ribbing each other for the better part of the year since the last time we cooked against each other at the Fabulous Food Show last year.  But Mytro and I wanted to take the title away from Team Melt.

We were given beef as a protein and the chefs set about rapidly raiding the back stage pantry for something they could pull off in 30 minutes, and still impress judges like Damaris Phillips, and former White House Chef, Sam Morgante.

Chef Mytro conceived, executed and plated a beautiful sirloin steak with a celeriac puree and a punchy salad on top.  He tasked me with making a perfect meatball, and braising it in some marinara.  His bold flavors and my comfort zone worked in our favor.  WE WON!  The judges were very complimentary of Mytro’s flavors and my ability to get the meatballs done in such a quick amount of time.  It felt good to win!  (especially because Matt told me his partner threatened to take his chef’s coat away if he lost a second year in a row!)

ffs-mytro-and-jen

To watch the entire competition from the perspective of the stage, click here for my Facebook Live broadcast.

I also scored, with some one on one interview time with three of the biggest celebrity chefs featured in the Fabulous Show.  It’s always an honor and a blast to talk to Cleveland’s own Iron Chef, Michael Symon.  Great to catch up with him about plans for Lolita, progress at Mabel’s and his yearly opportunity to show off the CLE culinary scene.  To watch my entire one on one with Chef Michael Symon, click here for my Facebook Live broadcast.

jen-and-daphne-oz

Chef Symon brought in fellow cast member from The Chew, Daphne Oz.  I loved visiting with her about tempting toddlers with healthy food, and her new cook book, The Happy Cook.  She is stunning in person and remarkably relatable.  To view my entire interview with Daphne Oz, click here for my Facebook live broadcast.

jen-and-damaris-phillips

And one of the newest members of the Food Network family, Damaris Phillips was also in town.  Phillips, of Southern at Heart, is as sweet as pecan pie and a ton of fun.  She is a great resource for those trying to please a variety of dietary needs, especially come holiday times.  She’s a southern meat-eatin’ gal who married a vegetarian!  My entire interview with Damaris Phillips can be viewed here.

The Fabulous Food Show is my happy place (one of them) it combines the energy of the Cleveland food scene, with incredible talent, learning opportunities, cutting edge products, fan favorites and delicious food.  Mark your calendar and get there next year!

Chef’s table at Table 45

If you haven’t been to Table 45 lately, or ever, make a point to. It’s a global treat for the senses. Sophisticated and modern, Chef Zack Bruell calls it his favorite restaurant space, and that’s saying a lot. The man is starting to lose count of his establishments, there are so many! 

table 45 chefs

I was invited, along with a few select others in the food media world, to taste the changes Chef Bruell is making under new Table 45 Chef Matthew Anderson, and new Executive Chef Michael Swann.  New and exciting details of this year’s Tour de Bruell were also revealed (keep reading!)

We were wined (with pairings for each plate) and dined (with a whopping 8 courses), and impressed with the knowledgeable and attentive staff.

table 45 sushi

The sparkling evening started with a glass of Von Schleinitz Secco Sparkling Dry Reisling, and assorted sushi out on the tranquil patio. The restaurant is inside the InterContinental Hotel, a Cleveland Clinic property. The environment is a welcome reprieve from hectic pace kept around the rest of the mini-city that is The Clinic.

table 45 chef swann

The group moved into the fabulous chef’s table for the remainder of our meal. The set up provided us with a front row seat for all the meal preparation. And the chefs accompanied the wait staff to explain each course and answer questions. You know I had one.

“How much does the international clientele and heart-healthy focus of the Cleveland Clinic play into the new menu?” The answer: quite a bit. Chef Anderson says Table 45 has always offered global cuisine, and still will. But he says they have also developed their dishes with capability of being “deconstructed” to accommodate various dietary restrictions, choices and allergies. So rather than limiting those who are cutting sodium, gluten free, dairy intolerant, etc. to just a few dishes, they are able to adjust most of the menu to please the patron. I appreciated the “choose your own adventure” approach to their offerings.

The second course was a vegan Caesar salad, made with a creamy tofu vinaigrette, nori crumbles and fried tofu as croutons. Imagine my husband’s surprise that he actually enjoyed tofu. It was paired with a lovely Chilean wine, Mayu.

For our third course, and one of my favorites, we were served a pan seared diver scallop with a chickpea puree (which ate like a slightly thicker hummus) and a raspberry glaze for the perfect acidic compliment. The Italian Conte Brandolini D’adda was a crisp partner to the dish.

The fourth course featured a goat cheese gnocchi (instead of using potato) which I had never had before. What a scrumptious substitute. It was sauced with a tomato fondue, arugula, basil and balsamic reduction. My only complaint was I wish there was more of it! We were poured a Baumard Savenierres. Honestly, I can’t remember much about this wine. But I don’t remember disliking any of them!

We continued our family style feast with a pan seared Chilean Seabass, always a favorite of mine. It sat on some smashed potatoes and a caper-tomato white wine broth which gave it a nice bite. The wine pairing here, another hit, Chanson Bourgogne Blanc.

As if we had room for more…the heavier entrees were now coming out. This roasted chicken with a mole rojo and Spanish rice was a standout for me. Something I don’t ever cook myself, and rarely order, but really enjoyed. And the wine for this sixth course was the table favorite, a Chateau Musar Juene Rouge from Lebanon. Who knew Lebanon made such great wine?!

The final savory course was my personal favorite, a grilled New York strip steak with a warm fingerling salad, wilted arugula, plenty of wild mushrooms and a port wine sauce. I am glad I paced myself up until this so I could have seconds! The wine was a velvety Rompicollo Sangiovese blend. Could’ve had three glasses of that.

And for our eighth and final course, the chefs put out a simple spoonful that satisfied our collective sweet teeth: a classic crème brulee paired with a Marchesi Di Barolo Moscato.

table 45 dessert

We were invited not only to share in this wonderful meal and see what these new chefs can do, but also to hear about this year’s Tour de Bruell. It’s the Amazing Race for Cleveland Foodies. The challenge is simple: eat at least one entrée at six of Chef Zack Bruell’s restaurants (Alley Cat, L’Albatros, Parallax, Chinato, Cowell & Hubbard and Table 45) between Memorial Day and Labor Day and get a card stamped at each stop. When your card is full, it’s entered into a hopper and the  grand prize winner is treated to a lavish four course meal for 8 at your home, cooked by Chef Bruell himself. This year there are also some additional incentives and fun elements to the promotion.

New this year: Finish the tour in the first 30 days and be entered to win a progressive dinner throughout several Zack Bruell’s Restaurants. Five lucky winners and their guests will be selected at random from submitted complete tickets to enjoy the chauffer-driven progressive dinner. And everyone who fills their ticket is invited to a complimentary VIP Party at Table 45 in September.

If that weren’t enough for you Bruell Restaurant Group groupies, there is also an exclusive wine tasting event, open to the public on June 6th. The Zack Bruell Restaurant Group has paired up with CBS Sports Commentator Jim Nantz’s acclaimed wine label, The Calling. The Sonoma Valley wines are the official wine partner of Tour De Bruell. Chef Bruell will host Nantz and his wine partner Peter Deutsch, starting at 6 p.m., as
they discuss The Calling at L’Albatros in University Circle. They will then move to Table 45 in the InterContinental Hotel, Parallax in Tremont and Alley Cat on the East Bank of the Flats. Each of these locations will feature complimentary tastings of several 90+ rated wines from The Calling.

Reservations for the wine tasting can be made with the individual restaurants.  I’ll be there! Will you?  I also plan to start my journey on the Tour de Bruell by the first week in June.  Better get dining!