Putting Grass-Fed Beef of the Menu
If I could change three things about the menus at most of Albany’s finer restaurants, I wouldn’t have to think long. I’ve written extensively about these topics for the past two years.
Some have wondered if these three things weren’t mutually exclusive. But I know they are not.
Thanks to my association with All Over Albany, an interesting opportunity came to me about a week ago. Central Steak, a recently re-branded local steakhouse, is working on a social media marketing campaign. They are bringing people into the kitchen to cook with their Executive Chef David Weiner, and putting those videos up on YouTube and Facebook.
Since I have a self-motivated directive to reach out to local chefs, I jumped right in.
Before coming in to shoot the segment, I spoke to chef David about what I would like to cook with him. And not only did I explain my broad concerns with restaurant menus, I proposed a viable solution to get us there. The only question was, would he be receptive?
I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to put grass-fed beef on the menu, reduce the portion size, and bring a full plate of food in for under $20 (and ideally less than $18). Mind you, the cheapest beef on the menu is their conventionally-raised 8oz. Prime Rib, which is $18.
But I did my homework. In advance of talking with chef David I called Adventure in Food Trading and chatted with chef Kurt about their more reasonably priced grass-fed beef. He pointed me in the direction of skirt steak.
Upon hearing that, fireworks lit up in my head, because I had read that chef David is into international flavors, and I had already seen a chimichurri sauce on their menu. This would be a great starting point for a dish.
Chef David took my idea and ran with it. We both thought it would go well with some plantains to which he then added a side of jicama slaw. I put in a pitch for a six or an eight-ounce portion, but my biggest priority at this point was to keep the cost low.
I was very excited to get into the kitchen yesterday to film the segment and see this dish.
The video should be edited and complete by tomorrow. I’ll be on the road, so make sure to check out Central Steak’s Facebook page. I hate watching video of myself, so I’ll rely on you all for constructive criticism.
Anyhow, you can see the food for yourself then. But the grass-fed skirt steak grew to a slightly less moderate ten ounces, in a nod to the demands of the local crowd. And it’s delicious. Especially with the house-made chimichurri, which I think is just perfect for spring. Chef Dave’s plaintains are sweet with nice crispy brown bits around the edges, and really soft and yielding inside. The jicama slaw is a refreshing counterpoint, but could probably benefit from a bit of salt at the table.
And all of this food is seventeen dollars.
Let me summarize that just one more time. Chef Dave didn’t even have to reduce portion sizes to raise the quality of his ingredients and lower his entrée price.
I’m very proud of this accomplishment, and I’m excited that it will be running as a special this weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights). Although there is a limited supply, so you may want to call ahead, or just get there early on Friday. Hopefully some of you make the trek to support a restaurant making its first foray into grass-fed beef.
If it flies off the menu and sells out on Friday night, it could send a strong message that there is an appetite in Albany for this kind of food. And who knows. Perhaps it could even start a local trend. Wouldn’t that be something.