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Putting Grass-Fed Beef of the Menu

May 25, 2011

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.

1)    The addition of restaurant quality ingredients
2)    Smaller portions
3)    Reduced prices

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.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Stevo permalink
    May 25, 2011 9:51 am

    Very nice. The video is not up yet but I’ll be sure to watch it when it is. I am not a fan of skirt steak. I really prefer a better cut of beef, but I am going to talk my wife into going there for dinner Friday eve and I will order your dish.

  2. Doc permalink
    May 25, 2011 10:28 am

    Very impressive Fus!!

  3. May 25, 2011 10:39 am

    If you haven’t already Daniel, I suggest you check out Tilldale Farms grass-fed beef & pork (organic; they’re in Hoosick) – they’ll be at the Delmar FM starting next Sat. We’ve been trading breads for meats w/ them for a year. Seriously great, affordable and local.

  4. May 25, 2011 1:06 pm

    Mmm….thank you for bringing this to my attention! I have been all about grass-fed meat since joining a meat csa last year, and I love the idea of more restaurants incorporating it into their menus.

  5. May 25, 2011 1:51 pm

    That is AWESOME, D! It’s one thing to complain (like me) about strawberry tarts on the menu in January or enormous plates of food when you really only want 2/3, but you actually DO things. I like it.

  6. Chris permalink
    May 25, 2011 1:59 pm

    Love Adventures in Food, but I’m going to guess they’re sourcing the grass-fed beef from New Zealand or Australia. Nothing wrong with that, but I don’t see the need to fly in beef from halfway around the world when there are plenty of grass farmers locally that I’m sure would be happy to provide local restaurants with an adequate supply at a bulk rate.

    Either way, certainly a step in the right direction – looking forward to the video :)

  7. May 25, 2011 8:37 pm

    This is a great strategy and great story…. thank you Profussor for the guerilla marketing. I wish I could go down the Northway and bag one of these grass-fed beauties but I will be traveling in the opposite direction this weekend.

    I also agree with your three-point manifesto. Achieve these modest goals, and we’ll get better food.

    And to Stevo, skirt steak is typically used for fajitas rather than fine dining but the good news is it’s relatively fatty…a plus since I find most grass fed beef to be overly lean. I predict it will be delicious.

    • May 25, 2011 9:29 pm

      You don’t have to predict. If they make them on Friday night like they did for the video shoot on Tuesday, the steak is totally delicious. Check out the video when it comes out tomorrow.

  8. Stevo permalink
    May 27, 2011 10:04 pm

    Just got back from Central Steak where, of course, I ordered the skirt steak. I asked for the steak medium rare, at which point the waitress informed me they were only cooking it rare, medium or well done. I ordered it medium. To my delight, it arrived medium rare. The steak was very good. I loved the herb and garlic marinade. I could of wished it to be a bit more tender though. The plantains were out of this world and they were the star of the dish. I do have a major complaint. I don’t know what happened, but the slaw was red cabbage, carrots and red onions. Not a jicama in site. It was OK, but was under seasoned, and in my opinion there wasn’t enough of it. I was disappointed as I was really looking forward to the jicama. Regardless, overall the dish was very good and worth more than 17 bucks. This was my first time eating at Central Steak and I will definitely be back.

    • Stevo permalink
      May 28, 2011 8:09 am

      Sorry about the typo. It should read sight, not site. Is there no way to edit your posts?

      Anyway, I wanted to add a couple of other comments. First, I really enjoyed the steak, but my mind regarding skirt steak hasn’t been changed. Still too chewy for my tastes, though the flavor of the meat was good, no complaints there. Second, I wanted to mention the bread. Nice bread, very dense and I think it was brought to the table warm. But, it was covered with a honey or sugar based glaze. After eating a piece of bread my hands were very sticky. That annoyed me. And is an oversight in my opinion.

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