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Chef Brian & The Cow

July 31, 2012

You missed it, but I blame myself. This trip to Pennsylvania has been great, however it has gotten in the way of more local food blogging responsibilities than you might imagine. WrigsMac has the story from the Comfort Kitchen blogger event and Albany Jane has some pictures. I really wish I could have been there. I’m also full of regret that I won’t be able to cover the Trader Joe’s opening on Friday for All Over Albany. I can’t believe it’s almost here. I just hope they have enough cookie butter on hand for the hungry mobs who have their hearts set on a jar of the stuff.

But I expected to miss those. What caught me off guard was a special from a local restaurant.

And because I missed it, you missed it too. Primarily since this place is not on most people’s radar as a serious food destination. And I hope that’s changing. Maybe this dish will convince you. It was a bowl of pho, full of beef broth, roasted marrow bone, braised oxtail, tongue, vermicelli, bean sprouts and cilantro. It wasn’t cheap at $12 for a bowl. But it was made entirely of cuts from the heritage breed cow Brian Bowden got from White Clover Farm: the broth, the marrow, the oxtail, and yes, the tongue.

They were all on the menu at Creo, this suburban outpost where in the past food has taken a backseat to style for far too long. And since there was only one cow, now these parts are all gone.

Last night I spoke with Brian and I got some more insight into what he’s doing, and I’m excited.

Before we do anything else I need you to do something first. Go to Facebook and “Like” Creo’s page. Seriously. Because this is where the daily specials are posted. And had you checked Creo’s Facebook page on July 25, you wouldn’t be banging your head against the wall right now.

And really, I hope you are dismayed that you missed that soup, because that’s exactly the kind of thing I’ve been looking for in the area. Something that’s made with great restaurant quality ingredients, served in a nice setting, and available for a reasonable price. These are not things that Creo has been known for in the past, but with this and that watermelon salad, change is in the air.

That’s a good thing.

As far as I’m concerned, the daily specials ARE the menu. These are the dishes composed of items picked from their garden and other local seasonal produce. The farms are even credited beside their dishes. This isn’t, “local produce when available.” It is “Novak Farms kale, our rainbow chard, Cooperstown morels & chanterelles, Pioneer Valley asparagus and Wild Hive Farms organic polenta.” And these things warm my heart.

Beyond local beef and produce, chef Brian also brings in as much Local Oceans fish as he can sell. But that is a topic for another time. Now it’s time to talk about this cow and how it happened to come to Albany.

Lisa Randles from White Clover Farm happened to come into the restaurant. Apparently she found the market for heritage breed grassfed meat in New York City to be saturated, and was looking to see if there was any interest in Albany. So chef Brian took a trip up to the farm in Argyle and checked it out in person, sampled some of the beef, and arranged for her to raise him a steer of his own. He also went in for two pigs, which are coming soon.

The farm raises beef the way you would want it to be raised. Here’s a blurb from the farm’s website about their animal husbrandry practices:

White Clover Farm is a 125 acre farm in Washington County, New York practicing responsible, humane, and environmentally sound livestock management. We’re small family farm that is committed to providing our customers with healthful and delicious pasture-raised beef and pork. No growth hormones or antibiotics are used. Chemicals or pesticides of any kind are NEVER used on our pastures. Our Animal Welfare Approved herd of Belted Galloway and Angus cattle enjoys fresh air, sunshine, lush green grass, fresh water, a stress-free life and stunning views of Vermont’s northern Taconic Range. Content and happy cattle make for delicious and healthful meat.

When I got the official word about chef Brian’s plan to bring in this special steer, the press release mentioned, “These will be used for a variety of special dishes such as rib eye steaks, sliders, burgers, and meatloaf.” Jon in Albany caught this line and commented, “I’m going to assume the chef has some plans he didn’t discuss with the PR people. I hope it is more than cutting out a few steaks and then grinding the rest.”

All said and done the steer came in at 705 pounds hanging weight. That includes the bones and the organs that Brian asked to keep. Yes, there’s beef liver, but sadly no the tripe. As it turns out there is not much grinding meat, so if you had your heart set on the meatloaf from the press release, you may be disappointed.

The challenge here is that one cow only provides so many portions of an individual cut. At a restaurant that serves 175 people on a Friday night, fewer than twenty portions of grassfed filet mignon go quickly. Oh yeah, that’s gone too.

But there is still some good stuff to come. There’s a mammoth caveman cut of the bone-in ribeye on deck. And chef Brian is going to do a bone-in short rib. This makes me giddy as too many local restaurants opt for removing the bone. Bulgoki was mentioned in our conversation. And he’s also looking forward to having some fun with the shank.

Smaller cuts like Hangar Steak may show up in smaller pieces incorporated into appetizers to make them go further. But some things can only go so far. The pho for example only made six portions. Dammit, one of those should have been mine!

The good news is that so far customers are loving these specials. So hopefully Brian will have Lisa raise another steer for him next year. Maybe it will even come in before I leave for my annual trip to Pennsylvania. If it does, maybe a few of you will join me for soup.

But for now I’d suggest checking Creo’s facebook page daily.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. July 31, 2012 8:30 am

    I saw the update from July 25, and none of what you said above jumped out at me then. If I didn’t read your posts, there’s not enough information in their facebook updates to indicate that an entire White Clover Farm heritage breed was purchased for use in the restaurant.

    Now that I look back at the update, and read what you said, it makes sense. It’s six days later though.

  2. docsconz permalink
    July 31, 2012 10:18 am

    I wish more local restaurants would do things like this.

  3. July 31, 2012 10:37 am

    If you *like* them then you won’t have to check their page daily–their updates will be in the news feed. Agree with dX that they should have been more explicit. Flaunt it if you’ve got it, people.

  4. July 31, 2012 2:11 pm

    Albany Jane did an entry, too? Funny, I haven’t seen a new entry for her in my feeds in ages, including that one…

    Hey wait… she moved her blog and didn’t tell anybody beforehand? No wonder! *adds new RSS bookmark*

  5. July 31, 2012 7:57 pm

    Glad to hear it is more than rib steaks and burgers. Not sure why the press release singled those out. The pho sounds good.

  6. August 2, 2012 1:48 pm

    The secret to great pho is the use of lots and lots of beef bones to make the stock. Hopefully he has some left over.

  7. Sugel permalink
    August 6, 2012 9:32 am

    ZuZu Petal’s Farm strives to eliminate the gap between producer and consumer. The farm offers pastured poultry, eggs from pastured hens, grass-finished lamb and beef. Their beef comes from Scottish Highland Cattle and their lamb from Jacobs Sheep. Both are conservancy breeds, rare breeds that are facing extinction.

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