Avalanche of Beef
Sometimes you fall off the wagon. Other times you douse the wagon with gasoline, and then torch it as you jump to avoid a fiery death.
For the time being, the diet is done. I’ll have a follow up appointment at the end of the month. But all of those months of restraint seem to have had an unintended consequence. I’m eating like more of an asshole than ever.
Today I can’t even tell you about the debauchery of last night at the City Beer Hall. Because there was so much gluttony from last Friday, that Saturday’s unseemly eating escapade might require a separate post of its own. Or maybe some of these stories will just never be told. We’ll have to wait and see.
So last Friday night, some of Saratoga’s best restaurants came out to play with their meat.
That didn’t come out quite right. Friday night was all about beef and grilling. In theory it was also about beer. Stella Artois set up a trailer where they were showing how to pour a perfect chalice of the stuff. I generally have little interest in the Budweiser of Belgium, so I opted for a Slingshot from Shmaltz brewing who had a small table inside the main tent.
For some people, the Saratoga Wine & Food Festival is a drinking event. This year I had to drive, so I took it as more of an opportunity to eat all of the things.
If I told you all of the things, this post would take forever to write and wouldn’t be all that interesting. So instead I’ll tell you about my own personal top three. There were a few great local places that participated in the event that didn’t quite make the cut. But I want to give a shout out to Hamlet & Ghost, Sperry’s, Ama Cocina, The Wishing Well, and Henry Street Taproom.
Druthers ended up taking the people’s choice award with their deep fried bao stuffed with Korean short-rib and served with a side of brussels and grilled pears. But that didn’t crack my top three.
The judges gave their top pick to my third favorite dish. This was from Prime at Saratoga National, and it was fantastic. They made a black garlic marinated hanger steak, and served it with a heirloom potato hash with grilled peach, sweet corn morita, and chili salsa.
Black garlic is really special stuff. I love the flavor, and you just don’t see it around very much. What this dish was lacking was balance. It was heavy on top of heavy. The corn and salsa didn’t do enough to bring any balancing acidity to the plate. So it was like corned beef hash with eggs. Rich, heavy, and delicious, with layers of deep comforting flavors.
There also was not a lot of love for Salt and Char, which produced my second favorite dish. This restaurant also grilled hangar steak, but sliced it on top of a marcona almond romesco sauce, and served it adjacent to a panzanella of heirloom tomatoes. They also were serving cones filled with something akin to a deconstructed Mexican street corn.
The corn was delicious on its own, but felt a bit separate from the rest of the dish. What really wowed me were the complementary and contrasting flavors and textures. And the little bit of crunch in the center of tomato juice soaked croutons in the panzanella was totally delightful. Apparently the judges were underwhelmed by the earthy romesco that anchored the dish. And while I do agree that it was the weakest of the plate’s components, it played a critical role in the plate as a whole.
I was surprised as much as anyone by my top pick. With all of the beautiful grilled steak, my favorite thing of the night was a burger. And a burger stuffed into a bao. But I was convinced that Brady Duhame of 15 Church would win the people’s choice based on his creation because it just hit all of the right notes. The seasoning was perfect. Sweet was kept in check by heat. And there was plenty of acidity to cut through all of the fat. It was the aromatic asian style salad that really punched up the burger, but the crust and cook on the meat itself was also fantastic.
Even after eating myself silly, I had to go back and get a second one of these before leaving for the night. When I got home, I had an ouzo. And in the morning, when it was time to wake up and go to Saturday’s Grand Tasting, I was still full.
Today my plan is to eat nothing but vegetables, low fat yogurt, whole grains, and coffee. I’ve had enough food in the past couple of days to last me the rest of the month. It’s time to start taking it easy.