Monday, March 2, 2009

My Happy Place

(Kobe Beef on the grill)

I hardly know where to begin with this one. As you can see, I had lots and lots to blog about this weekend. Ginny and I are old friends. Whenever we visit, there is never any shortage of fun things going on. Almost always our plans revolve, in some way, around cooking. We’ve been trying to work in a cooking class for quite a while, but it just never seems to work out that something we are interested in is available at the right time.
This visit was different.
A few years ago, my mom, sister and I took a cooking class at the Viking Culinary Center while they were visiting over Christmas. It was a blast. I couldn’t wait to do it again! And, as a bonus, my sister asked if she could sign me up for a class as my birthday present that year. Well, that was THREE, count ‘em, THREE years ago. Until now, I’ve never been able to arrange it. So, when my sister asked me last month if there was anything she could get me for my birthday that I didn’t receive, I knew just what to tell her:


She signed me up, I got Ginny enrolled as well, and we were on our way.

If you are a foodie, you hear about Japanese Kobe beef all the time. But, have you ever SEEN it? Let alone, TASTED it? Well, this “class” (which was actually a demo, but I’m not nit-picking) was a steak and wine pairing experience to match no other. Lou Rook, executive chef for Annie Gunn’s in St Louis, and his wine director, Glenn Bargett, put on a nearly four hour demo, educating their audience about high-end cuts of beef and the wonderful wines (and side dishes) that complement them. Ginny and I may be foodies, but it is hard to steer us away from a nice bottle of wine, too, let alone SIX.

Here are the wonders that we beheld:

Piedmontese Beef Tenderloin (Montana)
USDA Prime Dry Aged Strip Loin
USDA Prime Wet Aged Strip Loin
Akaushi Strip Loin, Natural Breed Kobe (Texas)
Japanese Kobe “Tajima A5 Grade” Strip Loin (Kobe, Japan)

Our wines:
Mionetto il Prosecco del Veneto, Italy
Bouvet Brut Rose, Loire Valley, France
Riesling (Dry) Pannotia 2007 Rheinhessen, Germany
Dolcetto d’Alba, Sori Paitin “Estate Bottled” 2007 Piemonte, Italy
Merlot, Trefethen “Estate Grown” 2005 Oak Knoll, Napa Valley, California
Chambourcin, Augusta “Estate Bottled” 2004 Augusta, Missouri

We started with an education on the different kinds of beef, how they are produced, where they come from, and their attributes, including a side-by-side display, so we could actually see the differences in the raw meat.
(Left to right: Dry aged and Wet Aged Strip Loins, Japanese Wagyu Kobe Beef, Akaushi Texas Bred Kobe-Style beef, Piedmontese Strip Loin)
(Compare the American Kobe to the Montana Piedmontese Strip Loin)
Our first course was a Classic Steak Tartare (or Carpaccio) on toast points, made with the Piedmontese Tenderloin. I had never had Carpaccio before, but I’m not scared of raw meat and I was eager to taste it. The beef just about melted in my mouth. Next, we tried the two USDA Prime Strip Loins together, with a cabernet steak butter and a lovely olive tapenade, and had the chance to compare the two. For my money, I have to go with the dry aged beef, combined with the olive tapenade. It was just divine. We were also treated to a white bean and shrimp salad with fresh Maine shrimp, that just happened to be in season and Chef Rook (god bless him) couldn’t resist bringing some to us.
(on the left, the Dry Aged Strip Loin, on the right, the Wet Aged)
After that, it was on to a course in Kobe and Kobe-Style beef. We sampled both cuts side-by-side with a potato risotto. To everyone’s delight, Chef also brought some black Colorado Truffles along, and shaved slivers on top of everyone’s risotto. Ok, if you know me, I know what you’re thinking. “Beth Anne! You are ALLERGIC to mushrooms!” Yeah, I know, but you know what? How often does an opportunity like this present itself? Seriously! I popped a Benadryl and said, “Bring it!” I have gotta say….it was very, very nice. I’ve never tasted anything quite like it. And yes, I did give about half of my share to Ginny rather than throwing caution completely to the wind, but I tried them.
(according to the chef, this piece of Japanese A5 Kobe alone runs about $1500.00 retail!) (on the left, the Japanese Kobe, on the right, the American Kobe. See the difference in the marbling?)

Now, about the Kobe. I don’t even have words for it. "Amazing" falls pathetically short of describing the taste and texture of the meat. I found a little piece of heaven right there in that kitchen. Now, don’t get me wrong, there is a good chance I’ll never have it again, based on the prices that the chef quoted to us (unless someone else wants to pick up the tab thankyouverymuch!), but believe me, I would if I got the chance!

Please pardon the crudeness of some of my photos…..we were a little consumed by the experience and couldn’t wait to try what was placed in front of us, so please, pardon the bite marks….and the drool…..and, yes, the rareness of the steak, if that offends you. Which reminds me, to all you pansies who requested a “more well done cut” or left unfinished wine on the table….what is your problem??? Live in the moment, people! You did not come to this class to stay in your safe little comfort zone! Try something new! Trust the judgment of an expert and give it a chance! And, at the same time…..more for me! I got to have a bite or two of what you left on the serving plate. HA! And I’d do it again. And I WILL do it again! Soon, I hope. This will not be our last visit to the Kitchen Conservatory, and the next one won’t be soon enough. Did I mention the wonderful store they have as well? Ahhhhh heaven for a foodie like me.

Finally, thank you to Chef Lou Rook, Glenn Bargett, and the staff at the Kitchen Conservatory. It was phenomenal. I only wish we could have joined Lou and Glenn on their restaurant-hopping foray after the class. I am now officially “spoiled rotten”. I fear that ordinary steak will just never be enough again. Thank you, Sister, it was the best gift I've had in a very long time.

1 comment:

NV said...

Damn. now I want a steak!
Sorry though. I'm one of those "pansies" who likes food to be cooked. Will not risk sticking a fork into something that might moo back at me! :-)