A World of Beef: You Never Knew

Last week I was invited to a Beef Tasting. Yes, like a wine tasting, but with beef. Normally when I’m invited to things, I have to consider if it’s really something I want to go to–for example, I get lots of Chocolate Tasting invitations (I know lots of you are out there swooning), and don’t like chocolate. Yet somehow they’re still so tempting. But I would never want to write about something I don’t enjoy and I wouldn’t even want to take up space at the tasting, so I turn them down. But imagine my surprise when I got an invite to this beef tasting. Shocking really. I had no idea what to expect, but I figured I would venture, because, really, I don’t know a whole lot about beef. Other than that it is tasty.

The tasting was held in Crush‘s private dining room, which looks all funky and a little bit like an Anthropologie store threw up all over it, with Jason Wilson of Crush doing the cooking. A woman named Carrie from Oliver Ranch had come up from California to organize this and had brought in a few local beef ranchers and a butcher to discuss all about the beef. As hard as it was to concentrate with my stomach begging for beef, I actually learned more about beef than I would have realized there was to know. But the good part was yet to come.

I’ve always categorized meat by animal. The beef tastes, well, beefy, the lamb like lamb, the mutton even more like lamb. But in this micro divided tasting, I was able to really see how the different cuts tasted so different and on top of that, how different the various meats tasted within that cut.

We started with the Sirloins from four different types of beef. My favorite here, and possibly my favorite of the whole tasting was the local, grass fed, naturally raised and dry aged beef. Lest you think I am happy about my tastes agreeing with my eating philosophy, on the NY Strip and the Rib Eye, that was my least favorite of the four beefs. On the rib eye I favored a Painted Hills, wet-aged, grain finished beef. So so much for that one!

The most interesting thing was sitting down with twenty or so food writers and bloggers and watching us struggle to describe beef, like novice wine drinkers at a wine tasting. Smokey, gamey and herby only got us so far and by the end, we were working with soy, fishy, buttered popcorn, and all the other food descriptors we could come up with.

It was surprising to see which ones everyone chose as their favorites–they were all over the place for each cut, and even more so when you took into account all of the cuts. Often the split between like and dislike did not fall along logical lines–wet age/dry age or grass fed/grain finished. So no, I didn’t come away with any grand conclusions, just a little bit of knowledge on how I like certain cuts of certain meats.

I would encourage all of you to try this experiment, you don’t need much of each cut, so get some friends to join in and give it a try, even if it is just with a variety of supermarket meats. You will be surprised, as you chew your meat and try to pin down what exactly it is that you like or dislike. It’s fun, their beef involved and it is delicious. What more can you ask for in an evening? Oh, yeah, and there was wine to. Yup, now it’s complete!