This is the biggest ribeye steak in the house. How do I know this? Before this was charred to perfection and placed in front of me, it was shown to me raw like a rare jewel. I have never witnessed this custom before. I thought it was a bit odd at first but 20 seconds in, as my big brown’s gazed deep into the meat, I began to see the full value. It was mid week, and I journeyed to Carroll Gardens with 2 of my oldest and dearest friends. We had made a pact, as many friends of a few decades do, that each year we would share a meal together to check up on our lives or lives’ progress as it were. This year we came together at Prime Meats and we pulled out the stops.
The restaurant does a DeBragga & Spitler Dry-Aged Côte De Boeuf which is 36 day dry-aged certified Black Angus. The average size is 32 oz. to 42 oz. This was pushing 40 oz. We sent the cut back twice before we found one to our liking. Yeah, that’s right, we embraced the custom. Thinking about it now I can really get behind this additional step towards a great dining experience. Yes, New York is full of great places to get a hunk of bovine so I will not focus as much on the taste as I will on the experience. For the record the taste holds up to the big boys, Lugars included. But then again that would be comparing a porterhouse to a ribeye and…well…that just isn’t apples to apples. Actually, it is more like comparing a honey crisp to a granny smith but I digress. The matter at hand for discussion is this pre-eat display and choice of your cut. Outside the food world I am an options hater. Toothpaste is the worst. Why do we need so many options and combinations. It makes life so much more difficult and frankly wastes time. Sorry, big tangents today. Back on track, once again, the option to choose my cut does the opposite of my toothpaste rant. The choice augments my experience instead of stifling it.
After the meal, as I sat on the lonely G train home, I reflected on this longer and came up with a few reasons why this practice made my meal better.
1. It brings me into the kitchen.
I like to eat but I also like to cook. More over, I like to know who is cooking my food when I eat. The chef meeting every customer is a near impossibility but this is a nice way to see what the chef is offering you and then see the results of his work when the chop comes back cooked. It’s like a silent conversation in that he/she shows you they care, you say you like what they have and then they do what they do best just for you. In short it makes it more personal. Like a good dinner host it is a small step that makes you feel more welcomed and cared about during your stay in the chef’s house.
2. It allows me and my fellow diners to engage each other more
Part of any good meal is the conversation and the sharing. The fact that this cut was made for 2-3 people covers the latter. The former is helped along by the group decision necessary to decide on the cut presented. It sparks a conversation about something you will later share and that brings us closer. Most of us don’t know much about meat but that doesn’t matter. If you are not discussing the marblization, the color of the meat at the edges, the thickness of the fat and striations of juicy muscle and are only judging on size, so be it. It still successfully sparked a conversation and therefore a connection.
3. It proliferates the idea of farm to table in a visual way.
In Argentina some restaurants provide you with a bar code which is scanable. Once scanned it shows the customer a picture of the cow your cut came from. The idea of seeing your cow raw before you eat it gives you a deeper sense of connection with what you are putting in your body. It also separates the carnivores from the vegetarians. It’s why I like to serve whole pigs, legs of lamb and roasted chicken with feet still attached. By seeing the animal in a way closer to what it looked like alive I believe it gives us a deeper connection with our food and our eating behavior. I’m not suggesting restaurants start bringing out entire sides of beef but a beef chart my not be a bad accompaniment.
In sum, Prime Meats got a lot right. Even though my two dinner mates and I already shared 10 years of conversation and memories this meal became one that we will discuss for the next decade. I’m not sure if the ritual was planned for the reasons above or if the people at Prime Meats simple wanted a marketing angle. Either way, it works great and I think they should keep it up.