I am looking for a way to spark up our Saturdays in the Summer. I take my walk down by the river to think about it. I have a new steak on the fresh menu. It’s a rib steak, notice that I did not say rib eye because that is what most call it, but a rib eye is a specific cut and what is delivered to the table in most Rockford spots is actually a rib steak, especially if it is a bone in steak. The eye is the loin muscle that runs the entire length of the steer. It is surrounded by other supporting muscles and is adjacent to the spine. It is only a rib eye if all the surrounding musculature and the rib cage has been removed.
When I worked at the Gill’s Diner on North Second Street at sixteen years of age, we served a real rib eye. Unfortunately, it was cow and not steer, but cut thin and grilled quickly, it was palatable. This is something the fast food industry does not talk about too much but most of the beef in your fast food sandwich is cow, not steer. The reason they don’t want to talk about it is mad cow disease.
But we are here to talk about how good your meat can be, not how bad it can be. I buy all my red meat from International in Chicago close to the intersection of Harlem and Grand. (They do sell meat to walk in customers if you are in that neighborhood.) I find John through a recommendation from Siegar Bayer who is currently a James Beard up and coming chef at a restaurant in Forest Park. I need to find a new supplier for beef after the shakeup in Fulton Market results in my leaving my long-established relationship with Sam’s Meat and Economy Packing. I ask Tom Cornille, the top produce supplier in the city of Chicago, he makes a phone call to Siegar and the rest is history.
Change is good, and in this instance, change is amazing. I have never been happier with a meat supplier in my thirty-six years in the restaurant business (during which I have spent twenty-five years driving to Chicago twice a week to buy product from the suppliers that serve the finest restaurants in the city). John has exceeded all my expectations. I get my burger, my filet, the Angus bavette, and now my new pound and a half bone in rib steak.
In the past I have always bought, aged and cut my own steaks. That is until I met John. I feel that the packer is the key important part of the production chain. That’s why I have John bring in, especially for me, certified Angus bavette from National in Kansas City. Bavette (French) is a muscle we refer to in the US as sirloin flap. Flap! No wonder we don’t sell that much of it in America. Secondly, the Angus that John brings in and ages for me is not your grocery store Certified Angus Association beef, around 45% Angus because the sire and only the sire was Angus, the cow being some other breed, often Brahmin, but genetically tested on the line full Angus, or at least as close to it as we can come in the modern era after so much crossbreeding, around 92 to 93 %. You simply do not understand the flavor profile of pure Angus beef until you try this steak.
If you have discriminating taste buds, you don’t need to know the pedigree of a piece of beef, you can taste good! When in doubt, I always rely on how a product tastes. If, however, you wish to guarantee that kind of quality in your restaurant you have to get into this stuff. With my ground beef, I leave all that to John, because he is an expert and the product speaks for itself. He cuts all sorts of fine steaks for restaurants in the city so the trim he adds to his ground beef makes it amazing.
The same goes for our filet mignon. Filet mignon is another cut that people are highly confused about. It comes from the tenderloin, a muscle that rides along the short loin, and while being tender, is the lowest fat muscle in the animal. When you see a pound of solid meat sitting on a plate and called a filet mignon, it is a misnomer and should be referred to as a tenderloin steak. The word mignon, means dainty and was the way they cut costs in a bistro, serving medallions cut off the small end or tenderloin tail. The meat tastes the same, the size or plate coverage as they refer to it in the industry, is simply smaller. We used to buy our tails at Allen Brothers and then cut the medallions ourselves. John sells a product called filet medallions that takes all the work out of this for us. As well because he cuts for the finest in the city, the meat he selects and ages, make this one of our most popular mains.
Finally, I want to have a big steak, I like rib steak, it is my favorite. I decide to turn it over to John. I put the whole item entirely in his hands. He is to select the piece, determine the thickness and cryovac them individually for service and age, and I will just buy them and mark them up according to my cost. I get one loin and he cuts fifteen steaks from it. We have them here for about a week, marked at 31.95 and nobody buys one, so to kick things off, I order one for John and myself knowing full well that the staff is going to get some because of the giant size. And they do, and they rave!
I am completely blown away. This is the best steak I have ever tasted in the city of Rockford. I don’t say that lightly because there will be detractors who will think that I am biased toward my own restaurant and only think that, because it is mine. Not so if you really know me, because as my old friend Doug Busch used to say, I am my own severest critic. When I get back to Chicago I happily tell John about how good I think his steaks are and he is dismissive and says it is just about aging, and he knows. It is about aging and that is the difference between an Irish Rose Steak and almost any other steak in Rockford.
Which brings us to Saturday and our new deal, “Saturday Night Summer Steak Special”. All these great steaks are five buck off! They come with sides, unlike most of our competitors and the board steak, the one-and-a-half-pound rib steak, come with soup or salad, as always organic mesclun salad and homemade dressings. Hope to see you on Saturday night and remember, not only do we cook the steak and serve it to you but then we clean up and wash the dishes.