J WM MAGAZINE 42
FOOD + DRINK
FOR CONTINUOUSLY UPDATED INFORMATION ON OUR PASSIONS OF ART, FOOD, WINE AND WELL-BEING, VISIT US AT
FACEBOOK.COM/JWMARRIOTT. M E
Muscles that are used more actively, in the legs,
for instance, tend to be less tender but have more
flavor. The age of the carcass and the color of the
fat as well as the meat also affect the meat’s grade.
“When people think of a steak, they immediately think of a porterhouse, a T-bone steak,
a rib-eye—something you would see in a
cartoon,” Yang says. But with the rise of whole
animal butchery, which aims for less waste and
more taste, other cuts have joined the menu.
Some intensely flavorful steaks are less known,
explains Yang, including the flat-iron steak, the
ranch steak, Denver steak and the teres major—
all cut from the previously ignored chuck—as
well as the bavette, or sirloin flap, an extension
of the short loin area. Pricier and more common,
but worth the occasional splurge, is the rib-eye.
Filet mignon and tenderloin are prized for their
tenderness, but that tenderness can come at the
expense of flavor, notes Yang.
A butcher you trust is key. To find a good one,
“Research where the butcher shop gets its meat,”
Yang suggests. Ask whether they butcher the whole
animal, purchase their meat from a particular farm
or farms, or whether they get it from a distributor.
“Talk to the butchers,” Littman agrees. It’s how
he found the ranch that now provides the bulk of
the JW Marriott San Antonio’s best beef. Littman
also suggests visiting farmers markets to meet the
ranchers, if you can. When you’re traveling, explore.
Though South America, Scotland, Japan and
Australia are noted for their beef, a small country
butcher in France might have excellent local beef
with its own distinctive flavor.
“There’s great steer raised all over the world,”
Yang says. If you can trace the meat’s origins,
you’ll know more about how it’s raised, which
affects its quality and flavor.
Here’s where labels can be helpful—or not.
Meat that is labeled organic, grass-fed, Kobe
or with a Wagyu mark has to fulfill certain
requirements. The terms natural, sustainable and
“green” don’t have agreed-upon standards and
thus don’t guarantee anything.
Beef raised in Australia has tracking information, so you know each steer’s farm, genetic
lineage and more. “All the meat, even a trim
or ground beef product, can be traced back to
a group of cattle,” says Elissa Garling of Meat
& Livestock Australia. Japan, too, has strin-
gent standards. Beef there is tracked, and beef
labeled Kobe must be from Wagyu cows given
a specialized diet and treatment, including deep
massage to ensure an even distribution of fat,
making this prized beef as tender as foie gras.
Avoid beef that has been pushed too quickly
onto grain in an effort to fatten the cattle. The
process can damage their health, resulting in
routine antibiotic use and less flavorful meat.
But cattle don’t have to be exclusively grass-fed
to be high-quality. Some people prefer beef
that’s grain-fed or given mixed feed, as with
Japanese beef. As long as the transition from
pasture feeding to grain feeding is gradual,
says Schneller, cattle health should not be
Simple is best. Salt and pepper are all you need.
Use a pan or grill, whichever can get the hottest.
If you’re using a pan, cast iron is preferred for
its ability to attain and maintain high temperatures. “The other key is to temper your steak,”
Littman says. “If you want it to cook evenly,
leave it out 15 to 20 minutes so it’s not refrig-erator-cold when you put it in the pan.” Keep
a meat thermometer at the ready. “I usually do
120 to 125 degrees Fahrenheit before I pull it,
and that will give me a nice rare,” Yang says.
“Maybe 130 degrees for medium rare.”
“One of the best steaks I ever did,” Schneller
recalls, “was when we put the skillet right in the
wood stove with a big chunk of beef fat. When
it caught on fire, we put the steaks right in there,
and the whole thing caught on fire a little bit.
We pulled it out and put it in the oven for a
little bit. That was a great steak.”
Once the smoke has cleared, pour yourself a
glass of wine and—you won’t need any back-
ground information for this step—enjoy. [
An exceptional steak deserves
an extraordinary wine. Gillian
Ballance, master sommelier and
educator with Treasury Wine
Estates, explains, “Having the
wine dance across the tongue
onto your palate—the wine
cleanses away the fattiness of
the meat,” preparing you for the
next wonderful bite. Intriguing
options range from caber-
net sauvignon to aged rosé
Champagne to petite sirah—it
all depends on the meat, the
flavors and you.
To complement steak’s flavorful char, Ballance suggests echoing that woodsy flavor. Since
wine matures in charred barrels,
explore the different woods.
“The Penfolds Bin 407 cabernet
sauvignon from Australia uses
a combination of French and
American oak,” Ballance says.
“American oak can be more pro-
nounced and give some sweeter
tones that give a nice contrast to
Also consider matching the
meat’s source, like a malbec with
Argentine beef. “Sommeliers say,
‘If it grows up together, it goes
together,’” Ballance says.
Her personal favorite for
steak is cabernet sauvignon. “It
reigns supreme as a varietal for a
reason,” she says. “The richness
of tannins, the richness of fruits.”
Explore and see what you like
best. The steak deserves it.