Thursday, October 20, 2011

Where to Eat: The Meat 101 Series @ Nick & Stef’s Steakhouse

A long, long time ago, I had a colleague who was a vegetarian. He was obsessed with recruiting everyone over to the “green” side, emailing us articles with gruesome details about the meat industry and studies proving the benefits of going vegetarian.

Eventually, his propaganda wore me down, and I became a vegan for about a month. But about three weeks into it, visions of baby back ribs and chili cheese fries and turkey burgers began to infiltrate my dreams. One day I threw in the towel. I surrendered to these apparitions and crept back to the meatier side…but not without a concession:

I’d resume eating everything, except for beef (it’s a long, uninteresting story on why it was beef... If you really want to know the details, hit me up).

And while I haven’t touched it in four years, that doesn’t mean I can’t ogle over a sexy slab of beef when I see it…or at least understand that many Angelenos – and you blog readers – might enjoy a juicy cut of red meat every now and then.

That’s why when I heard that the award-winning Nick & Stef’s Steakhouse in downtown Los Angeles was introducing a new Fall class series entitled “Meat 101” on selected Thursdays, I immediately signed myself up for a sneak peak of what the series was all about at a media preview last week.

In an intimate group of around twelve other writers, bloggers and journalists, I headed to the private back area in Nick & Stef’s for the class, led by Executive Chef Megan Logan and General Manager Patrick Kirchen. Taking turns, Logan and Kirchen intellectually explored the nuances of steaks, so as to provide us with a general understanding and appreciation of steaks. In our “class” that Thursday night, we specifically talked about the differences between dry-aged and wet-aged New York and rib eye cuts. We sampled wines from France and Napa Valley throughout the presentation, and then towards end, the stars of the night were brought out for us to taste: four thick slices of dry-aged New York, dry-aged rib eye, wet-aged New York and wet-aged rib eye cuts (pictured below).

Since I wasn’t even slightly tempted to try so much as a bite, I relied on my acquaintance, journalist Yolanda Evans, to give me the skinny on the tastings:

She used phrases like "filled with loads of flavor" to describe the dry-aged New York cut;  proclaimed that she could actually “taste and see the juices” from the “tender, not tough” wet-aged New York;  she could also “taste the seasoning” on the dry-aged rib eye cut; and she thoroughly enjoyed the "juicy, tender and smooth" wet-aged rib eye.

So it seems like as anyone would expect from a top-notch steakhouse, the steaks were good. And even though I was content with my very fabulous Grilled Baby Romaine Salad and the side dishes of creamed spinach and potato gratin,  I still enjoyed learning more about the dry-aging and wet-aging processes.

As I left downtown that evening, I had an epiphany: just like with wineries, I think that steakhouses can be misunderstood and stereotyped as stuffy, inaccessible, rigid. But just as many diversified wine tasting rooms have emerged to bring the love of wines to us “common folks,” Nick & Stef’s Meat 101 classes bring a level of accessibility into the world of steakhouses to anyone who's curious to learn more. You don’t have to know a thing about what’s on your plate, yet after the 30-minute class, you’ll walk out with an abundance of useful information, from how to figure out more of what you like or don’t like to more about the origins of the beef that comes to your table.

So you might not catch me in Nick & Stef's bringing a fork full of rib eye to my mouth, but you’ll most certainly find me back there, especially since there’s also a 3-9:30pm weekday happy hour…which is for another “Where To” adventure. See you there soon!

Miss Wilson’s Tips:

- Meat 101 officially starts today, October 20th and takes place every Thursday from 7:30-8:30pm, until December 1st. There’s a total of four classes: “Which Rib-eye to Buy?” (10/20/2011); “New York, New York...and New York!” (11/3/2011); “A Well Aged Steak” (11/17/2011); and “U.S. vs. the World” (12/1/2011).

- Each class is $35, which includes the class admission, samples of the featured steak cuts of the evening and pairings of scotches, whiskeys or wines. Since the classes only offer small portions of cuts, you might want to grab dinner afterwards. If you do, definitely order the Grilled Baby Romaine Salad (pictured below). It comes with slightly charred lettuce and cauliflower, butternut squash, fiscallini cheddar, grapes and is topped with golden raisins, sunflower seeds and a balsamic-grape vinaigrette. It was divine!

- For all you dry-age steak fans out there, Kirchen told me that Nick & Stef’s is the only steakhouse with a dry-aging room on display on its premises where anyone can take a peak at the meats hanging in the climate-controlled room. Make sure you check it out – it was pretty impressive.

- Nick & Stef's meats only hail from corn-fed cows from Nebraska...not from Japan, Argentina or anywhere else in the States.

- Street parking is scarce, but after 5pm, you can park in the Wells Fargo Garage for up to 3 hours without charge.

For more information: 
Nick & Stef’s Steakhouse
330 S. Hope St.
Los Angeles, CA 90071

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