Mark Michelin owns and operates St. Jamestown Steak and Chops on Parliament just north of Carlton. Thanks to an invitation from my friend Joel of Community Foodist I had the great pleasure of participating in a beef tasting that Mark hosted last weekend.
When I know that I’ll be writing about steak I prepare by re-reading Jeffrey Steingarten’s “High Steaks” (including in his second book It Must’ve Been Something I Ate which I consider pretty close to mandatory reading for anyone interested in food). This tradition started before the Quinn’s media tasting. There is something about Steingarten’s obsessive attention to detail and intellectual snarl that fits so well with steak. I can’t think of another food that is so standardised, full of jargon, and comparable by various statistics. Steak is the baseball of eating.
Markos Lissanu (saucier at North 44) volunteered to do the cooking and the prime rib sections were roasted to a delicious medium-rare–edging to medium at the ends and rare near the bones. Each roast was simply coated in butter, salt, and pepper before going into the oven. Between the garlic mashed potatoes, local asparagus and near-perfect yorkshire puddings I had some difficulty not filling up on the side dishes.
Both the wet- (ten weeks) and dry-aged (eight weeks) were delicious and good examples of some of the best roast beef I have ever tasted. Before offering judgment I’ll give the provisos that I needed a good deal of concentration (sitting alone often with my nose inches from the plate) and my Steingarten-assisted knowledge of what to look for to certainly tell the difference. By a slim margin I preferred the dry-aged for its cleaner, more buttery flavour and tighter texture.
I could sense some of the metallic, livery notes that distinguish wet-aged beef. In and of itself this can’t be a deal breaker for me because I like the flavour of grilled calf’s liver (one of the dishes along with short ribs braised in a buttery stew that I cryptically offered to fellow tasters who hadn’t read their Steingarten as extreme examples of the difference between the two aging methods). It’s more an issue of having a rare opportunity to eat roast beef (or steaks) that taste only of beef. Save the liver flavours for liver and give me that flavour which is so difficult to describe (buttery, roasty, and brothy all pop up in “High Steaks”) because it’s just beef.
A representative from PEI Beef was on hand to give us some background on the wet-aged beef–hormone-free Angus, that’s grass-fed, finished on grain and potatoes (it’s PEI after all) and slaughtered at a relatively old twenty-four to thirty months. (It was too bad that one of the speeches that followed the beef took that drastic turn from innocently pastoral to ignorantly parochial that makes me queasy about the minority on the fringe of slow food.) The dry-aged beef was also Angus and Mennonite-raised from southwestern Ontario.
The edible entertainment for the night wasn’t just meat though. We got to sampling mustards, marmalades, and a tasting of Sarafino olive oil that gave a thumbnail view of the packaged goods for sale Steak and Chops. Mark also had us sample the delicious salmon that he hot smokes on-site. The wine for the evening were two excellent Ontario Cabernet Francs, the 2007 Northfield from the Grange of Prince Edward County, and the 2008 Beamsville Bench from Rosewood.
The patio attached to the deli half of Steak and Chops was packed with enough food bloggers that I’m sure there will be more posts to add to this list:
- Stella at Food Junkie Chronicles