Tag Archives: Beef

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SLO down for a quick bite

Posted from San Luis Obispo, California, United States.

Last time I visited Firestone Grill was the night of the farmers market, and so it was overcrowded and rushed. Tonight, a Monday night after the spring semester is over leaves San Luis Obispo quieter and more relaxed. A cool summer evening for a perfect outdoor setting.

As well as they can handle crowds, Firestone is even better on a quiet night. Tender, juicy tri-tip piled on a buttered flame-toasted roll and a sweet BBQ sauce has just the right balance of soft savory glaciers that make for an excellent example of this Central Coast specialty. With a side of huge hot onion rings, this is a great stop for a quick casual dinner, or am afternoon of watching sports. Either way a win.20140609-191657-69417921.jpg

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Quick flavorful fast food

Posted from Chicago, Illinois, United States.

Quick junk food, Portillo’s is setup like a food court. This Chicago Classic is spreading locations across the country, selling quintessential Chicago dogs and Italian food. While people may dispute the quality, there’s no doubting the heavenly aroma when you walk through the doors.

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A Chicago dog with everything on it… onions, pickles, tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers but no ketchup! Not a special dog, but pile high like this makes it amazing.

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Of course the dog wasn’t enough, so I also got the Italian beef with sweet peppers. Delicious, juicy, flavorful an light years better than the giant McDonalds across the street.

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No nonsense noodles

Posted from San Francisco, California, United States.

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I made it through TSA security with only 20 minutes until boarding. Normally this would mean a sad sandwich packaged the previous night for $15. Luckily I’m at SFO and for a small airport the food options look surprisingly good. I pass up the packaged sandwiches, gourmet picnic foods, as well as the specialty pizza and hot sandwiches, choosing instead the sushi and noodle counter, Wakaba. Mesmerized by videos of Mt. Fuji, I quickly get a bowl of beef udon and a cold bottle of Sapporo while keeping track of my flight out of the corner of my eye. (Since when does TSA allow glass inside the security point?)

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The broth is light, slightly sweet and very hot. The noodles and seaweed are nicely al dente. The beef is flavorful, but over cooked and not as tender as it should be. And after a long day of meetings, the Sapporo really hits the spot. Alas, I have to rush, and don’t get to finish the broth or last few sips of beer.

Does it hold up to a great noodle house? No. But it’s 40 feet from my gate. Besides, what’s being served inside your airport?

chandelier in Grand Central Terminal

Steaks, Trains, and Basketball?

Posted from New York, New York, United States.

Another business trip, this time to Manhattan. My in-laws really wanted to meet me for dinner, an apparently my father in law has been talking about trying Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse for over a decade. Located inside of Grand Central Terminal, this picturesque location occupies the balcony opposite of the Apple Store.

Being a steakhouse, it has a fairly simple menu. 10 steak offerings, 5 of which are bone-in, a couple of basic chicken, fish, and pasta offerings. Naturally we skipped most of these and targeted the steak. My father-in-law and I both went for the Filet Mignon. I was looking for a smaller cut as I’m overeating on these business dinners. The steak was cooked absolutely perfectly at medium rare, although I think it had cooled off some while waiting on the other dishes. The filet had a beautiful thick crust of cracked pepper and just the right amount of salt, a simple preparation that really let the natural beef flavor shine through. The portion was much smaller than I expected though. Even though filets are smaller than other cuts, this seemed to be in the 5-6 ounce territory.  The pepper was especially pungent, spicier than I can recall having on a steak, but not overpowering. On the side, we had sweet potato fries (soft and cool) with a horseradish sauce (no spice) and sautéed brocoli. I would skip the fries, but the broccoli was unusual with a slight crisp and a really nice buttery smokey flavor.

filet mignon filet mignon

As I mentioned, the food was on the cold side, and service was really slow, perhaps partially because my mother-in-law ordered the rack of lamb. If I had known what would come out of the kitchen, I probably would have gone for this instead. A 4 rib rack, roasted, cut in half and then pan-finished, the result was basically 2 double-thick bone-in lamb rib chops. This dish dwarfed the filets, and was served on a bed of asparagus. Lamb’s usual gamey flavor was downplayed, and the low-temperature roasting meant that the fats had nicely broken down, leaving extremely flavorful and tender meat.

single chop from rack of lamb

Overall, the prices were reasonable, the service extremely slow, and the food slightly sub-par for what a steakhouse like this should be delivering. The waitstaff seemed like tired typical New Yorkers, and it looked like the manager (or concierge, not sure which) took off promptly at 9pm. The saving grace for this place is the location, and if you can get a seat at the edge of the balcony, you can use your extra time people-watching over nightly commuters.

Mojito Skirt Steak

Surprising find in a generic bar & grill

Posted from San Jose, California, United States.

Billy Berks in downtown San Jose is your typical contemporary casual pub fare. Undoubtedly a popular pre-game destination, we walked in just after everyone had left to see the Sharks play.

Along with the usual macrobrews, we dug into chips + guac, buffalo wings, and calamari. All pretty typical fare although the calamari was served with two sauces, a sweet and sour, and a creamy cilantro instead of the usual cocktail/marinara combo, and the guacamole had mangoes in it. The buffalo wings were boneless, but had a really nice crisp that probably used a two-step corn starch and batter dredge that’s common in Asian cooking.

Blue Moon

Upon seeing the standard-fare menu, I decided to pick something that looked a little different, the Mojito Skirt Steak.

This was a great choice. A generous helping of nicely marinated and grilled flank steak was prepared with a wine reduction and topped with jalapeños cut lengthwise and fried, garnished with an diced red onion chutney and half a lime. For me this dish set Billy Berks well above the typical sports bar. The beef was perfectly cooked, and the fried jalapeños were spicy without being overwhelmingly hot. The frying technique also blistered the skin on the peppers a bit, which releases a lot of great flavors reminiscent of roasted green chiles from New Mexico. The lime juice perfectly offset the sweetness from the wine glaze, and the onions were mild and added a nice flavorful crunch.

Mojito Skirt Steak

On the side I had a mushroom polenta. The polenta was nice and creamy, and not dense or gelatinous at all. It had a texture like a risotto, where the cooking liquid plus the soaked up starches create a sauce. Clearly they didn’t use the mushroom braising liquids in the polenta cooking, so the mushrooms tasted like they were added at the last minute, rather than an integral part of it.

Mushroom Polenta