Tag Archives: steak

SLO Delivery Will Ruin a Hot Sandwich

Posted from San Luis Obispo, California, United States.

Stuck in the office for lunch doesn’t seem to be so bad, as the San Luis Obispo Rosetta crowd has a pretty organized lunch order process for the fairly large staff. Today’s restaurant was Tahoe Joe’s Steakhouse.

I selected the namesake steak sandwich, figuring that would probably be the best sampling. When it finally arrived, I was getting really hungry, and upon opening the box I was practically drooling. Unfortunately the looks belied the taste. Although the bread looked nicely grill-toasted like you’d find at a diner, it was soggy. The fries were very soggy as well, bland, and the seasoning just made them salty and not worth eating.

This is the downside of order-in food.

However, the meat itself was lukewarm, but tasty, smokey beef and bacon, with a flavorful cheese. Had this been order-in instead of delivery, it probably would have been a fantastic sandwich. Being hot and fresh matters. As it was, I was disappointed and had to trudge on with my day dissatisfied.

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Visit II to Hitching Post II

Posted from Buellton, California, United States.

After my big claims about the best steak I’ve ever had, I decided I needed a revisit to make sure that wasn’t a fluke or just the wine talking. So on a nice leisurely Sunday afternoon drive up to San Luis Obispo I stopped off in Buellton at the famous Hitching Post II for a nice steak and glass of wine. The same wonderful smokey aromas from last time greeted me as I pulled off the road, a sign of great things to come.

While a little lonely at a table set for one, the atmosphere was mostly as before, just a little quieter due to it not being a holiday weekend. A glass of Highliner to start, which I still think is the best Pinot Noir in the region.

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I opened with the same simple salad, a nice fresh mix of several lettuces, with very crisp croutons, spicy black pepper, a light tangy vinegarette, and salty parmesan on top. I think they smoke the pepper or toast the croutons on the grill because there is a wonderful slight smoke to this salad that sets the tone for the upcoming main event.

I had to order the huge ribeye again. At 26 oz with a bone, this thing is monstrous and way too much food. But it is their only ribeye cut, my favorite cut for flavor and texture, so I guess that means steak sandwiches this week for lunch.

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One word, AMAZING. This is just as good as I remembered. After being disappointed with Cut in Beverly Hills a few weeks ago, and having also tried Pacific Dining Car for our anniversary, I was afraid this steak wouldn’t hold up to my memory. It does. This is still the best steak I have ever had.

A perfectly cooked medium rare, with tons of beef flavor and amazing texture, the outside is perfectly seasoned with Magic Dust, and a delicious buttery, crispy char courtesy of the red oak grill, trapping loads of delicious smoke. This time the steak came with some homemade salsa, which surprised me, but I gave it a go. Fresh and light, lots of chile flavor with very mild spice, this was a nice compliment to the steak. I wouldn’t say salsa improved the meat, but it certainly didn’t detract. It simply masks some of the beef flavors, replacing them with fresh tomato, onion, chile, and cilantro. The chef here clearly has a very good sense of balance and control of subtle flavor.

What else can I say? This is a great steak, and the sides would be worth their salt anywhere. Oh, the wine. Clearly made to pair with the great smokey flavors. Buy some for your next backyard BBQ! Too bad I can’t comment on the desert this time, as I was too full and still had a drive ahead if me.

So yes, stop by, and make sure you mimic me and pick up a jar of their Magic Dust and a few bottles of wine to take home! The only downside to this place is that when you waddle outside, the smell is so irresistible you’ll want to turn around and head right back in.

Hitching Post II

Posted from Buellton, California, United States.

I’ve enjoyed Pinot Noirs for a while now, even before I ever saw Sideways. And one of my favorites has always been the Hitching Post Highliner, winner of several awards, and one of the defining wines bringing attention to the Santa Barbara winemaking region. So imagine my surprise when we start planning a trip, and can’t find the winery in any maps or searches. How can such a reputable label not have even a tasting room? All my searching kept pointing me to Hitching Post II, a restaurant in Beulton, just off the 101. A picture revealed the same logo, so at least it’s related, and online reviews rave about the BBQ steaks. Pino and BBQ go naturally hand in hand, so of course we made reservations, but I still wanted to find the winery.

After we made plans, did more research, and talked to more people, we discovered that Hitching Post wines were made specifically for the restaurant and that there isn’t a tasting room. Here I had assumed a great wine label had opened a restaurant, when in reality it was the other way around! Not only that, but it was one of the featured locations in Sideways. So after a day tasting along the road to Lompoc, we headed in to see what everything was about. The BBQ smoke outside was so enticing that I was ready to rush in, even though I wasn’t hungry. Since the only reservations we could get were at 9pm, we opted to switch to the waiting list at the very small and crowded bar. After about 20-30 minutes, we secured two chairs… low and behold, in the exact seats that Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church shared in the movie.
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Super-friendly bartenders, and a fun crowd, we settled in for some great wine and food. To start with, we each got a glass of their famous wine, I selected the Highliner, and my wife chose the Four Top (a blend of 4 Bordeaux varietals) as another to try based on the bartender’s recommendation. She wasted no time in switching the glasses on me whenever I wouldn’t notice, though both were great. We picked up a bottle of the Four Top to take home with us, since we already have the Highliner in our wine fridge and can get it locally.

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For an appetizer we went with everyone’s recommendation, the grilled artichoke. This was the best artichoke we’ve ever had. They take a locally grown artichoke, steam it, then split it down the middle and remove the spiny core. Next it receives a generous dusting of Magic Dust (salt, pepper, white pepper, cayenne, onion power, garlic power, ground celery seeds) and hits the red oak fired grill. Absolutely amazing smokey flavors, buttery texture, and spices that left me licking both my fingers and the dipping dish of chipotle mayo.

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We decided to split their monstrous 26 ounce rib chuck steak. This is basically a 2+ inch thick bone-in ribeye, grilled medium-rare. There was a side of baked potato, and a delicious house salad, and some great grilled bread, but the rib chop truly was the star of the show. Now, keep in mind I grew up in a dairy family, and a good steak is probably my favorite food. I enjoy grilling, and have no problem dropping $30-40 for a good dry-aged steak at the butcher. I grill, pan fry, sear and oven finish, roast, you name it. I know my beef, so really this is extremely high praise when I say This was the best steak I have ever eaten. It was rich, juicy, tender, absolutely perfectly cooked, warm throughout but still pink rich texture without being bloody or slimy. The exterior had a light sear but still moist with loads of rich smokey buttery flavor and seasoned with their Magic Dust.

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With all that praise on the steak, desert must have been a disappointment right? Wrong, peanut butter pie, how can you pass that up? Peanut butter folded with heavy cream to make filling with a chocolate top. Surprisingly not as heavy as it sounds and a great way to finish of the meal.

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I cannot praise this steak enough, and if you are in the area, you absolutely must make plans to visit. The wines are spectacular, and so is the food, and both are clearly made for each other. I wish wineries would open restaurants that focused on real pairings like this. I know that I won’t let another opportunity to hit up the Hitching Post pass me by!

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.

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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.