Tag Archives: beef

Trowbridge Farms

It’s 1:00 am. It’s bitter cold outside, early December. Phil Trowbridge is making his first of three rounds throughout the night to check on his animals. He’ll do the same at 3:00 am, and then at 5:00 am, before even starting the day. It’s harsh, but it always has to be done, every day, even on Christmas.

He hears and sees one of the cows struggling. She’s panicked. When he gets close he knows his long work day is going to be even longer. Her entire reproductive system has prolapsed, and if he doesn’t act quickly, she’ll die.

Phil’s son PJ is with him helping, as he’s done all his life. They live just a stones throw away now that a neighbor sold his house to PJ. They run the farm together.

They get the cow into the chute and place her prolapsed uterus onto a makeshift table that Phil created on the fly, using a stretched feed bag. They raise a bar up under her to keep her from shifting, moving, and making an already dire situation even worse.

The climate in the Hudson Valley can be wet and icy. Her front legs slip forward while her back legs remain propped up from the bar. She tips forward. Now things could get really bad.

But it’s a happy accident. She can’t move, and her body is angled in such a way that it’s perfect for getting her insides back in place. Phil ties her front legs and pulls them forward, keeping her at that angle, while PJ – hands and arms numb with cold in the frigid, dark December air – puts their cow back together again.

RELATED: JOHNNY PRIME’S ONLINE BUTCHER SHOP

After spending a day with Phil and breaking bread with his family over dinner, I asked him and his son to tell me the most challenging and rewarding aspects of their profession. Phil told me that story, and it exemplifies both challenge and reward together in one grueling morning.

Phil has had to deal with maybe three prolapses in his decades of experience working with cattle, but he knows how to address the problem. In fact, he knows how to fix so much of what can go wrong on the farm, that if his veterinarians get a call, they’re truly worried.

I asked Phil and his son what the hardest part of their job is. Both he and PJ were modest: They told me it wasn’t a hard job, but I know I wouldn’t last a week doing what they do, day in and day out. Given the daily farm work on top of everything else they do, no one is ever idle.

While many things may come easy to Phil and PJ with their collective wealth of experience, there are still some things with which they have trouble.

Phil told me that losing an animal is hard. When that happens, it stays with him. His heart breaks. The roughly 400 animals in his care are like children to him. He checks on them all day, grows and mixes their food, feeds them, cleans them, monitors their health and keeps them healthy, delivers their babies… That’s respect. That’s love.

And from what I’ve seen it’s not just Phil; it’s all cattlemen who are worth a damn in this business. You don’t step into this lifestyle without respect and love for the animals. That’s something the average person doesn’t understand about our cattlemen.

Phil in front of his lab, which is part of an old dairy barn that he uses for housing donor cows and where mature cows are calved.

Phil runs Trowbridge Farms – a patchwork of pastures, farms and barns that spans 1700 acres in Ghent, NY, about two hours North of Manhattan by train/car on the east side of the Hudson River.

Phil’s home can be seen on the right in this panoramic view of his property, shot from inside the first barn he purchased here in Ghent.

Phil is originally from Buffalo, so this area may as well be Florida to him. When he first arrived here decades ago, he was surprised that cattle could even feed on pasture.

You may be thinking something like, “How the hell can someone run cattle in New York, where taxes and land costs are so high?” And that’s an excellent question.

The majority of land Phil works and uses is not his own. Rather, he rents and leases land from homeowners who are weekenders and summer vacationers from New York City. They own second homes, but allow Phil to raise feed crops and grasses there, and to graze his animals on the land, in exchange for rent or barter.

When Phil drives his truck from one barn or pasture to another, he never uses the land owners’ driveways even though they offer access and faster ingress and egress. He endeavors to be invisible to them, non-intrusive on their property, and respectful of their privacy.

Because of this system, Phil can probably raise cattle cheaper than most places in the country. The relationships are mutually beneficial: Phil maintains the land, and the homeowners can sit back and earn additional income.

Cows graze on each pasture for about three weeks, with about 30-40 cows through each field.

The soil here is everything. Across the Hudson, the earth is like clay, and therefore it’s harder to raise crops. Here, it’s more gravely and easier to work with. Phil couldn’t have this kind of productive operation if he didn’t understand the soil and how it affects plant makeup. In fact, there is pressure from dairy farms to get this better land for the alfalfa.

“Why?” For their feed.

Alfalfa is a high production, high nutrient legume plant that Phil uses in his cattle feed.

Alfalfa field.

He takes three or four cuttings, and when I visited on July 2nd, he had already taken the first cutting. With his bromegrass and Timothy-grass farms, he only gets two cuttings. He also grows oats and corn as well, and makes his own hay and baleage.

Phil uses GPS when planting his corn so that he can utilize the most land possible. The systems even tell him how much fertilizer and spray he needs. But here in the northeast, deer are a big problem because they can decimate acres of corn crops.

Baleage, or silage, is a fermented feed that helps cattle in their digestion process. It also keeps longer without spoiling. That combination makes for an economically viable and nutritionally beneficial feed solution.

Dry hay in rolled bales positioned close to the Winter pastures and barns for easy access. Phil’s animals can eat 40-60 lbs of hay per day in Winter, with the range varying on how cold it is. The colder it is, the more calories the animals burn staying warm. As such, they need to eat more to keep growing. But something as simple as providing bedding piles in the pastures can help the animals retain warmth, saving Phil 10 lbs of feed a day for each animal. They eat half as much in the Summer months.
Feeding the animals in covered barns or blacktop corrals also helps Phil conserve feed and keep the animals warm in Winter months. In Summer, the corrals are outfitted with fans and provide shade from the sun. Fly management is also important in the warm months. Excessive head shaking or tail switch swatting burn lots of cattle calories, requiring more feed for growth.

To make baleage Phil uses a vertical grinder and mixer first, to break up the feed crops. Then he covers it with tarp and weighs it down with specially cut tires that won’t collect water and draw mosquitoes. This allows the fermentation to occur and turn the crops into cattle feed.

Phil’s vertical grinder and baleage tarp. Equipment is Phil’s biggest cost at the farm. But this expensive vertical grinder was worth it, as it acts like a blender to mix up precise amounts of grasses with exacting percentages of nutrients that are evenly distributed throughout the feed.
Phil has to project how much feed he will need for the Winter so that his animals don’t go hungry, and he must pay close attention to weather patterns to avoid having his baleage spoil.

While Phil grows and makes most of his own feed, he does buy some corn because it’s cheap. He also works with local distillers to get fermented corn mash byproduct, which is similar to baleage in its digestive benefits. It’s also a great way to reduce commercial waste and make good use of stuff that is otherwise discarded.

This is dinner at the barn where show animals are being cleaned up and readied for county fairs and other competitions. It’s a mix of cotton seed hulls, beet pulp shreds, soybeans and steam flake corn.
Phil’s granddaughter cleans one of the animals that will be shown at a fair.

Cows love grain and alfalfa because they’re sweet. Alfalfa can be so rich, nutrient-wise, that at times Phil has to cut his feed with more fiber so that the cows don’t get too heavy.

Alfalfa feed. The leaves contain the majority of the proteins and energy.

“Why? Don’t we want big, heavy animals in the beef industry for price-per-weight values?”

It depends. In his sector of the business, Phil is primarily concerned with producing bulls and calves of good breeding stock and genetics, not to get them up to a high market weight for later eating, like what you often see at feed yards in the Midwest.

Like people, some animals grow differently than others. Phil adjusts the feed for each animal depending on the traits they exhibit.

Phil ultimately wants comfortable females for breeding, and energetic, virile bulls for seeding. So, nutrient-wise, Phil takes different things into account because his end product is a much different animal, produced with a different purpose, than those produced in other sectors of the business: Phil’s animals are for breeding, while the others are for eating.

Speaking of Phil’s business, let me segue into more of what he does.

A dirt road through the pastures.

Trowbridge Farms is a seed stock operation, which means that Phil produces bulls that are eventually purchased by cow-calf farms. Since I know that you readers are at a remedial level when it comes to farm terminology, I’ll explain what this all means:

Bulls are intact males that can reproduce (steers are castrated, and can not reproduce). A cow-calf farm is a place where a permanent herd of cows gets pregnant and gives birth to calves, which are later sold.

Phil lets the calves out of the barn so they can go graze in the pasture with the other cows.

Grazing Herefords.

Just prior to my visit, Phil had completed his annual bull sale. He averaged about $3,975 per head. That’s pretty fantastic, considering that his closest competition was bringing in half of that amount.

Phil hosts a yearly heifer sale (female cattle that have never been pregnant) and a calf sale as well. In addition he engages in many sales outside of his annual events.

Something that caught my eye in an antique shop in nearby Hudson. Perhaps from Phil’s farm?

Phil also sells frozen bull semen and embryos with the use of vapor shippers. Cows can give birth about 10-12 times, on average, in their lifetime, before pregnancy becomes stressful on their body. But with embryonic science in play at Phil’s lab, he can get hundreds of fertilized eggs from his cows, freeze them, and use or sell them later. Given this aspect of the business, some of his cows have produced 500-600 offspring.

Almost all of Phil’s cows are surrogate mothers that were transplanted with embryos.

All information needed to identify the parents is printed on the frozen embryo tube. Meticulous records are kept, both before and after pregnancy.

Timing is important when it comes to the cows. He schedules things around their super ovulation. First, CIDR (controlled internal drug release) devices are vaginally implanted  – they’re like giant IUDs. This makes the cows think they’re ovulating, which allows him to synchronize all of their reproductive systems.

They get a follicle stimulation hormone, which produces lots of eggs. He then artificially inseminates them to fertilize the eggs with his bull semen, thereby creating embryos. The embryos are then flushed out and used or sold.

A chute in the calving barn behind the lab, which Temple Grandin helped Phil to correct in order to obtain better results with his animals. She knew it needed an angle change within 10 seconds of looking at Phil’s drawing.

The process is just as intensive as human in vitro science. Phil’s daughter is an in vitro nurse and actually knows more than most doctors she works with, because she’s been doing this with cows for about 30 years.

In Phil’s operation, the bulls never touch a cow’s cervix. He usually puts embryos into cows fresh, as opposed to thawed from frozen, to increase the conception rate (15%-20% higher).

He sells a lot of frozen product to Argentina; about 40,000 units. But he makes more money from his US sales. This one bull, named Powder River, is like a legend around the farm. He’s spoiled and lazy, but he generates tons of product even at an old age – almost quadruple what other bulls can produce.

Powder River kicking up some dirt.

The frozen semen and embryos are stored in tubes or straws, and placed into liquid nitrogen holding tanks. In the event that Phil identifies a genetic abnormality, he will separate and retain the samples because many universities have expressed interest in studying them.

A frozen semen tube smokes as it makes contact with the humid Summer air. It has to be thawed at the correct temperature with a special device before it can be inserted into a cow.

Phil’s customers are buying bulls, bull semen and embryos because they want specific genes to be expressed in their herds, and they know that Phil’s bulls produce some of the most desirable characteristics and embody superior genetics.

Customers look at these purchases as investments, like buying stocks. When they come to Phil, they usually don’t leave without buying.

Most of Phil’s animals are Angus. He has a few Hereford and cross breeds in the mix, but people know him for his superior quality Angus. Hereford cattle are notorious for suffering from pink eye in the summer months, so Phil has endeavored to breed his Hereford to have different eye traits so that his are less prone to pink eye.

One of Phil’s Hereford bulls.
A white face and black body is generally the expressed phenotype for a cross breed.

He has blood tests performed on every animal at a cost of about $50 a pop. Two drops of blood are taken and sent out to a lab.

Phil’s 126th college intern, Natalie, draws blood for DNA and genomic marker testing. Phil generally takes on three interns each year, and has been doing so since the 1980’s. They get hands-on experience that classrooms and books can’t provide, and these desirable internships often get filled by our nations best and brightest animal science and agriculture students from top schools all over the country. Phil recognizes passion and is a great judge of potential. He’s motivated many hardworking students and aided them in finding their direction. He even helped some obtain scholarships.

These tests assess 50,000 different genomic markers that express traits related to things like parentage, marbling, tenderness, udder structure, temperament, body build and residual feed intake, among others. In addition to testing for these traits, the DNA samples are also used for parent verification.

In the 1980’s and 1990’s, only 2,500 markers were tested. Now the tests assess up to 50,000.

“So what does the average day look like for Phil?”

Well, like most farms, Trowbridge is a family affair. Phil’s wife Annie does the books in the morning before heading to the hospital, where she’s a nurse on the surgical floor.

Phil’s son PJ is vital at the farm. He holds a degree in animal science from SUNY Cobleskill, and is the farm mechanic for all of the equipment.

Phil is usually up by 6:00 am, feeding and checking on the animals, and, thereafter, making hay in the Spring and Summer.

In Winter, he gets up an hour earlier to check on the cows. He recently installed video equipment in the barns so that he doesn’t always need to check on the cows several times overnight to see if they’re calving.

A barn with a blacktop corral where heifers are calved. A circular pen is nearby, where Phil photographs his bulls for bull sale pamphlets and for posting to his website.

Calving is done twice a year: In early winter (January, February and March), and in the Fall. Calving in January means he can cut nine months of the process in working with bulls. Phil is focused on both human and animal safety, and bulls can fight each other and tear stuff up. He likes to sell them off before they turn two years old, because the older they get, the harder they are to manage.

The inside of a calving barn that also houses donor cows, adjacent to Phil’s lab. Phil uses red mulch here that he gets from local farmers. Red mulch is more absorbent and comfortable for his calves. Phil barters for it in exchange for manure that he scrapes off his blacktop corrals.

Right now Phil is playing host to 4H kids for the Summer. They’re learning about cattle, hogs and lambs. The kids pick the animals themselves; they’re purchased on loan and then sold in September.

The kids learn how to take care of the animals, they keep track of feed and vaccinations with spreadsheets, and they show the animals at the county fair.

Many cattlemen work second jobs and perform odd tasks like this in their community. In addition to hosting 4H kids, Phil was the president of the NY Beef Council (which sponsored my tour here), he helped develop the new Veterinary Feed Directive laws that just went into effect, he runs a college internship program, and he goes on speaking tours for the industry. His son PJ has a tow truck gig at night, and he does some construction work for a friend in Albany when needed.

As if all of that isn’t enough, the Trowbridges also have to be vigilant of trespassing. A few months back, someone broke into the donor cow and calf barn behind the lab, took a bunch of video, and posted it online. Fortunately the guerrilla “coverage” was very positive in nature, but someone could have gotten hurt. And now sheriffs have been coming around, warning Phil that kids are stealing some of the ice packs used in shipping to make meth. Crazy.

Needless to say, no one is ever bored at Trowbridge Farms. But no one is resting on their laurels either. Phil wants to pass the farm on to his children, and beyond to his grandchildren.

He purchased his first barn there 25 years ago when it was a brush pile. He built it up and installed all the fencing little by little at night after spending his day working at a nearby farm. Since then his operation has become scientifically cutting edge and well respected in the community. Articles have been written in trade magazines attesting to Trowbridge’s advances in the field.

Not only is Phil’s farm economically productive and a benefit to both the industry and the community, but Phil is ecologically responsible and an excellent steward of the land.

Phil builds lasting relationships with everyone he encounters on a regular basis. I had the pleasure of hearing a message that someone left on Phil’s voicemail, thanking him for all he does in the area. The people of Ghent respect what he does, and he respects the people of Ghent. He even throws a hot dog and hamburger cookout for the locals each year that draws hundreds.

When Phil was driving me around the community, he pointed out some of the other business that came and went. Old chicken farms, welding shops, mechanic shops, well drillers, orchards, artist warehouse studios, craft breweries… And even some newcomers like grass finished, no antibiotics beef producers.

Some of these folks will allow their animals to die because they refuse to treat their cattle with antibiotics. Phil understands and respects the “no antibiotics” niche markets that have developed, but he’s also a big believer in medicine and cares for the animals too much to let one die when an illness is perfectly treatable.

His words: “If that doesn’t bother you, then there’s something not right.” In my opinion, this kind of attitude is absolutely necessary in order to work with animals to any measure of lasting success. Phil is by no means one of a kind within the beef industry when it comes to this outlook on animals, but that’s no slight to him. His work is demonstrative of how great the practitioners of this business are at its core. He’s exemplary, and exemplary is common in this business. That’s a good thing.

But Phil’s love for the animals he works with is instantly revealed to all the moment he encounters them. They’re calm in his presence, and very trusting of him and other people – even strangers like me. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

The Trowbridge family name is celebrating 60 years in the cattle business this year. I’m very happy to have met Phil and his family, and I’m honored to put a spotlight on them for my readers.

NOW OPEN: My Butcher Shop

WWW.JOHNNYPRIMEMEATS.COM

The time has finally come for me to start slinging meat as opposed to just crushing it.

Over the last six years I’ve really fine-tuned my taste for high quality beef. I can almost pick out flavor notes like those freaks who test milk and wine, only I do it with beef. Blue cheese “funk” here, aroma of hazel nuts there, earthy mushrooms over yonder. You get the idea.

Writing restaurant reviews lead to writing recipes, and striving to replicate the steakhouse experience in my kitchen – even to the point of dry-aging beef at home.

My concern and respect for this amazing protein also fostered a desire to learn about the entire beef life cycle: from cow/calf operations to stockers and backgrounders; from corn farms to grazing ranches; from forage to feed; from fabrication floor to front of the case, and all the way back to the restaurant again. Start to finish. No stone left unturned. I’ve even addressed various nutritional and environmental concerns.

I’ve become an expert on steak. But photographing, eating and writing about beef was no longer satisfying me. It seemed that I hit a wall and was spinning my wheels. I wasn’t fulfilling the goals I had for this website. Or maybe my goals changed, because now I feel the need to offer these meaty experiences to you, rather than just tell you about them. I’m still going to review restaurants, highlight products and write informative articles about beef. But now there’s got to be more than just those things.

That’s why I’ve decided to open an online butcher shop. I’ve been working with an extremely high end “middle meats” company that has the resources and connections to buy out massive stocks of incredible prime, American Wagyu and even Japanese Kobe beef. They’ve got a multi-million dollar state of the art facility in the Bronx’s famous Hunt’s Point Cooperative Market with a crazy dry-aging room, a huge blast freezer and all the support they need from an incredibly skilled team of butchers.

All my steaks are cut to order, and can be fully customized. They’re individually vacuum sealed, wrapped in butcher paper and signed by a butcher before being shipped to you. Shipping, by the way, will be free and arrive at your door just 2-days after the order is cut.

I’m really excited about this. I’ve hand selected every cut that I’m offering, and I’ve even cooked up and tasted everything to verify that it’s something I’d want on my own plate. If you tend to agree with me on my steak review opinions, then you’re in good hands with anything you order from my butcher shop. You won’t be disappointed. Johnny Prime Meats will impress you.

My plan is to stock a few items that will always be available. For example, the best steak I’ve ever eaten is the American Wagyu strip.

I’ll be offering that all the time, along with a few prime dry-aged rib eye options and a prime dry-aged porterhouse.

But the bonus is that I’ll also be showcasing some rare and unique proteins that have limited supply and quantity. For example, I’ve got my hands on some really sweet dry-aged Duroc pork rib chops right now, as well as some dry-aged tenderloin tails for the grill. Maybe in a few weeks I’ll try to locate some dry-aged veal, American Wagyu hanger steaks, or lamb bacon.

And speaking of bacon, you’ll be able to add a pound of thick cut bacon to any order for just $10 at checkout. Because what steak meal at home is complete without that steakhouse style slab of thick cut bacon?

I hope you guys are interested. Check out the shop. Browse the offerings. And keep your eyes on my meat!

BUTCHER SHOP SALE: PIEDMONTESE STRIPS!

Dear Beloved Meat Freaks:

I’m really excited about these steaks!

Piedmontese is a breed of cattle that is originally from northwest Italy. Their short, double muscle fiber structure makes for incredibly tender steaks even without tons of marbled fat.

I recommend that you don’t go past medium rare on these: leaner meats have less fat, which means they can dry out if you cook them too much.

They’re currently very affordable, as they’re still sort of a hidden gem in the meat business.

I’ve got them priced at 20% off: 10 lbs is just $159.99 (regularly $199.99)!!!  That’s 10 glorious one pound steaks to fill your grill this weekend. Get on it!

ORDER YOURS HERE!

I cooked one up at home yesterday and these babies are incredibly tender and delicious. They’re lean, juicy, and packed with a really nice but mild flavor. For the one pounders, you just need some salt, pepper and garlic powder for the seasoning. Then sear in a hot pan with butter for about three and a half minutes per side. Let rest, and then slice.

Ichiban Nom Nom

I had the opportunity to head to Chef Joe Conti’s test kitchen prior to the open of his yet-to-be-named Japanese omakase restaurant downtown. The great thing about this meal is that I was able to taste a lot of different cuts of A5 Wagyu beef. The highest marbling score there is. Unreal. Since there were a bunch of courses, I’ll get right down to business.

Torched mackerel with pickled daikon.

Fried river fish, uni and river crab.

Giant shrimp/prawn carabineros. Simply seasoned with salt, but their insides cook into a naturally spicy and fatty butter-like substance that will provide you with wet food dreams for the rest of your life. It coats your tongue like a rich prosciutto almost. For real, this is one of the best things I’ve ever eaten in my whole fucking life. They get to about a third of a pound each in weight, too, so they’re substantial. Favorite part of the meal – even better than the beef!

Wagyu skirt steak (8/10) and pork skirt steak. Amazing. Here, the pork out shined the beef just because it was so unique to see this cut here in the states. I want more of it!

Wagyu sirloin (9/10), tenderloin (10/10) and rib cap (9/10). All amazing, but my favorite, oddly, was the tenderloin. It was so buttery soft and tender that it would be impossible to compare it to anything else that came across out plates.

Here’s the tenderloin up close:

Italian panko Parmesan breadcrumb “gyu katsu,” aka deep fried beef strip loin. Amazing. 8/10.

Eel with shiso.

Cold udon noodles.

Ice cream: chocolate, green tea with chocolate chips, and salted caramel. Still some refining to be done here, but over all a great closer plate.

I can’t wait until this spot officially opens. I think it’ll be in the West 4th Street and 8th Avenue area. Keep an eye out! They’re already booked solid for the first few months after they open.

Beef: Community, Lifecycle & Production

It’s been a year since I started getting more deeply involved with beef industry professionals and writing posts that advocate on their behalf. One thing I’ve noticed is that lots of people don’t realize how many different professions are involved in the beef industry.

It’s not just farmers, butchers and chefs. It starts, of course, with the animals themselves, the cattlemen that raise them, and the farmers that grow their food.

Like humans, cows have a nine month gestation period. For the first few months, a calf is raised on its mother’s milk (colostum – for key nutrients and immunity). After maybe six or eight months, a calf is weaned off of mother’s milk and put out to pasture. At that time decisions are typically made about whether the animal will be sold off or kept for breeding.

The feed yard is typically the next location for the animal (when the animal is about a year old). This is where they get fattened up for market.

Grain finished animals stay in a feed yard for about 120-180 days. The grain mixture they eat is typically representative of local agriculture. For example, in California there may be almond hulls mixed in with the standard corn or wheat. In New York, there are sunflower seeds mixed in. In Idaho, there is some potato mash.

Grass finished animals stay on pasture or hay for seven or eight months longer, on average, than grain finished animals. They do not eat grain. It generally takes longer for them to get to market weight.

After that, it’s off to the slaughter they go, where we have people who work at processing plants for slaughter and packing. The Humane Slaughter Act of 1958, updated in 1978 and 2002, governs how all of this is done.

At the packing plant, the beef product is broken down into primal and sub-primal cuts:

  • Primal: chuck, rib, round, loin.

  • Sub-Primal: bottom round, top round, eye round, round tip.

Then, the meat is shipped off to grocers, butchers, restaurants and other end-user locations, ultimately ending with diners like you and me gobbling up all of that delicious meat.

Veterinarians, animal care specialists, scientists and government inspectors are present at each step during this process, from farm, to feed yard, to slaughterhouse, to distributers, to grocers, restaurants and butcher shops. And, of course, law makers and beef industry professionals have helped put together all of the guidelines and regulations that govern and run the industry.

It’s a very complex and well-monitored process, so don’t let anyone fool you into thinking that beef is somehow unsafe. The industry also provides for countless jobs, and that stimulates the economy. Last, and most importantly, they all help to put steak on our dinner plates.

New York Prime Beef

This will serve as sort of a double whammy review, since I used some nice products while cooking up these amazing steaks from New York Prime Beef.

New York Prime Beef is a high end middle meats (ribs and loins) brand that operates out of Hunt’s Point in the Bronx. I was invited in to meet the owner and employees, get a sense of the business, and try out some of their amazing products.

New York Prime Beef sells top notch prime, American wagyu and kobe beef steaks. They ship fresh overnight to anywhere in the US – never frozen unless the customer asks for it.

Each cut is beautifully packed in shrink wrap and butcher paper – even signed/initialed by the butcher who does the cutting.

Now let me tell you; I’ve had some really great steak in my day, as you can imagine. But the American wagyu strip that I took home and cooked was fucking flawless. Seriously one of the best steaks I’ve ever had, and I made it myself!

Look at the freaking marbling on this. Even the marbling has marbling.

It was a really simple cooking process. You can’t fuck it up. Season first with some salt. Heat up a little bit of oil in a cast iron pan until it’s screaming hot. Pop the steak on there for two and a half minutes per side.

But I actually used some truffle oil, truffle salt and truffle butter that I got from The Truffleist to boost up the decadence even more.

Take a look at the video:

The finished product was absolutely stunning. To be honest, this beef doesn’t need anything except for salt, but this truffle wagyu meal was fucking TITTY BAGS. I want to eat like this every day!

The texture is melt-in-your-mouth. You can cut this shit with a fork. The flavor has a buttery quality to it that sets it apart from standard beef or even prime, dry-aged beef. This stuff is like the foie gras of beef!

And that’s not to knock the other cuts they offer. Wagyu or Kobe isn’t in everyone’s budget. I also tried a prime porterhouse, and a prime dry-aged rib eye. The minimum these guys will age a cut of beef is 28-days. When I was at the facility, I saw some that had been aging for 60 days.

But anyway, let me get back to what I made at home. These babies were cut nice and thick, so I wanted to make sure I got a proper cook temp all the way through.

Sous Vide machines are all the rage these days. Everyone is buying them up because they allow you to cook meat perfectly every time. No more worrying about fucking up an expensive cut of beef!

I set mine to 128 degrees and let the fucker crank for about six hours. Then I pulled the meat out of the machine and let them rest and reabsorb some juices in the bag. Once they were about rom temperature plus, I removed them from the bag, patted them dry with a paper towel, and blasted them with a blowtorch. See below:

As you can see, I seasoned AFTER slicing and plating. This allowed me to get a better sense of the actual beef flavor for reviewing purposes.

The meat is fantastic. There’s a nice mild funk from the dry aging process on the rib eye. It doesn’t clobber you, which is good. The beef was tender and juicy, and really responded nicely to basic seasoning like salt, pepper and olive oil.

I think I liked the porterhouse a bit better. The tenderness of both the strip and filet sides was incredible.

I highly recommend this stuff. Order some today and let them know that Johnny Prime sent you. You’ll probably have the meat in time for dinner grilling on Sunday.

One of the coolest things about this spot is that the owner, Vinnie (great name), is one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met.

He’s a drag racer, a pilot, an old car guy (like me), and an art enthusiast. He even has some wild graffiti art on his rooftop (he supplies the paint for the artists).

I think that about covers it. I hope to see his products flood the market. They’re so good.

Primal Cut

Primal Cut overall score: 81

Primal Cut is a newly revamped steak restaurant within the Sapphire gentleman’s club. I was invited in for a free meal to help promote the joint. Take a look below:

Flavor: 8

Chef Thomas Perone does a great job with the 40oz tomahawk rib eye for two.

The 37 days of dry aging gave it a really nice aroma.

And Perone and his team nailed the crust on this thing.

Perone leaves soon for The Lambs Club, but he assures me that his staff runs the kitchen extremely well, so you’ll still be in great hands.

Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 9

Two sizes of filet, two sizes of rib eye (a cowboy cut and a tomahawk for multiple diners), a porterhouse for multiple diners, a strip, an A5 wagyu strip and a wagyu spinalis round out the menu here. Really fantastic showing, and the majority of the beef cuts hail from Strassburger Steaks. Can’t go wrong there.

Portion Size & Plating: 9

The 40oz tomahawk was a great size for sharing with another person. And all the other items were well-hung too. The plating is basic steakhouse style: minimal and elegant.

Price: 9

I was expecting skyrocket prices for a joint that’s located in a pricey strip club. But $55/pp on the steaks for two is really fair, especially if ogling tits and ass while you dine is your thing. All soups and salads are $12, and apps range from $14 to $25. Very fair.

Bar: 7

The bar here is on the small side, but they do mix a nice martini. The bartenders are sporting some revealing lingerie style attire – which I think is actually sexier than the gowns that the dancers walk around in – so that boosts up the “stay for another drink” factor in what would otherwise be a not-so-impressive stretch of bar.

Specials and Other Meats: 8

There were a couple of specials that weren’t on the menu, usually a different kind of house-made pasta that’s rolled out on specific days (like their lasagna, which all the strippers love). Big points here for the wagyu presence on the menu, otherwise there is just chicken and lamb for alternative meats.

Apps, Sides & Desserts: 8

We tried a few apps and sides. The salmon poke bowl was really tasty and tropical, with a nice pop of flavor from the pineapple.

The half pound slab of bacon is great too, with a nice sweet and savory sauce that will change your expectations of bacon.

The 5-cheese truffle lobster mac is decadent and tasty, and had a great crispy crust on top. You should definitely order this.

I was disappointed with the asparagus. These are the thin, limp, fibrous kind and not the thick, long, stiff ones you expect to sprout up at a strip club… I mean steakhouse.

This French toast style ice cream sandwich dessert not only tasted great, but for some strange reason I kept subconsciously seeing caramel drizzled tits every time I looked at it.

Maybe because I was in a strip club?

Focus, man!

Seafood Selection: 7

There’s salmon and sea bass on the menu, aside from the nice array of appetizers.

Service: 10

If you dine here, try to get Alfonso as your waiter. He’s really friendly and helpful, knows what to recommend, and is just really on top of his shit. Everyone is friendly, there are no pushy dancers trying to get on top of you while you eat, and aside from the occasional girl walking around in a skimpy outfit as you hear the DJ calling her name to the main stage, you’d never really know that you were dining in a strip club. Whether that’s good or bad depends on you.

Ambiance: 6

I know, I know: How can you rate a steak joint within a strip joint anything lower than a 10 for ambiance?!?? That aspect is excellent, obviously, especially for the waning existence of hetero-normative, straight, cis-gendered alpha males like the majority of my readers. But the dining room is in need of a little sprucing up. It’s a relatively small spot too, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but they certainly have the ability to upgrade this place to the level of the untouchable midtown giants. There are low ceilings, it’s a bit stuffy (I think there was a ventilation and AC situation when we went), and the overall feel is very cavern-like. I think they should go all out in this place, maybe throw a few dance cages or a stage in there too. They don’t need to be topless dancers, but just embrace the strip club vibe! All that said, I went in at 6pm. Maybe things heat up later in the night.

PRIMAL CUT
333 E 60th St
New York, NY 10022

The Beef Checkoff

In my effort to educate you dingbats about all-things-beef, I figured this would be a nice little primer on what’s going on in the industry around the Beef Checkoff Program.

In 1985, the Food Security Act, aka the “Farm Bill,” established something called the Beef Checkoff Program. The program, which later became mandatory in 1988, takes $1 per head on the sale of live domestic and imported cattle, in addition to a comparable grab on imported beef and beef products.

The Beef Checkoff logo, which you will see on all things that the program funds.

The dough is collected by state beef councils, which retain up to half the amount collected. The state councils give the other half to the Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board, which oversees the national checkoff program, subject to USDA review.

There are 100 members of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board. They’re nominated by fellow beef producers and appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture, and they represent all segments of the beef industry.

Beef Checkoff was designed to get people to sell more beef and motivate consumers to buy more beef. This is accomplished through advertising, marketing partnerships, public relations, education, research and new-product development. The Beef Act defines six program categories: (1) promotion, (2) research, (3) consumer information, (4) industry information, (5) foreign marketing, and (6) producer communications.

You may have heard the slogan “Beef: It’s what’s for dinner” somewhere in your travels. That’s just one example of their success.

But fear not! By law, checkoff funds can’t be used to promote breeds or brands without USDA and Beef Board Executive Committee approval. Furthermore, checkoff funds can’t be used to influence government policy or action (including lobbying). The law also disallows checkoff money to be invested in production research that isn’t aimed at improving beef products.

The main goal of the program is to increase commodity demand, and thus increase economic growth in the industry. Most beef and dairy producers believe that their beef checkoff dollars bring value back to them. Many of my posts are a result of beef checkoff funding, actually. The MBA and Top of the Class programs in which I participated were funded by the checkoff. Do you think that money went to good use? I do!

Should the funding ever increase (to more than $1 per head, for example) the checkoff may consider putting the “Beef: It’s What’s For Dinner” message back on TV, stepping up consumer education, or increasing foreign market development.

Greenwich Steakhouse

Greenwich Steakhouse overall score: 89

Greenwich Steakhouse is a newly opened French-inspired steak joint in the West Village. Chef Victor Chavez helped open Smith & Wollensky, and is a 30yr veteran chef from there. He tried retirement, but decided that he wanted to be back in the game. As such, he opened Greenwich Steakhouse.

I recently set up an “influencer event” here to help get some photos and reviews out there. Take a look at all the crazy shit we tried, and enjoy the review below.

Flavor: 8

Cajun Rib Eye: 10/10

I’m starting with the best steak first. This baby was cooked to a perfect medium rare from end to end with an awesome savory crust on the edges.

But the hint of cumin in the Cajun rub really sets this baby off as the best steak in the joint.

The spicy oil at the bottom of the place is reminiscent of the delicious sauce you get with the cumin lamb noodles at Xian Famous Foods, which I love.

When you come here, this is the steak to get. Chef Victor just absolutely nails it.

48oz Porterhouse: 8/10

This is nice and thick, and really goes great with the marrow butter sauce addition.

There was some grey banding since this is such a thick cut of steak, but nothing was dried out.

48oz Tomahawk Rib Eye: 6/10

Unfortunately this was a bit overcooked for our liking. Some parts were dry as a result, but the flavor was still nice.

Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 9

All the meat here come from Strassburger, a great supplier. Chef Victor dry ages them for three weeks in-house to develop a bit more flavor for his guests. There are several sizes of the four major cuts available.

Portion Size & Plating: 9

Portions here are pretty big. The plating is on the nicer side with steel pans being used as serving vessels.

Price: 10

Since this was a free event, I am giving full points for price here. However, the prices are on par with midtown NYC steakhouses.

Bar: 7

The bar is a short stretch on the first floor with some seats along the window for people watching.

It’s on a nice stretch of Greenwich Ave in the village too, so likely will be a good spot for nightlife.

 

Cocktails are nice, particularly the Great Kills.

Specials and Other Meats: 9

The waiter read us some specials that were not on the menu. We tried one of them, a shredded Brussels sprout salad. I thought it could use some more dressing, but it was tasty.

For alternative meats, they offer a nice variety: veal, chicken and lamb. Perhaps a pork chop would round it out. We tried the lamb and it was incredible. So nicely seasoned and flavorful.

Apps, Sides & Desserts: 8

This is the best thick cut bacon I’ve ever had. It was about a half inch thick, and each order comes with three massive slabs. We cut them each in half since we had a table of six.

The fries are pretty good as well:

The marrow is overkill. If you are eating steaks here, each cut will come with some roasted bone marrow, so no need to go for the app. Here are three delicious boats of bone meat though:

Creamed spinach was also nice:

As well as the hash browns:

For dessert, we went with the ice cream tartufo:

Creme brulee:

And chocolate cake:

All were good, but my favorite was the creme brulee.

Seafood Selection: 10

We tried the seafood tower, which comes with oysters, king crab, shrimp, lobster and lumb crab meat.

The shrimp were massive! For entree items, they offer tuna, halibut, lobster, sole and salmon.  Branzino was on special as well. That’s a serious variety!

Service: 10

The staff here is all top notch. The guys are pure gentlemen and it doesn’t surprise me that Chef Victor would staff his joint with such people. The table breads are served from a basket at the outset.

Ambiance: 9

They’ve done an awesome job with the space here. The main dining room is on the second floor and boasts elegant chairs and a bright space. Very different from other steak joints.

The third floor has a huge table for parties, and holds about 8000 bottles of wine in elegant glass-windowed rooms flanking each side.

GREENWICH STEAKHOUSE
62 Greenwich Ave
New York, NY 10011

Peter Luger (Brooklyn)

Peter Luger overall score: 79

What NYC steakhouse review site would be complete without the obligatory Peter Luger entry? Luger is synonymous with steak in NYC. Within a minute of discussing steak in NYC, someone party to the conversation is guaranteed to bring the place up. If I am around, you will also get a story about Bill Murray (see the bar section below).

NOTE: This review was first published in 2011 and was updated a few times since then.

Flavor: 7

I’ve gone to Luger’s three times for steak, and I have to buck the trend here and say that I wasn’t super impressed with the flavor. It was yummy, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve had better.

Perhaps Peter Luger was hyped up so much by everyone as the greatest steakhouse in NY that I was expecting too much? I don’t think so, because my second and third trips were similar. The first two times I ate a variant of the porterhouse cut, and the third time I had both the porterhouse and the rib eye.

All three times the steak was good, but not awesome. You can definitely smell and taste the dry-aged beef flavor on these steaks, but they ultimately lacked seasoning. The rib eye also contained a lot of junk gristle on it, unfortunately.

Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 6

You may be shocked to see that Peter Luger really only offers two cuts of beef for traditional steak eating: rib eye and porterhouse.

While both are prime grade and aged, there is no filet, and there is no strip; you simply have to get the full porterhouse if you want either of those cuts.

The porterhouse is cut into various sizes and offered as “steak for two,” “steak for three,” and so forth (you can also get a steak for one). It’s typically served pre-sliced, sizzling on a hot plate with butter. Pictured here is a steak for two.

Luger’s does offer regular daily lunch specials that showcase other types of beef products like prime rib, chopped steak, corned beef, and pot roast, however these are not available at dinner and only sometimes at lunch. They also offer lamb chops.

Portion Size & Plating: 8

Luger’s doesn’t advertise the sizes of each cut, but they are definitely big enough to fill you up. Plating is standard; nothing fancy. This is a man’s place, so we are good in terms of this section. Lots of the appetizers and sides are large enough to share as well.

Price: 8

Prices are average. I forget what the bill came to, but I think I recall a steak for two being somewhere around the $70 to $80 mark when I first came here years back. Now it’s a bit more, obviously.

Bar: 10

I score top points for the Peter Luger bar because, well, my friends and I met the one and only Bill Murray there one evening, hung out with him, and had drinks with him. We were on our way to an obscure party in Williamsburg when we decided to pop in Luger’s for a drink or two beforehand. The bar here is great – a long stretch of ancient but nice wood, stocked with great booze.

It’s a classy bar worked by a classy old ostler who knows every drink in the book, especially the old timey ones.

So we order our drinks and a moment later we see none other than Bill fucking Murray beside us at the bar, just sitting there with his son and a friend. Naturally we bought them a round of beers, after which Bill thanked us, talked with us, and took some photos with us. To this day I kick myself for not asking him to come with us to the party. Knowing the way he is now, hanging out with randoms, we could have been one of the first. Imagine if he said yes and we showed up to a party with Bill FUCKING Murray? Legendary.

Specials and Other Meats: 6

Luger’s is pretty basic. There’s not much by way of specials, so pick something and stick with it. As I said earlier, they do offer a decent lamb chop, but don’t go looking for anything else.

Apps, Sides & Desserts: 9

The creamed spinach here is fantastic. Rich and smooth; it goes perfectly with the steak. It’s of the “creamless” variety.

I also tried the french fries for two, which were crispy and tasty.

We split a burger for our appetizer as well, which is a solid move at a steakhouse. The burger here is amazing, and only available at lunch until 3:45pm. Get it. Especially if you love dry aged beef.

Skip the bacon on your burger, though, because you’ll be getting that on the side as an appetizer anyway, and when you stack the bacon on top, the burger becomes too tall.

Or you can pretend to be healthy and get the wedge salad, which had the same bacon chopped up and plopped on top. We shared this salad among four people.

The sliced tomato and onion is okay. It just always seems pricey for some sliced veg on a plate. I didn’t shoot that.

Desserts are fun here, and large. Here is a slice of key lime pie, with the signature unsweetened “schlag” whipped cream.

A bowl of caramel cone ice cream:

And the chocolate fudge ice cream sundae, meant for sharing:

Seafood Selection: 6

Basically, Peter Luger offers a salmon entree and a fresh fish item which depends on the season. This is not the kind of place to order food items other than red meat. Stick with what’s good and quit being a pussy.

Service: 9

Luger’s has become infamous for crappy service, but the times I have gone the joint exemplified traditional great steakhouse service. Especially our last waiter, Carlos, and another guy who even offered to take a photo of us at the table.

They employ an all-male wait staff, dressed usually in formal back and white with bow ties, often older gentlemen who have been working there for many years. They are very attentive, they know their product inside and out, and they are all about the customer.

My only issue was with the reservation-making process. I got some attitude from a woman on the phone when they asked me to call back to confirm my reservation. Not that big of a deal.

Food comes out quickly because it’s prepared quickly. Screaming hot ovens blast the meat with flames at upwards of 700 degrees, so the meal is ready fast. That’s a good thing.

The bread basket of onion rolls and various other items is massive, and you get it with a gravy dish of their steak sauce.

Ambiance: 10

A traditional steakhouse, Peter Luger sets what can almost be considered the industry standard of steak eating environs. It features old wood floors that creak under foot throughout, dark wainscoting on the lower parts of the walls, and wood tables that have survived the test of time. If you’ve never gone to a steakhouse before, go here first so you get the full effect of what it means to eat at a steakhouse.

PETER LUGER
178 Broadway
Brooklyn, NY 11211