Tag Archives: denver

Top of the Class Beef Advocacy Training

Back in October I was invited out to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association headquarters in Denver, CO to partake in their advanced beef advocacy training program called “Top of the Class.”

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You guys may recall a post back in the summer where I talked about how I was earning my MBA (Masters in Beef Advocacy) with five online course modules designed to educate people about the beef industry. Those courses inspired me to write some fun and informative posts.

But after getting that MBA, a friend at the New York Beef Council contacted me and encouraged me to apply for the Top of the Class program, which is essentially like the PhD level of beef advocacy training.

I submitted my application and was accepted! It was wild. Two days of intense training, beef information workshops, on-camera cooking demos, on-camera interviews facing tough questions, engaging lectures and helpful blogging tips.

The first half of day one involved group sessions with topics on nutrition, beef research, food photography, blogging, beef advocacy, animal care, sustainability and beef quality assurance. We also received tips on how to give effective presentations and how to conduct media interviews (on topics we are passionate about, and then some harder questioning about the beef industry).

In the afternoon and on day two we had individual break-out sessions. Two fun break-outs involved me getting in front of a camera, rather than working behind it like I normally do.

The first was a simulated TV interview with a PR and media training specialist, in which he asked me a bunch of questions about aged beef, and then threw in a few zingers about beef safety and the myth we know as “factory farming.” I was prepared to answer given my previous training! I’m trying to get my hands on those videos for you to see how I performed.

The second fun break-out was a cooking demo, where I prepared “planned-overs:” A crispy Cuban shredded beef stir-fry dish made from the leftovers of a “Sunday roast.” This was filmed as a simulation as well: I was the cooking guest on a morning news TV show, with a host who asked me questions and helped me prepare the food. During the shoot, the goal was to work in some messaging about beef nutrition, and about re-purposing leftovers to help reduce food waste. I’m trying to get my hands on these videos as well. They were pretty cool.

Other break-out sessions were about finding a message, a niche and a goal for both my blogging endeavors and my social media accounts. I think it’s safe to say I’ve found my niche! There were also some sessions regarding how to engage and advocate about beef on social media and elsewhere.

Each Top of the Class program has five students, and I think they’ve only done a handful of programs to date. The other students in the program were highly diversified, and I thought it would be cool to introduce them to you.

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Dr. Lindsay Chichester

Lindsay has a blog called “Agricultural With Dr. Lindsay.” Her aim is to bring her readers stories about agriculture and introduce them to the people who grow and produce our food.

https://agriculturalwithdrlindsay.com/
https://agriculturalwithdrlindsay.com/

She shares agricultural practices, meat selection, cooking and storage tips, and will answer any questions you may have. With a Master of Science in Animal Science, a Master of Art in Speech Communications, and a PhD in Systems Agriculture from West Texas A&M University, you can be confident that Dr. Lindsay will have highly knowledgeable answers for you.

She’s truly a force to be reckoned with. Lindsay grew up on a cattle and sheep ranch in northern CA. She was a 10 year 4-H member, received a formal education in agricultural systems, and worked a variety of jobs in the agricultural industry (meat packing, feed yards, managing cattle herds, collecting research, etc.).

She was also an Extension Educator with University of Nebraska-Lincoln for six years focusing on livestock, agriculture, food systems, and 4-H, working with both adults and youth. In January 2016 she began a new career with Nevada Cooperative Extension.

If you’re wondering what some of that stuff means, I will explain it to you as best as I can. And yes, I was clueless about it too.

The Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s (NIFA) Cooperative Extension provides non-formal education and learning activities to farmers, residents of rural communities, and people in urban areas throughout the country.

The country’s more than 100 land-grant colleges and universities have a critical mission: extension. Through extension, they bring vital, practical information to agricultural producers, small business owners, consumers, families and kids.

That’s where 4-H comes into play. 4‑H is a youth development program delivered by Cooperative Extension. You probably remember the commercials that used to air in the 80’s, like this one:

Kids complete hands-on projects in areas like health, science, agriculture and citizenship. They receive guidance from adult mentors and are encouraged to take on proactive leadership roles. 4‑H touches every area of the country via in-school and after-school programs, community clubs and camps.

Cassidy Johnston

Cassidy has a blog called Cow Country Blog. With it, she shows readers the very human and family-oriented aspects of ranching, as well as the hard work and joy behind what it means to produce cattle for the US beef market. You can see exactly the kind of love and attention that it takes to raise both cattle and a growing family.

Cassidy worked on a ranch as part of her research for her collegiate honors thesis about ranching and environmentalism. After graduating from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a degree in Environmental Studies, she went to work on that same ranch.

While researching, she met her cowboy husband, Robert, and they’ve been together ever since. Cowgirl meets cowboy; it doesn’t get any more classic Americana than that! Together they have worked on three cattle ranches in two different states. They currently live in Colorado and work for one of the largest ranches in the country.

Kita “Girl Carnivore” Roberts

Like me, Kita is a photographer as well as a food blogger. In fact she has two blogs: one is meat-centric, called Girl Carnivore, and the other is called Pass the Sushi (recipes, travel, photo tips, blogging tips). Her primary location of operation is out of Delaware, but she gets to travel around pretty often due to her photography and blogging endeavors.

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With her blogs, she shares tons of really awesome recipes that she developed on her own. I mean, I know how hard it is to develop a recipe and come up with something unique, and then photograph it in such a way as to get readers to run out and buy the ingredients. Kita makes it look easy.

As you might expect, food photographers tend to share a wealth of really great foodporn via Instagram and social media. Kita is no exception:

As her moniker and the above photo suggests, the “Girl Carnivore” is not limited to beef. Her site has recipes broken down by protein right on the front page for easy navigation: beef, lamb, poultry and pork. You can find amazing stuff there for entrees, side dishes, what to do with leftovers… everything.

Michaela Gasseling

Michaela writes a blog called Cowgirl Boots & Running Shoes. On her blog, she shares healthy recipes, meal planning pointers, nutrition and dieting tips, fitness motivation, and an inside look at what family farming life is like. One of my favorite posts from her blog is about why she incorporates beef into her diet. Finally! More people talking about how great beef is for nutritional purposes.

http://www.cowgirlbootsandrunningshoes.com/
http://www.cowgirlbootsandrunningshoes.com/

After nearly burning out from working crazy shift hours as an ultrasound tech, Michaela and her husband Matt moved themselves and their two kids back to Matt’s family farm.

She does ultrasound part time now, but she also became a health and fitness coach and a certified PiYo Live fitness class instructor. She’s also an accredited La Leche League Leader and runs a support group for pregnant and breastfeeding moms.

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To be honest, I felt a little intimidated. I just really love steak and writing about meat! Some of these other folks had way more hands-on experience in the beef industry than me, especially when it came to knowing about farms and how beef is produced. I guess the folks in charge of the program’s admissions thought there was some value in what I was doing here, at the consumer level.

But all of us are bloggers of some sort, if you hadn’t noticed. And all of us were somehow touching the beef industry, if not purely focused on it. It was a great group, and we all learned a lot from one another.

The instructors were impressive, too. There were registered dietitians, food scientists, public relations specialists, sustainability gurus, feed lot operators, and media and communications experts. I actually already did a spotlight post on one of the instructors, Ann Burkholder.

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I hope to spotlight a few more, in time.

The NCBA offices are quite impressive. The walls are lined with nice framed photos of past leaders of the industry, and really cool cattle brands from various producers around the country, old and new.

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They have a state of the art test kitchen with both gas and electric piped in to play around with various ways of cooking beef. In fact this is where they create various recipes, and even study, discover, or market cuts of beef (like they did with the flatiron steak). They even innovate new products, like when they helped come up with Schmacon (beef bacon). I was impressed big time!

They also have a media monitoring control room. It was like something from a science fiction movie or a spy movie. Basically, any time beef is mentioned on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or anywhere else for that matter, someone at NCBA will know about it and be able to respond, engage, or just simply watch.

As I mentioned above, I was on camera a few times. That’s because the NCBA has a fully functioning TV studio on site, and they even have a show that airs regularly called Cattlemen to Cattlemen. They can also broadcast live and link up with various TV news agencies who may want their media spokespeople for interviews.

I was blown away by the facilities. They’re truly amazing, and cattle farmers and ranchers can rest assured that their Beef Checkoff dollars are being put to very good use. But the experience as a whole really acted to sling-shot my motivation here. I’ll be doing some interesting things in the future, and posting some new and interesting content. Keep an eye out!

Denver Cut

The Denver cut, or under blade steak, is part of the chuck that is very tender and highly marbled.

While not as tender as the teres major in the shoulder, this cut offers something unique in terms of texture.

Photo from First We Feast: http://firstwefeast.com/eat/alternative-beef-cuts-butcher-guide/

The intense spider web marbling is perfect for long, low heat, slow cooking techniques that allow for the fat to melt and render, which thereby tenderizes the remaining muscle flesh. On the other hand, the meat is tender enough that you can also quickly sear it with high, dry heat in a pan and slice on the bias once it hits medium rare. Perfect for sliced and plated steak dishes, or even fajitas.

I’ve tried this cut at The Pines in Brooklyn, where they sous vide the steak for many hours to render out all that flecked marbling. Once it tenderizes, they sear it hot and hard to get a good crust on the outside. Finally, they slice it up and shave some horseradish on top.

I highly recommend trying this cut of beef if you see it in the grocery store or on a restaurant menu. The good thing is that it typically costs much less than other, more common cuts that you might see.

The Pines

NOTE: THIS JOINT IS NOW CLOSED

Last month when I was at Meatopia I had the pleasure of meeting John Poiarkoff, the genius chef behind the wheels of steel at The Pines in Brooklyn.

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In our inevitable conversation about meat and steak, I discovered that his carnivorous endeavors at the restaurant were not only out of the ordinary and interesting, but exemplified that rare love of beef possessed only by a true connoisseur.

For example, he explained how the blade steak (aka Denver cut, part of the chuck) on the menu was prepared sous vide style. It bathes for several hours in a sealed bag, allowing the tentacle-like marbling to render down, making the steak super tender before it gets seared off in a pan for a nice outer crisp.

He also mentioned that he had some rib eyes in an outdoor walk-in that he converted into a dry-aging room. When he said how long they were in there, 106 days, I nearly lost my shit. I kindly asked him again. “How long did you say?” 106 days!

He went on to say that they would soon be breaking the rack down into portioned cuts and serving them as special menu items. Needless to say, I was all over it. I made sure to follow The Pines on Instagram and to keep my eye out for any news about that steak. Sure enough, just a few weeks later I saw the post announcing that they were going to be serving those rib eyes. The very next day my wife and I headed over.

To my excitement, the menu was chock full of delicious looking meat goodies. We sipped on a pair of nice cocktails while we wrestled with what to order.

On the left is The Pines, a rye drink with douglas fir (burnt/smoked pine needles for a really nice woodsy, aromatic nose) and yuzu; on the right is the Air & Sea, a gin drink with dulse, lemon and violet.

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We ended up going for three entrees instead of the traditional apps, sides and entrees routine. But before our first item came out, John sent over an order of duck rillettes. This is aged duck served terrine style with a pastrami sandwich theme: dill sauce (it tasted like pickles), a cabbage kraut, mustard and crunchy puffed rye grains.

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This inventive dish threw us for a tasty loop, and it set the tone for what was one of the most fun, innovative and delicious meals we’ve had in a long time.

John paired the duck with this really smooth, clean sake:

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Oh and there was this nice little amuse of carrot soup/puree with sage oil. It had a spicy and smoky kick to it.

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Our first entree was pork jowl. If you’ve never had this, it is essentially bacon from the face of a pig. It’s cured, smoked cheek meat. If you know anything about the cheek meat of an animal, you know that it is some of the most tender and sought after bits of goodness you can find. This tasted like really awesome smoked bacon. It was savory yet slightly sweet, and sat on a pumpkin and cabbage pancake that was somewhat reminiscent of corn bread.

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I could very happily eat that shit every morning for breakfast, though I may be tempted to throw a fried egg on top – you know – because breakfast is the perfect time to eat like a savage barbarian. Anyway this dish wasn’t heavy or greasy like you might expect from bacon. The curing and smoking helps in that respect.

Our first steak dish came out next. After hearing about that blade steak, I couldn’t pass it up.

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John mixed the normal blade steak plate up a bit and served it with some roasted broccoli, braised oxtail and cheesy potato puree.

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As you can see, there’s even a bit of shaved horseradish over the top to punch up the salt and tie the meat in with the potato. Really nice.

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This steak is incredibly good. John has taken a lesser known, less desirable and rarely featured cut and showcased it in a way that will have you searching for it in every restaurant. It’s easily 10/10 for flavor. It was so juicy and tender inside. Perfectly cooked, as you can see, and the sear on the outside locked in all that flavor. It was super crispy on the outside without any part of the inside getting cooked beyond medium rare. Just awesome!

John paired this with a unique and unexpected rose, which had some tartness to it. The cool thing about The Pines is that, if you’re interested, you can learn a lot about the food you’re eating and the stuff you’re drinking. John gets to know all the people who provide his source material. The vintner of this wine, for example, or the farmers and ranchers who provide the meat and produce. He gets to know their stories, and he shares it with diners for a more rich, engaging experience. I dig and appreciate that, and it’s exactly what I was talking about on here recently – that I want to see more of it.

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I should probably mention here that The Pines sources all of its beef from Happy Valley Meat Co., which is based out of Central PA. Both John and his sous chef Neel Patil (the creative force behind the duck rillettes dish, featured above) are extremely modest in that they attribute so much credit for the success of their menu to those farmers. While much credit is indeed deserved by the farmers, it is very easy to fuck up good meat if you don’t know what you’re doing. John and Neel clearly deserve as much credit as the farmers, because they knocked the beef dishes out of the park!

So now comes the big boy – the 106-day, dry-aged rib eye. John explained that the process for these is as follows: First it hits a hot grill for a little smoke and sear, and those lovely grill marks. Then it gets a nice warm sous vide bath. Last, it hits a hot pan to lock in all the juices and get a crispy sear. Thrice cooked rib eye! Here’s a shot of John holding our cut before it hits the pan:

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And here it is after the pan, resting, but before serving. Just look at that gorgeous sear!!!

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While we waited for it to be sliced and plated, John rolled out another pairing for us.

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This wine was truly incredible. He poured us a taste from two different bottles: one that was just opened 30 minutes prior, an another that was already opened for two days.

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The difference was astounding. The freshly opened wine was really nice and flavorful, full bodied and robust without being overpowering. It had a nice round, smooth finish. The wine that was opened for two days had all the same characteristics, but the after taste was of dry aged beef or truffled charcuterie. It was incredible! I kept going at it. It was like having a delicious meat snack with each sip, and it reminded me of the awesome Trufa Seca sausage I had with my latest Carnivore Club box. It paired perfectly with the steak.

Anyway then the masterpiece came out:

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It was plated with grilled Japanese mushrooms, bone marrow, potatoes that were pretty much confit style, and this awesome kimchi cabbage that was finished with rendered beef fat:

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This right here is the best steak I’ve ever eaten at a non-steakhouse, and I can tell you it seriously rivals the best steakhouses as well – it may even be better than all of them.

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I’m still trying to wrap my mind around how incredible this thing was, and I don’t know if it can really compare to anything I’ve had at a steakhouse other than the long bone wagyu rib eye at Del Frisco’s. This thing is really in that kind of league. And look at how perfectly executed this thing is:

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It was so tender and flavorful. Every bite was a “wow,” and the cap was fucking INSANE! I’ve never had anything like it before. I was expecting a lot of game and funk with this meat, but it was just the right subtle amount of “blue cheese” flavor. It came out most when I smeared some marrow onto the slices of eye meat. And the fat around the cap was even softer and more delicious than the marrow.

I don’t know how we did it, but we managed to fit dessert into our guts as well. Probably because what we saw on the menu was new and unique. We had to try something.

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We went back and forth between two and ultimately left it in John’s hands. He came out with both; the chocolate cake, and the miso butterscotch pudding.

The chocolate cake was mildly sweet because it was expertly cut by the cashew and sage ice cream. The pomegranate balanced the whole thing with a nice acidic and tart zing.

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The miso butterscotch pudding is definitely something for the more adventurous dessert person. I seemed to focus my attention more on the celery ice cream than the pudding at first, but that pudding was so freaking good. The ice cream was like a palette cleanser, and the pudding was creamy and velvety – almost like a liquified peanut butter in texture – extremely innovative.

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With dessert, we sipped on a trio of amaro selections, as well as a bitter lemon soda digestif that was made in house. Of these, our favorite was the Brovo #1 (center). It had a spicy cinnamon flavor that was easy to drink. And, as is true with the other stuff above, you can learn all about the people who make these spirits as you dine, because John and his staff are happy to share that information with you if you’re interested, like we were.

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Want to hear something really amazing? This is the kitchen:

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So small, yet so powerful. It is run like a well-oiled machine by incredibly skilled mechanics, pumping out what is absolutely some the finest food in NYC.

Please do yourselves a favor and go here. They may even give you a quick tour of the aging room out back if you ask nicely. Take a look at the ducks and steaks aging away! I think those ducks are at two weeks, and the steak is something like 86 days.

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I went back with a crew of food bloggers and instagrammers for a nice meal around the holidays.

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Here’s a photogasm of everything we ate, which included a duo of rib eyes – one aged for 35 days and another aged for over 80 days.

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Molasses gingerbread cookies stuffed with fois gras and pistachios:

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Kale salad with toasted barley:

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Grilled radicchio salad:

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Roasted broccoli with shaved horseradish:

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Fettuccine with mussels and chilies in a Parmesan cream sauce:

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Presentation of beef!!!

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Post slicing:

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Gnawing on the bone is always fun:

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Dessert 1: bread pudding.

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Dessert 2: herbaceous chocolate ganache.

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We even drank some Japanese whisky from a bone marrow slide!

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Chef John even got in on the action. Marrow luges rule!!!

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THE PINES
284 3rd Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11215