The first bite, cooked to just medium rare, was straight-forward beefy, coarse-textured, with a notable (not unpleasing) chew. Second and third bites carved from the marbled “cap” portion of the steak were unctuous and brought just a hint of blue cheese funk that can dominate much longer-aged beef.
The 21-day dry-aged rib steak was from Grass & Bone, a hip craft butcher and dining spot just on the edge of the tourist bubble in Mystic (and some of the best coffee, at MBar), the brainchild of Dan Meiser and James Wayman, who in recent years have opened some of the more notable places for food in southeastern Connecticut — Oyster Club, Engine Room, and with Jane Meiser, Stone Acres Farm.
I have long been a fan of heritage pork and small producers, like Flying Pigs Farm in Shushan, NY — it’s not just a more ethical choice, but such pork is undoubtedly the very best quality and tasting. But the same quality of grass-fed beef from small farms has been elusive.
I am frankly just getting started looking for some of the sellers and farmers in the region — to figure the economics, the public taste, and practices which go into raising the very best beef cattle.
Here the beef was raised at Beriah Lewis Farm — a North Stonington farm dating to 1791, run by Ledyard Lewis, the seventh generation of his family to raise cattle.
I cooked the meat at 125 degree Fahrenheit in a sous vide bath — a sort-of upscale boil-in-bag technique perfected in the 1970s by the Troisgros brothers for efficiently preparing foie gras to be served on french high-speed trains. After about an hour I finished the steak with a reverse sear in a hot skillet with a bit of clarified butter.
The meat was very good — almost an event –which is perhaps most appropriate given the relative costs of eating any meat, much less this meat, but I found myself wondering even more about 35 or 45-day dry-aged cuts — often the sweet spot in terms of tenderness and taste.
Custom Meats in Fairfield, CT — wedged next to a french-style bakery and across the street from Rawley’s drive-in, a favorite hot dog stand in the area dating back to 1947 — like Grass & Bone, dating back just two years, but more relishing in an upscale-butchery aesthetic earlier perfected by St. John in London.
It’s not uncommon to climb the small stair leading directly to the front counter where someone young and attractive can be found carving away at a well-aged hanging side of meat. The smell is overwhelming in the best of senses.
I kept it simple for the sake of comparison, again purchasing an aged rib steak — in this case aged a few more days.
This time, after sous vide, I finished the steak very quickly at 800 degrees Fahrenheit in a small propane-fired pizza oven. The steak took especially well to the process, remaining a uniform rosy pink with a nice exterior char.
Here as well the beef had a chew, and while the notes of age and funk were less apparent, the clean rich beefiness of the steak was even more upfront– not extraordinarily better than very good wet-aged corn-fed beef, but the experience was apart from the commodity culture of an average butcher shop or cut of meat.
To accompany the meat we stopped in to Sharpe Hill Vineyard in Pomfret, CT and bought a bottle of 2014 Cabernet Franc — at $19 a relative bargain, and one of my favorite bottles of the summer — with a stand-out nose of red currants, pencil shavings, and cranberries apparent before I was anywhere near the bottle — and a taste that teetered between light and refreshing and just a little thin, but savory and black cherry. A perfect wine for the end of summer.
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