Thursday, March 27, 2008

Purchasing Part Two


I have fought more battles over meat than any other topic. Beef in particular, tenderloins to be specific. It is my biggest seller and we've developed an excellent reputation for having the best. I still like good ole fashioned grain fattened beef. I've experimented with organic, free range, Australian, Argentinian etc. I still like American USDA Choice Beef.
Because I specify "barrel" cut filet mignons we purchase alot of pre-cut filets. You only get three or four out of each tender because you use only the middle section. The firmest and tenderest part of the tenderloin. We pay a premium for it. As a result you will get a uniform shaped, nice, round filet with a flat top and bottom. It will also have at least three weeks age.

It took me three years of vigilance to get a consistent product. I've seen more cheating with beef than with any other food product. The barrel cuts for example. Usually the barrel will start at the third steak in and continue to number five. Unscrupulous cutters will try to slip in number two or worse, steak seven or eight. If we come across a "cheater" we save it and send it back along with a phone call. Instead of additional profit for the meat guy it's now no profit. If you do that on a consistent basis it won't take long to get good cuts every time. The cutter signs each box he cuts so I know who to bitch about.
I'm also not a big Black Angus fan. It's more hype than anything else in my book. Also, did you know Black Angus isn't necessarily "Choice"? And those beef tenderloins you see in the grocery store? Bright red, no fat, no white at all for that's cow tenderloin. I won't serve it. You'll have to go down the street for your cheap filet. It tastes like liver to me and the texture is mush. I prefer to buy a lesser cut and better grade.

I'm contemplating adding a New York strip on the next menu tweak. If I add it I'll dry age and cut my own. For you locals watch out for NY strip specials coming up. I'll test them before adding them.
I enjoy cutting meat. It's just a matter of being able to utilize the entire product. For example; the thin part(tip) of the tenderloin we use for beef satay, the next cut is for steak sandwiches and beef tataki, then we cut the barrels, then more tataki and steak sandwiches. I don't sell that many steak sandwiches or tataki, hence purchasing barrels pre-cut. I also cut all of our 12 oz filets. Now that's a steak!



I receive an e-mail each week from my main source of seafood. It lists what's available and the price. It's all fresh so the availability and price change all the time. Unfortunately I'm a slave to the current price. It's not a commodity you can stock up on when the prices are down and I can't raise my menu prices when fish costs are high.


Obviously a huge issue. First you have to get it in fresh. One of the reasons I buy in Chicago is the high volume and product turn around. If the fish is whole it's easy to determine freshness. Check the gills, they should be bright pink or red. The redder the better. The eyes should be clear and moist. The flesh should spring back after being poked. If it's fillets you should check the bloodline. Again, bight pink or red. No slime on the flesh but in some cases slime on the skin is fine. (salmon) Also shelf life. The longer it remains a good product the fresher it was when it arrived. All bi-valve mollusks have a tag on them when they arrive indicating origin, when harvest and processor. Odor is also a good indicater but I probably rely on it the least. Last but not least if I'm not satisfied with the quality and freshness I bitch about it. I want them to give the old stuff to my competitor next time.
Second is storage. The fish should be iced down in a perforated container to allow for drainage. The fish shouldn't sit in the water. When the fish is prepped it should have minimal handling and time at room temp.


The fish shouldn't show signs of damage or mishandling. The shrimp and scallops should be of proper size and consistency. Scallops should be sand free. The shellfish shouldn't be opened and still alive. Mussels should react to contact and be relatively clean.

I also get seafood shipped directly from Hawaii and Seattle. The product is gorgeous but expensive. I try and stress to the servers if they see Hawaiian or Seattle fish for a special it is a treat and should be suggested. For the most part the staff are not fish eaters or good actors so it can be difficult.

When ever I do sushi it's when the fish is perfect. Another treat I like to push. I still say I have the best sushi in town.

I'll talk about meat purchasing in another post.