Friday, February 27

Steak at Peter Luger

That's right, you read it correctly. Peter Luger. The granddaddy of all steakhouses. Now, I understand some of you will read that, and say something like "Oh, I don't know. I've been to Outback." To those people, I ask a simple favor - find yourself a sturdy wrench, then beat yourself about the head and neck with it.

Steak is something special; a meal so simple that it holds so many pitfalls and traps for the uncautious cook. And of course, when it's done right... Well. Peter Luger's has a reputation to uphold. Their meat is peerless in quality and impeccably dry-aged. Their technique is unstoppable. Steakhouses like this are a classic example of a place that knows what it does and does it well.

That being said, let's take a look at the steak.

Mmm. Man. Look at that. That's a serious medium-rare there. And see how, even though it's effectively raw in the middle there, you can see the structure of the meat fibers? It's not all chewy and sinewy. That's one of the neat effects of dry-aging - the moisture that is evaporated out of the meat leaves behind a sturdier, more easily-chewed protein structure.

Now, it is said that a man cannot survive on steak alone. (Actually, the original saying had to do with bread, but bear with me. I'm segueing.) And as much as the steak was an utter delight, the sides were just as wonderful.

We stuck to the creamed spinach (far more spinach than cream, had a wonderfully spinachy flavor and pudding-like texture) and the German fried potatoes (freshly crunchy and a flawless counterpoint to the spinach and meat). Both were, again, devastatingly simple and perfectly prepared.

And, of course, no steak dinner is complete without a bone to gnaw on.

Now, as I said, steak is a special thing. And what special thing was I celebrating tonight? Why, my dear brother's birthday. It's a time-honored tradition to embarrass the crap out of whoever's birthday it is by alerting the staff. Sure enough, at the end of our meal, we got a goofy song from the waitstaff and this honking monstrosity:

Which, by the way, was just as ridiculously sweet and delicious as it looked.

So that was that. I've officially eaten at Peter Luger. Now, I've eaten at some serious steakhouses - Dylan Prime, Gallagher's, Frankie and Johnny's - and I can honestly say that if Luger's steak was superior, it was by a marginal amount. But you don't go for the superlative. You go for the experience.

And, if you're lucky, someone else is paying.

As an addendum, I'd like to point out that I don't have anything against Outback. Hell, I've had some pretty explicit dreams about those loaded fries of theirs. Just... remember. That's a steakhouse in the same way that Olive Garden is an Italian restaurant.

Until next time, dear readers.

Happy birthday, Kuya!

Sunday, February 22

Spaghetti Bolognese

It was a quiet Sunday, one of those Sundays that you just wake up whenever and stumble out of your room. I was hung over, or not, and I waddled out into the living room. Perry, my stalwart roommate, bade me good waking with the following question:

"Hey, if I get you ingredients, will you make Bolognese?"

"Uh... yeah."


True to his word, he got me the ingredients.

Mmm. Meatloaf mix, that wonderful combination of beef, pork, and veal. Onions and garlic, the only vegetables necessary. Fresh parsley. Looks good enough to eat. But what should I cook it in?

Oooooooooh. This big pan with butter! Of course. Browning meat in butter's the obvious choice.

The process isn't really all that exciting. You add things to the pan, one by one. The meat, then the chopped veggies. The tomato sauce. A little broth to thin it out, a little cream to tighten it up, and some fresh parsley and Parmesan to add a sharp, bright zing to it, and you've got yourself a big ol' bowl of happy.

I tell you, if you've never had a tomato sauce with a touch of cream, you're missing out. Something about that milky mouth feel spreads all over your mouth and numbs out the acidity of the tomatoes. The delicate, crumbly texture of the meat goes great with the pasta, though I probably would have preferred something that hung on to the meat bits a little better. Perhaps rotini, or shells.

Regardless, one of the most basic things you can cook yourself for dinner is a good pasta and sauce combination. Once you get the technique down, your options are damn near limitless. So go on, play with your food.