It wasn't that people stopped eating beef. All you had to do was look at the line-up for burgers and the growing number of steakhouses to know that wasn't the case. It was just that health conscious diners began to think twice about the amount of beef they ate. After all, the health diet gurus were talking about dire consequences if you indulged too often...or even ever. And for sure, you wouldn't throw a steak on the barbie when you were having company without polling your guests.
I, for one, was conscientious. I dutifully ate endless dry-as-dust turkey burgers and a veritable mountain of tasteless turkey sandwiches piled with inclusions and condiments designed to work miracles with the flavor. They didn't, and -eventually- I went back to ordering roast beef sandwiches and real beef burgers.
Still, it wasn’t until I bit into a burger at Mity Nice Bar & Grill in Water Tower Place that I became a true believer, a doubter who had finally experienced “umami,” the elusive fifth (sweet, sour, salty, bitter) taste found in a great piece of meat that’s been cooked to perfection.
It’s actually a fortuitous time to “rediscover” beef. While no-one is calling beef a “superfood” and nominating it for sainthood a la cauliflower and kale, it is getting a better rap from a significant segment of the health food gurus. Consumed in moderation (think six to eight ounces max) once or twice a week, beef can—once again- be included in a healthy, well-balanced diet.
See- not all the news is bad.
Mity Nice Bar & Grill in Water Tower Place, 312.335.4745
Argentinians eat more beef per capita than Americans, virtually all of it home grown. The country also exports beef, and for the first time in nearly two decades, Argentinian beef is available in the United States.
Artango, an Argentinian restaurant in Lincoln Square, offers a good selection of Argentinian beef. There are a lot of options, but if you want to sample as many of the options as possible, order the steak flight for two, which-on the night I was there-included tenderloin, ribeye and New York strip.
Good as the meat is, it’s the cooking that seals the deal. Executive chef Saul Roman grills the meat gaucho-style on an Argentinian parrilla. The meat rests on a gas powered grill. Under the grill, there’s a pan of water, and in the pan, there are three or four rectangular logs. When the grill is on, the water steams, and the steam releases the woodsy perfume of the logs and keeps the beef moist. As someone who considers dry meat a sacrilege, this system gets an enthusiastic two thumbs up.
Artango offers a three-course prix-fixe Tuesdays-Thursday for $25 from 5-10 pm. Dinner begins with a choice of empanada (beef, caprese, corn, mozzarella) followed by a choice of six-ounce imported Argentinian steak (ribeye, sirloin, NY strip) served with mashed potatoes and housemade chimichurri and ends with a scoop of gelato. On Tuesday nights, Artango offers complimentary tango lessons starting at 7:30 pm.
On Sundays, Artango does a family style asado from noon to 10 pm. Possibilities include slow-grilled tenderloin, short ribs, mashed potatoes and salad. Priced at $95, the meal serves 3-4 adults. Children 12 and under dine free; menu options include chicken nuggets, hamburger, pizza or pasta.
Artango Bar & Steakhouse, 4767 N. Lincoln Avenue 872.208.7441
The Whole Cow
On Wednesday, November 20th, Smith & Wollensky is hosting their second annual nose-to-tail dining event: The Whole Cow. Offered for one night only, the dinner includes a 10-course tasting menu with beer and wine pairings to match for $195, excluding tax and gratuities.
According to Chef Matt King, vice-president of culinary for Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group, the menu will include three dishes that got raves last year: cassoulet, New York strip, and pate. New this year is a cheese course featuring a cow's milk bleu (Bay Bleu) from California, along with a lot of dishes created especially for the event. Every Smith & Wollensky venue in the United States, with the exception of New York City, hosts a similar event on the same day.
King says the event is designed to showcase the lesser known cuts.
"We regularly pair items like oxtail with better known cuts. Once people taste them, they're more likely to order them, either in a composed dish or as a stand alone."
Reservations are available through Open Table, the restaurant's website, and by calling 312.670.9900.
Smith & Wollensky, 318 N. State Street
Davanti Enoteca on Taylor Street
Cocktails are "in" (were they ever "out"?). And on Thursday, November 21, Davanti Enoteca on Taylor Street will be teaching guests the ins and outs to making the restaurant's seasonal Pompelmocello cocktail. The hands-on tutorial begins at 6:30; the event will include a spread of selected antipasti and dessert; and the per person fee is $65 plus tax and gratuity.
Davanti Enoteca on Taylor Street, 1539 W. Taylor Street, 312.226.5550