Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Dry Aged Beef – An Almost Lost Art

By Viola Bello

The Front Page Restaurant, located at 1330 New Hampshire Avenue, has launched its Dry-Aged Meat Mondays. For $2.75 an ounce, the diner will be able to choose their own cut of dry-aged New York Strip on Monday nights at this Dupont Circle staple.

I am not a big steak person and when I have it, it is extremely well done, a remnant of my Eastern European roots. I have also never had dry aged steak before (beef jerky during college does not count), so this was truly an experience for me. But as I have an adventurous palate, I will try almost anything at least once. Hello porcupine meat (this story is reserved for another time).

I headed to The Front Page Restaurant on Monday night to give dry-aged steak a try. We were greeted by the owner Craig Merrills and chef Jim Weisberger of sister restaurant Bethany Blues came out and our adventure began. Both were very enthusiastic about their new offering, which the diner can expect to order table side from 5 ounces up to 16 ounces every Monday night. Dry aging is an old method of aging meat. Chef Weisberger explained that the dry-aged steaks[1] are dried in the restaurant for 21 days under controlled humidity. As the steak ages, moisture evaporates from the muscle. This releases flavor thus enhancing the natural taste of the meat. Furthermore, the enzymes in the meat break down the fibers making the meat more tender. Generally speaking, only the highest quality cuts of beef with the right amount of fat are selected for dry aging as the space where the meat is stored is expensive. In addition, during this process, the meat can lose 25 to 30 percent of its weight, which contributes to its high cost. It is these reasons why you won’t find dry-aged steaks at your local grocery store.

We started the evening with a jumbo lump crab cake[2] appetizer served with sriracha mayonnaise and corn salsa, which gave it a slightly spicy flavor. It was the perfect amount to start off the evening. It was juicy and it literally melted in my mouth. Moderately priced, it was not a bad way to start the evening. Then, the pièce de résistance – the dry aged New York strip arrived. Each steak was portioned 8 ounces and was approximately 1 and ¼ inches (almost ½) thick. We ordered ours medium-rare. The steaks were wrapped in thin slices of salt cured bacon and served with the restaurant’s twice baked potato, sour cream, bacon bits, and seasonal vegetables, which in our case included carrots, broccoli, zucchini and squash.[3] Ever since I discovered bacon in the States, I have loved it, but I was not sure how it would work with the steak. Will the flavors cancel each other out? Most importantly, given the goal of the evening, will I be able to taste the steak? All I can say is that the end product was absolutely delicious. The bacon enhanced the flavor of the steak without overpowering it. The steak itself was richer, more flavorful, and more tender than any steak I have ever tried.  The 8 ounce steak wrapped in salt cured bacon before it is cooked And voila, ready to enjoy!
We paired our steaks with a nice 2009 Beringer Cabernet from Napa, California. However, it can also be paired with a 2008 Stags Leap Merlot, also from Napa, California.

Our dinner ended with homemade apple cobbler. By this point, I was not sure if I could find any more room for dessert, alas, one cannot resist good home made apple cobbler with whip cream on the side. Overall, the food was good, the service was great and everyone had a fabulous time! Cheers and Bon Appétit!


[1] The beef for the steaks is bought off the market.
[2] The crab meat is Venezuela crab meat, and it’s what is available currently in the market.
[3] The bacon is cured and smoked in house for 10 days.

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