Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Beef: Grass-fed: Marin Sun Farms

As local food excursions go, this one is a serious commitment on a couple of levels. A New York Steak will set you back about 18.00 a pound. Getting from Oakland to Pt. Reyes Station in a GTI VR6 consumed about a half tank of gas, and took about an hour and a half each way. It was also in every way worth it.

After last weeks' visit to the new Marin Sun Farms Butcher Shop and Eatery, I was eager to get back up there and buy some beef to prepare. After a few hours on Shell Beach, and briefly considering something called a "Baseball Steak" (nod to the nearby baseball diamond I'm guessing), I settled on that New York Steak.

I went for a simple grilled preparation from one of the Chez Panisse cookbooks: olive oil, oregano, a few slices of garlic, and a liberal amount of salt. Grilling took slightly longer than usual. A full 4 minutes per side, and another minute for good measure. Grass-fed beef has a lower-fat reputation than corn-fed beef(1), but this particular piece had plenty of fat to go around.

The familiar magic of char, fat, beef, and salt conspired here into something truly unique and memorable. I served with some grilled squash, grilled onions, and a wholly unnecessary blue cheese sauce.

(1) Two years ago the NYT Magazine ran an article by a guy who had purchased a cow. The article narrated the progression of the cow from small animal to side of beef. One of the more absurd passages in the article dealt with the diet of cows in feed lots. How the diet of those cows consisted of corn that they were in no way equiped to digest.

At one point in the article, a verterinarian who had fielded an emergency call to make an incision in the cow (so that the gas accumulating in it could be released) was asked what the impact of changing the cows diet to something more natural might be. The vet offered up that he'd probably be out of a job. It was few months after reading this that I got into grass-fed beef.

In the East Bay, it isn't hard to come by. Berkeley Bowl and Enzo's Meat and Poultry at Market Hall both sell Western Grasslands Beef. It is tempting to describe the flavor in stereotypically positive ways: natural, lean, and etc. but once you make the switch it can be tough to go back.

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