Growing up on a beef and hog farm, we always had delectable steaks and pork chops. So as an adult, I have an affinity for corn-fed steaks that are medium rare, sizzling hot and delivered on a steak plate!
During a recent trip to downtown Chicago for a business meeting, I had the chance to visit a top-notch steakhouse and live that experience. The restaurant was highly recommended by our hotel concierge. It was billed as “a modern vision of traditional Midwestern dining.” It even mentioned the word potato in the same sentence with steak, so as a potato lover, I was anxious to visit.
Lisa, Melissa and I arrived on time for our late night reservation and sat in the bar people watching, talking about the conference and sipping wine (13 dollars a glass!). To compare, my favorite Wisconsin wine is nine dollars a bottle. Well, I still LOVE Chicago! But I digress.
After a short wait, we were ushered to our table and we took the menus while glancing at the next table and taking in the smells around us. (We also scoped out the dessert menu!)
Our waiter arrived, a young gentleman who was friendly and helpful. He was dressed in a white shirt with a tie, adding to the upscale atmosphere of the restaurant. He began his informative description of the steaks on the menu and we were listening intently. He pointed out that their “all natural steaks” didn’t contain any hormones or antibiotics and while they are not organic, they are as close as you can get. My mind was racing. I was tensing up. I continued to smile and he continued telling us what was in the cows’ diet, including grass, silage, etc. etc. By this time I wasn’t remembering the details but just taken aback by his intimate knowledge of what these animals had eaten while on the hoof.
I thought to myself, he can’t really be telling this to me, a beef producer turned dairy farmer whose very livelihood for 50 plus years has largely depended on feeding animals a balanced diet. Has he ever been on a farm? Does he even know what silage is and how critical the harvest and storage process is? And how many people it takes to cover the 250 x 80-foot bunker? I was tempted to invite him to the farm for a visit… but then I glanced at my friends and we all decided to focus on our culinary experience at hand, rather than open this can of worms. He was only repeating what he had been trained to say.
Upon his return to the table, we asked a few polite questions and placed our order. I sweetly said I prefer corn-fed beef and ordered the wet-aged eight oz. USDA prime filet mignon. One of my friends ordered the all-natural filet mignon (the price was almost the same). In a side-by-side taste test we decided both steaks were scrumptious, juicy and full of real beef flavor. If prepared properly, good beef is REALLY GOOD!
I did step outside the box and tried the roasted cauliflower salad. Served warm, I found it a perfect preface to the mouth-watering beef. I highly recommend it.
After we finished our meal, the restaurant was nearly empty as it was after 10 p.m. We still lingered and ordered desserts: carrot cake (the serving was almost one quarter of the whole cake!), three sister’s pecan pie (I’m one of three sisters), and chocolate layer cake. They were simply delectable. While we were savoring every bite, we were thinking gratefully of the carrot, dairy, pecan and cocoa bean farmers who made our evening complete.
The “moral” of the story is: from restaurants to grocery stores, retailers will be focusing on food production details like what this animal ate or which field this potato came from, so we better be ready to rise to this opportunity. And I do see it as an opportunity.