It’s official. Yesterday we announced our next heritage meat tasting event to be held at Cherry Hill Market, the quaint marketplace in the Cherry Hill historic district of Grand Rapids. Featured at the March 12th tasting will be three beeves, offered in the form of heritage burger sliders: Highland beef, Shorthorn beef, and Dexter beef (the modifier refers to the cattle breed). As two of the menu items of the three offered have never been tried by our customers, we’re curious what the response will be. In a premonition of the event, the nursery tale Goldilocks and the Three Bears came to mind.

In the version of the tale with which we’re most familiar, Goldilocks enters the lived-in–but presently empty–forest home of three bears (a momma, pappa, and baby bear). She finds in the cottage three chairs in which to sit (one massive, one tiny, and one perfect); samples three bowls of porridge (one too hot, one too cold, and one just right); and lies in three beds (one huge, a second far too small, and a third that suits her). The tale climaxes when the trio of bears return to find the girl slumbering in the mid-size bed.

As I muse about the tasting, I fancy those who try the three beeves will find one to be very mild in its flavor; one rich, earthy, and exotic; and one to strike a balance between the two. If you, reader, will be attending the event, you’re invited to play the part of Goldilocks: we’d love to hear what you think. And, if after trying all three heritage sliders you find yourself growing drowsy with food lethargy, a bench has been placed inside the front of the marketplace on which you may dose.

For all the event details (or to RSVP), please visit the Facebook event page by clicking here.

Author’s Note: Shorthorn beef, one of the world’s rarest and most-endangered breeds, was the subject of last week’s blog post, “(Re)Introducing the Shorthorn”.

 

It began with a call to The Livestock Conservancy in August of 2012, the organization dedicated to the preservation of rare breeds of livestock (heritage breeds) and which defines heritage meats.  The question posed to them: “Of the heritage breeds of cattle, which produce the best beef?” Among the breeds named was the Shorthorn–or Milking Shorthorn. In a few weeks time, at a tasting event we’re hosting at Cherry Hill Market on March 12, attendees will be able to taste Shorthorn beef from this, one of the rarest of the rare breeds. This week’s post is dedicated to the Shorthorn story.

At one time called Durham cattle for their origins in the English county of Durham near the River Wear, the Shorthorn was the most popular British breed. Brought to America in the 1700s, it became part of the colonial landscape and spread west with the settlers and pioneers who populated the New World. A dual-purpose breed, the Shorthorn became known for producing high-quality milk and beef, with some breeders focusing on dairy production and others focusing on beef. As a result, in the early 1900s two separate Shorthorn breeds were identified: Milking Shorthorns and Beef Shorthorns, the former falling into serious decline in recent decades. The Milking Shorthorn’s conservation status, in fact, is listed as “critical” by the Conservancy, the most urgent level of conservation priority.

Paradoxically, the survival of the breed depends on the eating of Shorthorn beef (eating creates demand, and demand drives supply). Happily, the Shorthorn beef I tried last July (in the form of a tenderloin steak from Tillers International) entices with its rich, earthly flavors. Typically a mild-flavored cut, this was one of the most delicious tenderloins I’ve ever eaten. If the flavors of the Shorthorn tenderloin are this pronounced, we may be in for a wild ride at next month’s tasting event which–along with two other beef breeds–will feature Shorthorn beef sliders from the aforementioned farm. Please join us Wednesday, March 12, from 11 AM to 8 PM, at Cherry Hill Market, as we re-introduce Shorthorn beef to the culinary world.

To read about our visit to Tillers International, producers of heritage Shorthorn beef, please see “Adventures in Agritourism”.

The author getting up-close and personal with one of the world's rarest cattle breeds, the Milking Shorthorn

The author getting up-close and personal with one of the world’s rarest cattle breeds, the Milking Shorthorn

I have never known a conventional Valentine’s Day. The first time I celebrated it was in Colorado. Both of my roommates, being in relationships, had dates the night of February 14th and were out of the house. I stayed behind, absent a date, ordered Chinese take-out, and popped in a movie. It was an act of kindness toward myself, and somehow deeply fulfilling. A few years passed before next observing the holiday. This time, while living in an old farmhouse just north of town, a Valentine’s Day dinner for a number of my single friends was spontaneously planned and executed the the day of. All told, there were upwards of 18 of us, eating lasagne and drinking wine in the soft glow of lamplight. Then, just a couple of years ago, married now, my wife and I–together with another newly wed couple–held a Valentine’s steak dinner in our home, surrounded by candlelight and by friends both single and married.

I suppose these are among my favorite ways to celebrate the holiday of love, by honoring another form of love beyond eros (i.e. romantic love): that of philia, the love between friends. And to that list, the Greeks added two other forms of love: storge (the love that exists in the family or in a community) and agape (self-sacrificial love).

If this Valentine’s Day involves dinner and a movie–with your significant other, with friends, or with family–consider viewing one of the following films, all of which inspire one to love better, to love more. Below is a “Top 10” list of Film for the 14th of February. Each notes the forms of love embodied in each feature. What would you add to the list?

To the Wonder: Agape and Eros

 

Braveheart: Agape, Eros, Philia, and Storge

 

Jane Eyre: Eros, Philia, and Storge

 

Crazy Heart: Eros

 

A Walk to Remember: Eros, Storge


The Sound of Music: Eros and Storge

 

The Notebook: Eros

 

Legends of the Fall: Eros and Storge

 

Les Miserables: Agape, Eros, Philia, and Storge

 

What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?: Storge

 

When 89 of my classmates and I landed in London, England, for a semester abroad in January of 1998, those of us not yet 21 (myself included) could drink legally. After unpacking and settling into our flats, most of us headed to a local pub, the Daniel Gooch, to christen the semester with a pint (an unceremonious first pint for those of us who were 20 years old). The following month, feeling somewhat cheated and looking for a bit of excitement on my 21st birthday (almost 16 years ago, to the day!), I returned to “The Gooch” and ordered an English staple: steak and kidney pie, exciting because the “kidney” in kidney pie doesn’t refer to beans but to organ meat; exciting because we were in the wake of the “mad cow” disease in the UK. Eating beef, therefore, came with the rush of taking one’s own life in one’s hands, something that could have been achieved, come to think of it, by renting a car and trying to adjust to driving on the left-hand side of the road.

If the winter of 1998 was notable for the daring culinary adventures of a young college undergrad (there was also dining on haggis in a pub on Edinburgh, Scotland’s Royal Mile), it was also notable for being Britain’s warmest winter on record in nearly 300 years. Some sixteen years later now and enduring the coldest Michigan winter in decades, one begins to crave comfort foods. The mind returns, therefore, to hearty English pub fare. That is how, just a couple of weeks ago as the mercury hovered around 1 degree Fahrenheit (that’s -17 degrees Celsius, blokes), I busied myself preparing steak and kidney pie with Scottish Highland beef.

Working with kidney meat, one observes the surface to be slippery and its texture almost spongy–like a cross between steak and tofu. The raw kidney meat with which I was working smelled of earth and barn, attributes that may be credited to the fact that this was high-quality pasture-raised beef. It was wholly pleasant to the olfactory senses and had even an invigorating effect. Once the steak and kidney was cubed and browned, it was stewed in a mixture of carrots and onions with flour and beef stock. Seasonings were added and, after about an hour or more, the mixture was placed in a clay pie dish, topped with puff pastry, and cooked to golden brown. The meal was a thoroughly savory one, and one that we enjoyed in front of a crackling fire as we drank a robust Cabernet Sauvignon. Sir Daniel Gooch, that 19th Century Baronet, would have smiled approvingly upon the scene, I am sure.

Steak & Kidney Pie