Wine Trader Magazine

THE CONCIERGE RECOMMENDS...Culinary Masterpieces from the Great Chefs of San Francisco & Northern California (Gala Publishing - $32.13 mail order). The Northern California Concierge Association (NCCA) has released this cookbook and culinary guide for sale to the public. It was created as a commemorative gift for guests at NCCA's 20th Anniversary charity fund-raising 'Golden Keys Gala.' Children of Shelters, Project Open Hand and Les Clefs d'Or Foundation were the three benefitting charities.

The 256-page cookbook is a contemporary culinary portrait with 128 recipes from 105 San Francisco and Northern California chefs, including the nation's best chef, Thomas Keller, and other top 1997 James Beard Foundation award winners.

The cookbook is designed with an easel-type binding for easy counter-top use. Ingredients and preparation of each recipe is contained on one page with information on the restaurant, chef and neighborhood on the back of each page. Names of the recipes are printed in large type at the bottom of the pages so it is extremely easy to flip through and find that perfect recipe for any occasion.

Featuring an array of appetizers, entrees and desserts, including signature dishes and many recipes not previously published, from award-winning chefs such as Thomas Keller, Michael Mina, Alice Waters, Hubert Keller and Nancy Oakes to name a few.

The book is available at retail book stores and airport gift shops for $25.00 or you can order for $32.13 [includes shipping/handling and tax] from: Gala Publishing, 74 Tehama Street, San Francisco CA 94105. Phone 415-541-7870 or fax to 415-541-7947. E-mail

dotThe Steak and the Sizzledot
By Pearson C. Trent III

The exorbitant price that goes along with a steak house meal-up to $40 per person-keeps many from indulging frequently on great steaks. If the truth be known, preparing a great steak house steak at home is much simpler and less expensive than you might expect.

"It all begins with understanding the three basics of great steak," says fourth-generation Colorado rancher Mel Coleman, founder of Denver-based Coleman Natural Products, the nation's largest supplier of natural (hormone and antibiotic-free) beef. "Those basics are cut, grade and brand. Once you know what to look for in a steak, it's just a matter of cooking it up right."

dotA Cut Above dot

The easiest place to start in choosing a great steak is to select a quality "steak" cut, a steak house cut. The rule here is that the middle cuts-from the rib, loin and flank sections-are more tender and flavorful.

You might think steak house chefs have the inside scoop on the best cut to cook. They might, but their selection of cuts is no different than what's available at most supermarkets and butchers.

Here's a quick rundown of the best steaks.

Portion Steaks (one whole steak for each individual)
The ribeye comes from the rib section of cattle. Other names for this cut include Spencer and Delmonico. This steak is the favorite for its tenderness and flavor among cattlemen.

New York strip comes from the short loin section of cattle and has an exceptional flavor. Although tender in its own right, it has a firmer bite than a ribeye. This cut goes by several names, including shell steak, hotel steak, Kansas City steak and New York steak.

Tenderloins come off the short loin and have little fat. Commonly grilled, the tenderloin cut is also used for filet mignon. Often preferred by those with smaller appetites because of its smaller portion size, the tenderloin is extremely tender and can be cut with a fork.

T-bone and porterhouse steaks both come from the short loin and have a T-shaped bone separating the New York strip from the tenderloin. The only difference between the two is that the T-bone steak has a smaller tenderloin. Regardless, these steaks are the largest single-portion steaks available and are favored by those with hearty appetites.

Sliced Steaks (a large steak that, once prepared, is sliced into individual portions)
Top sirloin, from the top butt section of cattle, is often cooked as a large piece, 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick, which allows for several servings from one steak. A marinade can improve the steak's tenderness. Sirloin is noted for its flavor.

Flank steak comes from the large muscle located on the underbelly of cattle. Grilled or pan fried, a flank steak must be sliced thin across the grain and can be marinated for improved tenderness.

Tri tips, a great steak for the grill, is a small cut from the bottom butt of the sirloin. Slice thin across the grain and, for tenderness, marinate prior to cooking.

dotMaking the Gradedot

Through a voluntary program overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and paid for by meat producers, the USDA determines the beef's quality grade by the amount of marbling, or internal fat, found in specific cuts. The more marbling, the higher the grade and the more tender and juicy-like a steak house steak-the cut will be.

The three grades you can purchase at the butcher or supermarket are prime, which has the most marbling; choice, which is the next highest grade; and select, which has the least internal marbling, making it the leanest of the grades.

Unfortunately, steak graded prime constitutes only 2.5 percent of the steak market, and most of those cuts are found in gourmet supermarkets or specialty meat stores. But choice is widely available.

dotCooking That Great Steakdot

The one thing many of the country's leading steak house chefs know is how to cook a great-tasting, tender and juicy steak. The tools of the trade-broilers, pans and grills-are found in almost every home. Simply knowing how to use those tools can make a steak great.

Cooking a steak on a broiler at home is not recommended, because many broilers in conventional ovens do not reach the extreme temperatures-up to 800 degrees Fahrenheit-broilers in professional kitchens do. These extreme temperatures make the great steak house steak-seared on the outside, juicy on the inside.

When cooking a steak, preheat the grill or skillet to a very high temperature. Cook the steak for one or two minutes on each side over those extreme temperatures, so that the meat becomes seared, locking in the natural juices for an even juicier, tastier steak. Once the steak is seared, lower the heat a little to ensure proper, even cooking throughout the rest of the cut. To preserve the steak's natural tenderness, be sure not to overcook.

Determining how long to cook the steak depends not only on the cooking temperature, but also on how thick the cut is. Naturally, the thicker the cut, the longer the cooking time. Most steaks are cooked by direct heat, where the heat source is directly under the steak, such as on a grill or in a cast-iron ridged skillet. Direct heat is best for steaks graded prime or choice, because the marbling makes the steak cook faster. But another method using indirect heat, where the heat source is not directly underneath the steak, can be used to help the leaner steaks, or those graded select, become more tender.

Judging the firmness of the steak is one method steak house chefs use to determine doneness. The firmer the steak, the more done it is. But it's important to remember thicker steaks continue cooking once off the heat source. By taking the steak off the heat a minute or two before you think it's done and letting it sit for five minutes, it will cook to perfection.

One last hint for that great steak house steak at home: never use a fork to turn a steak. Puncturing the steak allows its natural juices to escape. Always use tongs or a spatula to preserve those juices.

There's no reason to be afraid of cooking a steak at home, it's just a matter of knowing the basics. The greatest advice for anyone who wants that great steak flavor at home is: practice makes perfect.

For more information and recipes on cooking great steaks, see Coleman's Internet home page at

dotMead's Port Prunesdot

Been making people happy with this recipe for a quarter of a century and don't remember where it came from, though I have made some minor adjustments which sort of makes it more mine. -J.D.M.

40 pitted prunes
2 c. Port wine (Ruby or Vintage)
2 c. red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel)
1/2 vanilla bean
1 c. sugar

Place the prunes in a bowl and cover with the 2 cups of Port. Allow the prunes to soak in the Port at room temperature overnight. (There will be about 1 cup of Port left in the bottle. Do not let it go to waste. Drink it!)

Pour prunes and Port into a large saucepan. Add 2 cups of red table wine, the 1/2 vanilla bean and the 1 cup of sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce flame and simmer (while stirring frequently) for 30 minutes, or until the sauce starts to thicken. (You may drink the cup of wine left in the bottle while you're cooking.)

Chill well and the syrupy sauce will thicken even more. Serve with cold, thick cream (or whipped cream. It's also great over French vanilla ice cream.

dotThe Best of The Cookbook Cornerdot

While The Wine Trader sells virtually every wine book in print (and many out of print), our sources for cookbooks and foody books are not as extensive. When such titles are reviewed which we do not sell, we'll provide the publisher's name and/or help you track down a source of the books any way we can.

For those titles we do make available, please use the attached coupon for convenience or call our (800) number or E-mail us. You'll find both currently reviewed titles and books reviewed in previous issues as well.

CUCINA PARADISO, The Heavenly Food of Sicily ($25) by Clifford A. Wright. The kind of Mediterranean cooking that not only makes just about any and every red wine taste good, but that is healthy as well. Riso, Pasta, Eggplant, Calimari and so much more. Hardbound, 275 pages. Excellent gift.

THE CUISINE OF CALIFORNIA ($14.95) by Diane Rossen Worthington. A new edition of the classic 1983 book has stood the test of time with recipes that are as fresh as the day they were written. Even complicated recipes are made simple by the author's step by step instructions, many of which allow you to do preparation hours or even days prior to guest's arrival. Recipes are organized by course (appetizer, main course, dessert, etc.) and even basic wine recommendations are provided. Deluxe paperback.

KEN HOM'S EAST MEETS WEST CUISINE, An American Chef Redefines the Food Styles of Two Cultures ($19.95) by Ken Hom, with wine recommendations by Ron Batori and Darrel Corti. All kinds of delicious sounding Asian and "fusion" style recipes with heavy emphasis on matching wine to the foods. How about Dry Chenin Blanc with Chicken-Asparagus-Sesame Salad or Muscato d'Asti with Mango Ice Cream with Candied Ginger? Hardbound. Great gift.

APERITIF ($24.95) by Georgeanne Brennan. All about drinks that are served before the meal, including Vermouth, Champagne and appropriate fortified wines like Sherry, Madeira and Pinot des Charantes, as well as recipes for finger foods to accompany them. Beautifully illustrated. A great gift book.

The Wine Curmudgeon
The Master Sommelier | Online Report
Lodgings Report | Cookbook Corner | Travel Trader | The Book Report
W.I.N.O. News | Letters to the Editor
Free Wine & Food Publications

© Copyright 1997 Jerry D, Mead, JDM Enterprises and Wine Investigation for Novices and Oenophiles; all rights reserved.

WineTrader Web Pages are designed, hosted and maintained by Wines on the Internet. This material may not be duplicated by electronic or other means without prior written permission of the publisher.
Latest Update: December 10, 1997