As the saying goes, "Because no great story ever started with someone eating a salad", this one won't either. This one starts at Table One, a ten person restaurant located inside the kitchen of Chef Peter Laufer at the Royal Sonesta Hotel, with a group of Texas ranchers and a whole lotta beef - can you say, BALLIN' BABY (feel free to replace the word "ballin'" with the word "beef"). So, last week we gathered for a dinner featuring 44 Farms Angus Steaks. The dinner was kind of an introduction of the steaks to Chef Laufer's kitchen. You see, Chef Laufer is all about locally sourced foods and even goes as far as "sourcing" his restaurant from his own backyard by providing vegetables and other herbs. The 44 Farms partnership is one of the many exciting changes that both Royal Sonesta and Chef Laufer have in the works. He is about creating not only a good experience for his guests but also a great story for them to take home after they leave. Why 44 Farms and what's their story?
Well, 44 Farms are the producers of some of the finest steaks in the country. Additionally, they are recognized as one of the premier Black Angus producers in the nation, and Royal Sonesta Hotel is one of only a few that will be serving this fine beef in our area. Located in Cameron, Texas, 44 Farms has been around since 1909, and was founded by Sherwood and Josie McClaren. Does the name McClaren sound familiar? Probably because it is the last name of former Astros president Bob McClaren. Yes, Bob is their great grandson and current owner. For nearly a century, the farm produced crops and raised cattle. However, when the opportunity arose for Bob to take the reins, he jumped at the chance and brought together some of the finest cattleman and range & production managers in the business. Their Black Angus cattle drink only clean water and are raised on a natural all vegetarian diet of a variety of grasses, corn and grains. Additionally their beef is drug-free; that's right, no antibiotics or hormones. On top of that, they each get about 4 acres to roam. Even the cattle are ballin'!
Heading into our "beef" focused dinner, we didn't know what to expect. We left everything in Chef Laufer's hands and we were going to roll with the punches as long as he didn't bring us any dessert that remotely resembled or tasted like beef (#jussayin). Some of the evenings offerings were to be expected, like the super tender 100% Black Angus Sampler - Petite Filet, Eye of the Rib Eye, Salsify and Heirloom Potatoes. On the other hand, items like the Sirloin Steak Tartar and the Chilled Beef Tea and Truffle (which served as our palate cleanser) were not so ordinary. Tiny pieces of rare, succulent, and juicy sirloin were molded together perfectly for the tartare. Full of flavor, this course was one of our favorites.
However, the Skirt Steak with Avocado, Texas Grapefruit, and Lobster course was the star of the show. The avocado was flash fried and strips of skirt steak were delicately placed on top. The lobster took a seat by its side. The grapefruit provided perfect balance and the acidity of the fruit gave the avocado that extra bite. Even Mr. Bob McClaren (who Urban Girl had the pleasure of sitting next too) couldn't deny that this course could have received the USDA stamp itself; on presentation alone. We closed out the dinner with a wonderful dessert that we will gladly state for the record had no beef in it, around it, or on top of it.
Quality is at the forefront of everything 44 Farms does and this "quality" was something they had from the very beginning. On their first scheduled grading, 44 Farms received the USDA grade on their very first attempt! Beef can be rated as USDA Prime, Choice, Select, with Prime being the top of the bar (there are other non-USDA grades as well). The USDA grade is determined by the Federal inspector based on the eye of the ribeye which is cut exactly at the 15th rib of the cattle. Twenty four percent of the beef from 44 Farms is graded USDA Prime; for comparison, the industry average is about 2%. Unfortunately, you cannot find their beef in a supermarket (available exclusively at 44Steaks.com), but we did have word that they are talking with Whole Foods about a special product. Only time will tell (fingers crossed over here)!
Well, that is our story and we are sticking to it. As a side note, we will be taking Mr. McClaren up on his offer of visiting the 44 Farms and not only because we look pretty killer in a pair of cowboy boots! Bon Appétit!
Royal Sonesta Hotel (Table One)
2222 W Loop S Fwy Houston, TX 77027
Urban Swank did receive a complimentary tasting, but the opinions expressed are our own.