THE EMPIRE EXPERIENCE
Certified USDA Prime Beef
To classify beef, the federal government employs expert graders. They evaluate marbling (streaks of fat within the meat) and maturity (animal age) along with color and other carcass traits to determine quality grade. The top 3 grades are Prime, Choice, and Select. Prime beef has more of the marbling that contributes to juiciness, flavor and tenderness. Less than 5% of all beef meets the high standards required for beef to be labeled Prime – the highest possible grade.
Prime beef comes from young, tender animals – making it beef rich and savory. In order to produce Prime beef, animals are selected for their ability to develop marbling. Then they are carefully managed and fed diets rich in corn. Few of them meet the strict marbling standards required to qualify for the Prime grade. Much of the beef flavor comes from the marbling so Prime cuts of beef will have more robust, beefy flavor.
Origins of a Great Steak
Some of the most popular states for beef are Texas, Nebraska, Kansas, California, and Oklahoma. Production of high-quality beef requires open pastures, fresh water, and corn. Nebraska covers the world’s largest underground lake – the Ogallala Aquifer. Over 90% of the state is dedicated to farms and ranches. Nebraska is the number one state in the nation for beef production and cattle outnumber people almost 4 to 1. Among the top states in growing corn, Nebraska combines cattle, water, grass, and corn with mild weather and caring cattlemen – producing the best beef in the world.
Dry aging is a process where beef is stored, without protective packaging, in a temperature controlled refrigeration unit. The beef is kept there for one to five weeks to allow natural enzymatic processes that result in improved tenderness and the development of the unique flavor that can only be described as “dry-aged beef”. Dry aging beef from periods anywhere from 14 to 35 days have all shown to produce desired results. Based on our experience we believe the optimal aging period is 21-28 days. The beef should be kept just above freezing. The humidity of where the meat being stored also comes into play, approximately 80% humidity, with a considerable range around that number. The greatest reason for dry-aged beef is to further enhance the beefs flavor. Beef dry-aged for at least 14 days shows a significant increase in flavor, and increases with time. The dry aging process also improves the tenderness of the beef, over time as the enzymes breaks down protein the beef its initial toughness is greatly decreased. During this process the beef loses the majority of its water holding capacity, this causes the overall “juiciness” to greatly increase. Moisture loss and loss of water holding capacity are key in the dry aging process.
Dry aged beef is highly regarded as the most flavorful beef, it is highly regarded as a luxury. It delivers unique flavor and highly desired.
Dry aging is a costly enterprise. In dry aging, because saleable yields is further impacted by additional weeks of storage, pricing mechanism have to be in place to reflect the dynamic changes in yields with increasing time of aging.
There is a steak for everyone. Some prefer a Ribeye, others want a Filet Mignon or New York strip, and still others opt for a classic – the Porterhouse. These steaks come from the middle of the animal (loin and rib) – the part used for support rather than locomotion. Muscles that help the animal move are generally less tender than these “middle meats.”
The Porterhouse Steak is a special steak – lots of character and history – and is really two steaks in one. It contains part of the Filet Mignon (tenderloin) and part of the strip steak (also called the top loin). The Porterhouse comes from the short loin, the most valuable primal cut of beef. The Porterhouse offers variety, from the tenderness of the Filet Mignon to the rich, beefy flavor of a strip steak, all wrapped around the famous T-bone. In fact, the Porterhouse steak is a T-bone steak with a larger piece of the Filet Mignon. The bone heats more slowly so meat around the bone is less done than the rest of the steak. Also, the smaller, leaner tenderloin tends to cook more quickly. Expect to see varying degrees of doneness throughout a Porterhouse steak.
New York Sirloin
Towards the rear-end of the animal in the short loin primal, just behind the ribs. Tight with texture with a definite grain means strip steaks are moderately tender, but still have a bit of a chew. Good marbling and a strong beefy flavor. Not as robust as the ribeye, but much easier to trim with no large pockets of fat, making it easy to cut.
Toward the front of the animal and along the backbone is the Ribeye. Rich in marbling, the Ribeye – as the name implies – originates near the ribs. Many consumers choose the Ribeye because of its rich, succulent flavor combined with great tenderness. Although primarily comprised of the ribeye muscle, other muscles may also be present. This auxiliary meat is rich in marbling and flavor and add to the richness of the bold flavor.
The tenderloin is located on the underside of the short loin, on the other side of the bone from the strip steak. From this, the Filet Mignon is cut. This steak is scientifically proven to be the most tender of all beef steaks. It has elongated muscle fibers that make it extremely tender. It’s also a little leaner than the ribeye and so has a milder, more subtle, nuanced flavor..
Roast a ribeye before it’s cut into steaks and you have Prime Rib. Roasting gives the meat a soft texture and a smooth, subtle flavor compared to the more intense flavor of the ribeye. It’s interesting that Prime Rib does not have to come from Prime-grade beef. The name refers to the primal cut. In addition, Prime Rib does not have to contain the ribs – it can be cooked boneless. This is a very popular cut of beef.
Any way you cook it and whichever cut you choose, the juicy, tender, flavorful beef you eat is naturally packed with vitamins, minerals, and protein.
SINGLE MALT SCOTCHES
As with any Scotch whiskey, a single malt Scotch must be distilled in Scotland. To be a single malt whiskey, the whiskey must have been distilled at a single distillery using a pot still distillation process, from a mash of malted grain. “Malt” indicates that the whiskey is distilled from a “malted” grain. “Single” indicates that all the spirits in the bottle come from a single distillery. In Scotland, the only grain allowed to be used in a single malt whiskey is barley.
All Scotch whiskey must be aged in oak barrels for at least three years and one day. Any age statement on a bottle of Scotch whiskey, expressed in numerical form, must reflect the age of the youngest whiskey used to produce that product. The age statement on a bottle of single malt Scotch is the number of years the whiskey spent maturing in casks. Very few whiskies are bottled from a single cask, and the mixing of spirits with different amounts of ageing is allowed; the age statement reflects the age of the youngest whiskey in the mix. For example 12yr, 15yr, 18yr 21yr, 25yr are just some of the most popular ages for single malt Scotches.
Scotland was traditionally divided into five regions:
Speyside is the undisputed center for whiskey in Scotland, boasts the highest concentration of distilleries (more than half the distilleries in Scotland are located in Speyside.) Many of the distilleries use water straight from the river Spey in their production process. Speyside Scotches are thought to be the country’s most complex, and are known for their sweetness and elegant flavors and aromas.
Islay (Pronounced “eye-luh”), scotch is considered to be the smokiest and strongest-flavored (some say it tastes of the sea) of the single malts. Their strong flavor is believed to be due to the region’s exposure to the high winds and seas of the west coast.
The Highlands is the largest of the whiskey producing regions in Scotland and generally produces more full-bodies whiskies with deeper notes of peat and smoke. Due to the vastness of the region, Highland whiskies often taste very different from each other, from the extreme heathery, spicy character of Northern Highlands to the fruity whiskies of the Southern Highlands.
Lowlands is located at the southernmost part of Scotland, and is a flat region with no mountains. Scotch from this region is generally considered as the most light bodied of the Single Malts.
Cambeltown was once the whiskey capital of Scotland, there are only three distilleries remaining in Campbeltown. The Scotch here is peaty, and has a salty hint
and a briny character.
A barrel-aged distilled spirit made primarily from corn (must contain 51% corn) and may also contain wheat, rye and or barley. The name is ultimately derived from the French Bourbon dynasty, although it is disputed whether Bourbon County in Kentucky or Bourbon Street in New Orleans inspired the whiskey’s name. Bourb on has been distilled since the 18th century. The use of the term “Bourbon” for the whiskey has been traced to the 1820s, and the term began to be used consistently in Kentucky in the 1870s. While bourbon may be made anywhere in the United States, it is strongly associated with the American South in general, and with Kentucky in particular.
Bourbon has no minimum specified duration for its aging period. Products aged for as little as three months are sold as bourbon. The exception is straight Bourbon, which has a minimum aging requirement of two years. In addition, any bourbon aged less than four years must state the age of the spirit on the bottle.
Bourbon that meets the above requirements, has been aged for a minimum of two years, and does not have added coloring, flavoring, or other spirits may (but is not required to) be called straight bourbon. Bourbon that is labeled as straight that has been aged less than four years must be labeled with the duration of its aging.
In recent years, bourbon has enjoyed significant growth and popularity. The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, the industry trade group, tracks sales of bourbon and Tennessee whiskey together. According to the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, Kentucky produces 95 percent of the world’s bourbon supply.
Remember: All bourbon is whiskey but not all whiskey is bourbon.