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September 23, 2004
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FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Staking Out Some Steaks

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Maybe all those polyunsaturated Omega 3 acids have me soft in the head, or maybe I'm just growing soft in my old age, but I've had some pretty outstanding steaks lately that all rate a wave. So props to Prime, ditto Delmonico, and way to go Smith and Wollensky....because I'm still recallin' their boffo beef and pulchritudinous pork.

One of the reasons you see so many steakhouses in America, is our insatiable appetite for beef 'n 'taters. It's also because the template for these temples of excess insures profits. Anyone whose ever worked in the food biz knows that waste and spoilage can spoil the bottom line faster that a breakout of botulism. And nothing keeps longer in the larder than steak and spuds. And here's another steakhouse secret: cooks who can turn a t-bone are much easier to find than those who can properly filet a flounder or handle a hollandaise.

Asians and Europeans think our fondness for huge slabs of steer muscle is barbaric, and usually I think they've got a point. Now tell the truth; aren't you a little embarrassed to be served a three inch thick piece of meat that hangs over your plate along with a two pound potato and pine tree-sized asparagus that would choke a horse? I mean I was just a little red-faced when the crackling pork shank -as big as a softball-- was placed before me-- at Smith and Wollensky.

This bronzed beauty could easily feed four, but after one bite, my embarrassment was banished. Sitting atop some caraway slaw and doused with some firey applesauce (with fresh chiles discreetly placed in the condiment jar), this superior shank just might be the apotheosis of pork.....

Just as the dry-aged strip with a sweet tomato glaze AND horseradish cream at Delmonico was a stunner. Now I'm the first to criticize Emeril for too many ingredients, too much fat, and too much 'bam' in his recipes-subtlety is not his strong suit-- but there's no denying that this steak, and steakhouse still competes with the best anywhere. Just a word to the wise, watch your ordering here or you'll be filled up after your appetizer, leaving precious room for the superior steaks and the perfect (and intensely cocoanutty), cocoanut cream pie.

Romance and steak don't usually go cheek to jowl, but for a bite of upscale sirloin, amidst one of the most seductive dining rooms anywhere, I still prefer Prime. And for frugal gourmets, the Patio at Prime gives you a front row seat for the Bellagio's water show while you tuck into some tasty tartare, or sashimi grade tuna ribbons in ponzu sauce. These amazing starters and salads will make you feel like high rollin' lothario without the 3 figure tariff.

It'll be interesting to see how the soon to open Capital Grill competes with these kings of cholesterol as a Mecca for meat.

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