Terroir and Beef

I love the word terroir. Terroir basically has to do with what affects the flavour of a wine. The soil, weather, and climate all have an effect on the fruit that comes from the vine that ends up in your bottle. I have given a lot to how Terroir can apply to everything we eat. I am shameless about the fact I grew up in Saskatchewan, and when I moved to Ontario I noticed immediately the difference in flavour for beef. I still get family and friends to bring me meat from out west when they come to visit to bring me a piece of prime rib or top sirloin. Growing up in Saskatchewan I was fortunate to enjoy Okanagan fruit, so when I moved to Ontario in 2007 it was already important to me to enjoy local produce when in season.

So when I got an invitation to luncheon hosted by the Canadian Beef Centre of Excellence (clearly whoever came up with this name is a Simpsons fan) called Taste & Terroir… my heart was broken because I couldn’t attend. So, I’m sure you’re asking… why the F are you writing about this event if you couldn’t go? Here’s something about me you may not know. I love beef. No, really… At this moment in time I have beef from four different provinces in my freezer waiting for the right recipe, occasion, company, and wine to come along. For those of you wondering – Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Prince Edward Island.

We are in the middle of a food renaissance in this country. I think the idea of farm to table has been around long enough that it can no longer be considered a fad. However, for many of us we take for granted the fact that if we are craving Blueberries, Grapes or Strawberries we can get them year round. We get a hankering, we get the fruit … and frankly we don’t give a crap what they taste like. If I can steal a line from the great film Ratatouille – If you are what you eat, then I only want to eat the good stuff.


While I couldn’t attend the event, I had to speak with Chefs Michael Olsen and Marty Carpenter, who were the hosts for this event. Chef Michael had an opportunity to visit a beef ranch in Alberta and he compared the experience to being a Blue Jays fan visiting the Skydome for the first time. When cooking is your vocation you understand the importance of respecting the origin of what you cook with.

I spoke with the Chef’s about the rise of less than desirable cuts of meat. They reminded me that AAA grade on beef doesn’t just apply to the good parts of the cow but the whole animal. When you see a piece of beef with AAA rating this has to do with fat content and having it marbled in the meat. If you know how to cook it a skirt or flank steak from a AAA grade piece of beef can be just as delicious as tenderloin.

Regardless of your cut of beef, what I hope is that more people will take a moment when they go to their local supermarket to think about what they are putting into their cart. This is not meant as a dig at any large chains, you can get great beef at large supermarkets. But, there is something to be said about buying your meat from a local butcher who can tell you where and when the beef was sourced. More information can be found here: www.canadabeef.ca

Here is the point form portion of the post:
– The biggest mistake that most people make when cooking beef is not letting it rest before serving. When you take a steak off a grill or out of a pan let it sit on a counter for 5-15 minutes tented in tin foil to let it finish cooking. It also lets the moisture work it’s way back into the meat to let it be tender.
– Beef from Western Canada is usually fed with Barley whereas Eastern Canada is Corn. Eastern beef will have a more buttery finish and Western will finish a little cleaner.
– Braised Beef and Appassimento wines are a great pairing because philosophically they are both about concentrating flavours.

Here are the wine and beef pairings that I missed:
Tenderloin – 2013 Fielding Cabernet Franc
Sirloin – 2013 Creekside Estate Winery Iconoclast Syrah
Striploin – 2012 Rockway Vineyards Small Lot Wild Ferment Red
Rib Eye – 2012 Redstone Winery Cabernet Sauvignon
Short Rib – 2013 Foreign Affair Winery Dream


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