Trouble With Toast

Wagyu beef tasting | December 27, 2007

Thanks to some VERY generous folks at DonRockwell.com, Vidalia, and CityZen, on Monday, December 17, I found myself celebrating the end of a trying workday by attending a Wagyu beef tasting.

For the uninitiated (which I was before this event), Wagyu refers to certain breeds of Japanese cattle. The meat from Wagyu cattle is known for its intense marbling, rich flavor, tenderness, and juiciness. Because of the Wagyu cattle’s genetic predispositions and its special diet (which, I’m told, includes sake and tummy massages), Wagyu beef contains high percentages of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. It also has a superior ratio of monounsaturated fats to saturated fats than other beef.

The quality of Wagyu beef is determined by a 12-point marbling-score scale. Using the scale of Wagyu marbling scores, USDA prime beef would have a ranking of about 5 to 6. I believe the beef we were presented with at Vidalia was scored a 10. In other words, it was the good stuff!

After Chef R.J. Cooper showed us the whole, raw slab of beef, we were treated to our first presentation–carpaccio, served with sulfuric salt and an arugula salad (both on the side). The visual was stunning, with alternating stripes of bright red meat and pure white fat. The meat was incredibly tender and rich, though the flavor didn’t blow me away (until I paired a bite with the sulfuric salt, which created a fantastic taste combination reminiscent of steak and eggs).

Next came the real treat–Chef Cooper seared the meat perfectly rare, and it was served with Chef Eric Ziebold’s famous garlic fried rice. The food on that plate was so incredibly delicious, I’m afraid I don’t have the proper words to do it justice. The flavor and texture of the Wagyu was intensified by the heat, and each bite was amazingly buttery and decadent. Imagine the best steak you’ve ever had–moist, juicy, flavorful, impeccably cooked, and infinitely satisfying. If you multiply that sensation by 100, you might approximate the perfection that was contained in those few ounces of beef. Oh, and Chef Ziebold’s fried rice was pretty frickin’ good, too.

I left the restaurant unsure of whether my happily tipsy feeling was being caused by the wine (a fantastic tempranillo recommended by some newfound friends at the bar) or the magnificent meat. Would I shell out the requisite hundreds of dollars per pound to indulge in Wagyu once again? Not at my current pay grade–but I will certainly treasure the opportunity to try such a delicacy, especially when the experience was shepherded by such a gracious culinary community as we have in DC.

Pictures can be found here and here (I was a dunce and forgot my camera).

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