A while back, I got to be part of a group of bloggers and food writers doing a blind tasting of wet vs dry aged beef at St. Jamestown Steak & Chops in Cabbagetown. Contrary to my modest expectations, owner Mark Michelin spoiled us with a selection of VQA wines from Grange and Rosewood, samples of condiments, appetizers, desserts and a full Sunday roast dinner!
The tasting sprung from a friendly debate between Mark and Joel (who organized the event) about which aging process yeilded a better end product. I think most of us went into this expecting to prefer the dry aged, but surprisingly, it was eventually revealed that the majority selected the wet aged as their preferred version.
It certainly wasn't a clear cut decision though, at least for some of us. What edged out the wet-aged, at least for me, was texture. Wet aging seems to yield a more tender meat, where the dry age, with it's moisture loss, leans toward the chewy side. However, I, and a number of others did find the flavour of the dry aged beef deeper and more complex. It was also saltier.
It would have been interesting to run this taste test on identical meats. By that, I mean the wet aged roast came from a PEI cow, whereas the dry aged came from an Ontario animal, though they were prepared exactly the same way and were both from Angus cows. Terroir applies to animals too.
Now to the other delights we got to sample. There was the in-house smoked salmon with lemon and capers, which was very moist, with a great, crisped skin and a hint of sweetness. Along with that was Mark's beef bresaola, which I'd compare to a beef proscuitto, with similar fattiness and saltiness.
Besides the three grades of olive oils we got to sample from them, Vincenzo from Sarafino gave me the rare opportunity to sample a tiny bit of a 50-year old balsamic vinegar. Holy Hannah! This is the kind of vinegar people are talking about when they suggest drizzling balsamic on vanilla ice-cream. I detected notes of tamarind, sour cherries, caramel and molasses and it all came together in a wonder of syrupy goodness. This age of balsamic has now gone on my list of "Things To Buy When I'm Rich".
There were also some delicious chutneys and mustards from Mrs. McGarrigle's. Items from both of these purveyors, and many more are available from the deli counter at St. Jamestown, along with their wet aged beef.
St. Jamestown Steak and Chops is located at 516 Parliament St. in Toronto, and can be reached at (416) 925-7665. Check their site for hours of operation.
Check out what some of the other bloggers in attendance had to say:
Food With Legs
Food Junkie Chronicles
The Vong Choice