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Beef steals the show at CAB’s education center grand opening

Progressive Cattleman Editor David Cooper Published on 12 June 2012
Meat class

Spend time exploring Cleveland and you pick up quickly that the city loves its rock and roll. From Elvis to ABBA, Buddy Holly to the Beastie Boys, the diversity of sound creates an eclectic jukebox of character in a city that’s home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

That same vibe is felt with the city’s restaurant scene, and from the artistic hands that have redefined Cleveland’s reputation as the “Mistake by the Lake” and turned it into one of America’s hottest culinary destinations.

Scroll down or click here to see a slideshow with additional photos from the event.

Cleveland is the home of Food Network Iron Chef America celebrity Michael Symon, local food connoisseur Parker Bosley, restaurateur Scott Kuhn, TV food truck star Chris Hodgson, and rising green cuisine pioneer Chef Jonathan Sawyer.

Ask those Ohio talents what ingredients define their success, and they’ll point to another local product – Certified Angus Beef. The tradition, quality and most critically, the taste of beef make it an unparalleled choice for chefs and diners.

Since CAB headquarters are located a short distance from Cleveland in Wooster, Ohio, the Cleveland background served as the perfect stage to introduce members of the press – including ag media, magazine writers and urban bloggers – to the Cleveland Dine Around and Grand Opening Dinner for the Certified Angus Beef Education & Culinary Center on May 4 and 5.

It’s not often you get to hear from today’s rising generation of chefs, and listen to them praise the importance of beef on their restaurant menus. But what they say, or more importantly, what they serve, is ample proof that they are true believers. They know customers don’t just want beef, they relish its most creative presentations. And for most of them, no other protein comes close to satisfying them or their clientele as much as beef.

Serving up Cleveland

For Chris Hodges, beef became not only a feature to his entrees, but the Certified Angus Beef helped him stock supplies during his run on Season 2 of Food Network’s “Great Food Truck Race” with his truck “Hodge Podge.” The Cleveland native was a runner-up in the race, and followed it up by opening Hodge’s, a global cuisine restaurant in downtown Cleveland.

Hodges hosted the Dine-Around group for a round of appetizers that dazzled some eyes and taste buds, including beef tartare, hanger skewers, short rib fried rice and marrow-lemon chili bread crumps with fennel slaw and French bread – all with Certified Angus Beef.

Dinner was served at The Greenhouse Tavern on the city’s dynamic Fourth Street pedestrian pathway. Owned by Chef Sawyer, the establishment stakes its name on entrees acclaiming local ag products, especially the CAB brand, for a higher penchant of taste. Participants enjoyed CAB strip steak and ribeyes accompanied by fries browned in duck fat, Parisian gnocchi and pardon peppers.

Walking a few doors down the street, the group enjoyed desserts at Michael Symon’s Lola Bistro, while taking in fireworks after the Indians’ victory over the Rangers at Progressive Field.

Journey to Wooster

To learn about beef before it hits the plate, the group headed on Saturday to CAB headquarters in Wooster. CAB’s new Education & Culinary Center, located next to the corporate office, provides a modern setting with a fusion of instruction, meat science training, and brand promotion – all with artistic and technical flair.

John Stika, president of Certified Angus Beef, called the new center a facility that caters to “retail, food service, the chef community and brings all those entities together centered around one brand.”

“The whole flow of what we intend to do here is to focus on how people can be successful with this brand.”

Acquainting participants with the actual science of dry-aged beef, Phil Bass, a corporate meat scientist for CAB, led the tutorials in retail beef cuts, carcass cutting, inspection grades and the 10 quality specifications required to meet the CAB brand. By donning the white garb and safety equipment worn by meat scientists and retail butchers, participants then wielded the wares necessary to make various loin steaks.

The tour also dropped by Chippewa Valley Angus Farms, owned by Rod and Laurie Ferguson, to give members of the new media a chance to ask about cattle production and quality control methods related to cattle targeting the CAB premiums.

Beef – star of the show

To ceremoniously open the Education & Culinary Center, chefs invited to the CAB event put on a gastronomic show, adorning plates with their own homage to beef with dishes highlighting the best cuts in the most complimentary light.

Chef Scott Popovic, a CAB chef from Wooster, mingled steak and light salad ingredients with a filet of sirloin with roasted fiddleheads, asparagus, fava bean salad and airy spring pea foam on balsamic reduction.

Miami, Florida-based Chef Howie Kleinberg threw a distinct Asian flavor with Kalbi-style short ribs with Ssamjang-honey and pear kimchi. Kalbi is a Korean barbecue cooking method using marinades and grilling to capture the tender essence of a beef cut.

Cincinnati Chef Michelle Brown delivered a combination-packed course with morel-encrusted spinalis covered with bourbon caramelized onions and mushrooms, gourmet chees and veal jus. The spinalis, the heavily marbled cap of the ribeye, was packed with umami flavor, and accompanied by wild mushroom raviolis with a velvety sherry cream sauce.

From Vega, Texas, was Chef Rory Schepisi, who joked that she charges a $5 fine at her restaurant “for any steak that’s over medium.” Schepisi topped a ribeye filet with smoked salmon and creamy herb couscous, sautéed summer squash and lemon beurre blanc sauce that perfectly enhanced the ribeye.

Chef Kara Swortchek, a Cleveland native from Red, the Steakhouse, produced an array of mini desserts that were almost too decadent after four rounds of stellar beef productions. But the room couldn’t stay away from the confections that included chocolate mint baklava, salt caramel chocolate bars and mango-berry  cream parfait.

While the guest chefs heaped praise on CAB for its team of chefs and stellar kitchen facility, CAB corporate chef Michael Ollier joked that his job was to “flat out steal” the ideas presented, because they cast beef in its brightest and most appealing light. “So we’re going to continue to steal these ideas,” he joked, pointing to his guest chefs, “on your behalf.”  end_mark

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