We now have a local option
(We apologize for the formatting issue in the following blog.
We are working to correct the problem.)
A NEW Steakhouse
Where to buy steaks
A Steak Recipe
“Grill Meet” at Casa Friday
Also in this issue:
Death by Chocolate and Wine
Win a Dinner for Six
What is Wagyu?
A Cab for that Steak
There’s more than meets the eye
in selecting the right cut.
The Official Guide
Grilling and Chocolate Events
Scroll down to get more information on our “Grill Meet” and “Death by Chocolate and Wine” events going down the next two Friday nights. See how you can also win a dinner for 6 at your home.
It has forever baffled me when a discussion turns to, “What’s your favorite restaurant?,” and most responses lead with a Milwaukee or Chicago steakhouse. I don’t disagree that there are many very good steak-featured restaurants within driving distance, but I often want more creativity than what a grilled chop or steak, an ala carte side of green beans or mushrooms and a gigantic baked potato have to offer. I cherish places that can surprise your eyes and palate with a dish that isn’t easily made at home.
But maybe, if you live near Kenosha, the love for a steakhouse makes sense. It has been years since we’ve had a really good one.
Things may have changed. I visited “Mike’s Sportbook and Meat Bar” last week and came away impressed. The newly designed upstairs space that was once Pazzo is hardly recognizable. The brick walls are now camouflaged by a bank of big screens so vast that we expected a salesperson to ask if we’ve been helped and to rattle off specs on a 70-inch Sony.
It’s impressive. But so was the food and service.
One of the constant complaints from locals regarding the “Mikes” chain is that the hospitality isn’t always hospitable. Service has been deemed slow at times and their server manual seemed to have been written for their convenience more than that of the customers. Mike Cholak (owner) must have been paying attention as we were attended to by two hosts, a polite and timely waiter and an eager sommelier. They each brought something to the table, so to speak.
Their steak-rich menu is reasonable ($25-$35 per steak) and features lesser-priced sandwiches ($8-$14) and steakhouse-style ala carte sides. Our foursome started with steamed mussels in a creamy herbed broth and stuffed mushrooms. Both were terrific. The mussel broth was not going back to the kitchen as we sopped up every last drop with their complimentary bread.
We then ordered a steak sandwich topped with a fried egg, a ribeye, a filet and a New York strip. There were four options for sides…creamed spinach, a baked potato, green beans with almonds and sautéed mushrooms. Unfortunately, they were out of both the green beans and mushroom side (our server promised more would be delivered the next day). We opted for a baked potato and creamed spinach. The steak sandwich came with thick curly fries.
The Box Score
The steak sandwich and egg was brilliant and the filet was cooked perfectly. A friend ordered the New York sirloin medium-rare, but after further review with a sharp steak knife, the lack of pink told us it was more on the medium-well side. My ribeye was to be charred on the outside and medium rare in the center. The char was perfect and the steak was tender, but it too was not a proper medium-rare inside. “I’m fine with mine,” I explained to our waiter while pointing out the imperfection of the NY strip, “but his is closer to medium-well.”
Our waiter whisked it away and stated, “That is more well than medium and yours is not what you ordered either. I’ll have them both back out in a hurry.” He could not have been more on top of his game. The new steaks and sides came quickly and both were spot on and delicious. We were not upset at all with the first offering but were extremely impressed with how a trivial mistake was handled expertly.
That service experience was as good as the dinner itself.
The wine list is a work in progress. Wine has never been a featured item at the other Mike’s locations. The current list offers six whites and six reds and none of the selections will wow a wine fan. The young sommelier is working on improving the list to include more steak-friendly wines and white wines that involve more thought. He offered us a Malbec from Argentina that was not on the list. The wine was better than the other options but a complex Bordeaux or a fruit-forward Napa Cabernet (like the Aquinas Cab reviewed in the Bargain Box below) would have been ideal.
I highly recommend Mike’s Sportbook and Meat Bar…even if you’re not a meat lover. There are fish and vegetarian options as well. Heck, we’ll be back even before they change their wine list.
Many are convinced that the best steakhouse is in their own back yard. Literally. Cooking temperatures, company and wine options can be controlled to your specifications. But once you have the guest list set and the wine is ready to open, where should you shop for the best steaks in town?
Kenosha butcher shops have gone the way of the Dodo bird and drive-in theaters. Hometown Meats (formerly L&M) still shines as a butcher (limited) and deli. One can find thick pork chops, sausage, ground beef and several steak cuts. Many items can be special ordered but expect to pay a premium. I have found the meat department at Festival Foods to offer the widest array of beef selections and most often the best prices. I also find that pricing on “aisle” items and produce at Festival tend to be higher than most other grocery stores. My advice – plan a “meat only” shopping trip.
Making the Cut
What cut of beef is best? This all depends on the texture and flavor you desire. For melt-in-your-mouth feel, the tenderloin or filet is the way to go. For flavor and more fat, choose a NY strip or ribeye. One can pay the premium for a T-bone and have all three cuts in one monster steak.
Deciding on the cut only gets us half-way to the grill. Now one must choose between grain-fed, grass-fed, Angus, Prime, Kobe and Wagyu. Sifting through all of this would require another blog, but this site explains the USDA grading process in easy to understand detail. In short form, beef is graded as Prime, Choice and Select, with Prime being of the highest quality. In almost all cases you will get what you pay for.
The names Angus, Kobe and Wagyu determine where the beef is from and how they are raised and fed. Wagyu beef is intensely marbled with softer fat, has higher percentages of monounsaturated fats, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and is lower in cholesterol than commodity beef. The combinations of these fats deliver a distinctive rich and tender flavor compared to other beef. The term “Wa” means Japanese style and “Gyu” is the Japanese word for cow or cattle.
You can see the difference in the two side-by-side photos of a
highly marbled Wagyu cut next to a Prime cut from the U.S.
The most exclusive Wagyu in the world comes from Kobe, Japan. People use the terms Kobe and Wagyu beef interchangeably, thinking it refers to the same premium imported Japanese beef, when this is not always the case.
All Kobe is Wagyu, but not all Wagyu is Kobe. In fact, it is rare to find true Kobe beef in the U.S., no matter what many trendy restaurant menus might try and tell you.
Real Kobe beef must come from Kobe, Japan. Adding the name Kobe to a package is similar to those California sparkling wine makers that label their product Champagne when in fact it’s not even from France. US laws regulate grades but not marketing names like Kobe or Wagyu. Legitimate Kobe beef is priced at nearly $200 for a single steak, and $40 for a burger. You are not getting Kobe when you order the $14 trio of Kobe sliders. Sorry.
Making the Grade
Now that we’ve made our selection, it’s time to cook that bad boy. Firing up the grill is the most common starting point, but pan-seared steaks and even deep-fried versions have become trendy. I’ve also offered several grilling recipes in the past and chose to mix it up this time around.
Cooking in the pan creates a crispy, seared crust and allows for a red wine sauce or any other juicy creation in the final deglazing step. Enjoy this steak with a Napa Cabernet Sauvignon like the Aquinas Cab reviewed in the Bargain Box.
The Pan Seared Steak
2 ribeye steaks, 2 inches thick
1/2 cup olive oil
4 cloves fresh garlic, halved
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon fresh ground pepper
1/3 cup red wine (optional)
Marinade the steaks (at room temperature) in olive oil and garlic far one hour. Remove from oil and salt and pepper the steaks on both sides.
Heat a cast-iron skillet or heavy pan over on high and wait until the pan is hot…really hot (about 45-60 seconds). Add the steaks and char for 2 minutes. Turn the steaks and repeat the charring process on the other side (2 minutes again). Turn the heat down to medium and flip again, cooking for 2 more minutes.
Flip the steaks again, top with butter and sear for 2 more minutes for a perfect medium rare. Add 2 more minutes per side for medium and 3 more minutes per side for well-done steaks. Remove from pan, cover with foil and let the steaks rest for 10 minutes. Deglaze the pan with red wine by adding 1/3 cup of wine to the hot pan and reduce for 1 minute on high.
Serve with creamed spinach, a twice baked potato or sautéed mushrooms for true steakhouse fare.
Join us on Friday night at Casa Capri for our Fourth Annual Wine and Food Gala with the UW-Parkside Graduate Business School Alumni Association. The UW-P GBSAA will be handing out another scholarship as we enjoy grilled foods, great wines and beer from Rustic Road Brewing Company. Everyone is welcome. The cost is $30 at the door and $25 if you book in advance through corkmeetsfork.
Dinner Party Card Raffle
Win a dinner party with wine at your home by getting in our GBSAA raffle. A $10 entry will give you a card from our magic dinner deck of cards and give you that chance. Chef Bob Mitchell (hey, I know that guy) will come to your home to create a multi-course dinner for six people. Send an email to get in on the raffle and we’ll draw a card and deal it to you via the internet. Attending the event at Casa Capri is optional…you do not have to attend to win.
Chocolate and Wine
Next week is all about chocolate…and wine.
Corkmeetsfork, Dove Chocolate and Ashling on the Lough will be at the Kemper Center on Friday, April 24 for our Third Annual “Death by Chocolate…and Wine Tasting.” The event is only $10 per person (originally mentioned as $20). Book it by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Robert J. Mitchell