With summer drawing to a close, the kids will be back to school soon. The start of school is always bittersweet, with some of us looking forward to our children getting engaged in another school year while others are holding on to any last thread of summer with the kids and a more flexible schedule.
One of the ways to “extend” the summer aura is to plan a barbeque. With family members running to and fro, scheduling a time when everyone can sit down and enjoy a meal together can be a challenge. But, if not toward the end of the summer, when? If your children are younger, this becomes a bit easier. But, without the kids, you might consider inviting friends over to enjoy the evening with you. A little no-pressure, no-schedule adult interaction can be quite enjoyable and relaxing.
To make the dinner notably special, consider eating on your patio on a cooler evening. This tends to set the meal apart from other “ordinary” dinners in your dining room or breakfast nook, and the change in routine may just give your family or friends a renewed appreciation for spending quality time together
First up: The Menu
When most people think of barbeque, the usual fare ends up being hamburgers and hot dogs for the little ones. You might pull together some potato salad or coleslaw and some fries or tater tots. This is all well and good, but remember we’re going for “out of the ordinary” here – an end-of-summer dining memory. Might we suggest premium steaks on the grill? Yes, you can do it! It’s really quite easy. For several recent outings, we’ve enjoyed the superior quality and high level of personal service from Matador Meat & Wine on the northeast corner of Preston Road and Rasor Boulevard in far north Plano.
It was not long ago that we were all visiting the local hardware store for lawn fertilizer, an old faucet part, a lamp switch, house paint, bedding plants or even a few 2x4s for a building project. It was also not uncommon that the storeowner was there, with all the knowledge and experience needed to help us with our repair and offer expert advice and, at times, even special tools. Today, most of us go to a “big box” store, like Home Depot or Lowes, for such materials and advice. But, there are still remnants of real “hardware stores” offering an exceptional selection and service. Take Elliott’s Hardware in Plano, for example (if you’ve not been, try it sometime).
Even though Matador Meat & Wine has only been open for a couple of years, it’s safe to put them in the category of the nostalgic hardware store. When you visit, there’s a good chance you will meet the owner, and he can provide advice on everything from the cut of beef and preparation options to wine and beer parings with your selection. There’s just something about doing business with the smaller, local business that gives you the assurance that you will get what you need, and the level of knowledge and service is not only friendly, but backed by personal experience.
Upon entering Matador Meat & Wine, you’ll immediately notice a stark difference from your typical grocery store meat counter. As the name suggests, you’ve entered a testosterone-rich zone full of things appealing to men, including a large selection of wines along the east wall and a large selection of craft/micro beers along the west wall.
Straight away is a large, classic, pristine meat case, containing ultra-fresh cuts of beef, including the Porterhouse, T-Bone, Prime Rib Roast, Rib Eye, New York Strip, Tenderloin, Sirloin, Tri-Tip, Skirt Steak and Brisket. Each of these cuts is often available in multiple grades, but on our special occasions, we go with Prime Filets.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has developed industry-wide standards for the grading of beef. The grading is based on the quality and yield of carcasses. The grades are (from highest quality to lowest) Prime, Choice, Select, Standard, Commercial, Utility, Cutter and Canner. Grading for all of the commodities is overseen by three regional offices of the USDA. Most area grocery stores only offer Choice and Select grades of beef, as the price point is lower and more acceptable to a larger number of customers. While Prime beef can be considerably more expensive, there is a notable difference in the quality as reflected in the taste, tenderness and amount of fat in the cut.
As a pricing example, on this given day, we purchased six six-ounce filets, three T-Bones and two hamburgers – this turned out to be more than enough for 12 guests and the total bill was about $164.
It’s often said, that to have a great steak, you need to start with a great steak. And, after multiple purchases from Matador Meat & Wine, it’s safe to say, you will start with a great steak. Regarding his purchase, recent customer, Dave Williams, said, “Since I discovered Matador Meats, I’ve completely given up supermarket meats for good. It’s a night and day difference, like the difference between fine wine and the kind that comes in a box.”
We couldn’t agree more.
It’s easy to prepare the perfect filet or steak. First, take the steaks out of the fridge at least an hour before dinnertime. Let them warm to almost room temperature for about 45 minutes. Season each steak heavily on both sides with fresh, ground salt and pepper. Sear both sides of the steak on a very hot grill, perhaps two to three minutes per side. Once the searing is complete, insert a temperature probe in the middle of one of the steaks, and set all the steaks on the other side of the grill, not over direct heat. Close the grill. Leave your grill on so the temperature inside is 300-350 degrees. Once the internal temperature of the steak reaches 145 degrees, your steaks will be consistently medium rare. Remove the steaks from the grill and let them rest, covered with foil, for about 10 minutes. Serve and enjoy!
Now that you’re settled on your steaks, they will be the talk of the meal and the rest of your evening will no doubt come together. Who knows, you may not even need side dishes! And that’s how you can close out your summer!