When it comes to beef, it’s all about perspective. Beef is behind the comforting appeal of meatballs and burgers, the luxury of ribeye and T-bones and the low and slow deliciousness of barbecued brisket. All those perspectives, though, just go to show why beef is incredibly popular: it’s versatile.
“As a chef and restaurant group owner, beef is great for our menu,” says Adam Hegsted, chef-owner of Eat Good Group, a pack of eight restaurants in Washington and Idaho. “It adds value and versatility, and we’re really able to support the people in our industry that make great products.”
Although versatility is a top selling point for beef, it’s not the only one. Beef also allows for culinary innovation, incredible value, a craveable menu and fabulous drink pairings, both traditional and rather unexpected.
Driving culinary innovation
Part of the appeal of beef is the innovation it allows. Such is the case with Hegsted’s Spaghetti-Stuffed Meatballs at The Wandering Table in Spokane, Wash. Spaghetti and meatballs is, of course, the epitome of comfort food, but it’s not the most creative. Spaghetti-stuffed meatballs, however, is a different story. “It’s very simple, but it’s just thought out a little differently,” Hegsted notes. “It’s spaghetti and sauce inside the meatballs...you cut into the meatball, and the sauce and noodles are inside.” With a red pepper sauce, Italian shaved Reggiano and garlic confit, the classic dish is taken to a new, elegant, innovative level.
Value in unexpected places
Part of innovation is introducing customers to cuts they never considered before and educating them on those cuts’ value. Everyone’s heard of sirloin and ribeyes, but not everyone wants to shell out the price that these cut typically fetch. Lesser-known are cuts such as the teres major. “You’re not having to pay that premium price, but you’re getting just as tender of a cut,” Hegsted says. Other cuts, too, have the quality a restaurant wants at a price point it needs. Cuts like “flank steak or flat iron, if you’re treating it like every other steak, the tenderness is there. The flavor is there. It really fits well anywhere,” the chef adds.
Generating pairing opportunities
A great burger or shepherd’s pie deserves a good beer. A gorgeous marbled steak or spaghetti and meatballs needs a bold red wine to match it. Those are the obvious choices for pairing opportunities, though, and a good beef dinner sometimes warrants an unexpected drink pairing. The caramel notes of whiskey can stand up to the bold flavor of beef, while a lightly oaked chardonnay might be an unexpected hit, given its bit of richness that pairs well with the beefy taste of red meat. “When you’re out and you have beef, it feels more like a luxury item,” Hegsted muses. “We’re able to pair that with some really high-quality cocktails. It’s hard to beat that pairing.”
If a customer craves a menu item at a restaurant, they can become a customer for life. Hegsted describes a burger that customers clamor for, the Sparkle Burger at The Gilded Unicorn in Spokane, Wash. “We have a blend of brisket, mixed with our umami spice, a little bit of milk powder to keep it together,” he details. “It’s a really juicy burger.” The chef goes on to explain his philosophy about beef. “I think everybody has a place for beef ... in their lives, where they have inkling or wanting for it,” he says. “It's something that you feel like you want and it makes your soul happy.”
See more in this video with Chef Adam Hegsted and how beef means business in his restaurants, including with his Spaghetti-Stuffed Meatballs that turn a beloved classic inside-out.
This post is sponsored by National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a contractor to The Beef Checkoff