Back in the fall I had a burning desire to go apple picking. I think I briefly spoke about this when I wrote about my pork lard pie crust (seriously, you should make it. I’m not kidding). Since we were driving out to the middle of no-where Illinois, we decided to make a day of it. A few weeks before, I had received an email about Quarter Circle 7, a farm about two hours from Chicago that raised Organic Grass-fed beef. They actually sell to several well-known restaurants in the city such as Sable, Girl and the Goat, The Atwood Café, Lula Café, and The Bristol; even the Butcher and Larder (a high end butcher shop in the city) carries their beef.
Now, for those of you who don’t know, I love me some beef. It's a trait I got from my dad, the man can cook a steak like nobody’s business. When my husband and I first moved to Chicago and I was making dinner, we were eating red meat probably three times a week. He finally informed me after eating this way for about a month that in order to finish medical school, he needed to actually be alive and our diet of red meat was putting a cholesterol hamper on that. So I reduced me red meat usage to at most, once a month. This being said, for birthdays, anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, I make sure to go to Whole Foods (it’s expensive, but it’s so good) and get a strip steak or buffalo strip steak and throw it on the grill.
Anyway, back to the story at hand. So we’re out in the middle of apple orchards and decided we would drive another 20 minutes south to go to this farm. We got there and a western style horse show was going on. They did this race where someone yelled out a page number in a telephone book, each rider had to race down to the other side of the ring, flip through the phone book to the page, rip it out and ride back. The person with the fastest time wins. Already I knew, this place was AWESOME!
After watching various races, we eventually made our way into the store. The shop is small, a kitchen, a table, an office and several large coolers. We sat down with the owner and she told us the story of the ranch, showed us the fields where the cows grazed; told about the butchering and packing process. It was a really wonderful learning experience. Then we got down to the nitty gritty of meat buying. Now, as I’ve said, I love beef and I really love grass-fed beef. I think it has a much richer taste to it. I have learned that not everyone agrees with me. People are used to their corn fed cows and just don’t like that a grass-fed cow tastes different. So before you go and do what we did, make sure to go to a butcher or Whole Foods or some place and buy a cut of grass-fed beef.
You have the choice at Q7 to buy a whole cow, a half cow, a quarter cow, and eighth of a cow or whatever cuts you want. We initially came in with the idea to just try a few things, but soon realized that everything looked really good AND there was a deal to be had. Obviously, the more you bought, the cheaper things were. And (at least at the time) we save another 10-15% by picking up from the store. The fear of course, was space. We don’t have an external freezer and I have packed our freezer pretty tight with random things like a box of 100 Icee Pops (the long thin ones you ate when you were a kid) and homemade ice cream. With that being said, we quickly learned that we could pick what pieces of meat we wanted to take home with us now and either come back for more at a later time, or pay to have it shipped into the city. So we ended up taking with us 5 one pound rolls of fresh chuck ground beef, two strip steaks, a beef round, a beef liver, three hamburgers, three brat burgers, a blade steak and a few other smaller cuts.
I have to tell you, everything we’ve had has been absolutely delicious. Price-wise, it’s on par with what you would buy if you went to whole foods, but I think the beef tastes noticeably better and here you are actually putting a face to the process.
You can go online and order their meats; or you can do what we did (and will keep doing), and make a day of it. Take a 20 minute drive over to Woodstock and visit the town square where the movie Groundhog Day was filmed (super truthy) and come back to the city with your eighth of a cow.
And if you do go, let me know what you think! And for tonight's Valentine's dinner, New York Strip Steak (from Q7) with a morel mushroom Cabernet sauce.