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Peter Luger Steakhouse (2001-2003)


Rosie
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i suggested that the service at Daniel blew. i was ignored and/or berated. i suppose i didn't offer enough "proof"?

although i see fat guy's remarks as having validity, i just can't get behind comments that suggest that since someone's opinion goes against the popular opinion of say, "the steak experts" (of fuck me, that's a good one), it needs to be supported with some sort of empirical data, most of all since someone demands it. the sense of entitlement here is sometimes humorous.

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I have a friend who's a butcher. An old timer. A big time old timer. Wears a gold cleaver for a tie bar.

I once asked him who has the best steak in New York. He said Peter Luger, because every supplier will give them the first buy, and they always buy the very best of its kind that is available. He was talking about the Porterhouse. He said the only way to get a steak of the quality of Luger's, and to try your hand at prepearing it, is to buy one from them.

Whatever issues I have with PL aside, I must agree with you. This has been told me more than once by various people in the meat business. One old time wholesaler whose opinion I respect swears by them. Implies that they are the standard.

Okay I'm backin' off now.

Nick :biggrin:

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No, but I am curious as to why and how Peter Luger's buyers get first pick at the meat wholesalers. I hope Shaw will enlighten us. He's written authoritatively on his own site about the subject.

I offer the opinion, that in the very competitive wholesale meat business, saying that you sell to Peter Luger is a selling point to your other customers. Funny how many meat guys sell to PL.

Wellll...it's an opinion based on conversation with many meat wholesalers.

This would make a good story on it's own. You know, using the sought after cachet (I can't think of a worse word to use within the context of PL) of PL to sell your meat. Exagerating only slightly, the name PL is spoken with an almost reverential respect amongst these guys (wholesalers).

Coupla' more cents, just to add some fuel.

Nick :biggrin:

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Fat Guy - It was Henry Strauss who posts here as Hank who used to run a large NYC meat wholesaler and who used to sell to Luger's. According to Henry, the only way Luger's would do business with you is if you gave them first shot at choosing meat. If he knew he had a shipment coming that would meet their standards, he would call Luger's and one of the Forman sisters would come down with the stamp. Quite often they would come and buy very little because it wasn't up to their standard. The reason the wholesalers were willing to do this was the prestige of being able to sell Luger's. As it is today, it has been considered the best steakhouse in the U.S. for decades and if you were a wholesaler who could honestly say they sold them, it raised your stock in the eyes of the other steakhouses who would want to copy Lugers. I also hear that The Palm has tremendous buying power in the market and on days that they buy heavy they sometimes can clean out the market and move prices all by themselves. They also get special treatment because they are so huge.

As for aged rib steaks, according to my old friend Mark Straussman at Campagna, the best ones come from DeBragga & Spitler. At least that was the case about 5 years ago. I understand Les Halles buys D & B meat, at least they used to at that time. So maybe our pal Bourdain can shed some light on this. I would imagine that S & W gets them from D & B or a place like that.

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Just to add to this, one can't take too lightly the fact that the Formans go to the market themselves and pick out the meat. Just doing that alone probably raises the quality level between 25%-50%. Not going to the market yourself can have grave consequences, even for a pisher like me. I always go hand pick my steaks myself. Even at a place like Lobel's when the odds are the steaks are going to be good no matter what. There's a huge difference between getting a good steak and getting a great steak. And to get a great steak, my experience is that you have to go see it with your own eyes at the source.

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Plotnicki, re DeBragga, they're huge and I think the majority of top steakhouses as well as good restaurants that serve steak are getting at least some of their beef from DeBragga. Even Ducasse gets some beef from DeBragga.

In terms of the quality differential you can achieve by hand-picking steaks, I don't know exactly how one would quantify it but let's put it this way: All the top steakhouses are getting USDA Prime, which is already the top 2.4 percent of graded beef in the US. (As an aside, only a portion of all US beef is graded at all -- for example most beef destined to be ground is not graded, because grading is voluntary as opposed to inspection for safety which is a different issue -- and the grading itself is a visual inspection only that doesn't take into account issues like the breed and slaughtering methods which is why Niman Ranch doesn't grade, so in some cases there are pieces of beef graded Choice that are better than pieces graded Prime; still Prime is a good indication of a certain level of quality.) Within that 2.4 percent, you get a spread that even a novice steak eater can pick up on. If you break that 2.4 percent down into its own 100-point scale, the way it has been explained to me is that Luger's (as well as Lobel's) gets a very high percentage of its beef from the top 5 percent of that universe. It's not just a question of the hand-picking, because just as with USDA grading the visual indicia are not definitive. It's also about trusting the source and having all the potential crap already weeded out by the distributors you work with. And what I've been told is that the only time Luger's doesn't get that top 5 percent of the top 2.4 percent is when there simply isn't enough of it -- meaning Luger's, Lobel's, and maybe a couple of other luxury operations have already bought 100% of the top 5% of the top 2.4% in the market on any given day and therefore they have to drop down into the next 5% to feed their customers.

This is of course all about the raw materials. How it's aged and how it's prepared are also relevant.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Sure. Steak is an easy one because it's a single ingredient. So you can define what makes a steak better or worse and then you can hold each steak up to scrutiny and rank it. I suppose if you find someone who disagrees with the definitions then the whole thing goes down the "in matters of taste there's no dispute" black hole. But if somebody agrees that there is a statistical likelihood of USDA Prime being better than USDA Choice being better than USDA Select, and that dry aging is better than wet aging, and all the other stuff that American steak aficionados take for granted, then yes, it's an empirical question and not a question of taste. Taste creates the standards in the first place, but once you buy into the standards you can judge more or less scientifically whether a given sample meets the standard.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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We had a local butcher, Modesto Perraccio, who ran a small food store near our country house. Moe's steaks were legendary among the weekenders at the lake. He had a huge walk in refrigerator in which were hung large sides of beef. Moe would drive from Putnam Valley down to the NYC meat market every month and buy beef. He had his buddies who he'd buy from. They were like a family, he explained to me. He bought only USDA choice, he explained (this was 1965-1975, so "choice" was the equivalent of today's USDA Prime). He inspected the beef and pick the sides his trained eye told him were best. Then he would haul the meat back to the store and dry age it for, I think, four weeks. When we would order steak, (usually stip sirloins or porterhouses) he'd cut a piece, scrape the surface and trim it up.

The steak always had a strong beefy taste that I could identify as "Moe's steak" It was fibrous, tender but firm to chew and always full of juice. When we would buy steaks from any other butcher, no matter how good, Moe's always stood out a better tasting. This was consistent for over ten years. From memory, I judge it the equivalent of a Lugers steak, and could find five people who would agree, We usually bought Moe's steak once a week and grilled it on weekends, summer outside and winter in the fireplace.

There had to have been some set of specific decisions and practices that Moe used to wind up with a consistently great steak every time for ten years. Replication is the essence of science, so there must be some science involved here.

Alas, Moe closed his store after his beloved wife Rose died. It became a ho-hum deli and then burned. Now someone, after fifteen years, is constructing a new store on the sight. I hope they can find another Moe. I doubt it.

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Moe would drive from Putnam Valley down to the NYC meat market every month and buy beef.  He had his buddies who he'd buy from.  They were like a family, he explained to me.

You've fingered an essential element of the transaction. The close linkage of supplier and distributor. It's not "who can do it cheaper, or give me a point" it's just "who do I trust?"

Wasn't that also a point mentioned in the opening of Fresh? One of the owners is a principal of a fish supplier, and has offered first dibs on the primo stuff. I wouldn't want to be one of the fish supplier's other customers if I was always gonna get the leftovers.

Apparently it's easier still to dictate the conversation and in effect, kill the conversation.

rancho gordo

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Maybe an equally great discussion would be Peter Luger' Porterhouse steaks vs Lobel's Porterhouse steaks!! Both of these establishments have often been considered of getting the best steaks. Any opinions from the NYC steak experts here, which have the better porterhouses???

----------------

Steve

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I've had the Lobel's Porterhouse and it is quite good. But I don't recall it tasting the same as Luger's. I don't think they age it the same way. Something that hasn't been raised are the quality of rib lamb chops. Good quality rib lamb chops that aren't too gamey aren't easy to find. Lobel's for some reason doesn't carry rib lamb chops with a big eye. They carry what one would call a fancy rack. I've found that Eli's Marketplace has the best rib lamb chops with Citarella a close second. Throw some double thick suckers on the grill and they are a joy to eat.

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In order to make the Lobel's/Luger's comparison somebody would have to buy a Luger's porterhouse raw, because you can't really equate a steak cooked with a commercial upright broiler and a ton of butter to a steak prepared on an outdoor grill or in a cast-iron skillet with no added fat (the typical ways people prepare steaks at home). They're going to taste different, even if you start with the exact same steak. I'd like to do the comparison, but it's not the kind of thing I'd waste my own money testing. Maybe someday I'll trick a magazine into paying for the experiment. I think it's safe to say that Lobel's is one of a precious few places that does have access to whatever Luger's has access to. Whether they age their steaks the same way or for the same amount of time, and whether one approach is better than the other or if they're just different, I couldn't say.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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  • 2 weeks later...

While discussing meat grading with an industry person, the name Peter Luger came up. My question was about how the Luger people select their beef. he explained that Luger's has a very specific and stringent list of criteria, that the fresh meat houses know about. So statements about Luger's culling the cream are accurate.

An Anecdote: This guy used to get to the fresh meat houses as the strip loins were being unloaded off the trucks (very early). He would stamp what he thought the best ones for his own wholesale house, thinking that he could skim the best before the Luger people. When it came time for delivery, instead of say the 30 that were selected, he would only be deliveed twenty. The best 10 had gone to Luger's!

Nick :smile:

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I am setting up an upcoming business dinner at Del Frisco's. Anybody go recently? I had dinner there two years ago and had the double eagle strip. It was (I think) $50, huge and quite good.

I also need to pre-select some wines. Don't have their full wine list available, but any general or specific ideas in the likely $75+ per bottle range for steak? I have the banquet list which lists in the above price range:

Pezzi King Cab 1998 $62

Pine Ridge Cab Napa Valley 1998 $70

Rombauer Vineyards Cab Napa Valley 1998 $80

Laurel Glen Cab Sonoma Mountain 1998 $108

Chateau Haut Marbuzet, St Estephe 1994 $85

Peacy Canyon Zin Especial Paso Robles 1997 $60

Thanks

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I'm very excited today as this is my "first" post as a new member of eGullet and what a great way to start but with my trip to Peter Luger over the holiday weekend. I've been waiting over a month for a prime piece of Porterhouse to touch my lips.....however, it looks like I will still be waiting

I wonder, has Lima Bean been heard from again? :biggrin:

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Dimitri I think you'll do better if you post that query as a new thread with a title that clues people in to what it's about.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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  • 3 months later...

How would I order at PL for two when the two people going have different preferences in terms of cooking the steak? I like it rare while my friend prefers medium well (a TOTAL WASTE of a beautiful cut of meat IMHO). I've never been to PL but have heard that with a party for two you should order the porterhouse for two. I was thinking, money is not much of a consideration, of ordering the porterhouse for two rare and then ordering the shell steak medium well for my friend (since I'm paying I thought I should get the better end of the deal :smile: ). The two of us are rather heavy eaters and I'm pretty sure we could polish everything off. But, if there's a better way to reconcile our differences, I would appreciate a suggestion.

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Get the porterhouse for two rare, and a shell steak for the friend. You'll finish it, believe me. I'll confess that many times when it's been me and one other person, we've ordered porterhouse for 3. Hell, you could even order 2 porterhouses for 2 - one for you and one for the friend. A piece of cold PL steak later on at home is a good thing (that is, if there's any leftover to take home)...

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Rich:  It's too bad Luger never learned to cook steak like this. (Had my yearly dinner at PL last Friday night as part of a group of 12 - it's not worth reviewing - even the 4 people who always enjoyed it were horrified.)

Rich's post

clang clang clang...the alarm bells sound.

Is it an earthquake or simply a shock?

Is it the good turtle soup, or merely a mock,

Has Peter Lugers really taken a flop?

Is Rich's take the real McCoy?

(with apolologies to CP)

Edited by jaybee (log)
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Stoney, how do you edit a picture ? :unsure:

It will be interesting to hear from others who have been to Luger in the past weeks. I guess there's not a top restaurant anywhere that is totally immune to deterioration, and maybe it has finally happened here :sad:

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I go there several times a year and have been three times in the past six months. I've noticed no evidence of decline. Better and worse steaks, sure, that's the nature of the beast -- but no overall shift.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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