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Where's the beef? Help!


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Does anyone else have this problem? We have so far been unable to find really good beef down there in the South West. Nothing that matches the best of British or American

steaks or roasts.

The pork, lamb, mutton, veal and fowl are superb, no problems at all.

Our theories are: One, the French like their beef very lean so raise breeds that produce that kind of meat. (we note that there's very little marbling in French beef); Two, they don't age their beef here as long as a good butcher in the states or the UK would; Three, the cows here are mainly grass fed & not fattened up on corn as they are elsewhere; Four, a combination of one through three.

Anybody know a good beef butcher? Any other theories?

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My thought is that the beef cut makes a whole lot of difference, and the French don't cut the way Americans do French cuts are often a combination of two American cuts - and vice versa, they overlap. I find that when I'm in the mood for a big fat juicy steak, a thick cut slab of marbled Charolais aloyau from my butcher can take me right back. Do you have a butcher in town that sells Charolais beef? That is excellent quality beef. lots of fine marbling and flavor. Normally your butcher ages beef - ask him his thoughts on this.

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Does anyone else have this problem? We have so far been unable to find really good beef down there in the South West. Nothing that matches the best of British or American 

steaks or roasts.

Anybody know a good beef butcher? Any other theories?

Yes, several in Paris that cut a fine cote de boeuf, the one my favorite home chef goes to is at St Philippe du Roule on the West side of the square (its address should be Ave. F. D. R.)

John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

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Yes to all of the above. Also, the French just don't eat "steak and seafood" like the Amis do. And, for sure, beef cattle that only eat grass (albeit grass-fed is much better for our beloved Texas pit BBQs) do not make the best American Steakhouse fare.

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Dear neighbor, where have you been shopping?

We have one of the best beef breeds here in our 'hood: the Blonde's of Aquitaine. I posted a picture on my blog for you. This was a Cote de Boeuf bought, cooked and consumed for a shoot for New Zealand's Dish magazine. It was tender and delicious, cooked rare-medium rare over the grill; My neighbors grew it. I buy local at the marche couverte in Agen or the village Shopi ; they both buy whole beasts from ferme bellevue at the corner.

And as Lucy says, find a good butcher. There is an excellent one in Moissac --not too far from you? He is a professional and should be able to fill in the missing blanks. Next time, I am throwing a bbq, I guess I have to invite you!

bonne courage-

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Dear neighbor, where have you been shopping?

We have one of the best beef breeds here in our 'hood: the Blonde's of Aquitaine. I posted a picture on my blog for you. This was a Cote de Boeuf bought, cooked and consumed for a shoot for New Zealand's Dish magazine. It was tender and delicious, cooked rare-medium rare over the grill; My neighbors grew it. I buy local at the marche couverte in Agen or the village Shopi ; they both buy whole beasts from ferme bellevue at the corner.

And as Lucy says, find a good butcher. There is an excellent one in Moissac --not too far from you? He is a professional and should be able to fill in the missing blanks. Next time, I am throwing a bbq, I guess I have to invite you!

bonne courage-

Certainly looks a nice piece of beef. I'll just keep trying and, perhaps, go a bit further afield as so far the several local butchers I've tried don't quite get there.

The best so far is to buy from the Spainish restaurant in Albias. He hangs & butchers his own beef & it is very good. He will sell uncooked with some advance notice.

Agen & Moissac a bit of a drive, but for the real thing I'll try it.

We love BBQ. Anytime.

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I have a lot of sympathy for those complaining about the quality of French meat being sold in French butcher stores. French beef, with all the labels and nice certificates are generally speaking quite lean and sold much too fresh. The general demand in France is for lean meat rather than marbled meat. Also, beef aged more than 14 days is rare even at quality butcher stores and beef aged beyond 21 days is close to impossible to find unless you instruct a butcher to hang it for you.

Generally speaking, charolais is not very fat and not particularly marbled. I have had great charolais but I have also had charolais, yes even aged, that has been tasteless. IMO it is very very rare to find really great charolais (from my way of looking at this). I am not sure I have had any really great charolais in a restaurant the last ten years and I can’t remember the last time I saw some really great charolais at a butcher.

Marbling is not everything but an example of a nicely marbled beef is on the picture below. This beef has hung around three weeks and I will wait another two weeks for most of it. It should be divine in two weeks. The beef is Bavarian Simmental (from Germany), which is easier to find at this level, but admittedly not that easy. French beef with this kind of marbling, feel and taste is IMO very rare to encounter, except for some specialty raised cattle to create exceptional marbling, such as Coutancie. But I have still never had Coutancie beef that has rivalled the best Bavarian beef.

gallery_11938_3019_168896.jpg

When my glass is full, I empty it; when it is empty, I fill it.

Gastroville - the blog

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I have a lot of sympathy for those complaining about the quality of French meat being sold in French butcher stores. French beef, with all the labels and nice certificates are generally speaking quite lean and sold much too fresh. The general demand in France is for lean meat rather than marbled meat. Also, beef aged more than 14 days is rare even at quality butcher stores and beef aged beyond 21 days is close to impossible to find unless you instruct a butcher to hang it for you.

Generally speaking, charolais is not very fat and not particularly marbled. I have had great charolais but I have also had charolais, yes even aged, that has been tasteless. IMO it is very very rare to find really great charolais (from my way of looking at this). I am not sure I have had any really great charolais in a restaurant tthe last ten years and I can’t remember the last time I saw some really great charolais at a butcher.

Marbling is not everything but an example of a nicely marbled beef is on the picture below. This beef has hung around three weeks and I will wait another two weeks for most of it. It should be divine in two weeks. The beef is Bavarian Simmental (from Germany), which is easier to find at this level, but admittedly not that easy. French beef with this kind of marbling, feel and taste is IMO very rare to encounter, except for some specialty raised cattle to create exceptional marbling, such as Coutancie. But I have still never had Coutancie beef that has rivalled the best Bavarian beef. 

gallery_11938_3019_168896.jpg

Thanks, I was begining to think I was the crazy one. Nice to see that somebody agrees with me.

I will continue my search. My next ploy is too find a sympathetic young butcher ( think I know a canidate) with an enterprising nature. Now that British beef can again be exported within the EEC I'll try to convince him to establish a relationship with a Scottish wholesaler ( just so happens that a friend's son runs a top restaurant in Scotland so he has contacts & said friend was amongst other varied things in his career a butcher). If we can get the beef in we can persuade him (young butcher) to age it properly & cut to transatlantic tastes. There is enough of an expat colony in these parts to make it worth his while. Once available we & friends will expose as many of our French friends as possible to said beef & convert them, thus expanding the market.

Did I mention that I used to do corporate strategy? Sound like a plan?

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Thanks, I was begining to think I was the crazy one. Nice to see that somebody agrees with me.

I will continue my search. My next ploy is too find a sympathetic young butcher ( think I know a canidate) with an enterprising nature. Now that British beef can again be exported within the EEC I'll try to convince him to establish a relationship with a Scottish wholesaler ( just so happens that a friend's son runs a top restaurant in Scotland so he has contacts & said friend was amongst other varied things in his career a butcher). If we can get the beef in we can persuade him (young butcher) to age it properly & cut to transatlantic tastes. There is enough of an expat colony in these parts to make it worth his while. Once available we & friends will expose as many of our French friends as possible to said beef & convert them, thus expanding the market.

Did I mention that I used to do corporate strategy? Sound like a plan?

Great, at last someone is bringing civilization to us.

There is decent beef to be found in France, especially in the Southwest — some of the best beef is produced there. All you need to do is shop right and keep your eyes open. I do share Kate's astonishment.

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David,

"Shopping local" for me is a big part of living here in SW France. I do crave tamales and teriyaki pork sandwiches, cornbread and bbq, and other childhood fancies but 95% of the time I am so happy to have the rural 'supermarket' of the Southwest at my threshold. We can order almost anything by internet these days but the 2 very fresh eggs I had for dinner from the farm down the road (that produces that amazing prize winning B of A Beef) tastes just fine to me.

Once a friend arrived with a fat roll of beef, a filet I recall, from the Limousin. We rolled it in a hot dry pan for a few minute and devour it charred on the outside, raw in the middle. Delicious. I haven't a clue if it was hung, for how long but the lean beef, neither marbled not fatty, was tender enough to inspire a wonderful gastronomic memory of food and friendship.

Eat French beef. Then you'll have something to look forward to in Scotland! :wink:

For more on shopping local...check out the blog threads here!

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David,

"Shopping local" for me is a big part of living here in SW France. I do crave tamales and teriyaki pork sandwiches, cornbread and bbq, and other childhood fancies but 95% of the time I am so happy to have the rural 'supermarket' of the Southwest at my threshold. We can order almost anything by internet these days but the 2 very fresh eggs I had for dinner from the farm down the road (that produces that amazing prize winning B of A Beef) tastes just fine to me.

Once a friend arrived with a fat roll of beef, a filet I recall,  from the Limousin. We rolled it in a hot dry pan for a few minute and devour it charred on the outside, raw in the middle. Delicious. I haven't a clue if it was hung, for how long but the lean beef, neither marbled not fatty, was tender enough to inspire a wonderful gastronomic memory of food and friendship.

Eat French beef. Then you'll have something to look forward to in Scotland!  :wink:

For more on shopping local...check out the blog threads here!

We're in violent agreement about shopping local. We use all of our local markets on a regular basis & delight in finding new things and new ways to cook them. Our French friends & neighbors are a constant source of information & inspiration. The older ladies & gentlemen especially even though getting past the local accents is sometimes difficult. Many of that generation only learned French at school; they spoke Occitan at home.

You're right in that all expats in my experience 'yearn' for food they grew up with. One of my silly yearnings is for Fritos corn chips. Go figure. In fact having hopped across the pond a few times I have yearnings for American things when I'm here and for French & English things when I'm there.

Now, beef is another matter. I do eat French beef. And I do agree that the flavour is good. For a dyed in the wool carnivore, however, the French beef (so far -I hasten to add) just doesn't quite live up to my expectations. I will continue to look & maybe before resorting to the Scottish beef ploy the butcher & I can find a solution. I hope so.

In the meantime I'll just have to content myself with the superb Lamb, pork, veal, fowl of all kinds, mutton, cheval and charcouterie that are so readily available. Somebody has to suffer them & it might as well be me.

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Thanks, I was begining to think I was the crazy one. Nice to see that somebody agrees with me.

I will continue my search. My next ploy is too find a sympathetic young butcher ( think I know a canidate) with an enterprising nature. Now that British beef can again be exported within the EEC I'll try to convince him to establish a relationship with a Scottish wholesaler ( just so happens that a friend's son runs a top restaurant in Scotland so he has contacts & said friend was amongst other varied things in his career a butcher). If we can get the beef in we can persuade him (young butcher) to age it properly & cut to transatlantic tastes. There is enough of an expat colony in these parts to make it worth his while. Once available we & friends will expose as many of our French friends as possible to said beef & convert them, thus expanding the market.

Did I mention that I used to do corporate strategy? Sound like a plan?

Bringing in British beef to France is not going to do it. British beef in general is not even close to what you will find in France with the difference that beef is not sufficiently aged in France. There are some interesting small scale producers in the UK, but seriously the production is so small that it is irrelevant.

Try to get your butcher to select marbled French meat. Chalosse beef which is produced close by and can be quite marbled and of good quality. Ask him to hang it. If that does not do it, ask him to get you some marbled Simmental. There are many wholesalers in France dealing with Bavarian Simmental .

When my glass is full, I empty it; when it is empty, I fill it.

Gastroville - the blog

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British beef in general is not even close to what you will find in France with the difference that beef is not sufficiently aged in France.

I'm getting confused now, but willing to try anything. Thus I will se if I can persuade my butcher to buy in the right breeds of Franch beef & then age it properly. ( Looking for opinions on how long??? My take is 4 weeks minimum & up to 6 weeks, but I'm open to other opinion.)

I must say, however, that in my experience British beef when bought from a good butcher stacks up pretty well. We're not talking Supermarket here. In fact the supplier in Scotland I was thinking of recently supplied the beef that my friend's son cooked in the TV competition for "The great British menu" which was cooking for a banquet for the Queen. He lost out to another Scottish chef who won the whole thing with his saddle of roe deer. In any case that's a pretty good recommendation as to the quality of the beef.

I will explore all avenues. May take some time given summer menus, business, holidays & the like, but I will report back in.

Thanks to all for their help. Don't stop now!

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  • 1 year later...

I thought of Dave Hatfield and his quest for getting great beef in France while reading The Omnivore's Dilemma, A Natural History of Four Meals, by Michael Pollan. I was also surprised that the steaks here in France were often a lot tougher than those I remembered in the US and like Dave was often disappointed. Why was French beef so differenent? After reading part one of Pollan's book, which was a facinating—and sometimes horrifiying—look at how the majority of US cattlle are raised, it made me reexamine French beef which I assume are mostly grass fed as opposed to corn fed, which seems to be the US standard. I suppose you might wonder what is wrong with corn, but if you were to read Pollan's book, you would probably think differently. My grass-fed steak I bought at the market- this weekend tasted all the better with a little bit of knowledge about what went into it.

If you haven't read The Omnivore's Dilema, I highly recommend it. It's a wonderful, very indepth look at where our food comes from which will certainly change the way I shop.

www.parisnotebook.wordpress.com

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If you haven't read The Omnivore's Dilema, I highly recommend it.  It's a wonderful, very indepth look at where our food comes from which will certainly change the way I shop.

Felice, Thank for sharing and for the tip.

My question is that if I read this book will I ever eat again? Or, will I turn vegan?

Or will I simply give up on food entirely and go onto a 100% wine diet?

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If you haven't read The Omnivore's Dilema, I highly recommend it.  It's a wonderful, very indepth look at where our food comes from which will certainly change the way I shop.

Felice, Thank for sharing and for the tip.

My question is that if I read this book will I ever eat again? Or, will I turn vegan?

Or will I simply give up on food entirely and go onto a 100% wine diet?

No, don't worry, you won't want to give up eating at all, you just might be more inclined to buy local, unprocessed foods, which I am sure you do for the most part. I always try to support local farmers and producers, but reading this gave me an understanding of why it is so important and makes me feel less guilty about spending more money than I feel I have on food.

www.parisnotebook.wordpress.com

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No idea about SW France, but in Paris, the two main sources of great beef are Les Boucheries Nivernaises, faubourg Saint Honoré (maybe the one John was referring to last year?) for marbled, aged Simmental and Hugo Desnoyer of course (www.regalez-vous.com) for great Aubrac, Salers, Limousine.

In any case, if you like your beef aged and marbled (as I do), you should ask for "bien persillée et bien rassie" and accept that there may be none that day.

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No idea about SW France, but in Paris, the two main sources of great beef are Les Boucheries Nivernaises, faubourg Saint Honoré (maybe the one John was referring to last year?) for marbled, aged Simmental and Hugo Desnoyer of course (www.regalez-vous.com) for great Aubrac, Salers, Limousine.

In any case, if you like your beef aged and marbled (as I do), you should ask for "bien persillée et bien rassie" and accept that there may be none that day.

Merci Julot, I have been to Desnoyer but have not been to Nivernaises, so will have to try it. I recently saw a show which featured Desnoyer and followed his beef from the cattle farms to the slaughter house and then on to some of Paris's best restaurants.

Do you know if most cows in France are still grass fed in pastures or are they mass produced in feeding farms as they often are in the US?

It would be interesting to know exactly what the Label Rouge signifies for beef.

www.parisnotebook.wordpress.com

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I could have told you about the 99 and the Boucheries Nivernaises because I used to live at the 103. Be careful that, as many butchers, if you ask meat for four persons they will give you four pounds. And they're not cheaper than Desnoyer.

Re: label rouge for beef, more detail there. They are all grass fed even if as you can see from this website, the label rouge entails different conditions for different breeds and regions.

In general, label rouge or not, there are stricter regulation on French beef than US. Hormones in particular are totally forbidden.

But I did not explore the whole supply chain of common supermarket beef. That's something we should ask Jean-Pierre Coffe. Or Pti?

Edited by julot-les-pinceaux (log)
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Not an easy question, and certainly a complex problem. I remember from long-ago country butchers in Auvergne that their meat was properly aged, and beautifully marbled (it was Salers beef, totally grass-fed). In France, marbled beef used to be the favorite and it was replaced some years ago, during the 70's I believe, by another standard; red, unmarbled meat, which was not often aged right. The marbling probably scared away health-conscious breedeers and consumers. Which is silly because tender, marbled beef is more digestible that tough, lean beef.

I had the opportunity to chat on the beef subject with one of Bocuse's butchers and he straightened a few ideas for me, for instance in his opinion the best breed for meat was the Norman breed, which yielded beautifully marbled and tasty steaks. Which explains the great beef I used to eat as a child in Normandy.

I used to believe in the simple formula that grass-fed meant lean, unmarbled and on the tough side, and that cereal-fed meant marbled and tender. It is not really so. The best marbled simmenthal beef is grass-fed, and so was the Salers beef before it became a fashionable supermarket item and accordingly lost most of its flavor. I think it is all in the way the cows are bred, fed and slaughtered, and the meat aged. Breed can be important in exceptional cases (like Simmental, Norman or Coutancie) but seems to be secondary compared to those conditions.

It is also surprising to realize how the same breed can yield such different results under different conditions. I had come to believe, after years of dull, pale-colored, unmarbled charolais at French butcher stalls, that I was definitely not interested in charolais beef (having the same experience of it as DeGusto's above). And recently, at Lafayette Gourmet, I found some charolais steak from Argentina. It cost an arm and a leg, but it was very marbled and proved to be some of the tastiest beef I ever had. First thing that surprised me is that all the Argentinian beef I had seen before was unmarbled and a bit tasteless; this one was spectacular. Other surprising thing was that the charolais breed could yield such diametrically different results, both in taste, look and texture.

Edited by Ptipois (log)
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Yet another proof that we need to be flexible and the good work matters more than brands. Do you have good butcher addresses Pti? (I mean, some that are actually open :wink: I used to love a depressive butcher in rue Lebon, but of course eventually he sold his shop and I was left with the fancy Parisian butchers like Lesourd, Desnoyer and les Nivernaises).

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Well I can think of a very good butcher in rue Saint-Jacques, near the Feuillantines intersection. Apart from that I get my beef from markets and shops, and I must confess I have no special addresses. I shop by the look of the meat rather than by the address. If the beef looks good, I get some. Experience has taught me that good stuff may be found in unexpected places.

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recently, at Lafayette Gourmet, I found some charolais steak from Argentina. It cost an arm and a leg, but it was very marbled and proved to be some of the tastiest beef I ever had. First thing that surprised me is that all the Argentinian beef I had seen before was unmarbled and a bit tasteless; this one was spectacular. Other surprising thing was that the charolais breed could yield such diametrically different results, both in taste, look and texture.

I Have spent the month of feb in argentina for the past 2 years and visited its vast region,.

Best dining opportunities were in steak houses.Even seafood restaurants had very decent meat choices.

The meat cuts are different from US or French cuts and all parts of the animal is offered ,i,e kidney,sweetbread etc.

The meat is the result of grass grazing and i was curious to discern the difference between US,French and agentinian meat.

I ate in the best steakhouses in all the cities i visited .My US experience is based on Peter Luger. Palm ,morton of chicago ,etc.THe french on Charolais meat .

The argentinian meat tastes different from the american and FRench,.its slightly sweeter and definitely a bit tougher.In general it 's more flavorfull. Also almost every where in argentina ,one gets a very decent steak for pennies. Actually the cost of a huge steak with a full bottle of excellent wine is about $25.

So, which is better?Its a personal choice and it all depends on one's likes and dislikes.The difference is somewhat subtle ,therefore there is no clear winner.

I should also say something about argentinian wines. Red wines have a lot of merit.

100% malbec,which is unique to argentina is interesting.Its robust & fruity.

Many others are blends of cabernet. syrah and malbec.so there is a lot of experimentations with new blends ,i,e tempranillo,malbec,syrah.

So trying one of those was always an adventure.Overall the wines were very forward with soft tannin,intense fruit, weak acidity ,simple but extremely pleasant.

Agentina is one of the few countries left that 's still very reasonable and yet not discovered by the hordes, and people are very friendly.So, Bon voyage a vous tous.

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pierre, thanks for the information about Argentine beef. ( The Argentine 'beef' put up a great show during the Rugby World Cup, by the way.)

I certainly agree that its excellent. Although I've never been to Argentina I had a chance to sample it this summer when the owner of our local lakeside bistro brought in a load. He was doing steak - frites for 10 Euros.

Nice beef even though at that price I'm sure it wasn't the best cut (it was billed as entrecôte) or the best quality. Even so (pardon the pun) it was a cut above what we normally get locally.

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    • By TexasMBA02
      After batting about .500 with my previous approach to macarons, I came across Pierre Herme's base recipe online.  After two flawless batches of macarons, I've been re-energized to continue to work at mastering them.  Specifically, I want to try more of his recipes.  My conundrum is that he has, as far as I can tell, two macaron cookbooks and I don't know which one I should get.  I can't tell if one is just an updated version of the other or a reissue or what the differences really are.  I was hoping somebody had some insight.  I have searched online and haven't seen both books referenced in the same context or contrasted at all.
       
      This one appears to be older.

       
      And this one appears to be the newer of the two.

       
      Any insight would be helpful.
       
      Thanks,
       
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