Wednesday, January 21, 2009


I arrived in Sweat City yesterday evening - mercifully, it’s not especially sweaty this time of year - and swooped down from George Bush (“Daddy B”) Intercontinental Airport, dropped my bags off at my hotel, and proceeded to meet a few of my soon-to-be-erstwhile colleagues for a Beefy Dinner.

We dined at Pappas Bros. Steakhouse, the ostensible flagship of the Pappas restaurant empire. It had been a long time since I had eaten there: about eleven years, in fact. But that was mainly owing to the fact that we no longer lived in Houston.

Our last dinner there had been memorable, not only for the food, but for the fact that we and our friends Ira and Phyllis were the guests of Pete Pappas hizzownself, patriarch of the Pappas clan. We were celebrating Phyllis’s birthday and had just settled in at the bar when Pete - a former patient of Ira’s, as it happened - walked in. He immediately gave Ira a big hello and proceeded to comp our bar tab. A few minutes later, when we sat down to dine, Pete (who was seated at a table close by) whispered a few words to our waiter, who proceeded to inform us that our entire meal was on the house.

Pete Pappas was clearly fond of his gastroenterologist. And who wouldn’t be? After all, he’s a medical professional who gets to know you rather intimately.

But last night’s dinner involved no such deus ex machina. It was just a straightforward exercise in Beefy Extravagance, courtesy of the Great Corporate Salt Mine.

Steve H. Graham, of Hog on Ice Tools of Renewal, is a big proponent of dry-aged prime beef. It’s a product that is becoming harder and harder to find, even in high-end steak places, because many such establishments opt to wet-age their beef these days, keeping it in its Cryovac packaging. The beef retains all of its weight that way, whereas with dry-aging, it loses weight due to evaporation... and because the dried-up, nasty exterior needs to be sliced away.

But I am here to tell you that there is nothing - nothing! - in the World o’ Meat that compares with the taste of a prime steak that has been properly dry-aged. All those mysterious enzymatically-catalyzed chemical processes, taking place slowly over a period of about a month, result in a rich, complex flavor profile that has to be experienced to be described... and even then beggars description.

After preparing my tastebuds with a beefsteak tomato salad, I had a nice, 18-ounce ribeye, Pittsburgh-style, medium rare. It was stupendous.

By way of an apéritif, a shot of Aberlour 12-year-old single malt, followed by a bottle of 2001 Château Moulinet Pomerol to help wash down the meat. Sides? Of course, though none were strictly necessary. Potatoes au gratin, fresh asparagus spears, and creamed spinach... all delicious, and all extreme. Thank Gawd there were five of us to eat it all.

A cheese plate made a fine dessert (although my colleagues had also arranged a cake, given the Momentousness of the Occasion).

Pappas Bros. Steakhouse is, without a doubt, the closest thing to a Real-Live Avatar of my fictional House of Meat. If you’re ever in Houston, and if you have a wad of simoleons in your pocket sufficient unto Horse-Chokage, go there posthaste.

Me, I’m gonna keep digesting. For a long, long time.

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