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We were somewhere around Lanseria, on the edge of the airport, when the meat-sweats began to take hold. I remember saying something like “I feel feverish, turn the air-con up…” And suddenly there was a terrible roar from my stomach and my shirt turned wet. Cows were walking across the gravel road that our navigator, Siri, had directed us to, and I couldn’t quite figure out if they were hallucinations or real. So I screamed at the driver: “Watch out for those goddamn animals!”
Perhaps I should’ve paid the bovine a bit more respect? From January to March, votesteak.co.za was home to all things meat and a place to nominate your top steakhouse in The Wolftrap Steakhouse Championships. Steak was the hero and was judged according to ageing, flavour, juiciness and its accompaniments. Fourteen steakhouses were good, five were excellent and the three that were exceptional were visited again. These finalists – whose chefs have proffered tips in this article – are ambassadors of meat: celebrating provenance, offering a variety of cuts, insisting on lengthy maturation processes and theatrically displaying their beef.
Look, we don’t actually need to eat animals, and could probably get by on vegetables and, er, whatever else vegetarians eat. That said, protein-rich foods – the best of which is steak – build and repair muscle and bone tissue, satiate hunger and provide energy, so we’re going to continue to eat meat, thankyouverymuch. However, if we’re going to take a life solely for our pleasure we’ll then need to respect the sacrificial beast. Those average steaks and mystery meats?
JP Rossouw, the man behind the Rossouw’s Restaurants guide, reckons it’s all about provenance. “That’s knowing where the food comes from – not which supermarket, but which farm. This simple concept is the heart of all great food. If you know where it comes from you’ll take more care in preparing it well. Also, you are less likely to be caught out by donkey pretending to be beef.”
Pete Goffe-Wood, of Masterchef fame and judge in The Wolftrap Steakhouse Championships, describes the perfect steak as a glistening red that’s been cooked just enough to stop it from eating your side salad, framed by a darkly delicious char, and spitting out juice with every bite of richly complex umami-savouriness.
You should keep this in mind the next time you dig into a delicious steak, whether that’s at home or at your local steakhouse. The recommended daily allowance is a laughable 175g, which sounds like something you’d throw to the cat, so prepare for the uncomfortable and inconvenient feeling of your body working harder to break down all that protein…
On the up, those meat-sweats are just the result of your body actively burning up kilojoules, and if you need more convincing, remember this: it’s low in kilojoules; high in B12, the vitamin that aids your thinker-functioning and nervous system; packed with iron – the guy responsible for carrying oxygen to the brain; and is a rich source of creatine, which increases muscle mass, decreases body fat and improves endurance. Add a glass of red wine and you’ll get antioxidants and heart-protective effects.
“The challenge of having a steak-specialist restaurant is that people walk in thinking that they can cook a better steak than you.” Steve Maresch, proprietor and chef at The Local Grill in Parktown North, and winner of our inaugural The Wolftrap Steakhouse Championships.
Devour these tips and you just might…