GOOD TO KNOW: I can see that this post is very popular among the visitors of this blog. It would, then, be accurate to remember that this post dates back from 2013.
After my incomplete (life is always a work in progress and shall always remain so ;p) article on Montreal finest steakhouses, I continued my search for the finest cuts in Montreal. This time I paid a visit to the latest star of Montreal’s steak scene, Maitre boucher Marc Bourg‘s steak shop.
Mr Bourg has big plans for his aged steaks. He told me that he wants the entire globe to get a bite of them. I am always happy to see a Quebecois with huge ambitions like those. It is a nation with tremendous potential in many many regards (I think it’s the land of the best voices around the globe, I think Luce Dufault is the best singer of all times, I think that Quebec’s hydro-electricity will be one of tomorrow’s best exploited treasures, I think Quebec is one of world most artistic nations, I think this land has a charm you’ll never see anywhere else. The only thing that I do not agree with it’s when some papers want to sell this land as a world dining destination. NO…IT IS NOT! ). Who knows, he might perhaps be the next big International Quebecois star after the likes of Celine Dion, Cirque du Soleil, SNC Lavallin, Bombardier, etc. Something is certain, Mr Boug is already not your average “marchand de steak” : a grand table l like L’Europea is already interested by his steaks and the sky seems to be the limit in the case of Mr Bourg.
Maitre boucher Marc Bourg (aka ‘Mr Steak’) has opened his own Steak shop, after more than a decade in the meat industry. In his current assignment, he is to meat what a Maitre affineur is to cheese, shopping for what he considers to be the finest pieces of meat, then dry-aging them to 40 days and more (as an example, he has cuts of 120 days and more ). I picked a 2’ cut of Mr Bourg’s 120 days as well as one of 40 days cote de boeuf (rib steak) and fired two steaks that were as great as / if not superior to the steaks of the finest upscale steakhouses in town, only it was in the comfort of my backyard, no tips and pricey wine to absorb as it is the case at a steakhouse. Both steaks did indeed benefit from great care, proper dry aging technique and their expected nutty and gamey character (typical of a great dry-aged cuts) shone through beautifully. Though, I have to admit that I did not pay full justice to this great steak: I used a gas grill instead of a charcoal one. Mr Bourg telling me that it will be intesresting to do a side to side comparison between a charcoal grill Vs gas filled one. But you know, a great deal of food appreciation is hidden in that little brain, so I told him…I think the charcoal grill is better ;p
When I saw my bottle of Poderi Aldo Conterno Barolo 2007, left aside for a grand moment like this, kicked down (accidentally) by my dog (no worries, I still luv u puppy! ;p) , I remembered one saying of my mum: “humbly you were born, humbly you will live, so always be detached of material matters”. Oh well Mum, it worked, Rfaol: I still had a huge smile on my face and the tamarind juice did the trick ( I am kidding about the tamarind juice. Obviously, Tamarind juice is not what you want to pair with a steak).
Aged steak is a fascinating subject. As with anything in life, you have its detractors and its fans, each calling their opponents will all kind of names. Who’s right, who’s wrong (oh NO..wait.. well, I am right, Rfaol!…) , no one will ever know and, anyways, it just does not matter since your palate will be the ultimate judge. An interesting article over aged meat: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2010/07/is-aged-beef-overrated/60577/. I can submit to you as many arguments in favor of one side as I could for the other. What I can tell you, though is this: (1)Anyone telling you that someone enjoying aged steak is someone who knows nothing about beef and just want to impress ..is a bullshiter in Chief! A 40 or 120 days beef does certainly not taste the same as a 21 days aged cut, but it is erroneous to think that it does not taste of beef anymore and therefore it is left to hunters of sensations /or the type of wealthier people who have lost touch with the value of things / or simply to people who cannot understand the value of things. I doubt that those criticisms come from people who really can appreciate the difference of an aged cut of meat and have no doubt that their cynicism is 100% Pure BS propaganda! (2)we all read stuff like the more the beef is aged, chances are that it will not taste of beef. Again, did they really try the aged beef that they are talking about?? Did they have the patience to wait that long? I doubt. In my experience, if I take, for example, the 120 days aged cut of Mr Bourg, there’s no doubt that it tasted of beef. There’s no doubt that I was eating beef and not cheese or blue cheese as some tend to force their imagination into. Only, since it is aged, the beef flavor is more concentrated.
The thing to understand right away is that it (aged steak) is a pricey affair as expected from any item in which extra care and skills have been invested. Mr Bourg making no secret of that: he even told me, this (my 2’ steak, weighing almost 1 kg) is perhaps too much for 1 person (indeed, you need a big appetite for a 1kg of steak, but I was sharing it with my wife and some friends), recommending that I do not splurge too much and that I do really ensure that is what I want (he is right: if for example you are a great fan of 10-15 days aged fresh cuts of meat, you really need to know what you are after when interested by older cuts / but I have always enjoyed both fresher and older cuts for years), that no loss of meat, etc).
I think this Gentleman is exceptional at what he is doing. How many takes that extra path of informing, customizing the experience of buying a steak? In a world where cash flow is the only thing that matters? Sure, you can tell me that it is a marketing technique and that I am dumb. Good, bravo, hourrah! . So, why are there few of those merchants offering such down to earth advices???
As for me using parsimony, oh well.. There’s a reason I’ll never be rich, Lol. I have the highest respect for those cultivating a frugal mentality, but in my mind, tomorrow is always…. my last day. It is the way I see things. So I told Mr Bourg: Sir, I want both your 120 days steak (again, think twice…this is quite $$$. I don’t disclose prices of luxurious items — not that it is personal, but by principle: in a world of global econonomic turmoil, I am of those who believe that it’s insane to show off numbers. You can think whatever you want about this, but I’ll stand by this principle) , but you need to think twice and you’ll have plenty of time to think about that because 1.Mr Bourg is not the kind who will force you into his most luxurious items and 2.you really really really need to love steaks and ensure you can appreciate aged steaks), and the 40 days cut.
I did follow the advices of Mr Bourg, advices that are proper to the grill (a cheapie standard one that I don’t even know the model but which capability I am very well aware of ;p) I was using , doneness I wanted (medium rare) and thickness of my rib eye cut (don’t forget, it is a 2’ steak) : warmed my grill for while to max out heat, grilled 3 mins on one side, 3 mins on the other, 3 mins resting on indirect heat of my bbq grill (turned off the bbq) and let it rest for 5-10 mins (in aluminium foil in my case, to keep the heat). The recommendations were spot on, but be very careful: it is IMPORTANT you adjust those steps to your own realities: know the real power of your bbq grill, get familiar with the proper timing used by your grill to achieve specific doneness, etc. I personally find that the beauty with aged steaks of such top quality (remember how the breed, level of stress of the animal at slaughtering, etc…are just a fraction of the of what makes a steak great, therefore the faith of your steak depends on the ability of your butcher to be very selective) is how easy it will help you in achieving that trendy nice dark caramel-ly crust most look for these days. Superb pieces of steak like this one DOES NOT need butter, oil, or pepper. They deserve great sides, though. I did pair my steak with spinach and some crimini mushrooms (sautee them with a bit of beef fat / or bone marrow + the juice from the cooking of the meat after it has rested , salt and pepper, a bit of butter. Season that steak ,at the time of serving, with a bit of fleur de sel. Life is sometimes crual ;p
I liked: (1)- the superior steak (as great as best steaks of Montreal finest upscale steakhouses, the 40 days steak I fired was even superior to those standards, whereas the 120 days was packed with great concentration of game /nutty flavor ), (2)- the very down to earth and ‘customer is the king’ friendly mentality of Maitre boucher Marc Bourg. Where most rush to sell and move on swiftly to the next customer, he took his time to customize the experience and share on the subject of savouring a superior steak with me, with detailed infos on the breed, origin of the meat, his techniques of aging, and plenty of very useful tricks. An exceptional artisan at what he does, caring and competent, leaving no stone unturned (even his retro looking shop that is a bit reminiscent of a saloon of the far-west calls for a break in this speedy world ).
I did not like: Oh yeah, well, I was seriously pissed…while I was grilling my steak, there was a bird flying over my flowers, Lol. Just kidding, there was absolutely no quibble to raise with this steak I was having. As I wrote earlier, for such quality steak, imagine how charcoal would have paid it full justice.
Breed: Alberta Black Angus (for the 120 days), Quebec Black Angus (for the 40 days)
Origin: Alberta (for the 120 days), Quebec (for the 40 days)
Grade: AAA for the Quebec’s one, AA for the Alberta one
Dry or wet aged? Dry in both cases, the meat properly hanged as it should (as opposed to being sealed in plastic)
Aged for: 40 days for the Quebec one, 120 days for the one from Alberta
Worth the hype? Absolutely, if you can appreciate aged steaks . I found the passion and enthusiasm of Maitre boucher Marc Bourg to really reflect in the quality of his steak. It’s a steak of grand occasion, easily competing with the finest steaks of Montreal’s upscale steakhouses. So ensure you can really enjoy the difference. A friend of mine once told me that he spent his a honeymoon in Santorini, Greece, one of world’s most picture-perfect sceneries….only to get this smart observation from his gal: ‘Oh well…it’s just an endless coverage of blue water’. Rfaol. So, that is it: if for you caviar is nothing, there’s not much we can exchange about, Lol. Everything is indeed pure BS in such case. On the other hand, if you enjoy the beautigul things of life, then go for it.
Web site: http://www.marchanddubourg.com/
I can’t manage — because of a lack of time — the ‘comments’ section in timely manner. So, I’ll publish questions received by emails and that I found interesting to share with you. Off topic comments will be discarded.
Q&A – Gaston asks if I believe the 120 days steak to be a bit too blue-cheesy tasting to be enjoyable? Answer: Some people swear just by that kind of cuts (120 days and/or more), Gaston. And indeed, the concentrated flavor of the 120 days aged can be a bit reminescent, at smell and in flavor, to blue cheese. It is impossible for me to tell whether a 120 days aged cut will be enjoyable to someone else or not, but for my taste I do like my cuts to be aged in between 40 to a maximum of 60 days. No more. You also asked if I knew any great steakhouse in the region of Hull/Ottawa. Sorry, I do not.