“Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner”

I have mentioned a few times that I am a student of the College of Agriculture at Purdue. Something that I have been involved with here, and have been involved with for a number of years, is judging. I know that sounds a little “judgmental,” but I promise it’s not judging other people – only livestock.

If you have ever been to a livestock or horse show of any kind, or even have the slightest idea of how one works, you know that someone has to decide who wins, and who loses. It takes years of hard work to learn how to evaluate classes at these shows, and it is something you can do as part of a team at multiple levels, including collegiate.

When it comes to judging livestock (which typically includes the species of beef cattle, swine, sheep, and goats), the purpose is to find the best stock, which ultimately ends up on the plate. The whole drive behind the livestock industry is to evaluate which animals are going to create the tastiest end product, whether that be a steak, bacon, or a lamb chop.

Livestock judging has been one of the most important things to me over the years, and especially during my time at Purdue. I gained invaluable skills that I will be able to use for the rest of my life, I had the opportunity to travel the country, and I made the best group of friends a girl could ask for.

As I was sitting at my desk this afternoon, contemplating what to post about, I was looking at a newly framed picture of my team. I decided to bring my passion for animal agriculture into the picture, and try to get a little creative with my post by sharing something that doesn’t have to do with trying new restaurants in Lafayette, but something that might make your grilling experiences this spring and summer a little more informed.

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My team members and I with our coach out at Purdue’s beef unit this past December, where we put in multiple hours of practice for competition over the past year and a half.

While I have plenty of experience as part of a team evaluating the different species while they are on the farm in a live setting, when it comes to judging cuts of meat, I am not necessarily the most competent from a visual standpoint. However, this is an extremely valuable skill that anyone could make use of.

I could delve into any species from the standpoint of different cuts of meat, and where they come from on the animal, and what factors go into making a cut of meat taste amazing. However, for this post, I decided to talk a little bit about beef.

There are different categories of beef cattle that we judge, but specifically, “market cattle” are the ones that are going to end up as the steak on your plate. Therefore, we take into consideration things like muscle and fat when we decide which animals are the best.

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College students from Universities across the country evaluate a class of cattle at a practice hosted by a farm in Illinois.

When evaluating live market animals, it takes a while to train your eye to be able to evaluate how fat an animal is, as well as how muscular it is. We also are able to handle the livestock to feel for fat and muscle.

You want a little fat in your meat, because that is what gives it flavor. This is called marbling in a steak. However, it is a fine line. You don’t want too much fat in your steak, but you do want just enough to ensure that delicious flavor.

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Boilermakers learning how to handle cattle from the Purdue livestock judging coach.

There are three grades of beef: USDA Prime, USDA Choice, and USDA Select, with Prime being the best, and Select being the least desirable. When you order a steak at a nice restaurant, it is most likely USDA Prime beef, which has the most marbling (fat) – although not too much – is extremely palatable (meaning that it is easy to chew), has a lot of flavor, and is very juicy.

USDA Choice is also served in restaurants. Although it will cost a bit less, it is still extremely flavorful and tender if cooked correctly. Select cuts are the leanest, and so many people who are hoping to cut back on their fat intake will reach for this cut at the grocery store. However, in doing this, they sacrifice flavor, because it is the cut with the least amount of marbling.

Cattle farmers and ranchers sure do have their work cut out for them. They want to raise cattle that grade really high, and they also want the public to get the best product possible. Also, the higher the grade, the more they make on their sales. Feeding cattle is a tricky business, because they have to be on a ration that ensures they have plenty of muscle, and just enough fat.

In the diagram above, you can tell what each cuts of steak look like before they are cooked. These grades also apply to other cuts of meat, including ground beef. I know that before I was familiar with judging, I would typically reach for the leaner ground beef, but in doing that, I was sacrificing flavor.

Nowadays I make sure that I am evaluating the meat that I buy in the store, because livestock judging taught me what will taste the best, and why.

There are so many factors that have been constantly improved upon over the years to make the meat animal industry what it is today, and as consumers, it is in our best interest to try to understand it. My hope is that you all learned a little something about purchasing beef, and how to find the steak that will taste great, as well as a little bit about the commitment and time that has gone into what ends up on the plate.

If you want to know a little more about where other cuts of meat come from, check out this diagram from the American Angus Association.

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Different cuts of beef, and where they come from on the animal.

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Uno dollar, Mucho tacos, Muy happy

It is starting to get to that point in the school year where I am becoming a little low on funds, but I also don’t want to sacrifice being able to unwind at the end of a long day by going out to eat with my friends. Consequently, I have been trying to check out some of the deals day to day at the different bars and restaurants around town.

Another thing about me – I also really, REALLY love Mexican food.

So, you could probably imagine that my friends and I have been to Pablano’s a time or two, but this week I started realizing that I haven’t been branching out when it comes to Mexican cuisine. That’s something I need to work on, because I am always scared to try new things. After all, why try to replace a good thing? But at the same time, I know there’s probably a lot I’m missing out on.

But when that good thing starts to take a toll on your wallet, maybe it’s time to check out a more inexpensive option. That’s what led me to do a little research for our Taco Tuesday outing.

308 on State is the newest bar on campus, and while it has been around for over a year now, I have only ever been once, and did not have an opportunity to experience the food. When I was looking up local deals online, I found 308’s Taco Tuesday deal of $1 tacos and $3 margaritas…. how can you pass that up? I decided to check it out.

The tacos and margaritas sure didn’t disappoint, although I was shocked there there were very few customers – we were only one of four tables in the place. While I’m not complaining about it (I enjoyed being able to have an actual conversation with my friends in a quieter atmosphere and still enjoy the basketball game), I’m still surprised more people aren’t taking advantage of the Taco Tuesday deal.

It’s a pretty simple meal with chicken, beef, and an even newer vegetarian taco option, and it didn’t disappoint. You can also get sides of guacamole, jalapeños, sour cream, and salsa for only $0.50 a cup (pictured below).

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I posted this photo on Instagram on Taco Tuesday. (@shelbyraeriley)

The final verdict: we are definitely going back. The service was great, and bottom line, you just can’t beat a margarita and four tacos for $7. I will definitely be back to check out some of their other weekday deals, too.

Throwback Sunday

Living in Indiana is a constant question mark when it comes to the weather, so people in Indiana aren’t ever really surprised when the weather goes from 20 degrees and snowing to 50 and rainy the next day. It’s just normal.

So when our minds are blown by 60 plus degree weather in February multiple days in a row, you know things have gotten a little bit more weird than usual. But hey, I’ll take it!

They say that time flies when you’re having fun, and I’ve been enjoying this weather so much, I don’t even know where the weekend went. I have been trying to get out and about and take advantage of the weather while it lasts, and so I decided to go on a little adventure on this beautiful Sunday afternoon. Windows down on my way there and all.

While I was creating my Pinterest board the other day, I noticed that there is a candy shop in Lafayette, just across the bridge, not two miles from my apartment. So, I hopped in my car and drove downtown to check it out, and I’m really glad I did.

I enjoyed being able to walk around downtown on such a nice day, and stopping at McCord Candies was a great, quick weekend adventure. The building is original, and when I asked the girls working there, they said that it was over a hundred years old, and that the candy shop had been there since 1912. And you really can tell, because they haven’t made any updates at all.

It was quaint, but I really appreciated the old fashioned atmosphere as I leaned onto the bar to order myself a chocolate milkshake, and watched them mix it up right in front of me. They also have a soda fountain, all kinds of ice cream, food, and of course, candy. I decided to snap a few photos while I was looking around to share.

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There was a family stopping for ice cream and a couple picking out candies while I was in there. It’s a great family atmosphere, and since they have places to sit, it would be a great place to go with friends on an afternoon to catch up over soda or ice cream.

I highly recommend checking it out – you won’t be disappointed.

Happy Sunday, everyone!

Restauration Restoration?

I started out this blog by mentioning that I had only ventured into Lafayette for a night out twice. One of those times, it was about a year ago, and it was on my first and only date with  a guy that I had met through one of things I was involved with on campus. (Disclaimer: it didn’t work out, but we’re still friends.)

The date itself went well, and it was actually very interesting. He took me to Restauration, a restaurant in Lafayette that serves all locally sourced food. He worked on a cattle farm off campus, and Restauration bought a lot of their beef from them, so it was very cool to be eating a steak from the farm that he worked at.

After visiting the restaurant, I remember doing some research. Their tagline reads, “Restoring authenticity to food from the ground up.” They were focused on farm to table, seasonal eating, according to their Facebook page, where they post most of their updates.

Some other fun facts about Restauration:

  1. The owner, Kirsten Serrano, opened Restauration because she was inspired by her daughter’s food allergies.
  2. As a result, their food is allergen free.
  3. La Scala Italian Restaurant in downtown Lafayette is also owned by Kirsten Serrano and her husband.
  4. Restauration offered paleo, gluten free, vegetarian, and vegan options for patrons.
  5. All seasonal ingredients.
  6. Full bar with craft beers.
  7. Opened March 18th, 2015 – still fairly new.

A little over a month ago, there was a water main break that caused significant damage to Restauration, causing it to close down. In the meantime, they have been posting updates to social media about the clean up process, and patrons have been asking and wondering when and if the restaurant will reopen its doors.

Something new that I learned from scanning their Facebook page was that the La Scala Italian restaurant in Lafayette is also owned by the same people (as mentioned in my fun facts above). It came as no surprise, though, since they are also quite focused on serving up food from the area with a farm-to-plate business plan. The owners have been asking that people who would usually dine at Restauration choose La Scala for the time being.

On Tuesday, however, the owners of Restauration made the official announcement concerning their plans for the future of the eatery.

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The owners of Restauration made the decision not to reopen, at least for the time being. So all of the speculation about whether the owners would be working to restore the restaurant or not can finally be put to rest.

Personally, I hope that they are able to reopen someday. The idea behind the restaurant was great – the atmosphere was casual and relaxing, yet could be professional. (I actually ate there one other time as part of a business dinner.) The food was great, and you could feel good about knowing that you were supporting local farmers, which I am all about.

Here’s to hoping they change their minds soon. Until then, I will have to check out La Scala.

 

Valentine’s Day goin’ up on a Tuesday

Love it or hate it, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner.

I came up with the idea for this post while I was talking to one of my girlfriends about her new boyfriend, and their plans for Valentine’s Day. As of a few days ago, she still wasn’t sure what the two of them would be doing, and it sounded like he didn’t necessarily know what kind of plans to make.

So for everyone out there who is having a hard time figuring out where to take their sweetheart for the perfect date – a task that can be especially daunting for new relationships, and especially for college students who are trying to find a place that’s easy on the wallet.

Sure, anyone could just stay close to campus and go to Scotty’s – but let’s face it, everyone and their brother will be there with their dates. I decided to do a little research and look into places that I would want my beau to take me for a Valentine’s date that I haven’t necessarily heard of.

So, here is a short list of places in Lafayette that could be a home run if you’re looking to impress that special someone.

1. Red 7 ($$)

Looking at the menu, Red 7 seems to have a lot of options. From steak to pizza, they’ve got you covered, and for a fairly decent price – you won’t have to break the bank with this option on Tuesday night. And for those 21 and over, there is a full bar with lots of beer and wine options.

2. La Scala Italian Restaurant ($$)

Okay, so I know spring break is right around the corner and we’re all trying to get those beach-ready bodies by cutting out carbs. But hey, it’s Valentine’s Day and we all deserve a cheat day once in a while. And seriously, what better way to do it than with pasta? (It’s no secret that a good tortellini dish is the way to my heart.) As an agriculture student, I also appreciate that La Scala sources all of its ingredients from its farm and from other local farms.

3. Bistro 501 ($$$)

You might be looking at a little higher end, upscale dining, but you also will probably not feel like you’re in Lafayette, Indiana anymore. This is a bistro that’ll give you the French experience in downtown Lafayette. You’ll definitely have to make a reservation here, but it’ll be sure to be an unforgettable dining experience. (And just by scanning the menu, it may be worth the trip for dessert alone!)

4. McGraw’s Steak Chop and Fish House ($$$)

This is another restaurant that I have never personally been to, but I know quite a few people who have for various reasons, whether it be as a dinner with a professional company, for a capstone course, or as a date. Most recently, the friend I mentioned earlier had her first real date with her boyfriend at McGraw’s not too long ago. It has come highly suggested to me, and it is on the bucket list to make the trip before I graduate. For Tuesday night, however, if you like steak or seafood, this might be the place for you!

5. Cafe Literato ($$)

If you’re looking for more of a low-key place for a laid back date that’s not too fancy, and especially if you like pizza and espresso (an odd combo, but oddly intriguing as well), this might be the spot for you. This might be one of those great lunch date spots.

Also, a tip to the men out there: never underestimate the power of a bouquet of flowers. (And if you can’t find a place to make a reservation for dinner – don’t forget that there is always lunch! Refer back to my suggestion of Cafe Literato.)

Happy Early Valentine’s Day, everyone!

 

 

“Here’s a quarter….”

It’s not unusual for me to get a text from one of my friends in our group chat most days that reads something like, “Harry’s tonight at 8!” It’s a good way for all of us to unwind from the stress of classes, exams, and club activities at the end of the day by catching up over drinks and probably an order of fried banana peppers or seasoned salt fries. However, yesterday was a little different.

My friends and I don’t normally stray from Harry’s, but when we do, it’s usually a Thursday night at the Neon Cactus (and let’s face it, we usually end up at dear old Harold’s, anyway), or a Monday night for $0.25 Bud Light bottles at Where Else – easy on the wallets, a college student’s kryptonite. Where Else isn’t necessarily our kind of scene, but when you can buy a six pack of beer for $1.50, we aren’t picky.

So you can imagine my shock when I got a text yesterday morning in the group chat from one of my friends with an invitation to join her at quarter beers last night, which was a Wednesday.

It’s not uncommon for me to forget what day it is on occasion – sometimes I lose track of time when things get busy – but I didn’t think I was that far off on my week. So I immediately sent a text message back, “But it’s Wednesday?”

Not that I didn’t trust my friend when she assured me that Where Else changed “Quarter Beer Mondays” to “Quarter Beer Wednesdays,” but I decided to do some social media investigative work. And wouldn’t you know:

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Apparently, Wednesdays aren’t just the days we wear pink anymore – it’s the new day of the week for quarter beers at Where Else.

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Black & Gold & Fried Fish

If you read my first post, you’ll know by now that I am student in the College of Agriculture at Purdue University. So, as a disclaimer, I will probably be incorporating agriculture into a lot of my post. As my first real post on this blog, what better way to talk about food and represent the College of Agriculture than to talk about fried fish?

I’ll admit, this is not necessarily a typical “foodie” post, and it’s not even about Lafayette. But, the biggest and most traditional lunch in Indianapolis on the first Saturday of February is a gathering of Purdue Agriculture Alumni and friends of the College of Agriculture, and I had the privilege of attending for the second year in a row.

The 68th Annual Purdue Ag Alumni Fish Fry occurred at lunchtime on Saturday at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Sitting at the table with people that I had never met, listening to David Boudia, this year’s keynote speaker, and exchanging stories about Purdue over the traditional meal of fish, I thought about how much things have changed since that first Fish Fry.

The original Fish Fry was a completely stag event. Of course, it was 1949, and Ag Alumni affairs at that time were all male. 749 tickets were sold, and the main focus of the event was the meeting. As the event continued throughout the years, things began to change. Women began attending, more people became interested in general, and planning became more complex as the attractions became more elaborate.

Now, the waiting staff is entirely made up of student, faculty, and alumni volunteers, more than 4,000 people are in attendance, and there is always a celebrity keynote speaker with some kind of tie to Purdue.

But some things don’t change, like our commitment to our great University, and apparently our love for fish! In fact, according to the Purdue Ag Alumni website, a pork barbecue was proposed, but fish always won out. (And after enjoying the traditional meal of fish on Saturday, I’ll have to say that I am very glad it did, because it was absolutely delicious!)

Even though this was my last Fish Fry as a student, you can bet I’ll be sporting an apron next year and carrying the traditional fish to tables as a server for years to come.

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Early photo of volunteer servers at the Purdue Ag Alumni Fish Fry.

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Photo of 2016 Fish Fry attendees.