Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Steak Tartare and Bacons Sauteed Brussels Sprouts Paired with two Pinot Noirs and a Tempranillo

Steak Tartare-3

Since releasing my eBook - Craig’s Grape Adventure – Loving Life with a Skillet and a Corkscrew - I took a small break from posting new pairings.  However, I was still cooking, pairing, enjoying, and have a number of great recipes and wines lined up in the on-deck circle.  The pace of life (meaning work) is picking up dramatically, but I hope to get back on schedule.

Steak tartare, tuna tartare, salmon tartare, and all the rest of the brothers, sisters, and cousins in the extended tartare family are among my favorites.  I love the basic and distinct flavors these dishes highlight.  Last year when I was working in Israel and Jordan, I went on somewhat of a steak tartare binge.  We would routinely hold “business meetings” at the American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem.  I did not expect to find steak tartare on the menu, but sure enough, it was there - and it was spectacular.  I never got around to sampling the rest of the menu.

Another wonderful experience with steak tartare came from my visits to Ethiopic – an Ethiopian restaurant on H Street NE in Washington DC.  It is prepared with traditional Ethiopian spices and is worlds away (well at least a continent and a big ocean) from my experience in Jerusalem.  If you happen to be in Washington DC, or Jerusalem, I recommend you give these folks a try for a memorable serving of steak tartare.

Brussels Sprouts

The trips to the American Colony hotel and Ethiopic inspired me to try my hand at steak tartare.  The result was terrific and I’m glad I did.

Pairing wine with steak tartare presents a broad range of possibilities.  In the raw, steak has a much brighter flavor than when cooked.  Add to this the spicy components and capers - the range of wines can vary from medium bodied and fruity to bold, full bodied, and spicy.  We decided to try the medium bodied end of the spectrum with the intent of matching the body and flavor intensity in complement rather than the contrast of a spicy Shiraz or Zinfandel.  Mission accomplished.

Xwinery Cloudline Trader Joe's-1

We started with the 2008 Cloudline Oregon Pinot Noir.  We found the tasting notes from the winemaker consistent with our experience.

“On the nose, there is an immediate burst of bright, fresh red fruits, including strawberry and raspberry, followed by an earthy quality. On the palate, the wine has fine texture, soft tannins, good acidity and a strong core of fruit. It is a wine that offers immediate pleasure, on its own, or better yet, in the company of a delicious meal.”

2008 Cloudline Oregon Pinot Noir

The acidity and distinctive fruit flavors were key in our judgment of success for the pairing.  The body, intensity of flavors and acidity not only make this a great paring with steak tartare, but a great pairing wine in general with a noteworthy range of possibilities.  At $18, it is an excellent value.

We next moved on to the 2008 Xwinery Carneros Napa Valley Truchard Vineyard Pinot Noir.  Tasting notes from the winemaker:

“Bursting with raspberry and red cherry aromas, this austere 2008 Pinot Noir from Truchard Vineyards in Los Carneros is both clean and elegant. This wine offers bright fruit flavors of strawberry, red cherry, and raspberry as well as notes of cola and prune. It finishes with nutty, oaky flavors and offers minerality native to the Los Carneros region.”

2008 Xwinery Carneros Napa Valley Truchard Vineyard Pinot Noir

We found the the 2008 Xwinery Carneros Napa Valley Truchard Vineyard Pinot Noir to be comparable to the Cloudline, yet a bit more intense, complex, and featuring slightly darker fruit flavors.  The acidity and body were well matched to the tartare and we gave it an enthusiastic thumbs up.  At $25, it is yet another good value and a versatile pairing wine.

Finally, the 2009 Trader Joe's California Petit Reserve Tempranillo.  The 2009 Trader Joe's Tempranillo Petit Reserve is a wine purchased in Virginia, made from a Spanish grape grown in California and sold by a Germany company.  The wine industry is really stretching its geographic legs these days.  Here are the tasting notes from the bottle:

“Our rendition of this native Spanish grape displays distinctive, focused aromas of blackberry and dried currant with a hint of smoke on the finish.”

2009 Trader Joe's California Petit Reserve Tempranillo

We found it to be fruity and smooth with a bit of tartness in the finish.  It was not as complex as the Pinot Noirs, and the tartness was not ideal for the pairing.  I would not recommend this wine for your pairing with steak tartare.  On the other hand, at $6 this is an economical daily drinker.

Sweedish Meatballs

As a final note, we added bacon sautéed brussels sprouts, egg noodles and Swedish meatballs to the menu for a certain someone in the crowd who is not pleased with the idea of raw anything. 
While on the subject of raw, prepare this dish at your own risk.  Regardless of what I say about raw food, seared food, medium rare steaks and anything short of cooking the hell out of something, follow the USDA guidelines for safely cooking meat. Your choice, like mine, to live on the edge with less than fully cooked meats is exactly that – your decision.


Steak Tartare


For 2 servings

  • Assorted fresh greens (optional)
  • 12 ounces beef tenderloin or sirloin
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Trinidad pepper sauce (or your favorite pepper sauce)
  • Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup minced red onion
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 2 egg yolks
  • Toast points drizzled with olive oil (optional)
  • Extra virgin olive oil


  1. Finely chop the beef with a very sharp knife - a dull knife is frustrating and results in something more akin to ground beef.
  2. Season to taste with Worcestershire sauce, hot pepper sauce, Dijon mustard, salt and black pepper. I used Trinidad Pepper Sauce.
  3. Gently fold in the onions, capers and parsley
  4. Shape the meat into 2 patties and form a small bowl in the center to place the egg yolk.
  5. Center each on a plate - putting on a bed of fresh greens is a nice optional touch.
  6. Carefully break the 2 eggs, and gently place only the yolk in the "bowl you formed in the patty.
  7. Drizzle with olive oil and serve with additional pepper sauce, Worcestershire and olive oil on the side. Optionally, include toast points.

In vino veritas, buen provecho.


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