The mad cow scare might be over, but is it too late to save the chopped steak from extinction?11:00 PM, Feb 22, 2004 • By VICTORINO MATUS
EVERY SO OFTEN, an item on a menu that has been a constant for years will suddenly vanish. You might still be able to order it by special request, but sooner or later you will ask yourself, Whatever happened to the Waldorf salad? What happened is it became extinct. In "Kitchen Confidential," chef Anthony Bourdain remembers such dishes from his days in the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) circa 1975, including "cauliflower in Mornay sauce, saddle of veal Orloff, lobster thermidor . . . chicken Hawaiian, grilled ham steak with pineapple ring and old-style lumbering classics like beef Wellington." All of which have been relegated to the ash heap of culinary history. Could a true American classic like the chopped steak be next?
So far as we know, the first recorded case of mad cow disease in the United States is also the only case. And while Congress will continue scrutinizing the USDA's surveillance system, the general public can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that for now, nothing will stand between them and a juicy steak. But what about ground beef? After all, the one cow with BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or "mad cow") found its way into eight states plus Guam as hamburger patties. Wary consumers may opt for steak sandwiches rather than chopped steak--a choice that could ultimately lead to its extinction from the menu.
THERE WAS A TIME when ground beef was feared. A century ago, it bore the stigma of being "poor people's food." Back then, according to "Fast Food Nation" author Eric Schlosser, "restaurants rarely served hamburgers; they were sold near lunch carts near factories, at circuses, carnivals, and state fairs. Ground beef, it was widely believed, was made from old, putrid meat heavily laced with chemical preservatives." Not until the 1920s and the arrival of White Castle, which enforced stricter and healthier standards, did that perception change. Nevertheless, before World War II, the most popular meat in America was pork. Today, that is no longer the case, as Americans, on average, consume roughly 64.4 pounds of beef per year (compared with 49.8 pounds of pork and 50 pounds of chicken).
Even so, ground beef may be in jeopardy. For instance, if you go to epicurious.com--a site that boasts "The World's Greatest Recipe Collection"--you will not find a single entry for the phrase "chopped steak." (Type-in "sea bass" and you get 85 hits.) Go to a restaurant and odds are you will not find it on the menu there, either. But what about a great steakhouse?
THE CAUCUS ROOM is located between the Capitol and the White House in Washington, D.C.--a fitting spot since it aims to bring together politicians in a nonpartisan setting. (Two of the restaurant's partners are Democratic insider Tom Boggs and Republican governor Haley Barbour.) In a dark, wood-paneled barroom, I meet with general manager Ed D'Alessandro and executive chef Richard Beckel. I point out that a chopped steak is featured on the Caucus Room's website. D'Alessandro admits that the online menu needs to be updated. "Chopped steak has been gone from the menu for some time," he says. "When we redo our menus, we check the menu mixes that will tell you what's selling and what's not. The chopped steak was not one of our more popular items."
But just when all seemed hopeless, Beckel, a hulk of a man with a boyish face, chimes in, saying, "We do it by request." A customer simply needs to ask for it--and what he gets is worth the wait. According to the chef, "We use ground Kobe beef, broil it, cook it to whatever temperature you like, then cover it with onions, mushrooms, and a sauce similar to gravy that we make here." How often has he had to do this? "Just once." The CIA-trained Beckel doesn't recall having to prepare the dish in class but both he and D'Alessandro grew up in the New York area and are familiar with the old war horse.
Beckel, originally from Rockland County, New York, remembers the old diners that served it "with a dark gravy and a side of mashed potatoes. It was a hamburger that offered the vegetable of the day or salad and fries. But it was also bigger. It was like two hamburgers, oval-shaped." He also reminds me of the distinction between chopped steak and Salisbury steak, "which is usually made with a filler in it. It's not grilled but sautéed or braised." (As far as regular steaks go, Beckel enjoys the bone-in ribeye, medium rare to medium, simply prepared with salt and pepper. "And no steak sauce," adds D'Alessandro. "Don't ever put steak sauce on the table.")
Sixty years later, Germans are still asking: So what did your grandfather do in the war?11:00 PM, Feb 5, 2004 • By VICTORINO MATUS
SAY THIS about John Kerry: At least his grandfather wasn't a Nazi. For all the oppo research that will be done on him, having a Fascist relative is something that probably won't come up. Which is not the case for some politicians in Germany, where 60 years later, questions about a family's past still linger. Take the plight of Friedrich Merz.
How should the United States approach the terrorist problem in the Philippines?11:00 PM, Nov 9, 2003 • By VICTORINO MATUS
LITTLE MENTIONED in recent reports on the war on terror were the arrests last September of two men linked to al Qaeda. What makes these arrests particularly interesting is that they happened in Mindanao, an island in the southern Philippines. Jasem Alhasan, a Kuwaiti, was detained along with a known Abu Sayyaf rebel, Ustadz Sanday. (Abu Sayyaf is the terrorist group that held Americans Martin and Gracia Burnham hostage for more than a year and beheaded another American, Guillermo Sobero.) Alhasan was later deported back to Kuwait on October 8.
HBO's documentary on the Moscow theater hostage crisis is disturbing, wrenching, and definitely worth watching.7:30 AM, Oct 23, 2003 • By VICTORINO MATUS
"WE'VE COME TO RUSSIA'S CAPITAL CITY to stop the war or die here for Allah. . . . I swear to Allah, we desire death more than you want life." These words, spoken by Chechen terrorist Movsar Barayev, open "Terror in Moscow," a grim and stomach-churning look at the Moscow theater hostage crisis of October 2002. Producer/director Dan Reed was able to obtain (for the right price) videos from the FSB (formerly KGB), footage recorded by the terrorists themselves, and broadcasts from Radio Ekho Moskvy.
A new poll exposes the true extent of the transatlantic problem, though one German may have just the solution.12:00 AM, Oct 20, 2003 • By VICTORINO MATUS
NEITHER SNOW NOR RAIN nor heat nor gloom of a hurricane can keep me away from a press breakfast at the Ritz-Carlton. And so it was, on the morning of the day Hurricane Isabel was poised to strike our nation's capital, that I found myself alone in an oak-paneled room waiting to meet Wolfgang Schäuble, the deputy chairman of Germany's Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union parliamentary group (he isn't nearly as boring as his title sounds).
In the 1980s, Schäuble served as chief of staff for Helmut Kohl.
A year after North Korea admitted to kidnapping more than a dozen Japanese, many of the victims have yet to be returned--dead or alive.12:00 AM, Sep 25, 2003 • By VICTORINO MATUS
IT WAS A YEAR AGO this month that North Korea, in the midst of normalization talks with Japan, dropped a major bombshell: During the late 1970s, North Korean agents infiltrated Japan's west coast and abducted 11 men and women--though Kim Jong Il claims he knew nothing about it at the time. "I guarantee that those involved will be punished, and we will prevent any future occurrence," vowed the Maximum Leader.
Transatlantic relations are put to the test when the Germans come face to face with America's most infamous sheriff.12:00 AM, Sep 9, 2003 • By VICTORINO MATUS
"Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," Gary Coleman, why Saddam's innocent, and more.12:00 AM, Aug 18, 2003 • By
THE DAILY STANDARD welcomes letters to the editor. Letters will be edited for length and clarity and must include the writer's name, city, and state.
While I agree with David Skinner's Queer Like Us, there is one thing worth adding. If we straight guys are so barbaric and clueless, how come I can cook, decorate, entertain, and occasionally impress a nice female?
A trip to Atlantic City and more tales from the tables.11:30 AM, Aug 6, 2003 • By VICTORINO MATUS
IT'S BEEN OVER A YEAR since my last trip to Sin City, which featured high-stakes blackjack, Wayne Newton, and a bachelor party for a friend who later broke off his engagement (what a deal for him!). But it's been an even longer spell since my last visit to that shining city by the sea known as Atlantic City. Not that it's far--from Washington, DC, it is only a three-and-a-half hour drive.
Reflections on Uday, Qusay, and il Duce.12:00 AM, Jul 31, 2003 • By VICTORINO MATUS
GIVE THE UNITED STATES military some credit. After wiping out Saddam Hussein's sons, Uday and Qusay, with a barrage of small-arms fire and TOW missiles, they not only put their bodies on display--they made them look presentable (after those initial photos that could have appeared in Fangoria). No, it's nothing like Lenin, Mao, or even Ferdinand Marcos. But then again, they didn't have much to work with. Qusay took bullets straight to the head while his brother suffered blunt trauma (also to the head). In the end, both men looked like props from Madame Tussaud's latest exhibit.
How one company is creating guns that fire a million rounds per minute and revolutionizing the way we think about weapons.12:00 AM, Jul 16, 2003 • By VICTORINO MATUS
A FEW WEEKS AGO, in between segments about a robot that helps dig through rubble and a mosquito-zapper made by a high schooler at a science fair, CNN's Fredricka Whitfield had this tidbit to offer:
"An Australian inventor has come up with a gun that fires a million rounds per minute. It's called Metal Storm and it uses electronics to control the blast of projectiles, which can shred a target or throw up a defensive wall against an incoming missile."
That tantalizing tease was pretty much the extent of CNN's reporting on Metal Storm, and who can blame them?
A meeting between Americans and Europeans brings an end to the rift. Sort of.12:00 AM, Jun 18, 2003 • By VICTORINO MATUS
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT, last week was "Transatlantic Week," in which several conferences devoted to U.S.-European relations occurred simultaneously. The Washington Post's David Ignatius covered one in Berlin where the presence of Richard Perle, aka The Prince of Darkness, probably led some to believe a full-scale war might break out.
The administration sues the European Union over genetically-modified foods.12:00 AM, May 28, 2003 • By KATHERINE MANGU-WARD
AFRICANS ARE STARVING, American farmers are going out of business, and the administration says Europe's to blame.
In a suit brought to the WTO earlier this month, the Bush administration alleges that the E.U.'s five-year moratorium on the approval of new genetically-modified (GM) foods violates the rules of the WTO. In addition, the plaintiff adds, the "unfounded, and unscientific fears" of Europeans have kept developing countries in Africa from investing in enhanced crops.
The United States is joined in the suit by Canada, Argentina, and Egypt.
In February 1945, the Nazis classified 350 American POWs as Jews. PBS's documentary "Berga: Soldiers of Another War" sheds light on the nightmare that followed.12:00 AM, May 28, 2003 • By VICTORINO MATUS
NOT THAT WE BASE OUR IMPRESSIONS on life in a German POW camp entirely on "Hogan's Heroes," but there is an understanding that life in a stalag wasn't nearly as bad as life, say, under the Japanese. Roughly 4 percent of Americans died in German and Italian camps while a staggering 27 percent died in Japanese camps. In Western Europe, Allied prisoners (except the Russians) enjoyed certain benefits thanks to the Geneva Convention. They received Red Cross parcels, enough food, and were often allowed to exercise and play soccer. It wasn't the Waldorf-Astoria, but it wasn't Auschwitz either.