What exactly are beef cheeks? Is it fat stippled with meat like bacon? Is it tough stew-like meat that must be slowly cooked in liquid? When used for beef cheek ravioli, is the meat ground? Where can I find out this and more about beef cheek meat?
After eating beef cheek ravioli at Babbo last year, I asked the waiter where they get beef cheeks. He said they use brisket. I believe they suggest using brisket as an alternative in the new Babbo cookbook. Sorry to have not answered your question as to what exactly are beef cheeks.
Did a little research on google.com and found that there are actually two parts of the beef nominated as cheeks and I think the new novelty is the cheeks of the face. (Incidently, I discovered in my teens that I think its a very attractive part on a man right at the base of the jaw by the ear - especially when he chews gum. It still is a head turner for me.) The other seems to be part of the rump area. I think the kind Mario Batali uses is the face cheeks because of his narration of their texture as resembling gelatine.
Saw this: Other parts of animals that may find their way into hot dogs, sausages and other mystery meats are blood, marrow, cheeks and other head trimmings, feet (trotters), tails (oxtails), stomachs (hog maw), lungs (lights), small intestines (sausage casings), skins (pork rinds), stomach linings (tripe), and testicles (fries, prairie oysters or mountain oysters).
Also saw this: Poowong Meat Packing Pty Ltd specialises in meat export selling Australian beef to countries around the world, like Russia, Korea, Libya and the U.S.A.
Does that help?
I've had beef cheeks and it tastes like any other cut of beef. It is a tender cut of meat.
I've also had Babbo's beef cheek ravioli, but those little raviolis are so small and thin with so little meat, who can really can distiguish it is some special part of the cow. I love Babbo who makes a living out of taking the cheapest cuts of meat and charging prime time prices. The food is very good, but you have to appreciate the irony there.
If you are ever in SF stop by a restaurnt called Bizou where beef cheeks are one of the specialties always on the menu. The cheeks are breaded with mustard crust and fried. It is served on a bed of watercress. No big deal though. It's a signature dish but I think it is excelled by so many other outstanding dishes on the menu. Tried it. Liked it. Don't crave it. Moving on.
Actually I had the Babbo beef cheeks raviolis AT Bizou where Mario Batali was doing a tour with his new cookbook. Loretta Keller who owns Bizou is a big fan of Batali's cooking.
To sum it up, it tastes like beef.