Baby Beef - unique to Toronto!! (New York Deli)...
- Rabbit Sep 30, 2007 06:42 PM
I had lunch at the New York deli today - one of my all-time Toronto faves.
Mr. Rabbit and I split a baby beef sandwich. And we had a very interesting chow-talk with the deli owner. Apparently baby beef is a unique-to-Toronto food item - you can literally only get the stuff here.
Baby beef is veal (duh). The producer uses veal shoulder, and cooks it with paprika to give the meat a characteristic red colour. Apparently they used to use a red dye (way back when... and it sounds like they've been making this stuff since about the '30s), but health regs made them cut it out. The meat tastes not unlike pastrami or corned beef, but less spicy and flavourful. Honestly, it's perhaps slightly bland in comparison. Texture is a little finer than other beef cold cuts, perhaps more like a deli turkey or chicken cold cut. Either way, great sammy - just like always (and we had five different kinds of mustard on the table!).
The all-day breakfast menu also has the baby beef with eggs - apparently this was a popular option in local kosher delis (although the NY is not kosher).
I always recommend the New York for great deli, but discovering this weird CH-y trivia is yet another reason to put it on the map.
PS - we also had cabbage borcht and chicken noodle soup... both wonderful comfort foods.
It's true - "Baby Beef" is indeed unique to Toronto. The first time I tried it, I found it to be overpriced and with too dull a flavor. At that time I was 'fresh off the ....VIA Rail from Montreal and prefered the flavor 'whollop' of Montreal smoked meat... Many years later, nothing has changed...this 'deli meat', was a bit on the boring side...
Only time I had ever heard the reference to "baby beef" was due to my Argentinian colleagues. I always assumed that it was some enormous cut of some type; so it seems my ffod educationhas just moved ahead a tad.
This meat was widely available when I was a kid in New York. Possibly still is. It was called "rolled beef" rather than the Toronto term, baby beef. The "format" of the meat was perhaps different, but it was essentially the same thing. Some producers used brisket (which was, literally, rolled up); others used different forequarter cuts. It always cost more than corned beef or pastrami. I think of it as dumbed down deli meat for spice haters.
The term "baby beef" was used much more widely in Canada 30-40 years ago. Older veal was often sold as baby beef in Montreal and Toronto supermarkets and "baby beef liver" was the standard name given to what we now call calf's liver. There was also a large meat place on St Clair W called "Casa del Baby Beef".
I've had both the pastrami and the smoked meat at the New York Deli - I can't recommend either, the meat being far too dry and lacking in flavour.