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Cumbrae's Steak - the best?

Hosting a dinner party on Saturday and looking to buy the best steak (NY strip) that I can get my hands on. Have heard a lot about Cumbrae's but have never tried it before. Is it the best you can get in the city? Any advice on how to season/bbq it?

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  1. It's the best. Had a 30-day+ aged NY strip from there this weekend. Cost me $22 with tax but I would have easily paid twice that in a restaurant, and I would have had trouble finding such a great steak anyway.

    A little olive oil and a bunch of freshly ground pepper and sea salt, into a smoking hot cast-iron pan for 5 minutes a side, let it rest under foil for 5 minutes. Perfect medium-rare red meat bliss. I'm sure the BBQ will be great, though, esp. with warmer weather on the way.

    1 Reply
    1. re: childofthestorm

      Ditto. Cumbrae's for sure. Almost just as good would be Summerhill Market. My hubby does it pretty much the same way on the BBQ. It turns out perfect every time. Enjoy!

    2. Interesting no one mentioned Bruno's!!?!!. Their US Prime is dry aged for over 30 days and much more 'marbled' than Cumbrae's. Found it more flavourful and tender than Cumbrae's. I also know for a fact that Mark McEwan uses Bruno's steak for N44, One and Bymark.

      6 Replies
      1. re: Charles Yu

        I also love a Bruno's steak. I believe they own their own farms.

        Cooking Tips for Medium-Rare
        1. ask the butcher for striploins cut to 1" thick
        2. take out of the fridge 30-45 minutes before cooking
        3. coat lightly with olive oil, and lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper
        4. open BBQ and cook steak on high for 3 minutes covered
        5. open BBQ and turn steak by a quarter of a turn for another 2 minutes covered
        6. open BBQ and flip steak over for 4 more minutes covered
        7. remove steak from BBQ and let it rest on a cooling rack for 6 minutes
        8. serve immediately
        - 3 minutes/2 minutes/3 minutes for rare
        - 3 minutes/3 minutes/4 minutes for medium
        - I'm not even going to tell you how to kill it well!

        1. re: Charles Yu

          Bruno's website gives us no indication of the source, quality, or aging of the steaks.

          1. re: Charles Yu

            You need luck and a good eye to get really good beef.
            My 90 day aged steaks from Thuet, as I have mentioned were very chewy.
            I really like Cumbrae, but the last steaks I bought there were just O.K.
            This is unusual for Cumbrae, but it happens
            I was having 8 adults and a bunch of kids for dinner on January 1st.
            Was at Costco on Woodbine to pick up some chocolate gifts a couple of days before Christmas, and noticed a counter filled with boneless rib roasts.
            Picked up a huge one, and it was a perfect purplish colour, and very nicely, and evenly marbled.
            Put it in my cart, and remembering that the only time that I bought beef from
            Costco , several years ago,, the roast was almost inedible.
            Put it back.
            Reached the checkout, and returned to retreive the roast.
            It was fantastic, as good as it gets, and when my guests asked how I cook my roast to make it so tender, I told them that it is not the cook, but the meat.
            The cost was far less than it would have been from Cumbrae.
            BTW,Embee, I use Lesters Montreal Steak spice as well.

            1. re: erly

              I am of the opinion that 90 days is simply too long. Anything over 70, perhaps 80 days, is a waste of time and will only harm the quality of the beef. Anything less than 24 days is not enough. Anything more than 70 to 80 days is too much.

              1. re: erly

                I'm with you on that: I've had good luck with well-marbled rib steaks or roasts from the counter at a Dominion (White's Road). A small roast will yield two or three 1.5" steaks. Sometimes the beef looks good at Costco but the trays are too large. The key seems to be marbling more than aging.
                Ed. to add, I do age these rib steaks in the fridge for about a week or ten days. But this is not for everyone, as some minor discoloration will occur.

                1. re: erly

                  I really love Costco steak. The beef at my local Costco in London had always been very good quality in my experience. I regularly buy their rib steaks and have consistently enjoyed them.

                  A place like Cumbrae's is going to have some of the best steak, no question, but if you know what qualities to look for in beef, and the meat has been aged reasonably well, a decent steak can be found at much more humble places. For the cost of one decent steak at Cumbraes you could get a couple at Costco, and still get decent results. For a special occasion though, I would probably spend the extra cash though..

              2. I'm not a New York strip person, and I'd say buy a rib. But I agree that Cumbrae's is most consistently at the top. If you go to Bayview and talk to Stephen (the owner) or the head butcher, you can specify exactly what you want: the marbling, the age, etc. I've also found Cumbrae's to be somewhat less expensive than their high end competition.

                I've also had some great steaks (mainly ribs on the bone) from Oliffe, Whole Foods, Royal Beef, Pusateri's, Grace Meats, and even the Certified Angus counter at Loblaws. Healthy Butcher's steaks have too little marbling to be really great.

                Many would say that a top of the line steak needs only salt and pepper. Beyond that, two seasoning products stand out for me:

                - Lester's Montreal steak spice is magic. You'll find it in Jewish-oriented stores and some high end places. I don't recommend any other brand of "Montreal steak spice". I wish Lester's smoked meat was as good.

                - A product line called Char Crust really works. There are many flavours, some of them irrational, but hickory and Southwest flavours can be good on a steak.

                13 Replies
                1. re: embee

                  Which Lester's establishment makes the Lester's Montreal steak spice? They're two Lester's companies in Montreal(one the commercial smoked meat supplier, the other smoked meat deli that also makes their own smoked meat).

                  1. re: BLM

                    I need to try this Lester's stuff, who carries it?

                    1. re: millygirl

                      It is very widely, but selectively, available. Virtually any food store with a significant Jewish clientele will have it. Nortown, Pusateri's, and Nunzio's (Leaside) all carry it.

                      1. re: embee

                        Thanks for the tip, I've been missing this stuff, and resisted buying some generic brand at Costco just the other day. I'll use it on all but the very best steaks.

                        1. re: embee

                          just saw some at Bruno's (Yonge & Heath), $2.99 for 80g, on the meat counter.

                      2. re: BLM

                        It's from the big meat processor, not from the deli in Outremont.

                        I haven't been to Lester's Deli in many years. I didn't like the food there way back in the sixties. I find it hard to imagine that they make their own smoked meat but, whatever the source, some of the photos on their website look like plastic.

                      3. re: embee

                        embee, I like a light rub of the Roasted Garlic Peppercorn Char Crust on my steak. Have you tried it?

                          1. re: embee

                            So if I'm gonna buy one to try, which should it be Char Crust or Lester's?

                            1. re: millygirl

                              They are quite different and can even be mixed judiciously if you have a good palate. This isn't a big bucks purchase. If you must try just one, I'd go with Lester's. Be sure to tap the jar on a hard surface and shake it before every use. Don't use extra salt.

                              1. re: embee

                                Thanks embee, I'll pick some up. BTW, it's not the money, it's just that my pantry is filled with sauces, marinades, jellies, mustards, etc. My new year's resolution is to scale down.

                              2. re: millygirl

                                I concur with embee. Get the Lester's. I typically make my own rubs using Char Crust only as an uber quickie dinner solution. I find Montreal steak spice a bit more complex so I don't even attempt to recreate. Have never thought of blending the two. That said, yes, anyone who can afford steak can afford to have both choices in their cupboard.

                          2. re: embee

                            It's funny, I was over at a friend's last night and we were doing up a Cumbrae's ribeye, and I had briefly tried (unsuccessfully) to revive your original post (from a year ago?) about grilling with the Lester's/CC for a tip on preparing the steak, as I had been using the Lester's for awhile, but always thought to add the char crust as well to see the effect.

                            Anyway, it was a pretty great meal (hadn't tried much of Cumbrae's wares in the past)...made some decadent mashed potatoes and picked up a fantastic hazelnut/raisin/honey Premiere Moisson loaf along with some salad (topped with Kraft's Asian Sesame, a recent fun favourite) and a nice cab. What sweet value (my friend had just hit up Hy's to much comparative disappointment a few days before).

                          3. I was just surfing this webpage, and thought immediately of this thread. I'm definitely trying this preparation for my next steak. Mango ravioli for dessert anyone? :)


                            3 Replies
                            1. re: dlw88

                              Another Joanne Kates opinion - in today's Globe and Mail she describes ordering a wagyu steak, and thinks it was not even remotely worth the money.

                              Having never had one, I'll keep my mind open until I do. Are they really that good, or didn't the emperor get dressed today?

                              1. re: ekammin

                                Many experts claim (just google) that wagu should never be put on a BBQ
                                The texture changes and the fat content breaks down.
                                I have eaten wagyu only a few times, but the best that I have ever tasted was at an Australian restaurant in Bangkok.
                                They flew it in from Australia, and seared it.
                                You could almost cut it with a butter knife, and it was the texture of fois gras.

                                1. re: ekammin

                                  The richest steak I want is the Rib Steak at H60. I like a hunk of meat so major marbeled is over the top for me....very personal thing.

                              2. Had t-Bone yesterday and it was rather disapointing after all the build up. Nowhere near the taste of a USDA Prime @ $ 24.99 I consider it a rip off...

                                1. A little late, but I love the quality of meat coming from The Friendly Butcher at 3269 Yonge St..

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Darksyde

                                    I agree I have picked up several cuts of meat from that spot last summer.( Good AAA) However ,I get very picky when I pay $ 25-30 / steak. I expectt a minimum standard of Black Angus or USDA prime ,and more importantly ,TASTE!!! The Cumbraee T-Bone simply didn't meet my expectations.

                                  2. After hearing all the hype, I tried Cumbrae for beef tenderloin. It was OK, but nothing special.

                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: wordsworth

                                      Cumbrae's steaks aren't necessarily perfect but, on balance, Cumbrae's sells the most consistently high quality meat most consistently (forgive the fractured syntax).

                                      Oliffe also sells some spectacular steaks, though at much higher overall prices. But you can snag a very good steak in many places if you learn what visible characteristics make a steak taste good to you. For example, I find a great rib steak at the Loblaw's Certified Angus counter every couple of months. However, Cumbrae's is more reliable and the Loblaw's steaks need a couple of weeks of refrigerator age to reach their peak. I expect less from Loblaw's but they sometimes surprise me.

                                      I have, indeed, had occasional steaks from Cumbrae's, Oliffe, Pusateri's, et al that weren't worth their price.

                                      1. re: chefsearch

                                        Oliffe's steaks are some of the very best. Oliffe has been a great butcher for more than thirty years. The prices are extremely high. In a more plebeian realm, their pre-made "Kobe" burgers are wonderful.

                                        Cumbrae's offers much more choice to an individual customer just walking in off the street. They are cheaper and I like their philosophy. (I just hope that this philosophy doesn't become distorted, as has happened with Rowe Farms.)

                                        We all draw our lines in different places, though. I admire the Healthy Butcher's philosophy, but find that their philosophy results in much poorer eating quality for most of their food.

                                        1. re: embee

                                          I would rather buy Canadian, AAA Angus from the meat counters in the big marts, or Cumbrae's, where they know the complete history of the animal.
                                          The problem I have with USDA Prime or Choice, is that it may be finished in the large feedlots in Iowa or Kansas, and the conditions can be unsavory, to say the least. (Some, but not all, of Olliffe's is from Pa., and they are a rare source of Canada Prime). I have not heard any horror stories about the finishing of Alberta or Ontario beef.
                                          Does anyone know if Cumbrae's beef is graded, and if so, is it Canada Prime?

                                          1. re: jayt90

                                            I'll ask next time I'm in when there's someone who would know (unless someone who knows for sure posts here first). Some of the meat for sale there has the visual characteristics of Prime and some doesn't. Stephen told me to specifically ask for prime when I'm looking for a very marbled cut, but I don't know whether it is officially graded.

                                            While I've been known to make snide comments about grading - especially the USDA Select "specials" at Loblaw's and Sobey's - it doesn't necessarily matter all that much. Some of the (ungraded) Certified Angus stuff at Loblaw's looks very much like high level USDA Choice.

                                            They occasionally have Canada Prime strip loins at Royal Beef, but these are wet aged in Cryovac and I prefer dry aged rib.

                                            Looking at the market as a whole, I do believe that feedlot and slaughterhouse conditions are better here than in the US. Things are certainly much better for chickens. However, inspections are much less rigorous than in the past and we seem to be headed toward more US style "self regulation". That scares me.

                                            1. re: jayt90

                                              Canadian beef over American every time, my friend. Bring on some Saskatchewan steaks. Here's why:

                                      2. I have to agree that Costco has some good meat. Last fall, I picked up a 4 pack of rib eyes that were perfectly marbled, good thickness and the price was around $30. They were delicious. For seasoning, I use Barbarian's Steak Spice. You can get it at most grocery stores that carry gourmet items. Sun Valley Foods on Danforth is where I first found it.
                                        But I'm also very lucky as my neighbour works for the Keg and she gets an insane deal of 7 oz sirloin offcuts (like $4 a steak).

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: air621

                                          Can someone tell me how much a 16oz+ aged NY Striploin would cost at Cumbraes or Oliffe's?

                                          I would like to try a spectacular steak like I enjoyed in Montreal.. I ate at a steakhouse called La Queue de Cheval right downtown, where they did a very long dry-age right in house, you could even see the meat hanging in the window and they show you your steak before they cook it

                                          They had a bone-in 20oz. Striploin steak that they called a "Kansas Cut"

                                          I had never seen a striploin cut like this before, as the steak had a thin narrow bone that ran around the entire side of the steak

                                          It was an amazing meal, and would love to replicate something like that at home

                                          So has anyone ever seen these "Kansas Cuts" around one of these high end butchers before? And can someone give me a rough idea of what a 16-20oz aged striploin would cost me?

                                          Thanks in advance!

                                          1. re: duckdown

                                            Go into any good butcher and ask and they will cut you one. Probably $19/$20 a pound at cumbraes and a little more at oliffe's ($25?).

                                            1. re: duckdown

                                              From my understanding the Kansas Cut as you say is just the striploin with part of the bone attached. Or, you can say it's just the porterhouse with the tenderloin and part of the bone removed. I'm sure you can ask a butcher to remove the tenderloin from a porterhouse for you to get the same result.

                                              1. re: Crispier Crouton

                                                Hi, thank you for the response

                                                I have since that original post found this cut at Cheese Boutique, and it's awesome... A little pricey at around $25 per steak though

                                                I think you are correct in your assessment regarding the porterhouse/bone cutting

                                          2. Do these meat places really know where yhe cow came from or how it was raised ??
                                            They all get there meat from a wholesale meat packers. Usually if they order No 1 quality it should be good, but you can still get a tough one. Get yoir steaks at least 1-1 1/2 in thick. Coat with oil and grill on high. Get some flame going and char outside.Cook only 3-4 min on each side. John Vince bulk foods carries a good montreal streak spice. I don't use too much and press into meat.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: fatman0000

                                              How does the meat/steak at Mark McEwan's new store stack up?

                                              1. re: Eastwind

                                                I just read a report, If I remember correctly on the cookbook store blog, of an artisan steak tasting held recently (which I do not think was the one that City Bites hosted in the spring) the judges were a number of name chefs including Mark McEwan, all the tastes were blind and all the the steaks were cooked by one chef who was not a judge (David Lee) there were two cuts tasted and Cumbrea won both competitions, McEwans was one of the other choices as was someone's Waygu.

                                            2. on a tangent slightly the best steak i've found for a quick dinner party is found at la boucherie at st lawrence market. They do a vacuum packed filet with olive oil and black pepper and wrapped with bacon. Perfect for sous vide-ing and then finishing in a skillet or slapping on the BBQ

                                              It's a no nonsense crowd pleaser. Is it the best cut? no. Is it the best beef? no. It's simple and fast and tasty though

                                              1. The BEST steaks you can buy in Toronto (believe it or not) are from COSTCO. I've never had a bad steak from there in my life (never lied to you before and wouldn't start now!!! )LOL

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: Dundrumgal

                                                  +1 for Costco.
                                                  The quality they offer at that prices can't be beat.

                                                  1. re: elvisahmed

                                                    Cumbraes appears to take a great amount of care in sourcing their products and ensuring the farms that they source form take care in ensuring a healthy life/living conditions, feed and treatment of their animals. To even compare them to Costco is a joke. I've done blind taste-testing with friends as I am also a Costco member and there is no comparison. (Yes I am a flexitarian so I do eat meat on rare occasions).

                                                    And, even if the taste was the same there's a lot to be said for what is probably in Costco's meat (as a result of what their cows eat) that isn't in Cumbraes' and that's a good thing. Furthermore I'd rather buy from someone that cares about how the animals are treated, fed and live, regardless of whether the meat tasted the same.

                                                    However, the best beef for my money is grass-fed not grain fed which is what you get at Costco exclusively. This is the way cows were only fed prior to about 60 years ago (with the odd substitutions made during cold winter periods). Grain fed beef is a modern invention that came about as a result of industrial beef production. I recently went to Argentina (one of the few countries where grass fed beef is very prevalent) and had some grass-fed beef and, OMG, was the beef good. But, yes, it's more than twice the price of your run of the mill grain fed beef.

                                                    1. re: Flexitarian

                                                      Well I mentioned the Price/value proposition as a my criteria. Cumbrae is good but I can't justify the premium. You can so by all means go ahead and buy it from them. I would also recommend you try Famu.
                                                      There is grass fed beef apparently in Toronto

                                                2. A discussion of whether Canadian beef is grass or grain fed has been split to the General Chowhounding Topics board. You can find the thread at the link below:


                                                  1. Two steaks, two pork chops, two lamb chops - $80.

                                                    The steaks were very good but I'm not sure they were $24 each good.
                                                    The pork was quite good and reasonably priced.
                                                    The lamb was inferior to the New Zealand lamb you get in the green packages at the grocery store. Quite fatty and lots of gristle in the meat. Not very tender.

                                                    The previous week I bought some burgers and sausages which were very good. The burgers were ground coarse with a lot of fat and were juicy and flavourful. The Tunisian lamb sausage was nicely spiced, but a bit dry.

                                                    But I'm not convinced the price justifies the product and I'm going to keep looking for a premium butcher for special occasions.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: hal2010

                                                      Try St Jamestown Steak & Chops on Parliament @ Winchester. Fantastic butcher with what I consider to be reasonable prices given the extremely high quality, well sourced, and properly cut meats. Also an excellent provisioner with produce as good as or better than anything at the SLM. There's a small, but top-notch selection of seafood as well. Enjoy!

                                                    2. I'm a big fan of Sanagan's, but I usually get hanger and flat iron there. Their quality is exceptional and their prices are very reasonable. Any comments on Sanagan's vs Cumbrae's?