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Jul 7, 2008 07:54 PM

Steak - Not Cumbrae's, Healthy Butcher etc....

I am looking for some great cuts of steak. Primarily N.Y. Strips, Top Sirloin etc.....

I know all about Cumbrae's, Healthy Butcher etc.... but that's not what I am looking for. I can impress enough with my cooking capabilities that I don't always need a name brand butcher and price tag to back it up.

European Meat in Kensington is out of the equation. All of Kensington is. So that leaves me with St. Lawrence Market (I usually go to DeLiso's for filet but never other cuts), Loblaws, Dominion.

I don't mind spending a little extra but I want to find the best taste and value for my dollars. The Downtown core is preferred!

Where do you shop and what do you recommend?

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  1. I'd try the Certified Angus counter at the Queens Quay Loblaws.

    10 Replies
    1. re: embee

      Is that just the Loblaws that you frequent or do you recommend that counter in particular over other stores? Coincidentally, I was eyeing some steak at the Certified Angus counter in the St. Clair West Loblaws yesterday but I hesitated to purchase anything as I wasn't sure about the quality/taste. I'm usually an Olliffe's/Cumbrae's girl and I'm just not that familiar with supermarket quality meats - not meaning to be a snob (Lord knows I could save some $ in this department) but I'm always hesitant to buy inferior meat. Do they sell any meats that are either organic or organic-ish (i.e. not certified but free range, hormone free)?

      1. re: peppermint pate

        Store location was based on "downtown core" comment of the OP. St Clair W should be fine. I assume you know what to look for in a good steak. They often have them. "Certified Angus" is a brand name, and the quality falls somewhere between USDA Choice and USDA Prime.

        I prefer rib on the bone, and even the awful Leslie St store sometimes has ribs that are beautifully marbled and nicely cut. They will usually (though not always) cut to order if you aren't happy with what's on display. I don't generally buy strip loins.

        The steaks they sell could use more age. I hold them loosely wrapped in the fridge for at least a week, and sometimes more. It does make a difference. I haven't had any problems with mold or spoilage, but YMMV.

        As to the Oliffe/Cumbrae comparison, you really can't compare. I've had Certified Angus steaks that were more flavourful, and more tender, than 45 day steaks from Cumbrae's. If you choose carefully, the odds aren't bad, and the cost is about 1/3 for a comparably sized steak. However, I also shop at Cumbrae's and, less frequently, at Oliffe. There are days when nothing looks worth buying, so I don't buy.

        Organic-ish? No. Also, Certified Angus is normally American meat. They do sell chickens that are labeled "free from" a bunch of additives (Dominion calls these chickens "traditionally raised"). I believe that Canadian standards for poultry farming exceed those in the US. I can't say anything about the beef. The US allows growth hormones while Canada doesn't. I don't know the status of the imports.

        1. re: embee

          Thanks a bunch for the informative response. I also prefer a bone-in ribsteak to all other cuts. I've never thought to try aging any of the meat that I've purchased. On your last point re: growth hormones, then, are you saying that all Canadian-raised meat is hormone-free?

          1. re: peppermint pate

            My understanding (which may be incorrect!) is that growth hormones cannot be used in Canadian raised meat. I don't know whether this means US beef imported into Canada must be hormone free.

            It also appears that poultry raising practices are better here. We have not had the "assume all of your chicken contains salmonella" problem common in the US. It is much easier to get a decent quality air chilled chicken here than in the US. The "free from" (Loblaws) and "traditionally raised" (Dominion) chickens are of obviously superior quality, but make no "natural" or "organic" claims.

            "Natural" and "organic" labeling is very hazy to me. Cumbrae's makes no "organic" claims for the meats they sell, but seems to be directly involved with animal welfare. Oliffe makes no claims at all. Rowe Farms is neither "natural" nor "organic", but has somehow come to be viewed as such. Much of the certified organic product sold in Toronto doesn't taste very good.

            Antibiotic use is another hazy area. The issue seems to be the use of antibiotics as growth stimulants or as a necessity under the worst of battery raising conditions. I believe (again I'm unsure) that giving antibiotics to a sick animal is considered acceptable.

            1. re: embee

              ..what a ball of wax, who knew eating safely and with a conscience would require so much effort! Hopefully with the popularity of these ideals there will be some kind of universal (and clear!) standards set in place to follow. Right now I feel like I have good intentions, but don't know when it is ok to buy organic (or whatever label & $$ hike something is given) or the ol'standard products, since I do prefer just or don't find it necessary to buy all organic stuff.

              Sheesh! I just want to be healthy, enjoy food and avoid supporting cruelty whenever possible...

              1. re: embee

                Thanks again - and yes, it is quite confusing. As far as I know, and I may be incorrect but this is what I've been told when asked, all of the meats at Cumbrae's and Olliffe's are drug-free (not sure about in the case of illness, as you have suggested), grain fed and, where applicable, free range. In other words, I believe they meet the criteria for "organic" but aren't certified as such.

                1. re: peppermint pate

                  ..I do know that becoming certified is a lengthy process, the practice can be in place for years before getting the official stamp...

                  1. re: embee

                    Hormones cannot be used in Canadian meat. So if a label say hormone free I wouldn't by it on the principle that they are misleading the consumer by selling their product as special. All Natural or Organic means is that they are not fed antibotics on a regular basis to prevent disease. However, after speaking with a good friend who use to help his father run a chicken farm for 30 years told me that if one chicken in the coop gets sick (which is quite often) all chickens are given antibotics. The same goes for free range. All this means is that the door to the coop is open and if the chicken chooses to go out is does. If it doesn't it doesn't but can still be labeled free range. Based on your comments I would shop at any of the three you mentioned above because they are not making any false claims. I think why our meat and chicken look and taste better than the US is because of government regulations put in place. The inspectors are very diligent and the quota's are government controlled. I don't know about the regulations in the States but I think their chicken looks grey.

          2. grace meats (college and grace) has fabulous dry-aged ribeye that you don't have to break the bank for. used to live nearby, and was never disappointed.

            1 Reply
            1. re: tuqueboy

              I have been shopping at the Loblaws at Christie & Dupont since it opened....the Butchers there are terrific...they know us well and they never fail to deliver the BEST steaks/roasts! If they don't think the 'meat' on display in their counter is something we would like they will tell us that and they will 'cut' for us. I buy Beef Tenderloin steaks for me and a NY Strip for my husband, same goes for a Standing Rib. I couldn't be more pleased and would never think of changing...( must admit that the Store is currently undergoing a major renovation and shopping has been a bit of a drag (everything is being moved around etc) I will keep on shopping in the 'chaos'...just because I like the store and the employees.

            2. I got some ribeyes from Sobey's the other day (Sterling Silver). They were nicely marbled and tasty. There's a location on Front St. near Sherbourne.

              2 Replies
              1. re: grandgourmand

                Yes I always find the Sterling Silver stuff to be pretty good in the Sobey's...

                1. re: BloorWestie...

                  I'll take Sterling of Black Angus anyday!

                  Black Angus
                  3277 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M8X1E2, CA

              2. Diliso's generally has as good a price or better than the grocery chains. I look frequently and this doesn't change. When there's a sale at Loblaw's, I'll buy from them as their cuts are more generous than the other majors. Yes, you can always get the butcher to cut for you, but why bother if you can just point? However, Loblaw's generally sell AA and Sobey's sells AAA so pick your poison.

                For outstanding steak from a butcher without paying highway robbers for it, it's St Jamestown Steak and Chops every time for me. You know the expression "everything taste good"? I think they wrote that with this place in mind.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Googs

                  Is that the place cradled next to some sandwich bar/deli? I went once, but was in a hurry so didn't take in the details.

                  1. re: grandgourmand

                    St Jamestown Steak and Chops and St. J's Deli are one in the same. I've said it before and I'll say it again. I could walk in blindfolded with a clothes peg on my nose and I would still come out with great stuff. Go in and take your time. It may be small, but they make the most of the space.

                    1. re: Googs

                      Thanks for the tip.
                      I live near the Danforth, so we drove down to Steak and Chops to take a peek.
                      If i didn't already have 3 chickens in my fridge and 3 lbs of ground lamb waiting to be shaped, i would have walked out with an armful of steak.

                      His ribeye and NY strips were phenomenal. Talked with the owner and he took LOTS of time to proudly show off his cuts.

                      The chicken breasts were huge and juicy and very well priced.

                      none of his cuts had lots of fat on the exterior - that's what drives me crazy about most butchers. you're paying for the fatty trim or chunks of fat left on chicken.
                      The prices were great, the selection is not huge but its definitely not limited.

                      there's no way i would buy a steak from a grocery store over what St Jamestown Steak and Chops has to offer. I can't wait to actually try one of the steaks to see if it tastes as good as it looks.

                      1. re: atomeyes

                        You're quite welcome. They do. They most certainly do.

                2. Vince Gasparro's Meat Market, Roxton and Bloor, just east of Ossington. He sells to Grace, buys, preps and retails some of the best meat in town. Go in, tell them what you want, discuss cuts and cooking and go home happy. And pick up some of the lamb sausage while you're there, it's most excellent.