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Beautiful Beef at Hilltop Butcher Shop: Way too long a post...

Driving home from the North Shore I hit the butcher shop at Hilltop Steakhouse. I have not been there in years, but always remember respectable victuals...

As I walked in the door they had beautiful medium-sized artichokes at two for a buck. Bot 4.

Then I stumbled towards the holy land, MEAT. I was actually looking for smoked pork products to accompany the made-from-scratch sauerkraut that is currently fermenting on the floor beside me. choucroute garnie coming soon.

They did not have the smoked ham hocks or pork butts that I was hoping for, but they did have some nice commercial thick cut bacon and Hilltop Brand Kielbasa that looked respectable. (Karl's was closed: Sunday).

Then I sauntered over to the beef section. They had some really pretty beef shins for small money. Shins make a good oxtail standin. I almost grabbed a few pounds. But then I took a look at the steak section... DANG.

They had porterhouse and ribeye for $3.99 and $4.99 a pound. I think the porterhouse was even boneless. But there, on the sparse steel rack, was a ribeye shamelessly flirting with me. Beautifully marbled throughout, nice fatty sections, portions of that dark, dark red meat that only mean one thing... I stared at it more intently: "oh honey, you're PRIME, you poor sweet thing. The USDA inspector probably passed over your cow, perhaps you are that one PRIME cut in an otherwise CHOICE cow. But there's no doubting you are as prime as prime could be."

I left the shins behind, the kielbasa and the bacon joined the artichokes, but I made sure that little Ribeye was cozy in my basket.

For those who understand what we are looking ahead too, economically speaking, 3 pounds of kielbasa, 4 artichokes, a pound of bacon, and a one pound, gorgeous, prime Ribeye, all for $17.89, as some local-born folks might say, that was a wicked bargain.

Segway to my own kitchen. When I cut the little darling out of the foam and Saranwrap cradle it was every bit as PRIME as I had imagined. I had a momentary flashback to Hilltop. Others were buying the porterhouse, which at $3.99 a pound was a deal, but looked to me more like pot roast then anything you would find at Peter Luger's.

A delicate coat of Moutard de Maille, a slight sprinkle of sea salt and just the right amount of coarsely cracked pepper; the ole trusty cast iron pan fired up blazingly hot.

I seared each side nicely for 3-4 minutes each forming a nice charred crust, then into a 420 degree oven just to finish for another 5 minutes. When the internal temp was 130, perfectly medium rare, it was ready. OH YEAH IT WAS READY. I deglazed the pepper-laden pan with white Vermouth. and poured the jus over the steak.

My sides were steamed brussels spouts and new potatoes with butter, tarragon, dill, and celery seed. All the sides also got a healthy dousing with pan drippings.

Big glass of ice water, a nice LARGE glass of red Ribera de Duero wine...

Not a bad meal considering I often eat VEGAN at home.


I wanted to end the post there, but I just couldn't. That little ribeye was every bit as good as I had imagined. Probably the best steak I've had this year. By the end I was mashing potatoes and brussels sprouts into the cast iron pan and licking jus off my plate.

Wonderful beefy goodness. And I even managed to save a third of the steak for lunch tomorrow...

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  1. Loved reading that Striper. I have liked the Hilltop rolled and tied veal roast in the past. Julia Child, in her Vol.1 has a wonderful recipe for braised veal roast which was my go-to dinner party entree not too many moons ago. Maybe I need to revisit Hilltop. Thanks for reminding me.

    1. I love Hilltop meats... I would not trust my holidays to any other meats but Hilltop. As an aside I o have to admit that I went to McKinnons Meats in Davis Sq last week and bought a Prime Rib Roast for 3.99 pound and you did not need a knife to cut it- It was every bit as good as any Hilltop rib roast I have bought... that being said, I still won't trust my holiday meals to anything other than Hill top

      1. I want to call shenanigans on claims of $5/lb prime ribeye. But in fact I will probably just drive to Saugus.

        7 Replies
        1. re: Luther

          "I think the porterhouse was even boneless" = no need to rush to Saugus.

          1. re: CambridgeFoodie

            Just for the record, did you actually read my post?

            "Others were buying the porterhouse, which at $3.99 a pound was a deal, but looked to me more like pot roast then anything you would find at Peter Luger's."

            1. re: StriperGuy

              I, for one, liked your original post. I will not hold you responsible for "boneless porterhouse" as an advertised special, no matter what the price. However, any meat shop that advertises "boneless porterhouse" for $3.99/lb should be approached with appropriate caution and any purchases served with a hefty side of caveat emptor.

              In order to avoid future criticism, I would like to point out the following posting guidelines:
              Avoid specificity - it only leads to pointless arguments (eg. 130 degrees)
              Avoid jokes - This is a serious board, not a place for frivolity, and it is not nice to use advanced humor techniques when so many readers lack a basic sense of humor.
              avoid capital letters and capitalized words - someone is composing a post right this second taking you to task for this.
              avoid technical terms - for example Prime, Choice, sear, jus, etc.

              I have taken the liberty of editing your original post following these guidelines. It can be boiled down to:

              I bought some meat. I cooked it. It was good.

              Notice the absence of objectionable content like places, techniques or actual information. It also is much more concise, albeit slightly less informative.

              1. re: tdaaa

                Maybe it's just a lot of cognitive dissonance going on since someone is posting a positive review of the Hilltop.

                  1. re: tdaaa

                    Well said tdaaa.

                    StriperGuy- good for you for enjoying your steak and wanting to share your experience. I enjoyed the post and can only roll my eyes at some of these responses.

                    1. re: tdaaa

                      Precisement mon ami... your post is priceless.

              2. Wow, SG, what a great post. I'm stuffed to the gills with spaghetti, meatballs and hot italian sausage, but could happily tuck into that ribeye. I was quite happy with my haul from McKinnon's in Davis this afternoon, but nothing that could touch that. I've never bothered with Hilltop in the past, but will make a special stop next time I'm headed to Karl's.

                1. This is very refreshing to hear, as Hilltop doesn't seem to get much love on this board and the level of detail is greatly appreciated.

                  I gotta say that I get quite the amusing image of you "Segway"-ing into your admittedly small apartment kitchen- don't bump the Sauerkraut. It's all good and thanks for the detailed post which opens up a beef purveyor option that I would have not otherwise considered.

                  1. Striper,

                    Just a quick foot (food?) note, a porter house cannot be boneless.

                    Beef Loin, Porterhouse Steak, IMPS/NAMP 1173

                    Cut from the sirloin (large) end of the short loin. They have a T-shaped bone and contain meat from both the strip loin and tenderloin. The tenderloin muscle must be at least 1¼ inches (3.2cm) when measured across the center. Tail length must be specified.
                    Portion Size: 10 to 24 ounces

                    (taken from: http://www.beeffoodservice.com/cuts/I...




                    8 Replies
                    1. re: aholsber

                      That begs the question - what cut of meat were they selling as boneless porterhouse?

                      1. re: aholsber

                        Thanks for the info: do remember that I also said the porterhouse looked more like pot roast to me. Honestly would not have gone out of my way to buy the porterhouse. The bone in Ribeye however was drop dead gorgeous and as good a steak as I've seen short of something dry aged. They may be taking a liberty or two on their nomenclature, but the beef was fabulous: perfectly marbled, beautiful.

                        1. re: StriperGuy

                          To correct a few mistakes made in this original post:

                          1. Porterhouse always has a bone. Boneless Porterhouse would be either NY Strip or Filet.

                          2. I just called Hilltop to enquire about the USDA grade of its ribeye steaks. "Choice or Select grade." I enquired to the person who answered the meat shop line. His response: "mid-grade." And then he went on the explain that the cut was between select and choice. He also had a great deal on land in Florida...

                          Hilltop does not sell Prime steak, whether intentional or unintentional.

                          3. For medium rare, you should cook fine steaks up to the point where the internal temperature reaches 122 or so, as the steak keeps cooking when taken out of the heat and rises another 5 or so degrees.

                          1. re: CambridgeFoodie

                            Maybe they killed the one choice cow that had prime real estate in front of the grain dispenser?

                            1. re: CambridgeFoodie

                              I was not stating that it was actually PRIME. Even when you try to be clear this crowd takes things a tad literally.

                              DUH, obviously you can't get actual USDA prime Ribeye for $5 a pound.

                              In fact, if you read my post I state:

                              "The USDA inspector probably passed over your cow, perhaps you are that one PRIME cut in an otherwise CHOICE cow. But there's no doubting you are as PRIME as prime could be."

                              To those who could not follow what I said above, I will attempt to make it even more clear: There on the rack was a steak with all of the hallmarks of prime: perfect marbling, dark red meat, beautiful fat all around. If a USDA grader had graded this one, solitary cut on it's own (and they do not do it that way) this steak probably would have made the grade.

                              Believe it or not, I ate the darned thing, it was a PRIME quality steak: the luck of the draw, the one morsel in that whole, probably sub-SELECT cow, that was truly worthy.

                              I agree with treb that much of the meat at Hilltop, while reasonably priced, very fresh, and of good quality, does not have the marbling to even pass as select.

                              This steak was PRIME-quality, not actually PRIME.

                              With regard to cooking temp, 130 - 140 is medium rare:



                              I took it out of the oven at 128, by eating time it was perfectly medium rare, in fact one small part was still rare.

                              And finally yes, whoops on the porterhouse. Those "boneless porterhouses" were obviously strip sirloins.

                              And finally, I for one will revisit Hilltop more regularly. Certainly devoid of USDA stamps, obviously not actual USDA PRIME, if I can find a steak or two of that quality for that price, its easily the best steak deal in Boston today.

                              1. re: StriperGuy

                                We should all remember that we're dealing with nature, here...Just like an average human could have a fabulous chest, or a gorgeous smile, a subselect cow could have one fabulous feature, like an area that was quite, er, well-developed..

                                1. re: StriperGuy

                                  Interesting article (which I believe is true) on how to cook a steak to medium rare: http://www.seriouseats.com/2009/12/ho...

                                  1. re: CambridgeFoodie

                                    That is 100% accurate. To get a 1 1/2 -2 inch hilltop steak perfect medium rare- medium use a cast iron pan and the oven. get the pan nice and hot, sear steak on both sides 3-5 minutes then toss the pan and steak in a 400° oven for 4-5 minutes. rest for at least another 10 minutes- loosly covered with foil.

                          2. Nice poetic write-up SG but, the meat at HT is not even 'select' grade. You get what you pay for, try and find a USDA mark on that stuff, the butchers are very careful to trim all the stamps off.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: treb

                              Sorry, but that saying "you get what you pay for" doesn't fly. If it did, on my meager income, the food I eat would be horrid - but thanks to the chow-gods, I find incredible bargains and, because of experience & creativity, know how to whip up some delicious food.

                              Besides - most of the food we so enjoy (especially ethnic cuisine) come out of cultures and times when money and food were/are scarce.

                              1. re: threedogs

                                Not trying to say if you don't pay a lot you're not going to eat well. Example; I can make a killer pizza for about 2 bucks. I also make my own chicken soup for next to nothing. What I am saying that there are certain cuts of beef at HT that are OK, like sirlion tips or ground sirlion but, I find more often that not, cuts like rib-eye are not evenly cut and have no marbling at all. I'd opt for USDA Choice steak tips and grill them for $3.99 p/lb. or USDA Choice bonless chuck for a pot roast at around $2. p/lb. at S&S.

                                1. re: treb

                                  "I can make a killer pizza for about 2 bucks."

                                  Me, too! :-)

                                  "What I am saying that there are certain cuts of beef at HT that are OK, like sirlion tips or ground sirlion but, I find more often that not, cuts like rib-eye are not evenly cut and have no marbling at all."

                                  Yeah, but I think SG was saying he pulled in a real, unexpected catch (OK, that was corny - but I had to say it..) I think alleygirl stated it best - we are dealing with nature.

                                  Hey - I just realized - we are commenting on something that was actually written a year ago! I have to start checking dates on these posts - Striper Guy... that would be VERY aged beef, lol!!

                                  Editing to add: this was a great post, just the same, SG - worthy of resurrection!

                                  1. re: threedogs

                                    "pulled in a real, unexpected catch" exactly, "we are dealing with nature" precisely,
                                    reincarnating a year old post: priceless.

                                    1. re: threedogs

                                      Hey, in this ecomony every dollar spent has to be a wise one. I like the idea that this thread has yet another life. Very befitting for today's shoppers.

                              2. Thanks, SG. I was trying to explain to TC how to cook a steak, so I copied and pasted your three paragraphs on techinique, which I will supervise next time he makes one!

                                1. One of the truly great posts from an always-interesting poster. Thanks StriperGuy!

                                  1. Yikes-how did such a lovely meal and a great post garner such controversy?!!?

                                    Sounds like me having a nice conversation with my brother (whom I love dearly, but we are the "Bickersons" ) point, couterpoint--on and on. Sigh.

                                    Well, I for one had read that post and wished I, too, could have enjoyed that Peerless Rib Eye (so be it named).

                                    1. That was some great "meat porn". Thanks.

                                      1. Thank you, StriperGuy, for sharing your find with us - believe me, I rarely eat red meat, and when I do, I never eat it rare - but you had me drooling & I bet I'd be fighting you for that steak!!

                                        I love discovering great finds in unexpected places - and I ESPECIALLY love it when others will say, no - you can't do that, no, it can't be...

                                        Ha - I'll keep laughing - and enjoying my discoveries.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: threedogs

                                          Glad you liked the post threedogs. Quality and what you pay sometimes correlate but very often do not imho.

                                        2. Thanks StriperGuy- yours is the only PRIME post in an otherwise "mid-grade" thread.

                                          1. Great post. Made me think I should get to Hilltop. I've know about and driven by Hilltop for years, but haven't been since I was a kid. Why are the opinions of Hilltop so low? Just curious....

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: bostonbroad

                                              Can't believe this old thread is getting new traffic.

                                              In general Hilltop butcher shop is a mixed bag. But in general, real bargains can be had.

                                              1. re: StriperGuy

                                                You can get great bargains there on meat and ,believe it or not, produce. My wife buys most of our produce there because of their great prices. Quality stuff too.

                                                1. re: StriperGuy

                                                  OMG I was just going to post that this is an old thread, However, I have to say I still love the original post. Good job.

                                              2. Great post. I've had the same thing happen to me at market basket and stop and shop.

                                                The USDA graders grade the whole cow, even though no cow is uniform. A cow that's choice overall could have have some cuts that are prime.

                                                When you find one, you feel like you've found this hidden gem that no one else can see (luckily most shoppers seem to stay away from well-marbled steaks).