Nothing Says “I Love You” Like an Engraved Tomahawk Steak
(Bloomberg) -- In 2020, Americans spent about $4.3 billion on Valentine’s Day evenings out.
This year that number is expected to fall by more than a third, to $2.7 billion, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation, as restaurants around the country continue to deal with lockdown restrictions. The same survey found that 41% of respondents planned a celebration in their homes.
Although Valentine’s Day isn’t as good for restaurant business as people might think, it’s still a holiday that can drive sales. That’s shaping up to be especially true this year, with restaurants becoming hybrid grocery stores and food delivery specialists. Likewise, purveyors who historically catered to restaurants are giving home cooks the benefits of ingredients once earmarked for chefs.
Below are some notable products available for the first time this Valentine’s Day, both nationally and locally, for people who want to take their home celebrations to a new level.
One of the world’s most luxurious ingredients is also a good deal this holiday. Last fall, Allen Brothers, which sells high-quality beef to restaurants such as New York’s Catch Steak, expanded its line to include high-end products like truffles. Even with curtailed restaurant business, the company is selling 40 kilos (88 pounds) of truffles per week, according to John Magazino, director of business development and national sales at parent company the Chefs’ Warehouse. “Prices are down significantly due to the drop in demand by restaurants—they’re about 25% less on average,” he says, or selling for about $115 per oz. Magazino anticipates sales volume doubling for Valentine’s week. “What’s better (and more simple) than a dish of fettucine with creamy black truffle sauce?” he asks.
For 25 years, Paramount Caviar has sourced their specialty for chef Eric Ripert and his preeminent seafood restaurant, Le Bernardin in New York. This year, for the first time, the legendary chef is offering a wide selection of caviar for Valentine’s Day. Among the options curated by Ripert are a $595 tasting trio that includes smoked trout roe, imperial osetra, and golden roe imperial golden hybrid, as well as obligatory blinis and crème fraîche. Individual tins of caviar, such as 8.8 ounces of Imperial Osetra ($1,450) are available, too.
Regalis Foods is one of the leading ingredient purveyors for top chefs. A surprisingly popular product for this holiday is a top-of-the-line cured fish ($45 for 150 grams) from a master smoker in Catalonia, Spain. “It’s more akin to sushi than lox,” says partner Karrie Kimble. The fish is cold-smoked over locally foraged pine cones and comes in three styles: natural smoke; nori-wrapped (“just put wasabi on it,” Kimble advises), and beet-and-vodka cured with a rich pink color that makes it coincidentally ideal for Feb. 14.
Among the dishes most people haven’t had since they last set foot in a restaurant is a commanding seafood tower. This year the gourmet food store Citarella is delivering them to homes across the country, from $199 a pop. The array includes Wellfleet oysters and Little Neck clams (helpfully shucked, shells on the side), plus steamed lobster, shrimp, king crab, and stone crab claws. Owner and fishmonger Joe Gurerra says a driving factor was the popularity of seafood for last year’s holiday. “In 2020 we saw overall oyster sales on Valentine’s weekend increase two to three times over average sales the previous year. Steamed lobster was a big seller, too. It made sense to bundle them up this year.” Metal stand not included.
Pat LaFrieda is the meat purveyor for restaurants and eateries ranging from Eleven Madison Park and Bowery Meat Company in New York to Shake Shack locations across the globe. This Valentine’s Day he’s introducing a 30-day dry-aged, prime Black Angus Tomahawk Steak with “I Love You” inscribed on the rib bone. The $129 steak weighs in at 40 oz. “It's just such a striking piece of beef anyway,” LaFrieda says. The idea to engrave the bone was originally sparked by an employee who’s also an artist, he says. “I asked him if he could replicate intricate carving work on a bone. He perfected it.”
New York residents have the option of deluxe fish from one of the city’s top restaurants for Valentine’s take-out. Sushi Noz’s inaugural temaki kit boasts heart-shaped containers of Japanese uni and house-cured ikura, or salmon roe, as well as seasoned rice and sheets of seaweed for handmade hand rolls. In the spirit of romance, each $145 kit comes with a long-stemmed rose from Sushi Noz’s Japanese florist.
They’re not, strictly speaking, heart-shaped. But esteemed cheese producers Jasper Hill Farm in Greensboro, Vt., is offering center-cut pieces from their wheels of fromage in engaging shapes (from $40). The program is a result of a new cheese-cutting machine the company purchased during the pandemic, which creates an ideal middle “heart” and helps eliminate waste. Many will say it’s the most desirable cut for people who don’t want rind with their cheese. A bonus: They’re easy to trim into heart shapes.
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