One of the most eagerly anticipated culinary events of the year in Los Angeles is Beefsteak. Organized by Tim & Eric's Eric Wareheim, Cort Cass, and Matt Selman, Beefsteak is a throwback to all-you-can-eat soirees from the 19th century. Men from all walks of life would gather in a beer hall or other large event space to consume massive amounts of beef, drink beer, and carouse.
The tradition fell out of favor in the middle of the last century, but Wareheim and company (along with noted chef Neal Fraser of Grace and BLD fame) sought to revive the practice for the modern era, while adding an element of philanthropy. All proceeds from the invite-only event go to the LA Food Bank, which seeks to end hunger in the Los Angeles area.
We assembled early for cocktails at the venue, Vibiana in downtown Los Angeles. We were greeted by a genial balloon maker who promised to make me a hat in the shape of a cow. The cow is, of course, the animal the Lord commanded us to eat with great joy and gratitude. I wasn't sure about this balloon maker's credentials, but fortunately, I came to see that I was in good hands.
If you're the best, you better let the world know you're the fucking best. This lady was definitely the best.
When you wear a balloon hat in the shape of a cow, you need to treat it seriously. Thankfully, my friend here took that advice to heart.
After a few hours of copious drinking, we were let into the dining hall. Seating was a free-for-all, and I managed to end up with a spot at the end of the room. Sometimes, you have to learn the hard way to be punctual.
Entertainment is a major part of any traditional beefsteak, and we were treated to the jazzy stylings of the Chris Walden Big Band. I did my best to refrain from asking them if they could play "Blurred Lines."
Traditional beefsteaks also keep the menu simple. Our first dish was nothing more complex than rare sliced steak with au jus and horseradish sauce. The steak was accompanied by broccolini and fingerling potatoes. Simple, but the meat was seared nicely on top while also staying juicy in the middle. That's no small feat.
I probably could have eaten an entire tray of this if I was alone in a dark room watching SportsCenter at 3 AM. As I was most certainly not alone—Chef Fraser informed me prior to the meal that they were preparing enough food for 600 guests—and at no point could I find a TV playing ESPN, I ate only a moderate amount of food. That didn't stop me from spilling all over my sport jacket. Beefsteaks don't have forks, knives, or napkins, and I'm all thumbs. Not literally, though. If I had ten thumbs, I would not have been allowed in the event. There was a strict two thumb maximum.
I wasn't expecting a fish course, but we got a whole mess of salmon about an hour into the meal. From the way that thing was mauled, you can tell I had quite a field day with this dish. I think I still have some pink meat in my beard.
The waitstaff was attentive, as you would expect at an event of this nature. When one tray was finished off, they'd quickly bring another full of meat. The tray here featured expertly prepared lamb chops, which were probably the easiest thing to eat, since you could grab onto the bone of the chop. That's the only thing I didn't spill on myself.
Toast was provided for those who wanted to carb up. If you ever attend a beefsteak, I recommend making liberal use of the bread. It's the one thing that will help soak up all the alcohol and keep you on the cheerier side of sober.
Seeing a giant skull staring back at you will also go a long way toward sobering you up, and I came in contact with this macabre-looking beast around the witching hour. This skull was your "heads-up" (pun most certainly intended) that you had arrived at a special section of the room.
This was the head cheese station. The dish was served with a bit of mustard for flavor. Only the most adventurous beefsteak attendees dared eat this, but I consider myself lucky to have gotten a taste before heading home.
Skateboarding legend Tony Hawk gave his best scowl for this photo op with the stilt lady. I can't say for sure who was more starstruck, Tony or the stilt lady.
Beefsteak is a great place to find true love, and this woman made friends with this fish head. Not sure if they went home together that night, but they were certainly very chatty.
I'm no food expert, so when I received my ticket for Beefsteak 2013, I put in a call to my friend, Zachary Pollock, chef at one of LA's premier restaurants, the southern Italian inspired Sotto, to give me a more refined perspective on the meal. I learned that Zach actually started his culinary career in Chef Fraser's kitchen, which made the event all the more special for him. Despite what it looks like in this picture, I can assure you that he did not, in fact, "eat the bones."
Beefsteak 2013 was truly a night to remember, full of happy folks, great food, and enough liquor to kill a stable of horses… twice. Plus, it's all for a good cause. If you attend Beefsteak 2014, be sure to dress to impress like this fellow, and maybe sneak in a wet nap or two. Trust me, it'll help.