PC Black Label Wagyu Beef Burgers

Let’s leave the “Wagyu” debate until the end of this post, are these burgers actually good? President’s Choice Black Label series is the best of the best that PC offers, here’s how they describe it on the PC website “The President’s Choice® black label Collection brings an exceptional array of fine foods and flavours from around the world and here at home, to the grocery store. All with the value and convenience you expect from the PC® brand. Not only are they an extraordinary selection, they’re the very best we’ve ever tasted”. Ok, but what does that actually mean?

Box

The packaging is minimalist and “Wagyu” punches you in the face with its bold, gigantic redness. The stately fellow pictured with the large knife cutting into a gorgeous slab of marbled beef looks promising. Then you notice the little round meat puck to his left, almost as if they don’t want you to see it?

Frozen

The frozen burgers look like pretty much every other frozen burger I’ve ever seen, complete with assembly line dimples. They’re slightly thicker than a typical frozen burger, I’d say roughly 5/8ths of an inch. They are uncooked and the box recommends to cook them from frozen for 5-6 minutes per side over medium heat on a BBQ or in a frying pan.

Cooked

Once cooked the burgers take on a slightly reddish orange colour with lots of fat trying to escape through the middle. The high fat content of the beef (typical for “Wagyu”) and the fact that the second ingredient is water means lots of big flare ups on the grill. So much so that I slightly over toasted my burger buns. Keep an eye on these things while cooking.

Patty

The cooked patty ends up with a crusty outer layer and the colour changes to a more consistent brown after resting. The burger is very moist, has good flavour, and a nice firm texture. The flavour is similar to lots of other frozen burgers as is the texture. It loses very little size and retains its shape which is not typical of other frozen burgers.

Burger

I ate some of one patty on its own and had another on a PC Blue Menu Thins – Multigrain Round bun which are really quite good. Notice the flare-up induced charring around the edges of the bun. I kept it simple with some romaine lettuce and Stonewall Kitchen Smoky BBQ Aioli (you can find it at Fresh Street Farms and it’s amazing). As a complete burger it was very tasty. Now, let’s ask some questions. These burgers cost almost $11 for 4 five ounce patties. That’s $2.75 per patty. I can make a damn good burger myself for that kind of money.

The big issue I have with these burgers is the word “Wagyu”. Once synonymous with beef raised only in Japan the word itself means “Japanese cow’. PC uses the word “Kobe” in the description of these burgers on their website, “From the Kobe beef family, Wagyu beef is loaded with sweet, rich buttery flavour from omega-3 rich marbling, making it one of the most succulent meats in the world”. This is a blatant lie. Kobe beef is specifically Tajima-gyu cattle raised in the Hyogo Prefecture of Japan. Everything else is a fabrication. There is VERY little Kobe beef exported to Canada and no one in their right minds is going to grind it up and freeze it.

There are farms in Canada, Australia, and the United States raising “Waygu” beef that has bloodlines traceable to Tajima-gyu cattle in Japan. There are other farms with cattle that have bloodlines traceable back to other strains of Japanese cattle. These farms use the “Wagyu” tag in a dishonest way to charge more for their product. I’m not saying their beef is substandard, in most cases it is VERY high quality, but it is not real Waygu and is most definitely not Kobe.

I contacted PC through Twitter to try and see where their Waygu was from and here’s their answer.

Let’s talk about DNA profiling. If I descended from Napoleon Bonaparte and this was traceable by 3rd party DNA profiling would that mean I am a tiny French dictator?. No, it would not. Was Michael Jordan’s father the best basket ball player of his generation? Not that I’m aware of. Genetics play a part in the make up of of certain breeds of animal and specific traits that these animals carry from generation to generation but there’s more to Wagyu than DNA. The environment, the feed, the treatment the animals receive, it all contributes to the finished product.

I asked them to, at the very least, tell me what country the cattle are from and they did not reply until the following day. I called the PC customer service number and was told that they couldn’t access this information. There is a small Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) logo on the box but that just means it was inspected and meets Canadian standards. Why the mystery PC? When they finally got back to me this is what I was told.

The Australian Wagyu Association is a promotional group whose singular purpose is to extol the virtues of Australian “Wagyu” all over the globe. The best part of their website is their disclaimer, “Information contained on the Australian Wagyu Association (AWA) web database, including but not limited to pedigree, DNA information, GeneProb values, Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) and Selection Index values, is based on data supplied by members and/or third parties. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of this information, the AWA and the Agricultural Business Research Institute (ABRI), their officers and employees, make no representations or warranties as to the accuracy of completeness of the information. AWA disclaims all liability for all claims, expenses, losses, damages and costs any person may incur as a result of the information contained on the AWA web database, for any reason, being inaccurate, or incomplete in any way or incapable or achieving any purposes”. So basically the farmers can claim whatever they want and the AWA will promote them! What a joke. Similar disclaimers adorn the Canadian and American “Wagyu” Association websites.

Here’s my conclusion, these things are fake and a waste of money. Grinding up real Japanese Wagyu is the dumbest thing anyone could do with such a fine grade of beef. Go to a butcher shop or a grocery store with a REAL BUTCHER and get them to grind you up some nice chuck or even sirloin, you can make way better burgers yourself for less money and it’s great to know what’s actually in them.

Scott.

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Fresh Hop Showdown. Driftwood Sartori Harvest IPA vs. Hoyne Wolf Vine Pale Ale

The competitors
The competitors

As I sit in front of a retina scorching monitor there’s a 3 year old waging physiological warfare on me from the top of the stairs. It’s bedtime, or at least it’s supposed to be bedtime. My little “princess” has become quite a manipulator when it comes to going to sleep every night and try as I might I can’t seem to crack the code of getting her to agree with me. I’ve run into a similar situation while comparing 2 fresh hopped, limited run beers from a couple of fantastic Vancouver Island breweries. One is an IPA, it is wildly popular and causes good people to do bad things to obtain it upon its release every year. The other is a Pale Ale that is from a less “popular” brewery and doesn’t generate anywhere near the buzz that the IPA does and it puzzles me. I’m going to make some of you mad with this post, I don’t care.

Sartori Harvest IPA
Sartori Harvest IPA

Driftwood Brewing‘s Sartori Harvest is the darling of the BC craft beer scene. Its name alone sends shivers down the spine of hop heads all over the south west corner of our little country. It is a fantastic beer, this is a fact I can attest to having sampled it for the past 3 years upon its release. It has changed from year to year and in my ever so humble opinion it was at its best in 2011. This year it was slightly better than last year but not by much. Here’s the thing, is Sartori Harvest a better IPA than Driftwood’s Fat Tug? I know a lot of you will point to ratebeer.com and say “Scott, you idiot, look at the numbers!” Well, the thing with ratebeer.com and any other site like it is that the ratings are user generated and thus not a true representation of a beers true value/rating. A once a year limited run beer like Sartori Harvest is bound to get glowing reviews because it’s in demand and supply is short, simple math.

Wolf Vine Wet Hopped Pale Ale
Wolf Vine Wet Hopped Pale Ale

Hoyne Brewing‘s Wolf Vine Wet Hopped Pale Ale is the red headed stepchild of the fresh hop season. Often being given poor ratings and receiving it’s fair share of negative backlash in the craft beer community. Is it deserved? No effing way, this beer is fantastic. BC has a major beer boner for IPA’s and Wolf Vine is not an IPA, it’s a Pale Ale which is a very different style of beer. When I read what some so called “beer experts” have to say about this beer it makes me want to scream. I hear the word “diacetyl” thrown around a lot when it comes to this beer and quite frankly I think you’re all a little over your heads trying to say that you can recognize an organic compound used to produce a buttery flavour over the proper use of malts in a proper pale ale. What cicerone course did you attend? Oh right, the same one as everyone else, none at all. Wolf Vine is NOT AN IPA, I really think a lot of you to read that a few times and let it sink in.

So here’s my verdict. Sartori Harvest is a fantastic beer, a true west coast IPA that makes great use of the fresh hops available during hop harvest season. However, it is not the best IPA in town and Driftwood’s own Fat Tug is proof of that (along with a few others but it really is splitting hairs on a few of them). In this showdown it makes the most pronounced use of these wonderful hops and I will be very sad when my last bottle is gone.

Wolf Vine is a stellar Pale Ale with a more subtle use of fresh hops but they add a certain delicate balance to this beer that’s very addictive. This year’s Wolf Vine is a marked improvement over last years and if the trend continues into next year this beer will be truly legendary. The strong caramel malt backbone and the fresh hops are a magic combination that elevates this humble pale ale to the status of David as he slays Goliath, a true giant killer.

Wolf Vine takes the 2013 WFLBC Fresh Hop Showdown Crown. I’ll be keeping an eye out for fresh hop releases from other local breweries and I plan on comparing them as well.  I await the hoards of sheep that like to follow the heard to tell me how wrong I am.

Scott.

The Weekly Rant – Episode 1

WFLBCSkull2

If you follow me on Twitter you probably know that I like to speak my mind on various topics. Usually my opinions fuel some heated debate and sometimes it gets downright ugly but at the very least it gets people talking/thinking about issues that affect our daily lives. This post is the first in a new series of weekly posts intended to bring these issues to a wider audience. This is going to be fun.

Topic number 1, food trucks in Steveston. Over the weekend I saw that the Le Tigre food truck was at the Steveston Farmers Market. I know that food trucks are staples at other farmers markets around the Lower Mainland but I don’t agree with food trucks operating anywhere near Steveston. Steveston is an extremely seasonal area for restaurants and they have to stick it out through the slow fall and winter months relying on summer business to make ends meet. To have a food truck pull into town on a sunny summer day and take customers away from these businesses doesn’t sit well with me.

Steveston, home of the worlds tamest Seagulls...
Steveston, home of the worlds tamest Seagulls… Photo WFLBC.com

Le Tigre has done nothing wrong. They have the required permits, they’re great people and they make great food, it just shouldn’t be happening in Steveston. Sorry guys, I love you but… you know. I have the same opinion about food trucks at White Rock Beach so if a food truck shows up there I’m not going to be happy about it.

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Norgate as seen from International Plaza – Photo WFLBC.com

Topic number 2, Norgate residents complaining about noisy trains. Norgate is located in North Vancouver just east of the Lions Gate Bridge and south of Marine Drive, so basically right beside the CN rail yard, also right behind the beautiful sulphur piles along the shores of Burrard Inlet. Norgate was developed in the 1940’s to house shipyard workers and is mostly small bungalows with an average selling price somewhere near $650,000. The rail yard has been a part of this neighbourhood for FAR longer than the current residents have lived there. For them to complain about the noise is ridiculous. There were similar complaints in New Westminster a few years ago and they met with the same public reaction. It’s like moving in next to the airport and complaining about noisy planes. If you can afford a $650,000 house you should be smart enough to buy something that isn’t right next door to noisy industry.

Two polarizing topics, feel free to add your thoughts to the comment section. Let’s keep it clean though, ok?

Scott.