Cal-Fiorentina Steak at the Roadhouse

Dry aged steak dressed with exceptional new harvest olive oil from Hudson Vineyards!

by Ari Weinzweig

Dry-aged steak topped with new harvest olive oil from Hudson Vineyards in Napa Valley.

If you’re up for a really nice steak, if you love great, green, really peppery olive oil, if you want to celebrate Hanukkah in super fine style, or you just want a good meal, the Cal-Fiorentina steak at the Roadhouse could just be your ticket!

To give some context and explain the name, La Fiorentina is the classic steak dish of Florence. Generally, a big T-bone, cooked rare, finished with great Tuscan olive oil. In the never-ending entertainment I get out of playing with words, I combined the La Fiorentina, with the California origins of the oil, and got…Cal-Fiorentina!

The main thing, of course, is that this dish is delicious! It’s definitely on its way to becoming a great December tradition at the Roadhouse—the Hanukkah miracle is actually tied to the arrival of new harvest olive oil (think about it—waiting for more “holy oil” for the Temple? What was given to the priests in every culture was always the first fruits of a harvest. What time of year is olive oil harvested in the northern hemisphere? Add them together and the answer is that the Maccabees were waiting to bring the new harvest olive oil to the Temple to relight the Eternal Light with new harvest oil)!

If you aren’t familiar with new harvest oil—Olio Nuovo in Italian—it’s exceptionally green, delicious and excellent. More polyphenols, more peppery. Olive oil, of course, unlike wine, is at its peak of intensity immediately after being pressed. Even in the bottle—while still super delicious six or sixteen months later—will slowly but surely soften in flavor as the weeks pass. So getting this new harvest olive oil only a week or two after it’s been pressed is a special eating experience that can’t be replicated later in the year. I’m so happy to have this wonderful new harvest olive oil here in Ann Arbor! I’ve been friends with Cristina Salas Porras for a good twenty-five years now. I’m honored and touched to have this great oil crafted by her and her winemaking, farming husband Lee Hudson.

Hudson Vineyards is right across the road from one of our favorite wine suppliers and long-time ZingTrain client, Domaine Carneros (they love open book management), in Napa, a bit south of town on the road that will eventually take you down to San Francisco or over to Sonoma. Lee is originally from Texas, studied horticulture in school and then went to France to learn more about grape growing. Later he got his Master’s in Viticulture and Enology at University of California, Davis. Lee started growing grapes right around the time we started the Deli in the early ‘80s. The property he chose for Domaine Carneros has cool bay breezes and stony volcanic soil which helps his grapes and olives both to achieve excellence. Most of the award-winning grapes he grows are sold to very high-end wineries like Kongsgaard, Kistler, Cakebread, and David Ramey.

In 2004 Hudson Vineyards started producing its own wines. The olives followed a few years later—the 700 or so trees are spread around the farm. All are handpicked to protect their flesh and the oil that’s contained within. It’s made with classic Tuscan varietals making for a really wonderful peppery, green, front forward, fresh-tasting oil—well-suited to the Florentine origins of this dish. Just the sort I love! It’s perfect for the Roadhouse—one of the best American olive oils out there. The flavors are big, bold, meaty and memorable; the agriculture is sustainable, and clearly after all these years, so are the relationships.

And, of course, I don’t want to pass over the main point of the dish which is the actual steak! As it has been for so many years now, the steers for the Roadhouse beef are raised entirely in the pasture. The sides of beef are dry-aged for about five weeks, before being butchered in the Roadhouse kitchen. The steaks are cooked to order over oak wood logs, then finished with the olive oil. And to make the meal even better, they’re served with a side of terrific Tellicherry black pepper fries! A great meal, and a marvelous and historically appropriate way to celebrate Hanukkah!

It’s on our Chanukah menu, but you’ll see it again as a dinner special throughout the year.