Upgrade Your Summer BBQ With These Steaks, Burgers, Salmon, and Wine
BBQ season is a little different this summer, but you can still enjoy an outdoor meal with friends and family while social distancing. Whether you prefer burgers or hot dogs, steaks or salmon, here are the best places to buy top quality meat and fish online shipped right to your door. Don't worry, I didn't forget wine pairings and there's ice cream for dessert.
Marc Zimmerman founded A-5 Meats to deliver top quality meat, with an emphasis on full-blood Japanese wagyu, to chefs at restaurants like Alexander's Steakhouse, Avery and Maestro's. The meat is chilled, but never frozen, ensuring peak quality and freshness. “Freezing beef is the easy way,” Zimmerman says. “But unfortunately for the customer, you have know idea how long that beef has been frozen.”
In November 2019, Zimmerman opened ittoryu GOZU in San Francisco, where he curates a wagyu tasting menu serving diverse cuts from small farms and cooking everything, even vegetables and pastries, in rendered beef tallow. As restaurants closed during the coronavirus pandemic, he quickly pivoted from selling to chefs to selling directly to diners nationwide. “We believe in a chilled, extremely high quality, fresh product,” Zimmerman says. “It's what chefs have always expected. Home chefs can now expect the same quality as Michelin-starred restaurants.”
A butchery and restaurant with six locations across California, Belcampo is known for the sustainability and high quality of all their meat, working with certified organic and humane farms using regenerative farming practices. Animals are pasture-raised and grass-fed and finished for the utmost nutrition and flavor. Their ground beef is perfect for shaping your own burgers or sliders and they have smoked kielbasa and beef hot dogs too. There are chicken wings and hindquarters, along with several cuts of steak. The summer grilling package includes a taste of everything.
Smoking Goose Meatery Sausages
At Smoking Goose, Chris Eley butchers whole hogs and cures and smokes meats, sausages and salumi that rival anything you'd find in Italy. Eley partners with small family farms in Indiana and the Midwest to source ethically raised, healthy animals that are antibiotic-free and humanely slaughtered. There are a dozen different sausages to choose from, including wild fennel pork sausage and elk sausage with tarragon and juneberry. The caraway and kolsch bratwurst is a collaboration with Indy's Daredevil Brewing, and the popular smoked kitchen sink sausage includes mustard, parsley and espelette pepper. The grill collection available on Goldbelly comprises four different sausages along with smoked pork chop and applewood bacon.
Sustainably Farmed Salmon
For pescatarians, Regal New Zealand king salmon is among the most sustainable farmed salmon in the world with lots of omega-3 fatty acids. They were the first marine-farmed salmon to achieve Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch's best choice rating with farms scattered throughout the Marlborough Sounds. The new ready-to-eat 3.5 oz salmon fillets are slowly wood-roasted for an aromatic smoky flavor that's the perfect BBQ alternative for pescatarians. Serve it cold or hot, on its own or atop a salad. Flavors include classic beech wood, mixed pepper and spices, sweet chili lime and my favorite double manuka – roasted over manuka wood and glazed with New Zealand's famous manuka honey.
Kvarøy Arctic just started shipping nationally this month via Fulton Fish Direct, and the firm, buttery flesh is beautifully marbled, coming in convenient 8 oz portions. This third-generation, family-owned Atlantic salmon farm is located along Norway's Inner Passage on the Arctic Circle. Norway's cold, clear waters produce a slightly briny flavor and their fish have a vibrant orange color due to their natural diet. Kvarøy Arctic never uses antibiotics and they grow fermented microalgae (efficiently produced from biomass) for fish food instead of dragging large nets across the ocean for small feeder fish.
Brooklyn Hot Dog Company
Swap over-processed grocery store hot dogs with the gourmet version by Brooklyn Hot Dog Company. These hot dogs are made with grass-fed beef and pasture-raised pork, free of hormones and antibiotics, with no nitrates, artificial ingredients or preservatives. Five flavors including classic beef, beef and pork, buffalo chicken, gyro and pepperoni. Even if you don't have a grill at home, the easy-to-follow hydrotoasting method gets a nice sear to mimic that just off the grill snap. Get creative with condiments to impress guests, like this loaded baked potato dog.
When pairing wine with steak, many default to the obvious cabernet sauvignon, a big Napa Valley red wine to match a juicy ribeye. You won't go wrong there, but for something less predictable and just as delicious, consider pairing your smoky grilled meats with a refreshing sparkling rosé. Pauline Lhote, head winemaker at Chandon, loves pairing Chandon Rosé with BBQ. “The bright red fruit notes match well with savory grilled meats, while the balancing acidity and refreshing bubbles cleanse the palate,” she says.
Dom Perignon's 2006 Rosé has the full body and minerality to stand up to steak, with notes of raspberry and dried violets. If you're BBQ-ing to celebrate a graduation, birthday, anniversary or just seeing friends and family again after months apart, this is an elegant wine that's worth the splurge. For more affordable pairings, McBride Sisters sparkling rosé from Hawkes Bay New Zealand is superb. Nyetimber's multi-vintage brut rosé is both creamy and bright with Bing cherry flavors and Gran Moraine's brut rosé is a steal, easily mistaken for champagne, with a bouquet of wild rose and fraises des bois and just 1,000 cases produced each year. Mumm Napa's prestige cuvée DVX rosé spends 44 months en tirage, with lovely aromas of fresh-baked biscuits and jammy Amarena cherries on the palate. This one is especially good with salmon.
Flavored Sparkling Water
For those that choose to forego alcohol, there are several new sparkling waters to try this summer. Aura Bora is infused with fresh herbs, fruits and flowers to create a super refreshing and flavorful drink that contains zero sugar and zero calories. The colorful and playful cans come in flavors like basil berry, cactus rose and peppermint watermelon, which tastes nostalgically like watermelon bubblegum. GOJAI is another zero-calorie sparkling water option that's lightly caffeinated in four citrusy flavors.
For something with a little natural sweetness and touch of caffeine, Wave Soda is the answer. There's no added sugar, or any of that artificial sweetener nonsense. Instead, the ratio of 85% sparkling water and 15% real fruit juice makes for a delightful fruity spritz all with 25 calories or less. The cucumber soda is like sparkling spa water. All three are great mixers for simple two-ingredient cocktails.
Ice Cream Novelties
Individually packaged ice cream novelties are a convenient crowd-pleaser, easy for self-serving in the age of social distancing. Mochidoki's ice cream mochi are a step up from the Whole Foods mochi case, with flavors ranging from classically American vanilla chip to distinctly Asian, black sesame, Thai tea, ceremonial grade matcha and ube. The New York-based ice cream company just reopened their first retail location in SoHo and are shipping to 26 states so far. Chloe's new oatmilk pops in salted caramel, raspberry chip and mint chip are a lusciously creamy vegan option using everyone's favorite dairy-free milk alternative. Look for them at Target, Kroger, Sprouts and Safeway. Yasso's new chocolate-dipped frozen Greek yogurt bars are another healthier indulgence, coated in milk or dark chocolate studded with crispy quinoa. Wallops are another fun choice for chocolate lovers – nuggets of ice cream smothered in cookie dough and enrobed in a crunchy chocolate shell.
I’ve had fun cooking with my family this summer, although we definitely set off the smoke alarm a few times when cooking indoors at my apartment. I’m not eating much meat these days for environmental reasons, but when I do enjoy meat, I want to be mindful about where it’s coming from. A-5 Meats’ Japanese wagyu truly melts in your mouth and Kvarøy Arctic’s salmon is nearly as buttery. When you have top quality meat and fish, simple preparations work best to let the quality of the product shine.
Meet the Family
Amber Gibson is a Chicago-based journalist specializing in food, travel, wine and wellness. Her work has appeared in Travel + Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, Saveur, Departures, Architectural Digest, USA Today, NBC and Hemispheres. Gelato, dark chocolate and champagne are her biggest weaknesses. Follow her adventures @amberyv on Instagram.