Beefsteak Tradition Revived at Solvang’s Alisal Ranch
Manhattan’s Meat-and-Booze Tradition Come to Santa Ynez Valley
“I’m so full I’m about to pop,” a man said. “Push those kidneys a little nearer, if you don’t mind.”
Such is the eating-too-much essence of the Beefsteak experience, as captured candidly by the New Yorker’s Joseph Mitchell in his 1939 article “All You Can Hold for Five Bucks.” Detailing the various spins that Manhattanites put on a tradition dating back to the 19th century, Mitchell enshrined this gluttonous affair for future generations to enjoy, even as the all-you-can-eat and -drink bacchanal faded from most memories by World War II.
In 2011, Chef Neal Fraser dusted off Mitchell’s prose as a template for hosting his own Beefsteak at Redbird in Los Angeles, where it was greeted with glitzy and greasy arms. The meat-and-booze party became an annual fundraiser every year through 2019 before being derailed by the pandemic, although it appears Beefsteak IX will occur in 2022, at least for those already on the invite list.
Fraser, meanwhile, became a fan of Alisal Ranch during guest chef stints at the rural resort in Solvang, and thought that the bucolic setting, cowboy history, and culinary chops of the ranch’s resident-chef Anthony Endy could converge into another iteration of the meat-eating event. And that’s what will happen on March 24, when Endy, Fraser, and a whole gang of liquor, wine, and beer purveyors throw a Santa Ynez Valley version of Beefsteak, sans silverware but complete with complimentary aprons to wipe off those messy hands, just like the old days.
“It is a blend of Alisal traditions and his Beefsteak,” said Endy, who was raised in the Santa Ynez Valley and returned to run the food operations at Alisal five years ago. “We want each to have their own voice.” While Fraser’s indoor L.A. event focuses on oven-roasted meats and traditional black tie dress, Endy’s outdoor affair will showcase oak-grilled, smoke-kissed meats and “Western tuxedos,” which is black tie business up top, but blue jeans, belt buckles, boots, and cowboy hats elsewhere.
“It holds true to the history of the area, dating back to the Raimundo Carrillo land grant,” said Endy, noting that the ranch, which became a resort 75 years ago, still raises 2,000 head of cattle annually. “It really is a cornerstone of the Santa Ynez Valley. We continue those traditions today. Those who have experienced it really get to know it and feel it. And this is one of those unique experiences when we share it with the public.”
That’s right — while the Alisal’s culinary soirees are usually limited only to overnight guests or private members of the ranch, Beefsteak is open to everyone who can afford the $225 ticket, 15 percent of which goes to the nonprofit No Kid Hungry. Endy hopes to open his cooking to the public more often in the future. “There’s nothing on the books yet,” he said. “But we hope not to limit it here.”
A bit more spruced up than the simple Beefsteaks of yesteryear, the Alisal evening starts with passed appetizers and cocktails and then proceeds to the meat courses — think tomahawk chops, lamb ribs, smoked beef shank, cedar plank salmon, and more, but the true menu is not revealed until that evening. Vegetarians will be accommodated too. “There’s no shame if you don’t want to eat meat,” promised Endy, who also conceded to providing silverware when requested. (But those aprons do sound like the best napkin option.)
There’s also live music by the Doublewide Kings, emceeing by hospitality fundraiser regular Billy Harris, and “surprise sideshows,” said Endy. “You never know what’s gonna appear.”
Except, of course, for copious amounts of beef and booze. Just take Mitchell’s article for it: Mr. Wertheimer, a pink-cheeked, well-nourished man, looked proudly at the abundantly loaded baskets and said, “The foundation of a good beefsteak is an overflowing amount of meat and beer.”
Tickets for the Beefsteak event on March 24, 5:30 p.m., are $225 while overnight packages at Alisal Ranch (1054 Alisal Rd., Solvang) start at $1,190 per night. See alisal.com.
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