In some regards, foodie culture hasn't progressed much from caveman times. Then as now, bringing home a good cut of meat can impress a crowd. These days, however, barbarian tastes are disguised in more civilized ways. Here's a primer on how to sound sophisticated while ordering savagely. When it comes to hors d'oeuvres, think about foie gras. We refer to it by its French name, but it's still the same liver praised by your mother as being good for you. Make sure your slice of heaven hails from the Hudson Valley of New York, too; it does make a difference. Seasoned pros will order this starter with a small glass of Sauterne, a nectar-sweet wine that elevates foie gras to an ethereal level. If looking for other alternatives, try a Pinot Noir, Sangiovese or Beaujolais (Gamay), which offer flavor and palate-cleansing acidity. In the same family of high-end snacks, consider sweetbreads. Yes, they're made from a gland best kept a mystery, and preparation should never be attempted at home. Nevertheless, its fans often claim that a slight lightheadedness accompanies its digestion. This appetizer is often accompanied by a waiter's quiet nod of approval, particularly if you can do your own wine pairing. Sweetbreads, considered a white meat, are well matched with whites like Chardonnay, Albarino and Graves-style Sauvignon Blanc.
On to the Main CourseFoodies embrace the concept that, at least when it comes to meat, fat is good. Its primary virtue is its ability to ward off dryness in cooking. Steaks of lesser pedigree than a filet mignon will earn a place at the table just by being well marbled with fat. Although tougher in texture, marbled fat provides juicy flavor. Today, butter is the gold standard in boosting fat, usurping lard in all but some circles. Look up "lardoons" in Joy of Cooking, and you'll find a clever little method of injecting pork fat into a lean steak before grilling.
If you encounter marrow-crusted anything on a menu, you should jump at the chance to eat it. Marrow is not only an ingenious way to use an imposter fat with a lean cut of meat, but also the crowning glory of osso bucco and the reason why this otherwise humble knuckle of braised meat remains on upscale menus. It's eaten right from the bone with a spoon. How fat might you be if you spent your days getting regular sake massages and adhering to a rigorous schedule of beer drinking? Our Eastern foodie friends dreamed up this superlative lifestyle, except it's for their cows. That's what makes Kobe beef steaks so tender, well marbled and full flavored. Fetching a fee in the neighborhood of $100 per pound, Kobe-beef cattle are now being raised in the U.S. using the same techniques. There would be no better ingredient for steak tartare. Choose a nicely aged Cabernet to complement this dish, and in turn, the beef will accent the fruity elements of the wine. Then there's the classic filet mignon, a tenderloin cut that lacks the high fat content of most other meat delicacies. The flavor is compromised when meat is this lean, but its ultra-tender texture does compensate. One solution to balance this beautiful cut is dry aging. Dry-aged beef is harder to find than its uncrafted counterpart, and it's also 25% more expensive and 10% to 15% smaller in size. So why eat it? The dry aging significantly increases the intensity of flavor and tenderness of the meat. If you're serving it, apply gremolata to it as you let it "rest" a minute before serving, as it finishes cooking in its residual heat. A simple combination of chopped parsley, lemon zest and a pinch of diced garlic, gremolata proves a stylish garnish. Chefs will also pair a tenderloin with a rich sauce to dress up the flavor. Red wine sauce made with veal stock and a little truffle oil is the best bet. Also, while many foodies celebrate the trendy grass-fed organic beef now available, it's still tough to beat the perennial winner, corn-fed beef.