When we were in Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show, our company rented a 9 bedroom - 9 bath villa on the northwest side of Las Vegas for our team to stay in. It had a large kitchen and a gas grill on the patio so it was natural for us to make a couple of our meals there, especially with the fact that most of us are big meat eaters. We were going to entertain members of the Focal and Naim Audio staffs one evening - a total of 18 people would be having dinner at our house. My colleague Ian and I had been looking on line to find a butcher shop that would be a step above a Costco or a local supermarket chain. Not far from where we would be staying, we found a meat shop that had high marks from online reviews - Larry's Great Western Meats.
Larry's Great Western Meats has been in business since before 2000 supplying meat to not only the public, but also to a number of restaurants around the greater Las Vegas area. The Larry behind the name of the business is Larry Hughes. Well, I should say it was Larry Hughes as he sold his business to Elie Khoury in 2014. Khoury worked at Larry's Great Western Meats for a number of years before buying the business last year.
I had appointments first thing on the first day of the show and Ian did not. He ended up going to Larry's and picking out eighteen 12 to 14 ounce USDA Choice New York strip steaks for our Wednesday night soiree at the house. When I opened the packages, I found these marvelous steaks all uniformly cut to about an inch and a half in thickness. They rivaled anything that I could find at a butcher shop back in the Midwest.
I was designated as the grill master for the evening as my reputation (and many pictures that I've sent to my colleagues over the years) of knowing my way around a Weber grill. However, this was a gas grill that I would be working with - something that I haven't cooked meat on in, well, probably 20 years. In about five minutes, I had to learn where the hot spots and cool spots were on the grill because I was going to have to cook 12 at a time on the first shift and then the remaining steaks as we served the first round.
I like to marinate my steaks in a combination of Lea and Perrins Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder and cracked black pepper. For good measure, I asked my colleague Todd to bring some of the "real" Montreal steak seasoning with him to Las Vegas. And he came through in spades - he brought a couple jars of the original Schwartz's Steak and Beef spice from the famous Schwartz's Deli in Montreal. (Click here to see my entry on Schwartz's Deli.) I sprinkled a generous amount of the Schwartz's spice on top of the steaks and let them all sit for about an hour, warming up to room temperature and letting the Worcestershire sauce break down the spices into the meat.
Our guests began to show up around 7:30 p.m. and it was time to get the fire going. With the help of my colleague Francois, we got the grill fired up and started to get the grill grates hot. I made the blanket announcement to the group that I was going to make the steaks medium rare to keep a uniformity. Even our European guests from France and the U.K. - who generally like their steaks rare - all said that was fine.
The first set of steaks went on the back burner to sear in the juices. I was sort of tight-assed as I seared the first batch of steaks, hoping that they wouldn't get overcooked. Grilling for four or five people - I got that down. Grilling for 18, not so much.
After searing the first set of steaks, I put the second five onto the back burner after transferring the seven that had been seared to the cooler front side of the grill. Things were going smoothly and the steaks seemed to be cooking all right. I thought to myself, "Hmmm... I might just pull this off!"
Before and while this was going on with the grilling, some of my colleagues were helping out with the sides and salads in the kitchen. It was truly a team effort. My colleague Matt was making bacon for real bacon bits for the salad and then he sliced and sauteed up mushrooms for the steaks, and Ian was making the baked potatoes and heating up the garlic bread.
Francois chopped up the bacon, onions and cherry tomatoes and mixed it all with chopped lettuce for the salad. Well, he had to make the salad twice - one of our Canadian colleagues was reaching for a margarita glass in a cupboard above the counter and he accidentally knocked over another glass that shattered on the counter top. Unfortunately, shards of the glass went into the salad that Francois had just finished making and had set aside for later on. Fortunately, though, we had enough greens, veggies and cheddar cheese to make another large bowl of salad, but he used up all the chopped bacon for the first salad. It wasn't the end of the world.
When the steaks were finished, we served our guests first. I was really worried that the steaks weren't cooked enough or cooked too much. But the Europeans - who all love American beef - were very happy with the way that I cooked the steaks. I would possibly categorize them as "rare-plus", a little more red than a medium-rare pink. But no one bitched about how they were cooked.
The look on my colleague Todd's face above right says it all. He was extremely happy with the taste of the steaks. He said, "I want to know how you could get 18 steaks to come out all cooked exactly the same."
I was the last one to eat steak - and I certainly didn't mind. The steak was tender and very flavorful. The Worcestershire sauce and spice marinade was a hit with everyone. I think Ian was a little skeptical, but from the taste of the steaks he was a quick convert. After our guests left, we revelled in the realization that we pulled off a meal like that. The beer and wine tasted pretty good that evening.
We had reservations for 8 people on Thursday night at The Steakhouse at Circus Circus, one of our favorite places to get a steak in Vegas. (Click here to see the entry on The Steakhouse.) As we were winding down with after dinner drinks after our guests had left, Ian said, "You know, we ought to just bag the dinner plans for tomorrow night and cook more steaks out here."
I said, "I don't have anything going on in the morning. Why don't you and I go over to Larry's and get some filets for tomorrow night?" The rest of the guys were in full agreement that another steak night - even two nights in a row - would be perfect.
Larry's Great Western Meats is on Valley View Dr., just north of Alta Dr. and about a half mile north of W. Charleston Blvd. (see map) From the outside, there's not much to the place. It looks like a small bunker with a dock for trucks off to the side. But going inside, it was this wondrous mix of meat, sauces, spices, utensils, wood chips for smoking - anything you'd need to make a great steak on the grill.
The meat case was chock full of beef in all forms, pork, chicken, and sausage as well as Southwestern and Hispanic specialties. We were greeted by Elie Khoury, the owner, after we walked in. Ian had called ahead and asked them to cut up ten 14 to 16 ounce beef tenderloin filets. Elie was the one who talked to Ian on the phone and he told Ian that it wouldn't be any problem to cut them up when we got there. They weren't that busy that early in the morning even with all the commercial business they do for restaurants around the Las Vegas area.
Larry's had a large selection of steak and barbecue sauces, spices and rubs, even high-end cutlery from Victorinox, the people who make Swiss Army knives. The cooler featured pre-packaged meats and cheese along with juices and jars of pickles.
As I was standing there, I looked down at one of the shelves and I saw something that stunned me. They had Country Bob's steak sauce at Larry's! I exclaimed, "Holy shit! They have Country Bob's here!" Now, Country Bob's is my favorite steak sauce - when I use steak sauce. (Click here to see the entry on Country Bob's.) Now, I thought Country Bob's was basically a Midwestern product and I didn't expect to see any in Las Vegas, of all places. However, Elie Khoury told me that they were the only place in Vegas that sold the stuff. I said, "I have NEVER seen this stuff outside of the Midwest!"
Elie said, "Isn't it great? I fell in love with it and called them up and they ship me a couple cases each month." In addition to about three dozen bottles on the shelf, he had a small crate full of Country Bob's next to the meat counter. Ian inquired if we should get some, but I declined. If the beef tenderloins were as good as the strip steaks we had the night before, I wouldn't dare putting any steak sauce on them.
When we had gone on our grocery store trip a few days before, one of the things that I was looking for was Atomic Horseradish - the best horseradish that I've ever tasted. (Click here to see the entry on Atomic Horseradish.) We went to two grocery stores and they didn't even have fresh ground horseradish, let alone Atomic Horseradish. But as I was standing there marveling at the sauces and marinades Larry's had on the shelf, I quickly turned to Elie and said, "Hey, do you have Atomic Horseradish?"
He said, "Yeah, I think we have some left. I got some in about 10 days ago. There should be some in the cooler."
He came out from behind the meat counter and walked toward the refrigerated cooler. He found three 6 ounce jars of the Atomic brand horseradish on a shelf. Ian smiled and said, "Well, there you go! Gotta have some!" Atomic Horseradish with my beef tenderloin filet - I knew I would be in heaven that evening.
We got ten filets that were easily two and a half to three inches thick. When the guy who was cutting them up asked us if we wanted them bacon-wrapped, we immediately said, "Yes!" They were so thick that he was able to wrap two pieces of bacon - placed side by side - around the side of the filets. This was going to be a fun meal.
Initially, there were only going to be 8 of us as my boss and my colleague John had separate dinners to attend that night with manufacturers. We figured that two of our rep colleagues from Canada were going to come back out so we went ahead and got ten steaks. But the two guys from Canada couldn't come back that evening, and at the last moment my boss begged out of his dinner. He claimed that he was tired, but we think he heard so much about how great the steaks were the night before and he didn't want to miss out on a night of beef and wine at the rental house.
Ian and Todd hovered over me taking mental notes as I did the Worcestershire sauce and spice marinade as I did the night before. I was less worried about cooking the steaks this particular evening as we weren't entertaining anyone, plus the fact that I had pulled off cooking 18 steaks the night before. The experience was less stressful all the way around.
We started to cook earlier in the evening than the night before as we weren't waiting for all the guests to show up. My colleagues were ready to eat around 7:30 that evening. Many pitched in once again - we had some extra potatoes left over from the night before and Ian made sort of a cheese-topped twice baked potato in the oven. Francois made a salad again. Matt did the sauteed mushrooms again. I had picked up a couple loaves of garlic bread earlier in the day from the store.
Because the steaks were varying thicknesses, some of the steaks turned out rare to medium-rare. I had my eye on one particular steak all night long and being that I was the grill chef I got to pick out the one I wanted. It was cooked rare and full of flavor. With a healthy dollop of Atomic Horseradish - FRESH Atomic Horseradish that just cleared my nostrils and took my breath away on the first taste - this was as good a meal as what I probably would have gotten at The Steakhouse had we gone there instead that evening.
I got a lot of very nice complements on my grilling skills during and after our two evenings of cooking at home, but the real star of the two events was Larry's Great Western Meats. When you have cuts of meat that were as good and consistent as what we got at Larry's, it's easy to make them taste good from a grilling point of view. And it saved us a lot of money in the process. It was $180 bucks for the ten tenderloin filets - it would have been $55 bucks a pop for a similar steak at The Steakhouse. And for the eighteen New York strips that we got for the night before, it was $202 bucks. That's a little over $11 bucks a steak - about a quarter (or more) of the price of what we'd pay in a good Las Vegas steakhouse. After the dinners, most of us pitched in for clean-up and everything went very smooth. And everyone was happy - no long waits for a table or service, we could open a new bottle of wine when we wanted more, it was a leisurely and laid-back evening both nights. We're going to do the house rental thing again for the 2016 CES next year. The only thing I ask is that the house is close enough to Larry's Great Western Meats so we can do a couple of steak nights again.