The California Holstein cuts are marbled almost beyond belief.
Flannery Beef
Credit: Courtesy of Kali

The most memorable steak I’ve eaten in Los Angeles is the grilled California Holstein strip at downtown’s Shibumi. Divided into two sections, one topped with fresh wasabi and the other topped with Japanese nara-zuke pickles, this was a steal at $28 when I tried it in November 2016. Today, it’s still a steal at $30. It’s better than steaks I’ve had that were five times the price.

The California Holstein strip, which I enjoyed again last week, is astonishingly beefy and beautifully marbled. It’s meaty and tender and fatty and rich and perfect. Shibumi chef David Schlosser first heard about this specific beef supplier when he worked at Masa in New York City. Down the corridor from Masa is Thomas Keller’s Per Se, which was getting meat from this source.

But Schlosser (whose Shibumi, by the way, is the only Southern California restaurant with the required license to sell true Kobe beef if you’re willing to pay $84 for a couple ounces of Japanese beef bliss) has never made a big deal of where he gets his California Holstein strip. He doesn’t even list his supplier on the menu.

“When people asked me where I got the beef, I said I couldn’t tell them,” Schlosser says with a smile.

Well, the secret is out now: Schlosser’s sensational strip comes from Flannery Beef, a Northern California supplier that’s known for its prime, dry-aged Holstein cuts, which you can now find at many of California’s best restaurants.

After Daniel Patterson took over San Francisco’s Alfred’s Steakhouse in 2016, he replaced the meatery’s corn-fed Midwestern beef with Flannery Beef’s grass-fed, grain-finished meat. And Flannery Beef, which gets Holsteins from local farmers and then dry-ages the meat in its own facility, also has many L.A. chefs raving about the quality of its product.

A little background: Holsteins, typically used as dairy cows, are just a tiny percentage of the American beef market, which is dominated by Hereford and Angus cattle. Holsteins take longer to mature. Compared to traditional beef cattle, Holsteins tend to have less exterior fat and much more intramuscular fat, what Flannery Beef proprietor Bryan Flannery calls “little pinpricks of fat everywhere.”

Flannery, who runs his company with his daughter Katie, has long been in search of beef’s “holy grail.” So about 12 or 13 years ago, farmer Eric Brandt sent him some meat to examine. Flannery had no idea the case of ribs was Holstein beef. Three of the ribs looked fine. Seeing the fourth one changed Flannery’s life.

“I was like, ‘Holy shit, I haven’t seen anything this gorgeous in my life next to my wife,’” says Flannery, who told Brandt he would pay a premium if he could get beef like that.

The Holstein beef’s marbling, Flannery says, reminded him of A5, the holy grail of ultra-premium Japanese beef. And the Holstein beef was local and less expensive, of course.

Holstein beef, full of wondrous fat, allows chefs to serve smaller, thicker portions of steaks. But steaks are just the beginning.

Credit: Courtesy of Kali

Current Top Chef contestant Bruce Kalman recently started serving gorgeous Flannery Beef short ribs with winter squash at Union in Pasadena. He’s also just added short rib ravioli to the menu. Kalman’s posted no less than five Instagram photos about Flannery Beef. Sample post: “I can’t say enough about how incredible this #holsteinbeef from @flannerybeef is ... when it cooks, it creates a succulent, pillowy texture with amazing flavor.”

Flannery’s Holstein beef has been served at more than 30 L.A. restaurants, including Ori Menashe’s Bestia, Jeremy Fox’s Rustic Canyon, Timothy Hollingsworth’s Otium, Walter and Margarita Manzke’s Republique, Gino Angelini’s Angelini Alimentari and Nancy Silverton’s Chi Spacca, the latter of which uses Flannery for its colossal bistecca fiorentina, a 50-ounce dry-aged bone-in porterhouse.

Jessica Largey plans to use Flannery when she opens the highly anticipated Simone next year. Many of the best new L.A. restaurants that debuted in 2017, including Evan Funke’s Felix, Steve Samson’s Rossoblu, Zach Pollack’s Cosa Buona and Dave Beran’s Dialogue, have put the beef on their menu.

“The meat has a barnyard flavor that is unique, and the dry-aged cuts add just enough funk to make you feel like you’re eating steak for the first time,” says chef Michael Voltaggio, who serves a dry-aged Holstein rib-eye at Ink.Well.

Credit: Jules Exum

Voltaggio, a big supporter of Flannery, would also like you to know that home cooks can order beef from Flannery’s online butcher shop if they prefer to enjoy the funk without visiting a restaurant.

Kali chef Kevin Meehan is also a major proponent of Flannery Beef, which he used for pop-up dinners even before he had his own restaurant. At Kali in Larchmont, Meehan has hosted two sold-out Flannery Beef “meat-up” dinners.

“The whole menu was $100 for 16 ounces of total meat,” Meehan says. “We start with tartare and end up with bone marrow flan. The big red wine people come out, they bring all their wines.”

Kali also uses Flannery Beef for a dry-aged lunchtime burger and has served Flannery short ribs, hanger steaks and rib eyes at dinner.

“Like a wine would have a terroir to it, I feel like the Holstein cow has a meat-roir to it,” Meehan says. “There’s more depth of flavor, it’s beefier. It almost seems like the way God created meat to be, rather than a fast-growing juicy American steak.”

Chef Michael Fiorelli of Love & Salt in Manhattan Beach plans to have a peppercorn-crusted Flannery rib eye as one of the “Rat Pack” specials he will serve on New Year’s Eve.

“Bryan Flannery and his family have been in the business of beef their entire life, and the quality is always incomparable,” Fiorelli says. “The beef is hands down the best I've ever tasted. It's so much fun to be able to introduce their steaks to guests in the restaurant and see their response. I think I've used just about every cut, including a burger blend we’ve tested with our Downlow burger at Love & Salt. I'm still amazed at the flavor every time I taste it."