Yes, we will freely admit it: we shop at Aldi.
Not for everything, but it's a great place to get a very good price on many staple items (like butter, eggs, tomato paste, and some decent oranges). For those who haven't been, Aldi is a deep-discount grocery store with no shelves and scarcely any cashiers. Pretty much everything is a store brand, only cash and debit cards are accepted, and you have to deposit a quarter to release a shopping cart. But, if dispensing with many of the niceties of other supermarkets means 37¢ yogurts and butter for $2.69 a pound, we'll live with it. We do have standards though, of course, and we try to steer clear of their heavily processed, corn-syrup-addled prepared foods, and we wouldn't really buy meat from there.
There is an item at Aldi so ridiculously cheap, so vexingly mis-priced, that I couldn't resist its allure anymore. It's the $1.79 bacon-wrapped filet mignon.
Individually sealed for your protection, this cylinder of bargain beef is augmented with a "solution" that I suppose is meant to lend a little extra flavor to the steak, though I suspect its presence has at least something to do with getting the weight of each package up to the billed five ounces.
I made sure to pat it dry before throwing it in a hot grill pan.
Fifteen minutes or so later, the bacon was reasonably cooked and the filet was a touch below medium rare. Doesn't look so bad, does it?
The parsley classes it up
With no small amount of apprehension, I dug in. Based on my dining evidence, here are my hypotheses on why this piece of steak cost so little:
- God only knows where it came from.
- Though cunningly connived into a filet-like shape thanks to the bacon, my piece (at least) was not a solid cut of tenderloin, but rather two split pieces of tip or end that were bound together. At least I can be thankful they didn't use meat glue to hold it together.
It's two steaks in one!
So how did it taste? Well, the bacon wasn't bad. Baking rather than grill-panning would have crisped it up a bit more. The flavor of the meat, though, I can only describe as "bologna-like". This is no doubt attributable to the overzealous flavor stylings of the Solution: all the spice, while being pleasant enough in the "tasty food" sense, obscured the "delicious beef" flavor that a good steak has. And given the likely provenance of this beef, I'm not sure how much of that flavor would have been there to begin with.
While my curiosity was certainly satisfied by finally trying this item, I can't say that my desire for big steak flavor was. But at $1.79, cheaper per serving than, well, pretty much any other meat I can think of, it presents an interesting monetary value proposition.
Still, I think I'd have to pass on trying this again. If I want a steak, number one I'm not getting a filet, and number two I'm not going to mess around. Aside from the questionable taste, the ethical ramifications of meat this cheap make me a little queasy. So, my curiosity satisfied, I will leave the Cattlemen's Ranch in the refrigerator case and use all the money I save buying everything else at Aldi to save up for a real decent steak every now and then.