Beef Tenderloin Chimichurri

The beef from Nicaragua is truly sublime; grass fed and naturally lower in fat, it represents one of the great cuts of meat in the world.  Easily on par with Japan and Argentina, the simple methods used by the Nicaraguan ranchers are attracting the attention of international connoisseurs, chefs, and the meat eating public. Because the cattle eat natural grasses while roaming freely, are grown without the use of hormones, and because they are not feed-lotted to bulk up before slaughter, the meat retains a stronger and more natural flavor without the fatty marbling commonly found in premium beef. In essence, it is a throwback to a more simple time before the grind of industry and science found its way onto our dinner table.

Patricia Tomlinson, the chef and owner of Dragonfly Restaurant in Tamarindo Costa Rica, knows her beef. This filet cut, coupled with the classic Argentinian chimichurri makes for a summertime classic here in the land of the endless summer. Chimichurri is a rather simple sauce of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, parsley, and fresh herbs is a staple of the Argentinian table and one of the most famous cultural exports from the country that brought us tango. The slight, biting, lemony edge, coupled with the richness of a fine olive oil and basil harmonizes beautifully with the slightly pungent Nicaraguan beef creating an instant classic of Latin American culinaire. A simple and fresh accompaniment of herb roasted potatoes and sauteed red pepper, carrot, and zucchini finish the dish.

For the food photography I wanted to create an image that matched the richness and colors of the dish. I generally strive for a Zen-like simplicity and avoid external props, but for this image I wanted a different feel than normal, an earthy, busy photograph where every element graphically draws the eye to the center of the frame.  This image took about 90 minutes of setup on location at Dragonfly, with endless tweaking of lights and reflectors, props, plate, and food; but the finished image is a successful. Tish was very patient and accomidating as I dominated a large portion of her restaurant with lights, tripods, and cables.

Here is the lighting diagram for the shoot. A high shutter speed canceled any ambient light left over from outside.

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