Monday, June 11, 2012

Hey! This Ribeye is Medium Rare!

It's been a short month since those fried shrimp on that last warm night in Chicago. Not that it hasn't been warm in Chicago since--as I understand, it has gotten pretty hot--but you see, where I'm at, it's snowing right now. Chubby flakes falling from the Big grey Sky of Montana. But that's the great thing about the mountains, and it reminds me of growing up in Colorado--it'll be stunningly gorgeous tomorrow, and hey--the rough weather has given us a chance to let up on the build out of the orange beast that will soon be wood-firing pizzas for the good people of Bozeman and just relax a little bit and blow off some steam.

A bit about the drive out here: we made in two not-so-bad-at-all days, about 14 hours each, with a stop in Murdo, SD. Which was just what I'd pictured: howling wind flying down off the plains, dust devils swirling all over a really small town with a few paved roads and a few more laid with dirt and gravel. I wondered what the folks who lived there did for, say, supplies and groceries, and I can tell you with certainty that there was no local-organic-greenmarket (how many more buzz words can I get in here before they get Trademarked?) happening on Saturday morning. But we found what a city slicker might expect/hope to find in a place like this: a little joint called the Buffalo Bar and Grill, and I'm positive that I remember there being swinging doors to this saloon. It was here that I had one of the more outstanding steaks I've had in a long time.

Flashback: A couple months before, I went to a restaurant, a steak house in Chicago, you know, one of these {INSERT MAN'S NAME HERE}'s Steak House or {INSERT MAN'S NAME HERE}'s Crab Shack to be precise (though that is as precise as I will get). And I couldn't get over my bewilderment: how do these guys get away with this, day in, day out? I've got so many friends trying to open restaurants and the amount of work and effort and blood and money and tears they put into it is unreal, enough to keep me from thinking of a brick and mortar place of my own for a long while. Yet people pour into these steak houses non-stop, ordering ridiculously overpriced and craptastically overcooked steaks again and again. Bussers took plates from underneath people's forks while said forks were still in mouths, and I kept thinking of how much money the waiter (a nice enough guy, if you don't mind a wet cough for the duration of the evening) was going to walk away with that night, not to mention that year. All for a subpar food product and a manufactured atmosphere (though I will say that the lighting in this place was absolutely perfect--you know, as though each table has a really soft spotlight but you can't see where it is coming from--that was really nice). BUT that is neither here nor there. We'll save the vendetta for another time.

Back to the Buffalo Bar and Grill--all I wanted was a ribeye, a whiskey and a beer. And that is precisely what I got. The plump little cook kept coming out into the dining room, smiling and chatting with people; I sunk the beer from the bar portion of the place next door and ordered another as I settled into the bourbon and steak--one of the better combinations know to (at least this) man. The steak was spot-on medium rare, just as I'd asked, and tasted of, well, grilled beef. If the Mayans picked THAT to be the big day in 2012, I'd have been happy as a clam to go. It was the perfect combination of desire, (lack of fabricated) setting and, of course, pure satisfaction, and when finished, I settled back into the soft booth seat and gave a satiated sigh thinking about how these folks pulled it off effortlessly. And then I thought about how that always makes the best food, and perhaps the best experience--not overthought or fussed about--just done well. And not well done like that place back in the city.