Here’s The Beef

by Jerry Schuster

Stop your negative thinking. You’ve read the title and are thinking that this is probably another one of those common food, recipe or dining articles. You are all set to turn the page to read something more interesting and entertaining . Stop right there. Read on, please.
My wife Theresa and I were talking about the family, the upcoming summer and the guests it brings to the Gallatin Valley. We generally like to center our meals around home to allow for flexibility, including more gluten-free options.

Since there are so many excellent places to eat in this town, however, we would be remiss to not treat our guests to the ambience of the Gallatin Valley by dining out occasionally.

This is what got me wondering. What would encompass a Montana dining experience that guests would remember when they went home? Something they would frequently thank you for along with that great hike you recommended.

Well, I came upon this idea to describe some foods and beverages that were quintessential Montanan. All the work has been done for you. Just find locations that offer some of these unique specialties which your guests will remember for a long time.

But, I offer you a mythical journey to just one such establishment at which one can find all the finest Bozeman can serve up. The restaurant’s name, chef’s name, location, menu choices and ingredients are all fiction, so don’t go driving around trying to find this certain place. I am telling you now, this place does not exist, and the beverages and foods described are mostly made up, but you can get glimpses of reality if you want to use a little imagination. Don’t be so contemptuous and lazy, get out of your comfort zone.

We have just been seated at a table with a gorgeous view of the mountains at a local restaurant,“Pine Cone Culinary Creations,” Chef, proprietor, Rachel De Peets.

Our waiter, Tristn, tells us about the drink specials, which include the following selections: The non-alcohol must try recommendation is the “Montana On My Mind Mixed Mock tail.” This is a blend of just-picked Flathead cherries in a simple syrup made from eastern Montana sugar beets, to which is added a Yellowstone County wild grape slurry, a bit of local but closely kept secret herbs and spices and a spritzer. Served in a chilled glass about a foot high, very attention-getting.

You can also have an iced tea sourced out of India. I haven’t figured out why this is in a Made in Montana article. Very refreshing.

The cocktail special is the “Gallatin Valley Martini,” made with Montana locally-sourced quadruple-filtered Montana potato-based huckleberry vodka with all natural botanicals grown wild in Sourdough Canyon, exact location undisclosed so the tourists from California and non-locals do not disturb the source site; ethereal flavor from hand-picked (how else do you get them?) Sykes Canyon rather diminutive huckleberries, not the nice plump juicy ones from northern Idaho, which we would use if we could afford to transport. Hint of purple color.

The beer special is “Bear in barrel IPA.” It is locally-sourced using only the finest natural ingredients from Montana, the USA and the whole world. The water is mountain fresh from Sourdough trail source, but carefully filtered for all the reasons known to we who hike that area. The malting barley is from northeastern Montana and the other ingredients are a secret. Real hoppy or is that happy?

On to the starters, what people in the rest of the world call appetizers or hors d’oeuvres. Tristn recommends an array of genuine Montana-sourced Rocky Mountain oysters, aka Montana tenders. These delicacies will be just lightly coated with some cornmeal-based batter and deep fried in canola oil. Presented with the Chef’s Gallatin Valley alluvial-soil garden greens and tiny carrots, so small you thought they were fake. Not the oysters, the carrots.

Another choice is the Montana single-sourced from a farm at Glentana, Montana, non-du-puy lentils, served in a blue-green vegetable broth which has been simmered for 14 hours with garlic and celery, no cilantro ever. This is again served up with some of those real tiny carrots and garlic mashed pommes-du-terre, actually Belgrade potatoes, but let’s not quibble.

Your mouth is watering, so we’ll move on to the entrees.

Montana, Big Sky Country. Think big beef, think small trout. Up in northeast Montana, we ate walleye, but don’t mention that fish to Chef Rachel in Bozeman.

                                                                  photo Food for Thought Catering
Here’s the beef. You will not want your guests to leave the State without experiencing the Montana grass-fed, dry-aged for 28 days in a secluded back country mountain cave, medallions of sirloin. The location of the cave is known only to the chef and a few bears. The medallions are cooked for two minutes a side over a wood-fired grill, then lightly sauced with a gluten-free demi glaze. The glaze is based on a rich bone marrow simmered stock which has been over low heat for 19 hours. Throw in a bunch of those Chef’s garden herbs to finish and give it a nice rich color.

The medallions are presented on pure ivory white plates over a bed of fresh, at least in the summer, organic vegetables, lightly steamed, very light sauce of raspberry vinaigrette, as you want to taste the vegetables.

The fun part here is that the presentation is about nine inches tall, so it has to be hand assembled at table side so as to not tip over on the trip from kitchen to table. While being assembled, guests can wager bets on whether everything will stay on top the pile. It reminds me of the game “Jenga.”

Hungry for fish? You should order the just-caught-that-morning Montana clear stream trout, individually line caught, but easily done since it has been caught and released a number of times already and is just plain worn out. The fish is served whole, Montana style, so skip this entree if your stomach gets a bit queasy when you look at those eyes looking up at you.

The trout is pan seared in hand-churned butter and seasoned with some more of those herbs from the chef’s garden. Lemon slices complete the color scheme.

This presentation is more moderate than the beef entry, being only six inches high. The foundation is steamed bright ruby red chard, seasoned with gray sea salt and some freshly cracked pepper. The color scheme is completed with some new, tiny, local baby beets, and haricot verts, what my folks called green beans, and roasted pine nuts.

Vino with the fish? Try the 2016 “Gallatin Valley Hyalite Peak Sauvignon Blanc,” so dry the glass actually comes with nothing in it. You can smile while sipping, much like in the tale of “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”

Dessert is a must to complete any Montana dining experience. You cannot do better on the face of this planet than the scratch-made somewhere locally huckleberry pie. It consists of bottom crust, filling of naturally sweet local huckleberries, wish we could get some of those plump northern Idaho ones, and top crust. Add a dollop of in-house made huckleberry ice cream, and well, there is no more to be said.

The gluten-free folks have to settle for a made from scratch, “Moose Meadow Lava Flow Dark Chocolate Flourless Tort.” This item is topped with some of those in season Flathead cherries and a caramel sauce.

Bon appétit, but you will not hear that proclaimed here. We just say “let’s eat.”  

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