I am saddened that our days of the classic summer road trip are over. We had a good run of them. Then our boys became involved in summer activities or jobs that made it increasingly difficult to schedule around, and they went on to create their own special memories with friends old and new, as it should be when your children grow up. Since summer road trip season is not too far off (or so I like to believe as I watch the snow get blown about outside my window ….), what better time to dig into the photo archives and share some of my family’s favorite travel memories from over the years.
Our summer road trips usually involved a National Park destination or similar natural setting. If you had to select just one classic U.S. National Park to visit for that summer adventure, you could not go wrong with Yellowstone National Park.
Yellowstone has an amazingly diverse landscape, from the colorful steaming pools and murky paint pots, to the geysers and rivers and lakes. The glacial landscape results in some amazing scenery.
While Old Faithful is a classic sight, it is in the center of the Upper Geyser Basin activity.
We found that sitting along the banks of the river on a hot day, watching the River Geyser go on for ages, provided a peaceful respite.
A person also could spend much of the day pondering the midnight blue depths of the Black Pool, alongside Lake Yellowstone.
Some water features of the park are hidden far below the surface, showing themselves only through the steam escaping from vents scattered about the Park.
Then there are the incredible moving bodies of water — both the Upper and Lower Falls are scenes straight out of a postcard, captured through the ages in paintings and photography.
Yellowstone presents the classic sight of buffalo letting drivers know who rules the road.
Congestion is quickly escaped, though, by enjoying the vast rolling greens of Hayden Valley.
Even Hayden Valley meets with a traffic jam on occasion, as the herd moves to its evening grounds with the sunset. What an awe-inspiring sight it was to watch buffalo after buffalo, mother encouraging their young, large bulls kicking up the dust, as the line of buffalo snorted and grumbled its way across the highway, down the bank of the river, across the river, and then off into the valley beyond.
The National Park Service’s website is your best starting point for planning a visit to Yellowstone National Park. If you intend to stay inside the Park, plan your reservations far in advance, because lodging fills early during popular summer vacation dates.
Given my passion for animals and nature, I would like to be able to say that I cannot bring myself to eat my fellow earth creatures. I have to be honest, though . . . I love a good steak. If it leaves a pool of red on the plate, even better. (Have I already lost some of you readers?) I do struggle with the concept of large factory farms and feedlots, however. I try when I can to search out foods that are not loaded with unhealthy antibiotics and other additives, where I can actually identify the source of the meat I am eating and the process they use to grow and butcher it. If the source of that meat comes with a good story, even better. Such is the case with Wild Idea Buffalo Company.
I was introduced to Wild Idea Buffalo when I read the book, Buffalo for the Broken Heart, by Dan O’Brien. No doubt the book resonated with me in part because I grew up near the prairies of South Dakota, but Mr. O’Brien tells a compelling story of his journey creating a buffalo ranch operation that was premised on sustainable agricultural practices, while respecting the history of the Great Plains buffalo. His writing brings alive the landscape of the prairie and vividly depicts the interesting characteristics of buffalo. By the end of the book, the reader is eager to wander out to the ranch and sit down at their kitchen table with a cup of coffee in hand, just for the opportunity to hear more stories of life on the ranch, before heading outside to watch the buffalo graze as the sun sets. Shortly after completing the book, I searched for Wild Idea’s website, and placed our first order.
I can reconcile my love of the world’s fauna with my carnivorous cravings, as I read Wild Idea’s philosophy of “returning dignity to meat”:
These photos from the cabin reflect why my food postings are few. My husband is the primary cook in the household and his kitchen prep and serving areas are not always, shall we say, staged in a manner intended for a blog photo-shoot. Long before the concept of a blog ever entered my mind, my husband splurged with the gift certificate he received from my parents and purchased one of Wild Idea’s Buffalo Prime Rib Export Roasts. A carnivore’s dream. Perfectly prepared. Oh my! The camera came out at dinner time for this meal. Peter Luger, eat your heart out.
We do not put on airs at the cabin. Heck, we really are not “putting on airs” people, period. But, at home we might bring out the china and a tablecloth, because I do not believe in saving those things just for special occasions. In contrast, the cabin dinnerware is a set of old camping dishes on a hand-me-down formica table, with plastic wine glasses that don’t shatter when they hit the concrete floor. I assure you, the rustic setting did not detract from the flavors of that dinner. If anything, we had nothing to distract us from enjoying every last, meaty bite.
I am not going to suggest that I eat a 100% organic, whole foods, purely sustainable diet, or that the only red meat we eat now is grass-fed buffalo (I have two teenaged boys and my food budget is not infinite like their appetites). But, we have found ourselves returning frequently to buffalo as our preferred red meat choice.
Lest I leave you with the last image of me in your mind being a middle-aged mom sitting in the northwoods gnawing on a prime rib bone, let me assure you that we do clean up nicely on occasion. When we hosted our quarterly dinner club gathering (I discussed our 20-year dinner club tradition in this post if you missed it) for our typically holiday-themed meal in December one year, we decided that buffalo filet mignon was a festive entrée choice. The china and tablecloth came out for this meal.
The key to properly preparing a buffalo steak is to not overcook it — a difficult task when you first begin working with buffalo meat because it is so lean (or so my husband tells me, since I have not personally prepared any of the buffalo steaks we have ordered over the years). This is one of the reasons why buffalo meat is a healthier choice than traditional beef steak, besides the additional nutrients (like high omega-3’s) found in buffalo meat, reflected by this nutritional comparison chart, and as discussed in this article discussing heart-healthy foods.
While the recipe we chose for the buffalo filet mignon had a black pepper coriander sauce, we have found that a properly cooked grass-fed buffalo steak (which in our house means medium rare, heavy emphasis on the rare), needs no sauce or marinade. The almost-sweet flavor, beef-like but not, stands on its own. It does not have a “gamey” flavor like some may think.
Just as you can purchase various parts of a cow to consume, you also can purchase various parts of a buffalo. Tongue, anyone? I think the buffalo tongue was a promotion when we ordered, receiving a free tongue with purchase. (I honestly cannot recall saying excitedly, “Let’s order a tasty buffalo tongue!”) As long as we had it, we decided it would be one of the appetizers for our holiday dinner club gathering. We used the recipe and preparation instructions that came with tongue. Unfortunately, I only have a photo of the finished product, which everyone pronounced “delish,” just as promised by the recipe. All I can tell you about the “before” status is that it looked like a tongue. A very, very big tongue.
Here is a recipe for your next dinner party — surely a conversation-starter, but more importantly, the flavors are a great meal starter:
Makes 24 appetizer servings. This favorite delicacy in the late 1800′s, is making its way back on to fine restaurant menus. This easy, gourmet recipe will have your guests asking for more.
Jill’s Note: My preference is to peel the tongue before cooking to maximize flavor and tenderness. This is optional, as tongue can be simmered with skin on and slipping off after cooking is complete and tongue has cooled a bit.