“Going West,” Therese Desjardin. Used with permission.

We were sitting in a steakhouse in downtown Grand Rapids on a Thursday afternoon, Ben and I, conversing over a couple of beers. It was May, and he was interested in my idea for a steak company and wanted to hear more. It was in the course of conversation that Ben that suggested that I make an adventure out of the launch of the business–that I hit the road in search of the best beef out there. It could be a cross-country trek, spanning the better part of the summer: each week I could blog about the ranches and farms that were visited and about the characters that were met along the way. Admittedly, the idea had a certain appeal; after all, it tapped into a man’s sense of going on an adventure, of partaking in some great quest, which is especially appealing when that adventure takes you West: to Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado. Visions of cowboys, horses, dust, and sage brush begin to swirl in one’s mind.  But, like water, we tend to seek the path of least resistance, and since my Family at Duba’s Restaurant had worked with a local butcher for a number of years who had a very good product, it was just as well that this relationship was continued. The quest was allowed to simply pass by the wayside and was nearly forgotten… Read more

This year has been a year of firsts: for starters, I got married to the most wonderful woman (this past weekend my wife and I celebrated one year of marital bliss); last September I became an uncle to the most delightful niece; and I think it was this Spring that I tried foie gras for the first time. Foie gras: goose liver. It’s a meaty, buttery, delicate food that literally melts on the tongue: a sort of “meat truffle”. But it’s a highly controversial delicatessen since foie gras is produced by a process known as gavage: the force-feeding of geese, causing their livers to unnaturally expand. Enter Dan Barber: executive chef and co-owner of Blue Hill Farm whose recorded presentation from the 2008 TASTE3 Conference in Napa, California, I watched last Wednesday night. In it, he shares about the best foie gras he’s ever tasted. Read more

At a sleepover in middle school, Dan Aykroyd introduced me to Julia Child, who would have turned 100 today. Aykroyd, of course, wasn’t at the sleepover but was parodying her on The Best of Saturday Night Live. I’ll admit we were far more entertained by Eddie Murphy’s rendition of Buckwheat , but what stays with me from the skit is my horror when “Julia” gets her hand stuck in a high-powered blender, making mincemeat out of the appendage. Read more

“Jagged Mountain Reflection”, Todd Caudle

My family grew up with regular steak dinners on Sunday evenings. It all began on Sunday afternoons when I (and my siblings) would go with Dad to Duba’s Restaurant, completely empty on Sunday, the one day each week it was closed. He’d take the meat out of the cooling units to get it ready for a new week of dining when, on Monday afternoon, the restaurant’s doors would reopen to its patrons. While Dad made preparations in the kitchen, we kids would make our way to the bar area, fumble for the lights, and help ourselves to the “soda gun.” Ah, the soda gun: you are a puzzle to be solved with your cryptic letters, and you are cooler (in some ways) than a cap gun because of your ability to shoot carbonated candy (like Coke and Ginger Ale). But–be careful–by pressing the “Q” button, you’d get tonic water. Life is a severe–even bitter–teacher, but what other seven year old knew about quinine or could tell you that it is (or was) an ingredient in tonic water (and apparently used to treat malaria)? And so, after downing a Collins glass of soda (we call it “pop” in Michigan), we were ready to take command of the restaurant’s intercom system. High jinx ensued until Dad was ready to take us home, and we’d usually tote home steaks for Sunday dinner. Yes, for our family, a steak dinner was about as normal and routine as any other family’s chicken dinner. My rather ho hum attitude toward the steak dinner all changed for me in the summer of 2001 when I realized just what a steak dinner could be. Read more

While teaching English at The Classical Academy in Colorado, the students in my class were required to write a research paper.  The topic: a historical figure of the 20th Century. Now, somewhere along the way I discovered the best way to teach was to model: do it right there in front of them, have them practice, and then turn them loose. And so I decided to write a research paper right there along with them. Now, I knew that whatever topic I chose had better grab me right in gut and be a subject that I couldn’t learn enough about. For me, that topic was Frank Sinatra. Read more