Saturday, May 16, 2009

Dining by the Wind River

Welcome to Dubois, Wyoming…population 967,…elevation 6946 feet above sea level. While a future blog will talk about Dubois in more detail, my first impression was that Dubois was the Talkeetna of Wyoming. (Talkeetna is the town in Alaska that was supposed to be the inspiration for the TV program “Northern Exposure.”)

The town seemed empty. Everyone must have been at the annual Antler Rendezvous. But the Sundance Café was open, and it was there that we were headed for lunch. This small café has indoor seating for about twenty-five and extra seating for maybe fifty on the front and side porches. The side porch overlooks a creek (the Wind River), but the temperature that day was only 47, so we wisely choose to eat indoors. The clientele that day included a high school-aged couple, two men in very large cowboy hats with their wives, and four tables of tourists.

The café has live music on Thursday nights and the small bandstand is tucked in one corner and contains a tufted velvet Victorian chair and a Victorian lamp. We assume, given the side of the bandstand, that the performer is a solo act.

The lunch menu leans heavily towards sandwiches, salads, and wraps, but there are a few flourishes. Two of the three appetizers that noon were a Southwester Eggroll and some variation on escargots. And, when one of the men seated at the table next to us ordered coffee, the coffee was served in a French press coffee maker.

The special that day was a Chicken Caesar Wrap,...but wraps are really not my thing. The soup choices were a rice and pork (which nearby diners were raving about) and a spinach and sausage. Both of us chose the latter. Chuck’s lunch choice was the smoked brisket on a ciabatta roll topped with spicy barbecue sauce and a red cabbage slaw.

I chose the Italian Sausage on the ciabatta roll topped with sautéed onions and peppers, seasoned tomato sauce, and shredded parmesan cheese.

The soup was thick with spinach, and the surrounding broth was full of flavor from the sausage. Since I tend to salt everything, the fact that I added neither salt nor pepper can attest to the soup’s flavor. But…the soup was a little bit light on actual pieces of sausage.

My sandwich was a surprise. When I see the words Italian sausage, I expect the sausage to be made in the Italian style. By that I mean semi-coarse ground meat in a natural casing and seasoned with garlic, parsley, fennel, and, in my case, hot pepper flake. The sausage here was a smoked beef sausage and the Italian referred to the sauce and cheese.

But, as I keep saying to Chuck: “We’re not in Philadelphia anymore.” So I decided to evaluate the sandwich based on what it was and not what I thought it would be. And what it was was delicious. The sausage had been split and grilled, was lean and smoky, and extended an inch beyond two sides of the roll. The sauce was slightly sweet and the peppers, onions, and cheese were great finishing notes. So, while it was a sausage sandwich served Italian style, it still made for a good lunch.

I should note that we shared the sweet potato fries that appear on my plate and they were also delicious. Frying sweet potatoes brings out and caramelizes their natural sugars, and we have grown very fond of sweet potato fries.

Now to Chuck’s smoked brisket. In a word…stupendous. This was the brisket we looked for in Texas. Served shredded rather than sliced, the meat was--to use that cliché--melt in your mouth tender. (I found it necessary to have several tastes in order to make an accurate evaluation.) And, rather than mixing the meat with the sauce which too frequently results in too much sauce, a prudent amount of sauce topped the meat. This was a sandwich of the first order.

The Sundance Café is a fun place, and if time permits, I’d like to return, especially if the weather permits our eating on the porch overlooking the creek.

Definitely a 4.0 Addie experience.

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