Sunday, June 7, 2009

Our Place is Our Place

"Make plans to attend our Welcome to Summer Barbecue Friday, June 12" announced a local radio station as we awoke this morning.

The scene outside seemed like anything but a welcome to summer. Yesterday we had all been advised to disconnect our water hose, because a freeze was forecast, but we did not hear anything about a pending snowfall.

Even this photo of the snow did not capture the trees bowed low from the weight of the wet snow at dawn.

A good portion of the hillsides and mountains surrounding the RV park was completely eliminated by the snow and low clouds. The windshield shows the depth of the snowfall that stuck.

However, there was one upside, Chuck's allergies (especially to pine trees) got a welcome break. Wonderful fresh, brisk weather.

Saturday morning was a morning to run errands – Wal-Mart, the liquor store, the cigarette store, and the grocery store. Needing to be fortified for the ordeal, breakfast at Our Place was in order. It was crowded as always, but we were lucky to again have Carolyn (the co-owner) as our server. This morning I couldn’t resist the appeal of corned beef hash. I love corned beef hash, but seldom order it because it can be very salty. But, since our two previous meals at Our Place had been so good, I decided to take the risk and ordered the corned beef hash with two eggs over easy, hash browns, and sourdough toast.

Again, the over easy eggs were perfect and the hash browns crisp. The corned beef hash was one of the best ever. It was cooked crisp on the outside – I especially like the lacy crisp edges that correctly cooked hash develops – and moist, juicy, and soft on the inside. And it was not salty. I didn’t need to drink water half the day to relieve my thirst. First-rate corned beef hash.

Having proved that he could handle the Texan (country fried steak, two eggs, hash browns, and toast) the other morning, on this day Chuck decided to conquer a new challenge. Ordering a la carte, he chose two blueberry pancakes (with good blueberry syrup), two scrambled eggs, hash browns, and sourdough toast. Carolyn gave him a look and asked “Hungry are you?” Now there was a challenge. But he did me proud and devoured all three plates (one of pancakes, one of toast, and one of eggs and hash browns) which he combined for these photos.

Again, everything was delicious and well-cooked and the light pancakes were liberally stuffed with good fresh blueberries. And while it came in foil packets, he got a dish containing at least eight pats of real butter. No blended spread here.

When she came to pick up our plates, Carolyn remarked, “I love to see cleaned plates; then I know people enjoyed their food.”

I had asked Carolyn if my hash could be cooked very crisp, explaining that I have eaten too much soft and mushy hash. Carolyn countered with her experience with microwaved hash (Yuk), and I explained that one of the worst foods I have been served was the buffalo burger in southern Utah that I swear had been turned into meat paste in a food processor.

She told me that I had to try her buffalo burger, that the meat came from a ranch just up the road, and that I would have a new appreciation of the buffalo burger. We promised to return the next day.

And so we did. As we are standing in line (there is always a line), Carolyn looked over at me and asked “What are you ordering today?” My response: “I’m having the buffalo burger.” Carolyn smiled, “That’s right.”

Once we were seated, Chuck pointed out a fellow customer wearing the type of cowboy hat he would buy if we were staying in Cattle Country longer. When the wearer of this type of hat passed our table, Chuck commented, “I really like that hat.” The true cowboy smiled, thanked him, and then elaborated that over time the hat becomes part of the person and each takes on the character of the other. He added that he had a half dozen other hats at home that people had wanted to buy from him, but he couldn’t sell them, because “I can’t sell my character and people can’t buy character.” All this philosophy delivered in three minutes while standing beside our table. As much as I would have liked to photograph this gentleman, I felt that such a request would lessen the profundity of the message. That was a lot to think about.

It took us a moment to get back to ordering. Once again, Carolyn was our server and suggested that I have the burger cooked medium. She’s the expert and I complied. First I started with a cup of the Spicy Cabbage Soup which I describe as Kosher Deli meets the Southwest. It had a slightly sweet tomato and beef stock base with large chunks of tender cabbage. Instead of chunks of brisket, this was mixed with large pieces of ground beef. The green peppers, kidney beans, and chili powder give the soup its Southwest influence.

My burger arrived, and I now have an entirely new perspective on this ubiquitous western restaurant offering. Very lean with a somewhat sweet and somewhat gamey taste, this could easily be mistaken for ground beef in a blind taste test. Buffalo being so lean is not a meat that you would want to cook past medium. I may have to start the search for the ultimate buffalo burger.

We have both been craving fried chicken, and Chuck couldn’t resist the three piece fried chicken dinner with mashed potatoes (and their wonderful white pepper gravy). He, not being a cabbage lover, chose the salad over the soup. Now salad is usually salad, but I did taste the creamy and rich-looking ranch dressing. It was as good as it looked and Carolyn told us that, with the exception of the Italian, they make all their dressings in house. A restaurant that seats no more than sixty and with a miniscule kitchen still makes their own salad dressing. Amazing.

And the chicken. Wow. Tender, juicy meat was covered with a thin and crisp batter that was seasoned with salt and pepper, and, I suspect, another “secret ingredient.” I had hoped that he wouldn’t be able to finish all three pieces. Was I disappointed. When he ordered, Chuck asked Carolyn if it was a good sized serving of mashed potatoes. She responded, “It’s an ample serving.” When his plate arrived she asked if this was enough potatoes, and he responded that he’d need a second side order. She gave him a long look and said “You are a big eater aren’t you?” All said with a huge smile on her face.

This was to be our last meal at Our Place, and we still hadn’t had any of their pies. There are two classes of pie – those commercially bought and those they make themselves. Of course we chose one of their pies – the sour cream apple. Thin slices of apple were carefully laid on a rich crust and then a sour cream based mixture poured over all. When the pie is baked this mixture turns into a cheese cake-like filling in both taste and texture. I’m glad we each ordered our own slice. Otherwise it could have been a battle royale.

We found a home in Cody. After one visit, we became part of the Our Place family. There are some places so special that they will never be forgotten. We’ll never forget Carolyn and her staff, their warm hospitality, the wonderful food. By this time you have probably guessed that we consider this a 5.0 Addie restaurant and are determined that this will not be our only visit to Cody, Wyoming.

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