Tuesday, June 16, 2009

When Worlds Collide…

…you can get a delicious meal.

One of the Billings, MT restaurants we visited with Mike and Joanie was Pug Mahon’s. While billed as an Irish Pub, the eclectic menu offers a world tour of flavors. In addition to Irish offerings, the menu lists burgers, Jerk Chicken, shrimp and chicken Jambalaya, ribs, green chili chicken enchiladas, chicken fajitas, and a chimicuhrri chicken sandwich. As we are reading the menu, Joanie pointed to a pass through window and asked if the pizza sitting there had a thin enough crust. Suddenly both Chuck and I went to the page listing the pizzas, because one never knows when the next thin crust pizza will come across our path.

So pizza it was for the two of us. Chuck selected the twelve-inch sausage pizza. When it arrived, it was cut in squares or what is termed as the “party cut,” since you get more individual servings from the same size pie. When we did pizza take-out in Pennsylvania, we would ask the restaurant not to cut so that we could both reheat the pizza (I didn’t want the cheese to melt and burn on the bottom of the oven) and cut it at home in the party cut style. The owner of one Doylestown establishment dubbed my traveling companion “Chuck No Cut.”

This was a very good pizza. Thin crusted, lightly sauced and cheesed, and covered with a generous amount of crumbled Italian sausage. I only managed to taste a small – yes, I mean small – piece before his meal disappeared.

Now normally I consider myself a pizza purist but went slightly out of the box that night and ordered the small white pizza. This was the same thin crust topped with oil and garlic, then a layer of sliced tomatoes and basil, then a thin layer of cheese, and finally a most generous service of artichoke hearts. Chuck does not like artichoke hearts so I had no fear that he would want to sample my pie.

Mike’s choice was the Meat Pastie (i.e. pasty) – beef, potatoes, in a flakey crust served with a side of gravy and a side of the pub’s homemade potato chips. Pasties were the traditional “lunch bucket” meal of Cornish tin miners, since the food could be easily carried into the mines and eaten with dirty hands. The part that touched their hands was discarded. The side of gravy proved to be a good dipping sauce for not just the pastie but also the chips.

Joanie’s choice that evening was a cup of chili accompanied by a side salad.

A few days later Chuck asked Mike how it came to be that an Irish pub served such good pizza. Stupid us, the pizza came from Guido’s Pizzeria located next door to Pug Mahon’s. The pass-through window allowed the pub’s customers to also order from Guido’s menu. Very good pizza with very good company earns Pug Mahon’s a 4.0 Addie rating.

If you are in Montana, do you go looking for seafood? No. You go looking for a good steakhouse, and we were visiting folks who knew just where to go – the Feedlot Steakhouse in Sheridan, Montana. The restaurant was a good forty-five minute drive from Mike and Joanie’s, but worth every mile. Located almost in the middle of nowhere (do we go through Sheridan) and surrounded by fields and a few cabins, this rustic bar and restaurant is the picture of a western steakhouse.

As you can imagine, the menu is beef-centric with additional listings for a chicken breast, pork chop, and fish and seafood items. Included on the appetizers list are the ever popular Rocky Mountain Oysters. I may like trying local foods but do draw the line here.

After some liquid refreshments, we got down to some serious ordering.

Joanie, Chuck, and I had the soup of the day which was cabbage soup, and Mike had the french onion. Large salads came with each of our meals.

The cabbage soup was tasty, but was on the overly salty side. On the other hand, Mike’s onion soup was close to perfect. Sweet onions were swimming in a rich, beefy, and perfectly seasoned broth that was topped with croutons and just the right amount of stringy cheese.

I can’t attest to my fellow diners’ dressing on their salads, but my bleu cheese dressing was loaded with large chunks of good cheese.

Three of us chose steak. Mine was the eight-ounce sirloin, grilled medium rare with rice; Chuck chose the twelve-ounce prime rib medium rare with baked potato; and Big Mike ordered the sixteen-ounce rib eye (above), again medium rare, with fries. Joanie’s choice was the grilled chicken breast (right).

The cheesy rice that came with my steak was very good, but was too filling to accompany a half pound of beef. I don’t eat cooked carrots – never have, never will –so mine went back to the kitchen untasted. But let me tell you about the steak! Raised to believe that only the Midwest produced good steak, I now have had my horizons broadened. This was a tender steak that needed no steak sauce, no Worcestershire, no embellishment other that the sinus-clearing horseradish that came on the side. And that was used sparingly so as to not detract from the beef flavor.

Chuck’s prime rib, while perfectly medium rare, had more fat than either of us prefers. I know that it is the fat that carries the flavor, but this was too much of a good thing.

I thought the prices at the Feedlot Steakhouse to be more than reasonable for the quantity and especially the quality of food we were served and warrants 4.0 Addies. Had the cabbage soup not been so salty, the rating could easily have been 4.5 Addies.

No comments: