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 Rocky Mountain Highs and Big Skies 2009 Part 8 (finale) updated 8/24

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Rocky Mountain Highs and Big Skies 2009 Part 8 (finale) updated 8/24 Fri, 08/14/09 9:41 PM (permalink)
  It's been almost a week since this trip has ended. Still fresh in my mind

Two weeks leaves lots of memories, lots of photos and what little detail I can remember
This won't be a wordy trip report since there is too much to say. I think the photos speak for themselves- brief descriptions are all they need

Although there was lots of fantastic Roadfood, a few new great finds, and overall very little dissapointment, I think I can truly say that this is one of the few trips I've taken where the incredibly amazing scenic beauty may have even overshadowed the roadfood experience.

This trip will be divided into 8 parts. Two days for each part....

Friday July 24

Early flight via Delta Airlines
arrived at Atlanta Hartfield International Airport
Since I didn't have breakfast, I stopped at one of the local soul food restaurants that has an outpost inside the Airport. Paschal's

It looked promising, but when my meal came about 5 minutes after I ordered it, I wasn't expecting any surprises.

One word NASTY
I guess if you like hard as  rock biscuits, rubbery pork chops and warm bland grits then this meal's for you.
I'm glad this didn't set the precedence for the rest of the trip- I just chalked this up to another experience of bad airport food

I arrived in Denver by mid afternoon - rented a Chevy Cobalt- Had my new  GPS too!

First stop was

Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs

It was great to see Biker Jim again after our visit last year
I was quite hungry after experiencing my disappointing breakfast

I first tried the Alaskan Reindeer Sausage

It was deliciously smokey and the grilled onions were just perfect

My next endeavor was the Jalapeno Elk Sausage

More spice than smoke. I added some jalapeno's for some extra "bite"

Both were great, but the reindeer dog was extra special- a highlight of the trip

Biker Jim and I agreed to meet at one of the more popular burger joints in Denver,  My Brother's Bar later that evening for dinner.

I checked into my hotel, the Sheraton Downtown- $50 per night on priceline and dodged the $26 parking fee. From my hotel I walked to My Brother's Bar.

Although there is no descriptive signage,  it's an unassuming bar in the theatre district with
an apparently decent following

 I downed a

Twisted Pine Brown

and just started my

Twisted Pine Wheat, when Biker Jim, his lovely wife Ms Biker Jim (Karen) and his assistant Chandler arrived..

After reviewing the menu

I ordered "the Ralphie" a buffalo Burger

Although the Jalapeno Cream Cheese was a nice added touch

The burger itself underwhelmed me. Don't get me wrong, it was a decent burger but did not reach the orgasmic gastronomical pinnacle that my future beef and buffalo burgers would meet and exceed on this trip.

After our dinner conversation which revolved around my plans for my trip in and around Denver and neighboring states as well as Harleys and Motorcycles in general, we departed and I decided to walk back to my hotel through Confluence Park

Which surrounds the neighborhood around My Brother's Bar just north of Lower Downtown (Lo Do)

One thing that amazes me about "Denverites" is that they always seem to be backpacking and hiking even in their own city neighborhoods.

I returned to my hotel and marveled at the view outside my window.

I had a big day only to be followed by another long day.

Saturday July 25

I headed to the downtown location of the coffee house Common Grounds which I enjoyed so much last year.  After breakfast I headed to Red Rocks- the natural ampitheater in Morrison CO, about 20 minutes outside of Denver not too far from the "the Fort" reviewed here on Roadfood.

The scenery and natural beauty was almost "other worldly"

And the ampitheater itself was a sight to behold

Although I'm in decent physical shape and thought nothing of climbing up and down the steps, I unfortunately forgot that I was over 6,000 feet above sea level and that it takes at least 3 days to get acclimated. After huffing and puffing those last few steps I felt "fat".

I then took a break by enjoying the museum and visitors center.

After building up an appetite it was time for lunch..

I headed to Golden and when I arrived I didn't realize that there would be a welcoming committee waiting for me

Although Golden is only 20 miles outside of Denver, I was amazed at how far behind the times the folks are in the suburbs

Apparently I ended up in town just in time for Buffalo Bill Days weekend. I didn't expect this and ending up in town in time for such events ended up being a big theme on this trip.

My stop for lunch was The Buffalo Rose Saloon

 a classic western biker bar

 with great decor

and as I found out, even better food.

They even have their own souvenirs and t-shirts

Apparently they also have live music too!

I started out with a Coors product I never even heard of and don't remember the name of

The bartender described it as a 6 minute pour, which means I had to wait 6 minutes to enjoy it after it was poured...It had a full amber body and was by far the best Coors product I've ever enjoyed

A superb Buffalo Burger with excellent cripy homemade chips and  a side of  tasty green chili with hunks of pork roast made an excellent accompaniment to the beer.

definitely one of the highlights of the trip.

After my delicious lunch, I walked around town and noticed that

even the residents are  "golden" in Golden..

After enjoying the festivities which included all types of vendors and live music

I noticed that just like Denver, Golden also has

a river that runs through it..

My first ice cream stop for the day was

Golden Sweets

I decided to get a cup of the Mexican Chocolate

smooth velvety chocolate with hints of cinnamon.
can it get any better than this? yes it can..and it's not too far away..

I decided to get away from the hub bub of Golden and headed over to the Buffalo Bill Museum

The museum itself was interesting and informative

Depicting the life of Buffalo Bill who was an excellent marksman and showman..

The scenery over looking Golden and the Rockies were breathtaking

and Buffalo Bills Gravesite is also located on museum grounds

It was now time for my mid afternoon snack.

I decided to return to the former mining town of Idaho Springs.

 Last year I enjoyed an amazing albeit somewhat expensive Buffalo Black Bean Chili Buffalo Burger.

This year I returned to check out

Tommyknockers Brewpub and their award winning buffalo chili

starting out with a crisp refreshing hefeweizen

Their buffalo chili did not disappoint

flavorful and zesty and not overly spicy, it was loaded with buffalo meat. The best bowl of buffalo chili I enjoyed on the entire trip.

After my snack, I walked around town and noticed this

Hopscotch Ice Cream. This wasn't here when I visited last year with Travelin Man. I normally would have skipped right over it, but couldn't help noticing a sign from Forbes Magazine voting it the #1 ice cream shop in North America. I had to satisfy my curiosity.

When I first walked in the place was packed
I took photo after the crowd left

I perused the flavors

and was sold on Cinnamon Cookie Dough

By far some of the best Ice Cream I've ever had. I think this might just give Ted and Wally's in Omaha and The Daily Scoop in Bristol RI a run for its money. Hopscotch will find their place on a top 10 list for 2009.

After making a pig of myself, I felt the need for some more exercise.

Although I haven't commented on the weather it started out nice but became very volatile in the afternoon.

I made my way to Mother Cabrini's Shrine just outside of Golden..

372 steps lead to a 22 foot statue of

and an amazing panoramic view of the surrounding area.

It started to rain just after I climbed down the steps. After a short visit to the visitors center, I returned to Golden for dinner and by that time, the sun came out again.

I took a walk around town before dinner and noticed that

even they get a credit union! I wonder if you can trade in a couple of 6 packs?

My final stop for the day was

The Table Mountain Grill and Cantina (photo taken earlier in the afternoon)

Attached to the Table Mountain Inn a locally owned independent hotel, the Grill and Cantina doles out some excellent southwestern style Roadfood

and they apparently have some creative drinks too!

For a couple $$ extra the meal started out with a fresh crisp salad

The meal  comes with some warm, earthy and spicy jalapeno corn muffins

and I ordered the Southwest Osso Bucco for my main course

a luxurious stew with tender falling off the bone pork shanks swimming in a sea of roasted poblanos, rice, tomato and avocado. 

The waitress saw me taking photos and then approached me and said the manager would like to give me a complimentary chocolate taco for dessert, I thanked her but declined and told her if I ate any more I would bust.

I would certainly return to The Table Moutain Grill and Cantina, not only a highlight of the trip, but possibly a top 10 contender for the year too.

Saturday turned out to be an amazing roadfood day.

more tomorrow

<message edited by wanderingjew on Mon, 08/24/09 8:50 PM>

    • Total Posts: 64
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    • Location: Western, NY
    Re:Rocky Mountain Highs and Big Skies 2009 Fri, 08/14/09 9:50 PM (permalink)
    Wow--great report with fantastic photos! Thanks for posting.

    If I wasn't full from dinner, you would have made me hungry!

      • Total Posts: 6227
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      • Location: Tonka Bay, MN
      Re:Rocky Mountain Highs and Big Skies 2009 Fri, 08/14/09 9:56 PM (permalink)
      Sorry Dale, I could only find 5 stars in the rating system or I would have given you more. Excellent report! We are heading out this Wednesday for a month long trip throughout the West in our campervan. So I will be following your reports.

        • Total Posts: 7609
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        Re:Rocky Mountain Highs and Big Skies 2009 Fri, 08/14/09 11:58 PM (permalink)

        What impressive eating!  Dale, you do it right!  I can't wait for more.
          mayor al

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          Re:Rocky Mountain Highs and Big Skies 2009 Sat, 08/15/09 2:40 AM (permalink)
          Keep the chapters coming !!

            • Total Posts: 1790
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            Re:Rocky Mountain Highs and Big Skies 2009 Sat, 08/15/09 8:24 AM (permalink)
            Just wonderful! I can't wait for more!

              • Total Posts: 379
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              Re:Rocky Mountain Highs and Big Skies 2009 Sat, 08/15/09 9:47 AM (permalink)
              Great report as always.....can't wait for more!

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                Re:Rocky Mountain Highs and Big Skies 2009 Sat, 08/15/09 10:18 AM (permalink)
                Wonderful trip report! WOW! Love the scenic views and the rivers running through. Is this a "how-many-different-meats can-I-eat" trip? LOL

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                  Re:Rocky Mountain Highs and Big Skies 2009 Sat, 08/15/09 6:59 PM (permalink)

                  Sometime I amaze myself at how much I can devour considering I'm a very moderate eater at home. I'll admit it's been tough getting back into the swing of things.


                  Thanks for the compliment. I see I missed quite a few trip reports while I was away and now I need to start catching up. Enjoy your vacation out west !

                  Sunday July 26

                  Another light breakfast at Common Grounds Coffee House, this time in the Highland Park Neighborhood since the downtown location doesn't offer dark roast on the weekend. I spent the morning looking for a new power cord for my GPS since the one I had mysteriously broke (cheap piece of  %*#$*!)

                  Before heading to the afternoon ballgame, I returned to a favorite I enjoyed for the first time  last year.

                  El Taco De Mexico

                  In the barrio a couple of miles outside of downtown Denver

                  This year I decided to be a little more daring. I remember trying a piece of Biker Jim's cheeks meat burrito last year and enjoyed it so much I decided to get that

                  I definitely made the right decision. It was just as good as I remembered.

                  I then returned to my hotel, and parked a few blocks away and walked the mile or so to

                  Coors Field

                  The Rockies were playing the Giants and there was a decent crowd lined up to get tickets. While I was waiting, a family behind me was offering to give away one ticket - field level 26 rows up- a $50 ticket for $25 behind first base.....I grabbed at the opportunity and realized I really lucked out. The seats we had last year weren't nearly as good and cost 40. I'm not sure why they upcharged for the Mets Game last year and not for the Giants Game this year, especially considering that many more folks showed up to see this game.
                  I passed this and had to take a photo-

                  No, I didn't get any here.....I'll have to wait for that...

                  I like Coors Field, it's not one of my favorites of the new ballparks and somewhat "vanilla" but it seems right for Denver...

                  It was a good game, but the Giants screwed up several times and it cost them

                  The Rockies beat the Giants 4-2

                  After the game, I walked back to my car and drove about an hour north....
                  I can't leave Colorado without trying this favorite delicacy

                  Bruce's Bar in Severance CO

                  Bruce passed away a few years ago but apparently new ownership has taken over and has kept everything "as is"

                  I broke past the protesters and picket signs and was looking forward to some "oysters"

                  It was my lucky day! Sunday is "all you can eat day"

                  Although I looked at the menu

                  and wanted to try the regular mountain oysters and the the "black hills oysters" (buffalo nuts) too. The waitress told me they can do a "half and half" and charge me the same price for a full order of buffalo nuts. Perfect, I didn't want "all you can eat" anyway..

                  I started out with a Fat Tire (unfortunately not on draft)

                  with anticipation of my meal which arrives with a side of fries and dip (cocktail sauce)

                  The buffalo nuts are on the right and the bull nuts are on the left. Crunchy, earthy and nutty. Although the buffalo nuts had a very subtle stronger taste, I preferred the bull nuts. I thought these were even better than those I enjoyed at the Buckhorn Exchange last year. The fries were nothing special.

                  I noticed Bruce's Bull Pen as  I left

                  I returned to Denver and had one last stop for the Day

                  The Original Chubby's

                  For the beginning of my drawn out Denver Green Chili Smackdown

                  Wow, what a disappointment. It was very spicy, but had no taste, no discernible pork whatsoever and a very pasty almost gel like texture. The first "real" disappointment of the trip.  Afterwards I returned back to my hotel for the evening. Since the weekend was over I had to shell out $11 for a nearby parking garage after 2 free nights(you can't park overnight in Denver during the week) still no where near the $26 rip off at the hotel.

                  Monday July 27

                  Another breakfast at the downtown location of Common Grounds Coffee House. I decided to relax and spend the morning at my hotel since I had a big afternoon planned.

                  I've observed this clock tower on my many walks on the 16th street mall over the last 2 decades. For some reason I always associate Denver with this clock tower.

                  I headed back to another favorite that I thoroughly enjoyed last year, but this time returned for lunch.

                  The Buckhorn Exchange

                  A "must stop" anytime you're in Denver.

                  I ordered...

                  The pot roast sandwich served on pumpernickel it comes with a side of beans


                  fresh out of the fryer potato chips.

                  The Pot Roast was deliciously tender my only gripe was that the bread was too "wonder bread" soft. I was somehow anticpating a denser bakery style pumpernickel

                  I finished off my meal with a fine slice of apple pie swimming in cinnamon hard sauce..

                  My original plans for monday was to head to Rocky Mountain National Park. Unfortunately that would be an all day venture. I decided to do the next best thing and headed to Estes Park just over an hour west of Denver right next to Rocky Mountain National Park

                  Although the weather was supposed to get volatile as the afternoon went on. The scenery was just amazing.

                  As I was heading toward's Estes Park touristy downtown it began to pour buckets. I ducked into a t shirt shop which was probably a good idea since I heard it was going to get downright chilly over the next couple of days and I forgot to get a sweat shirt. The rain let up, unfortunately I left my camera in the car, so no photos of downtown.

                  I returned to Denver in time for dinner and for Green Chili Stop  # 2


                  What a difference over Chubby's the previous day. Flavorful fresh ground green chili in a thick stew subtly spicy and a generous amount of pork. Even the tortilla's served with the stew were better.

                  After enjoying my bowl, it was time for my final stop of the day and Green Chili Stop # 3

                  La Loma

                  a full service sit down mexican restaurant

                  Starting out with chips and salsa

                  I ordered the Green Chili Dinner which came with rice, beans and fresh home made corn tortillas.

                  The flavors really jumped out at me, probably the most flavorful green chili yet, although unfortunately not generously  loaded with pork as Santiago's was.

                  After dinner, I returned to my hotel. I will be leaving Denver the next day and will have an early start.

                  more tommorow
                  <message edited by wanderingjew on Sat, 08/15/09 7:13 PM>
                    mr chips

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                    Re:Rocky Mountain Highs and Big Skies 2009 Sat, 08/15/09 8:09 PM (permalink)
                    Thanks for the report thus far. Sounds like you had a great time.

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                      Re:Rocky Mountain Highs and Big Skies 2009 Sat, 08/15/09 8:20 PM (permalink)
                      Bravo! Simply magnificent. Keep it coming. Two weeks with this intensity? Wow!

                        Re:Rocky Mountain Highs and Big Skies 2009 Sun, 08/16/09 9:16 AM (permalink)
                        Wow - great scenery, great food - excellent pics and narrative, thanks for sharing your adventures.

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                          Re:Rocky Mountain Highs and Big Skies 2009 Part 2 updated 8/15 Sun, 08/16/09 8:11 PM (permalink)
                          Part 3
                          Tuesday July 28 
                          Leaving Denver early, I had a long drive. Although my final destination for the evening was Casper WY, I decided to take a long detour for lunch to Gilette WY approximately 80 miles west of the South Dakota border off of I90.
                          My stop for lunch was

                          Pokey's Bbq
                          Really cool decor

                          I deliberately ordered off their dinner menu which I confirmed in advance would be available. The meal starts out with their "cheesy biscuits"

                          and salad bar.
                          I was looking forward to the main course

                          The beef ribs which putting aside COMIC RELIEF I THANKFULLY only get where it's reginally appropriate. The ribs were tender and juicy, unfortunately they were lacking a "smokey taste" I blame that on me for getting it at lunch when it's only on the dinner
                          menu. I'm certain the smoke would have kicked in had it spent a couple of more hours in the smoker. The sides of bbq beans and potato salad were homemade and absolutely fantastic. The beans had morsels of bbq meat in them.
                          After lunch, I continued on two lane roads to Casper and made it there by mid afternoon.
                          I stopped at the Fort Casper Museum.

                           The history museum also includes the re-created fort.






                          It was a good way to spend the afternoon.
                          Afterwards I checked into my motel, the Shiloh Inn and then drove to downtown Casper and took a walk downtown- what a sad downtown Casper has, I prefer Cheyenne's downtown much more.
                          It was now time for dinner- more "Western" (read Texas) style Q- you're wondering why Wyoming, the Stern's have written previously that Wyoming is the last outpost of Texas Style Q.
                          I decided to check out

                          Boots BBQ

                          Basically take out with a few tables and chairs
                          I ordered

                          The brisket plate. The corn bread seemed to be store bought and the sides were nothing special, however the brisket had a nice smokey taste, was tender but although not bone dry, was not that juicy. Wow I've become so selective since my visit to Lockhart TX 2 1/2 years ago!.
                          After a quick stop at the mall for some souvenir post cards I drove to

                          Mike Lansing field, home of the Casper Ghosts, single A farm team for the Colorado Rockies.

                          This has to be the saddest exterior of a ballpark I've ever seen



                          Even the scoreboard was somewhat lame

                          The Casper Ghosts were playing the Ogden Raptures that evening

                          The Ghosts were winning and were several runs ahead until the 8th inning when the Ghost's pitcher tanked and tied the game at. It was chilly outside, I was sitting on a metal bleacher and honestly couldn't care less about either team so I left and went back to my motel. (the only ballgame I left early during the entire trip) I later found out that the Raptures beat the Ghosts 8-5 .
                          Wednesday July 29
                          When I left the ballgame last night it was chilly, I woke up today and it was not only in the 40's but it was also raining. Thankfully this rain did not follow me to my next destination. After breakfast at Metro Coffee in downtown Casper (they had just out of the oven Cinnamon Rolls too)
                          I was on the way to my next destination. Touristy Red Lodge Montana.  about an hour soutwest of Billings.
                          My first stop was The Stern's much touted

                          Red Lodge Cafe
                          I walked into the dining room-

                          and the place was packed. There are actually wagon wheels attached to the ceiling. I took a photo but it didn't turn out too well because of glare from the lights.
                          I walked into the bar. The place is oozing with atmoshere. I just kept taking photos everywhere.



                          Ok, the atmosphere is  classic, how about the food , well first sign was that the pie board was blank and when I asked around what kind of pies did they have that day no one seemed to know.
                          Ok, I was torn between the Chicken Fried Steak and the Buffalo Chili.
                          I went with

                          The buffalo chili and

                          the sweet potato fries
                          Both were flat out DISAPPOINTING
                          The buffalo chili was bland and flavorless and I think I know which brand of frozen sweet potato fries they had.
                          Finally the mystery of the pie specials were solved. They have peach pie- I asked if that's all they had- yep- that's all they had- just out of the oven
                          I ordered the slice.

                          Let's just say if this is homemade, I could have done a better job and I'm no baker.
                          Besides the atmosphere, the only other good thing about this place is

                          The locally brewed brown ale (I forgot which brewing company it was)
                          As I said previously, I had very few dissappointments on this trip- The Red Lodge Cafe was 1 out of three ( I only had one more and it was towards the end of my trip) The bartender was nice though.
                          After lunch I walked around downtown red lodge


                          and enjoyed the view of the Bear Tooth Mountains in the distance.

                          It was cool day with Temp's in the 50's.

                          I did end up going into a bar/restaurant across the street from The Red Lodge Cafe called Foster and Logans. Initially I considered this as an alternative for lunch and regretted not going, but I did stop on for the locally brewed beer called Moose Drool which was one of my favorite beers on the trip.
                          I then returned to Billings my destination for the evening and checked into my hotel, The Billings Hotel and Conference Center.
                          I headed towards downtown and took a drive to the bluffs over looking the city.

                           I got out of my car and did some walking around the trail.
                          I then returned to Downtown and head over to my dinner stop.

                          One of Billing's premier steak houses
                          Very similar to the Rex which has been reviewed by the Sterns. It was a toss up as to which one I would visit. The reviews on the web were slightly better for Jakes so I decided to go there at the last minute.
                          The meal started with bad bread

                          I don't know, I was expecting some crusty bread, instead I got something comparable to a soft dinner roll
                          and a so-so salad

                          uh-oh, how is the rest of the meal going to be? I was torn between the strip and the rib eye, the waiter recommended the rib eye which is topped with sauteed onions and mushrooms.

                          What a  surprise!- The steak was absolutely perfect. And the spicy potato cake I ordered as my side wasn't exactly spicy but it was amazingly flavorful . Now the steak wasn't as good as the one I had at Doe's  earlier this year, but I'll take all the bad bread in the world for a steak like this- Dinner definetely made up for the bad lunch I had earlier in the day.
                          After dinner, I walked the nine blocks or so to


                          Dehler Park.
                          Home of the Billings Mustangs, single A farm team for the Cincinnati Reds
                          The Mustangs play in a new ballpark just a couple of years old. It replaced the old wooden ballpark venerable Cobb Field- a classic, I would have loved to have seen the old ballpark. The new ballpark had a very "minimalist" feel to it from the outside and reminded me alot of Appalachian Power Park in Charleston WV.




                          The good thing is that Dehler Park is located exactly where Cobb Field was located , over looking the scenic Rim Rocks beyond the field.
                          The Mustangs were playing the Missoula Osprey that evening.


                          and beat the Osprey 6-4 in front of a very Exhuberant crowd.
                          After the game I called it a night and went back to my hotel.
                          <message edited by wanderingjew on Sun, 08/16/09 8:29 PM>

                            Re:Rocky Mountain Highs and Big Skies 2009 Part 2 updated 8/15 Sun, 08/16/09 9:03 PM (permalink)
                            wanderingjew -

                            What a great trip...good food, great scenery, baseball, Biker Jim, and, sdo far, no being travelin manned!

                            Looking foward to dinner in Buffalo!
                            <message edited by ChiTownDiner on Sun, 08/16/09 10:12 PM>
                              carolina bob

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                              Re:Rocky Mountain Highs and Big Skies 2009 Part 2 updated 8/15 Mon, 08/17/09 12:31 AM (permalink)
                              wj, after looking at this incredible trip report of yours, I don't know if I can ever bring myself to do another one. Your report makes my humble efforts look dull by comparison, and I don't know if my fragile ego can deal with that.     Seriously, the only word that I can think of to describe your report is "wow". Gorgeous photos too. I'm really looking forward to what's coming next.      
                                mr chips

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                                Re:Rocky Mountain Highs and Big Skies 2009 Part 2 updated 8/15 Mon, 08/17/09 9:01 AM (permalink)
                                No Dick Cheney historical site visits while in Casper? Again, I am enjoying your reports and your appreciation of life.

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                                  Re:Rocky Mountain Highs and Big Skies 2009 Part 2 updated 8/15 Mon, 08/17/09 11:25 AM (permalink)
                                  Chi Town

                                  Thanks.  You're my inspiration for doing multiple meals at once, although I'll admit I didn't do much on this trip

                                  Remember when you plan in advance you don't get Travelin Manned.  I actually did goet Travelin Manned once, but it was not a
                                  restaurant. It happened towards the end of my trip.

                                  Mr Chips

                                  I knew Cheney was from Wyoming, I didn't know he was from Casper- That explains everything. I don't think I've ever been to less exciting city!

                                  Looking forward to seeing you both in Buffalo!

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                                    Re:Rocky Mountain Highs and Big Skies 2009 Part 2 updated 8/15 Mon, 08/17/09 11:40 AM (permalink)

                                    I knew Cheney was from Wyoming, I didn't know he was from Casper- That explains everything. I don't think I've ever been to less exciting city!

                                    I thought you said you were going to Gillette, WY.


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                                      Re:Rocky Mountain Highs and Big Skies 2009 Part 2 updated 8/15 Mon, 08/17/09 11:58 AM (permalink)


                                      I knew Cheney was from Wyoming, I didn't know he was from Casper- That explains everything. I don't think I've ever been to less exciting city!

                                      I thought you said you were going to Gillette, WY.

                                      Gillette's a city?
                                      I thought it was just a sign on a dirt lot at the side of the road!

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                                        Re:Rocky Mountain Highs and Big Skies 2009 Part 2 updated 8/15 Mon, 08/17/09 12:26 PM (permalink)

                                        WJ,  It would be great for you (and others that do these wonderful trips) to highlight a map of the entire trip and include it at the end.

                                        That way those of us who dream can mimic them in another life.

                                        Of course I'd forego the baseball.

                                          Re:Rocky Mountain Highs and Big Skies 2009 Part 2 updated 8/15 Mon, 08/17/09 1:28 PM (permalink)
                                          Dale, excellent report thus far! You've already started a long list of places for us to visit on our next trip -- keep 'em coming!    Chris

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                                            Re:Rocky Mountain Highs and Big Skies 2009 Part 2 updated 8/15 Mon, 08/17/09 4:08 PM (permalink)
                                            Wonderful report!  Can you explain for the uninitiated how buffalo is different from beef?

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                                              • Location: shelton, CT
                                              Re:Rocky Mountain Highs and Big Skies 2009 Part 2 updated 8/15 Mon, 08/17/09 8:27 PM (permalink)
                                              One's Buffalo/Bison the other isn't I would guess.
                                                mayor al

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                                                • Location: Louisville area, Southern Indiana
                                                • Roadfood Insider
                                                Re:Rocky Mountain Highs and Big Skies 2009 Part 2 updated 8/15 Mon, 08/17/09 8:34 PM (permalink)
                                                Buffalo is considerably leaner than Beef. Much less marbling of fat into the meat. Thus it is considered to be "healthier" for us than Beef. If prepared correctly it has great "Beefy" flavor. If you doctor up a Buffalo Burger with all the usual condiments we use on other Burgers, it would hard to tell the difference between the two.  With a thick steak and nothing other than Salt and Pepper for seasoning, most steak-eaters would recognize the difference between the two beasts!
                                                Hey, Gillette is a wonderful place. I spent a couple of days in that area photographing the trains hauling Powder River Coal to all points South and East. It is amazing the amount of coal being removed from Easter Wyoming!  One of my more exciting moments in train chasing happened here.
                                                A coal train heading east had a bad wheel on one car. The heat from the bearing caught the wooden trestle on fire, which caused the rails to weaken and derailed (and stopped) the train.  In Non-Urban Gillette, it took some time for fire crews to arrive and by that time the bridge was destroyed along with several rail cars full of coal.

                                                You can see the fire spreading-
                                                Nope, Never a Dull Moment in Gillette, Wyoming !! (Also no place to eat !)
                                                <message edited by mayor al on Mon, 08/17/09 9:01 PM>

                                                  • Total Posts: 6227
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                                                  • Location: Tonka Bay, MN
                                                  Re:Rocky Mountain Highs and Big Skies 2009 Part 2 updated 8/15 Mon, 08/17/09 9:18 PM (permalink)
                                                  Bison is generally much leaner than beef in similar cuts. There is distinctly a different taste but I don't know exactly how to describe it. Bison/buffalo meat is common throughout the plains states including Minnesota. More and more restaurants serve it to the point it is no longer considered an unique oddity but just a healthier option to a regular burger for those that like to think that way accompanied with their French fries and shake. Just about every supermarket in the Twin Cities sells ground bison. Elk is getting to be the same way now that there are elk farms everywhere. After you get over the oddity and enjoy the uniqueness, beef probably tastes better for most.

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                                                    Re:Rocky Mountain Highs and Big Skies 2009 Part 3 updated 8/16 Mon, 08/17/09 10:26 PM (permalink)

                                                    Buffalo is leaner than Beef, some thinks this detracts from the taste , but in my opinion it doesn't at all. Some think that Buffalo has a stronger (read gamier) taste, again I don't notice it. The differences in my opinion are very subtle.

                                                    Part 4

                                                    Thursday July 30

                                                    I woke up to a beautiful sunny day, temp's were going to be in the 70's.
                                                    Started out with a couple of cups of Joe at Rock Creek Coffee Roasters, when I got there, I realized that Stella's was only 4 blocks away, since I figured that Stella's has lousy coffee, I decided just to drink my java at Rock Creek and then walk over to Stella's.

                                                    I arrived at Stella's and remembered you had a choice of a regular or wheat cinammon roll, being the "health nut enthusiast" that I am, I got the wheat. I ate it on the way back to my car and of course forgot my camera.

                                                    This photo

                                                    is courtesy of Micheal Stern, I obviously could never take a photo this good!

                                                    I forgot how amazingly decadent and rich this cinammon roll was after my 11 year absence. In fact it's one of the few times I can say that it tasted much better than I remembered- wow!

                                                    After breakfast I drove over to the Rimrocks to get some additional photos of Billings

                                                    I arrived in Livingston around noon time..

                                                    This town really looks like the old west

                                                    First stop- lunch

                                                    The Stockman Bar

                                                    I've heard all over the webs that this place has some of the best burgers in the country.

                                                    So I walked in and

                                                    walked past the Keno machines which it seems that every bar and restaurant in Montana has.

                                                    sat down and

                                                    ordered one.....this was one fine burger dripping with juices at minimum equal to Stella's in Omaha . The fresh cut fries were also superb. I was wondering- wow, could it get better than this? actually yes, but you'll have to read on.. Truly another highlight of the trip.

                                                    After lunch, I walked around downtown Livingston browsing some of the quaint western gear shops. I was also on a mission, I was trying locate a place that served huckleberry Pie a few places said they served it occsasionally but most looked at me like I was from Mars and seemed surprised that I would even ask if they had any.  A few said one of the local ice cream purveyors do serve huckleberry ice cream. Ok maybe I'll settle for that.

                                                    I drove the short distance to Bozeman, I was looking forward to exploreing this "cosmopolitan burg"  I last visited over a quck lunch stop back in 1992 when I moved cross country from NY to Seattle.

                                                    I stopped at

                                                    The Pioneer Museum, housed in

                                                    a former jail


                                                    someone was hanged here too...

                                                    Lots of historical artifacts...

                                                    I spent well over an hour just looking around.

                                                    Afterwards I strolled the main drag of Bozeman

                                                    which apparently offers comic relief

                                                    It's a neat little city

                                                    I noticed

                                                    The Western Cafe previously written about in several Roadfood books. It was closed as they're only open for breakfast and lunch.
                                                    I did stop in here..

                                                    The Chocolate Moose

                                                    lots of Montana souvenirs including

                                                    No I didn't get this, but I couldn't resist taking a photo. I did purchase some huckleberry jam which was confiscated at the airport 9 days later ( I forgot to put it in my checked luggage)

                                                    I did get this though

                                                    Huckleberry Ice Cream. It tasted like a toned down blue berry. I couldn't decide if I liked it or not.
                                                    It's made by Montana's own

                                                    Wilcoxon's Ice Cream..

                                                    After strolling around town I took a drive North of town to take in "big sky country"

                                                    Afterwards I headed back to Livingston to check into my hotel, The Best Western about a mile and a half outside of town near the interstate. I decided to walk into town and head to dinner and walked through the main drag to get there.

                                                    I went to The Sport.

                                                    Reviewed on the Roadfood website and in the Roadfood books, it's had about 6 or 7 different owners since it was last reviewed. I actually met and talked to the current owner, Chuck Tanner, a native of Southern California. I expressed my dismay that they no longer had beef ribs on the menu, but he told me that it's very difficult to prepare correctly and that most places don't.

                                                    I had the local "Moose Drool" beer (no photos) and started out with the Buffalo Chili

                                                    What an improvement over the stuff I had at The Red Lodge Cafe a day earlier! It had more flavor than spice and was a  very close 2nd place  to the buffalo chili at Tommyknockers in Idaho Springs CO,  but the best is yet to come!

                                                    I wish  I knew what was under that layer of cheese, because I wouldn't hesitate to say THAT THIS IS THE BEST BURGER I'VE EVER ENJOYED It was unfreakinbelievably amazazing, I have no words to describe it. I told Chuck how I felt, he said the beef is locally raised.  The onion rings, were "ok" I thought the batter was too thick, but with a burger like this, what did I care??!! Obviously the best burger of the trip (and any trip for that matter)  and a top 10 contender for 2009!

                                                    I was also talking to the bartender who looked like a kindly older "mountain man" I found out he was from Colorado, he recommended a much more scenic walk for the walk back to my hotel.

                                                    Here are some of the great Montana views I experienced on my walk back to my hotel..

                                                    This bottom photo is classic!

                                                    I returned to my hotel and called it a night-

                                                    Friday July 31

                                                    It's been a week since I started my journey and I'm just about half way done.

                                                    I went to non descript coffee house # 1 in Livingston, didn't like it (too weak) and ended up going to non descript coffee house # 2 for a 2nd cup to go- it was a little better. I checked out of my hotel. I had a big drive today and a dilemma. I still wanted huckleberry pie, (I did find out that Bozeman/Livingston is the wrong part of Montana to get huckleberry pie) I need to go to the Missoula area. I had thought about driving to the Ekstrom's near Missoula. Written up in the Stern's new book "500 places to Eat Before it's too late" I knew they would have Huckleberry Pie but then I would have over 400 miles of 2 lane driving to Boise and I had 8:15 PM dinner reservations at a place I've been wanting to check out for years... I thought "hmm...pie....What would Buffetbuster do???"  I discussed my predicament with Buffetbuster as I was leaving the hotel parking lot and he talked me out of going to Ekstrom's since it wouldn't be a good idea to miss my reservation and besides he seemed convinced that I would find Huckleberry Pie somewhere along the way..

                                                    My first stop was an early lunch in Butte at

                                                    Nancy's Pasty Shop

                                                    I arrived just before 11 AM and ordered a Pasty Dinner.

                                                    which comes with

                                                    Creamy Cole Slaw

                                                    Wow, what a substantial meal. A hard shelled pastry filled with beef, potato and onions drenched in a very thick, gloppy, rich dark gravy.... I think the gravy may have overpowerd the pasty itself. I personally found it somewhat bland but I think that's just my personal taste, I think some pepper may have helped but I didn't add any.

                                                    After lunch, a 3 minute drive away,  I stopped here..

                                                    The Berkely Pit- a now defunct copper mine

                                                    I wouldn't recommend taking a dip in this lake!

                                                    I then got back in my car, and eventually drove past the Idaho border. I stopped at a rest stop to get gas and noticed more of this.

                                                    Wilcoxson's Huckleberry Ice Cream. Ok, I still don't know if I really like the stuff....

                                                    I finally arrived in Boise at around 6:30pm and checked into the Doubletree Hotel a couple of miles outside of downtown- my luck- they were having an Al-Anon convention that weekend!

                                                    I obviously made it in time for my 8:15 dinner reservation at

                                                    Epi's Basque Restaurant in suburban Meridian about 10 miles west of Boise.

                                                    I was personally greeted by the owner, Christine, a warm and inviting hostess. The restaurant is named after her grandmother, a photo of whom is on the menu along with Christine's grandfather.

                                                    I ordered a local brew- which I believe was from the local Sockeye Brewing Company located in Boise

                                                    The unique thing about this Basque meal is that it is not served family style

                                                    The meal starts out with some crusty bread


                                                    and a zesty thick red bean soup

                                                    served on the side of the main course were delicious roasted peppers

                                                    I ordered the Ink Fish.

                                                    Baby Squid in Ink Sauce served with Shrimped Rice. It was absolutely fabulous,

                                                    I was on the fence about dessert but ended up going with the Gateau (cake in french)

                                                     I forgot the exact name of the dessert but it was served with a sweet, very delicious red glaze.

                                                    Althought this meal was the most expensive of the trip ($50 with tax and tip) it was well worth it. The food was great and the service was outstanding.
                                                    (this is also the first of seven basque restaurants that I will be visiting on this trip)
                                                    I returned to my hotel and after another local beer (also Sockeye) at the hotel bar, I called it a night...

                                                    Much more to come in a couple of days.


                                                      • Total Posts: 6227
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                                                      • Location: Tonka Bay, MN
                                                      Re:Rocky Mountain Highs and Big Skies 2009 Part 3 updated 8/16 Mon, 08/17/09 10:48 PM (permalink)
                                                      Dale, Moose Drool is not so local anymore. It is sold in liquor stores and often served on tap in Minneapolis/St. Paul. It is distributed as far east as Illinois and Wisconsin and throughout the West.
                                                        mayor al

                                                        • Total Posts: 15073
                                                        • Joined: 8/20/2002
                                                        • Location: Louisville area, Southern Indiana
                                                        • Roadfood Insider
                                                        Re:Rocky Mountain Highs and Big Skies 2009 Part 3 updated 8/16 Mon, 08/17/09 10:57 PM (permalink)
                                                          I have to ask... Do you think the Inked Squid etc is a standard Basque Sheepherder entree?  Somehow I got the feeling that Basque food centered on ....well...Sheep in it's many forms!!

                                                        Other than that individual question, I think you are having a great time, and I appreciate being able to follow your adventures. Did you pass by the "Craters of the Moon" Nat'l Monument? Anytime you are in Eastern Idaho try the Frontier Pie Shop...sort of an Idaho version of Marie Callandars. There's one in Rexburg that always has Huckleberry pie  by the piece or the whole pie.

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                                                          Re:Rocky Mountain Highs and Big Skies 2009 Part 3 updated 8/16 Tue, 08/18/09 8:39 AM (permalink)

                                                          I'm not surprised that Moose Drool has since expanded, like many other local brands including Sam Adams, Leinenkugel, Red Hook, Yuengling and Widmer.  I'll always associate the Twin Cities area with Lienenkugel and that nasty Grain Belt stuff. You can get Leinenkugel right here in Rhode Island now!


                                                          Believe you me, I will have PLENTY of sheep in future chapters to come. Ink Fish is apparently a popular Basque Dish, I'm not sure if it's more Basque traditional than "Basque American". I was ready for a change when I arrived at Epi's after all the red meat I was taking in.

                                                           I did pass by the Craters of the Moon Nat'l Monument Sign, I checked my gps and unfortunately it was too far out of the way to check out.

                                                          You'll have to wait until the next chapter to find out if I had any luck getting some Huckleberry Pie.

                                                            • Total Posts: 6227
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                                                            • Location: Tonka Bay, MN
                                                            Re:Rocky Mountain Highs and Big Skies 2009 Part 3 updated 8/16 Tue, 08/18/09 10:31 AM (permalink)
                                                            Leinenkugel is a Wisconsin beer. Leinenkugel pretty much runs independently in Chippewa Falls, WI but is now owned by SABMiller. I would no longer consider them a regional or craft brewery. 

                                                            Grain Belt originally brewed in Northeast Minneapolis is nothing now but a passed around brand name that has changed ownership hands several times. Schell's Brands in New Ulm, MN the second oldest (to Yuengling) continuous brewery and still family owned now owns the brand. Grain Belt at least since 1970 was always more popular outstate than in the Twin Cities. In a way the Grain Belt brand has moved from regional to nationally owned to now a small craft brew. It has changed. It is no longer the brew I knew in the 70s.

                                                            Minneapolis/St. Paul is best associated now with Summit Brewing and their flagship Pale Ale served on tap in just about every bar now and the new upstart Surly Brewing Company with a line up of brews that I think blow everyone in the United States away. When you come to the Twin Cities now, Surly is the brand you want to seek out.

                                                            I had Surly Bender, Coffee Bender, Bitter Bender, Cynic Ale and Furious in my fridge this past month to serve my guests but I packing a 12 case sampler of Summit Pale Ale, Pilsner, Autumn Wheat and Porter when I head out in the campervan tomorrow to hold me until I reach Big Sky country.
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