About this blog...

Food has been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember. Food and the festivities surrounding its arrival to the table has always been a focal point in our family. For many years I have been amassing the cookbooks, recipe cards, cooking journals, diaries, manuscripts and clipping files of our once extensive family.

Personally, I’ve been professionally involved with food for over 40 years in numerous and varied culinary capacities across the country so I also have the collected stories, as well as current and on-going food-related experiences from my own life I’d like to share.

My idea has long been that someday I would bring all of this marvelous raw material together into a culinary journey through our family’s heritage. This journal is the beginnings of that journey.

Monday, August 22, 2011

A Day in Flagstaff (Part 1): Diablo Burger

My recent trip to CT not withstanding, neither of us gets off the Ranch much.  It is my personal curse to have to go into town (Snowflake, AZ) once a week to pick up mail at the P.O. (we don't get any mail delivery out here) and buy supplies.  Kathryn only leaves the Ranch when absolutely necessary.  As a matter of fact, she's only been off the Ranch 5 times since January (8 months), and this is a bit more frequent than is her norm.  A trip into the "big city" of Show Low (pop. 12,500), about 30 miles/1 hour drive, to go to Home Depot or Walmart, is a major outing!
Anyway, I had the opportunity a couple of weeks ago to go to Flagstaff AZ (pop 66,000, 130 miles/2.25 hours driving time) to participate in and "Arizona Days" promotion at the New Frontiers Natural Foods Market there.  On AZ Days, the store invites small, farmstead and local suppliers from across the state to come, set up tables and sample-out their wares.  New Frontiers has been a good customer of both our cheeses and seasonal candies for many years and I'd never been able to attend one of these events and was happy to be able to this time.
When I need/have/want to get off the Ranch like this I always try to cram in as much stuff as possible, in addition to the main event.  My big chore this time was a stop at the Sam's club in Flagstaff to stock up on various big-box items we keep in inventory for the dairy.  I'd also hoped to be able to stop in and visit with one or two of the many area chefs whose restaurants we supply. The New Frontiers event was scheduled from noon to 4pm.  I got on the road soon after AM milking and got into Flag a little too early to set-up at the store so I took the opportunity to swing by Diablo Burger.
Diablo Burger
Diablo Burger is located right on vibrant Heritage Square in Flagstaff AZ and specializes in (surprize!) burgers.  Whoopee, right?  Well, actually... whoopee indeed!  These are really, really special burgers.
The burgers themselves are made 100% from local, open range-raised, antibiotic-free and growth-hormone-free beef from the Diablo Trust ranches (more on the Trust and their ranches in a minute).  The super-thick patties are char-broiled & served on a branded (that's right, branded - just like a steer) English muffin.
Each burger (and they have about 10 on-menu burgers plus build-your own and blackboard specials) comes with, with seasonal greens, tomato, pickle, and their signature Belgian-style Fries.  I thought that the prices were pretty reasonable, all things considered, running from $8.75 for a plain burger (the "Monk") to about $12 for a specialty burger, loaded. 
After chatting for a while with the boss Derrick, with whom I'd exchanged numerous emails and phone calls but had not met in person until today, I ordered the "Marilyn" - their cheese burger ($9.25), with Black Mesa Ranch Chèvre ($.50 extra).  Here's a link to their full menu 
I generally cook my burgers at home "black and blue" (charred on the outside, still cold on the inside).  Our ranch burgers are made exclusively from steers who are conceived, birthed, range-raised, grain-finished and butchered all on our own ranch so I am completely comfortable eating this beef raw and I really enjoy the full flavor of our excellent beef best this way.
Because their beef is about 95% lean (typical of whole-animal, grass-fed beef burgers), Diablo Burger recommends that their burgers be cooked medium-rare.  I figure they know their beef better than anybody so I deferred to their expertise.
The burger and accoutrements arrived after a short wait.  Trays of condiments graced all the tables - indoors and out, as well as the counter seating area, where I was perched.  It was very nice to see that, despite their being extremely proud of their meat and their sometimes elaborately concocted specialty burgers, the folks at Diablo Burger are not above letting their customers pour on a little ketchup,  if they wish. 
I opted to eat mine just as it came out of the kitchen and I'm glad I did.  It was delicious; hot, moist, perfectly cooked and with truly wonderful meat flavor.  I told Derrick that his burger was as good as the ones we made at home but I saw in his face that he didn't know me well enough to realize what a huge compliment I was giving him.  Only after my explaining to him that we raised and butchered our own beef did he "get it" and allow a big smile to cross his face.  "That's the kind of compliment we like to hear!",  he replied.
I'm sorry to say that the Black Mesa Ranch Fresh Goat Cheese - the cheese I had made earlier that week with my own hands, got a little lost on the burger.  Too many full flavors competing for my mouth's attentions, I guess. The fresh cheese certainly added an nice smooth and creamy textural element to the whole that I found interesting and pleasing, but without much discernable flavor, which surprised me.
I wish I could have sat there enjoying that burger all day but, unfortunately, I was already running late for the big shin-dig at New Frontiers and I was not able to stay long.  Probably just as well for the Diablo folks because by 11:30 they were filling up fast and already had a line of customers out the door.  They surely didn't need me taking up a prime seat, so I scurried off but not before Derrick comped my lunch!  I will definitely be going back to Diablo Burger the next time I'm any where in the Flagstaff area and am proud to count them as one of our very good customers.
Here's a little bit about The Diablo Trust and the Diablo Trust Ranches...
Diablo Trust is a collaboration of ranchers, environmentalists, federal and state land managers, scientists, recreationists, and other volunteers, with a common vision of the American West — a place of grandeur and diversity, filled with wildlife, prehistory, and pioneers.
The team is working together on more than 400,000 acres of private and public lands to achieve a variety of shared goals, including...
  •  Sustaining open space
  •  Living in balance with biodiversity
  •  Producing high quality food
  •  Restoring watersheds
  •  Creating stable, living soils
  •  Achieving community
There are two Diablo Trust Ranches, the Flying M and the Bar T Bar and all of the beef for  the Diablo Burgers comes exclusively from one or the other. 
These are both big, serious working ranches in addition to the educational and research commitment that comes with their association with the Trust.  How big and serious?  The Bar-T-Bar alone, at any given time runs about 800 commercial cows, 800 replacement heifers, and 400 registered cows. 
The Bar T Bar Ranch infrastructure includes:
  • 587 miles of fence
  • 41 miles of buried pipeline
  • 73 steel and concrete drinking tubs
  • 47 miles of canals and ditches
  • 286 earthen reservoirs and stock ponds
  • 19 working corrals and shipping facilities
  • 5 line camps
  • 68 pastures, 3 cell-grazing systems with 34 paddocks
  • 15 holding traps
  • 19 deep wells (450–1,000 feet)

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