04 April 2007

Benito vs. the Buffalo

Buffalo is a term of some culinary confusion. It can refer to:

- A style of chicken wing preparation pioneered in Buffalo, NY (and used to describe similar ingredient combinations in salads, sandwiches, etc.)
- A large and bony freshwater fish found in the Mississippi River and served in certain restaurants here in Memphis
- The water buffalo, source of the original and still best milk for proper mozzarella cheese
- And the American Bison, which is commonly referred to as buffalo here in the U.S.

For the purposes of this article, I am talking about the last definition. For the benefit of any overseas or big city readers unfamiliar with the animal, I stopped by after work and took photos of my friendly neighborhood buffalo herd. I was able to get within petting distance, but I wasn't keen on getting gored and just took pictures. These are not the buffalo that contributed to my dinner--more on the herd later.

Now, this isn't the first time I've eaten buffalo by far, and it's also not the first time I've cooked with it. The first would probably have been when I was 15 and made tacos. In a similar spirit, I had this pound of ground buffalo and The Girlfriend was coming over for dinner. I'd made chili earlier in the week, so I decided on mini burgers a la Alton Brown's recipe. When I first saw that episode, I thought that the idea of making Krystals/White Castles at home was ridiculous. But I decided to give it a try and throw a gourmet spin on it.

The burgers were topped with baby lettuces and Carr Valley Mammoth Cheddar, which I'm afraid, is not made from the milk of genetically engineered mammoth clones but rather from normal Midwestern cows and produced in gigantic wheels. Add some home fries made from the now-ubiquitous fingerling potatoes, and we've got a decent meal.

For the wine, we had the 2004 Bodegas Nekeas Vega Sindoa Cabernet Sauvignon-Tempranillo. Navarra, Spain. 55% Cabernet Sauvignon and 45% Tempranillo. Around $8. Cherry and spice flavors up front, with strong tannins that held up well with the meal. The aftertaste is oddly cola-like, which isn't a bad thing when matched with burgers. Nice casual wine, as many bargain Spanish wines are.

Shelby Farms is one of the largest urban parks in the U.S. It's a huge area, and among many other things the park includes a small buffalo herd. Sometimes the nearby herd of longhorn cattle are allowed in and the two herds graze together. The park does have an Adopt a Buffalo program. Despite the posted speed limit, the buffalo were mostly moving at 0, with a few rolling on their backs in the mud to cool off.

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