Farm to table, the Slow Food Movement, Nose to tail, no matter how you skin it, no matter what state you live in, they all seem to break down the same, with the same message. The message is sustainability.
Over the weekend of Nov. 1 and 2, Dakota Rural Action, a local South Dakota grass roots organization had an event sponsored by the South Dakota Local Food Conference, featuring the art of “nose to tail” sustainability in local restaurants and communities.
At Drifters Bar and Grille in Fort Pierre, with the collaboration of the Sicangu Food Sovereignty Initiative and Dakota Rural Action, two chefs put their heads, knives and food together to demonstrate the deliciousness, sustainability and necessity for sustainable food sources.
News flash; cows are not made up of ribeye’s or loins broken down into filet.
One chef, head chef and co-owner of Drifters, Uriah Steber, 27, has been at the helm of the kitchen for one year now in the restaurant’s three years open. He did not start in the back of the house. Steber is an Army veteran of a deployed global response team and grew up in rural Wisconsin. His father was a professional butcher and hunted, so Steber learned at a young age how to break down proteins with his dad. While Steber describes his dad as the “go-to” guy who made the food for any family get together, he had not worked much in kitchens.
“I was a waiter in the front of the house in my uncles restaurant as a teenager,” Steber said. ““I never worked in the back of the house until this opened.”
Steber and his wife Emily, also co-owner, used to come down the Missouri River’s shoreline where their restaurant now stands, before they were married and the spot was just a field of clover, to sit on Uriah’s tailgate, have a picnic and talk about the future.
In South Dakota, there is agriculture, yet there still seem to be food deserts in a large portion of this agriculture state. A food desert is roughly defined as an urban area where healthy and fresh food is not available. An example of this is a town with the only store to buy groceries would be a small convenience store devoid of a normal sized selection of fresh vegetables or proteins to be cooked for consumption.
Going out to eat, expecting to always see only one cut of meat on the menu until the cows come home is not sustainable.
Along with Steber, the other chef on display was the director of the Sicangu Food Sovereignty Initiative, Matt Wilson, 27. Wilson claims to only be a home cook. Then he goes on to speak about engagements where he has worked to show others how to utilize all of the natural, local and indigenous ingredients found here in South Dakota.
Uriah made the main course and prepared the dishes with protein. Wilson created the side dishes of vegetables and fruits. Both used locally grown, harvested and foraged products to showcase the art of “nose to tail.”
“South Dakota raised beef is a game changer for us,” Uriah said. “Being able to choose your beef and finding butchers who can cut it down for you was the hardest part.”
Uriah describes speaking with his butcher after a delivery he thought he’d receive the whole cow.
“Where are my femurs,” Uriah asked? “Where are my tongues?”
Uriah was running into problems finding a butcher who could deliver the whole animal, he said, and he wanted to whole animal.
The point of the evening was to educate and “hopefully” impress some of the capital area’s purveyors, producers and providers of food stuffs though using every part of an animal. His goal, going forward is to be able to get the whole animal into his restaurant so he can offer fresh menu items off the animal, until he needs to order another.
“You can’t eat ribeye every night,” Uriah said. “Cows aren’t made of ribeye. If they were, I would make a lot more money.”
The meal for the evening was a set menu featuring five courses and it started with an amuse buche of a Cubana sandwich made with ham and pork. The main dish was a stuffed pork loin made by Uriah and the sides by Wilson. To compliment it was maple roasted winter squash with dried berries and sunflower seeds.
As well, each course was accompanied by a local wine or beer.
“Find inspiration elsewhere and do what you can with what you have,” Uriah said. “I just want to make food with the best ingredients.”