Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The “Spice” of Life: Comfort Food--Dakota Thyme

         We have all heard the saying, “You can’t have your cake and eat it, too,” right?  Well, I have found an instance where this common cliché is untrue:  a visit to Dakota Thyme in Rapid City.  An old-fashioned, deli-style restaurant with comfort food, great wine, and delectable home-baked goods is totally having your cake and eating it too…literally! 

First, the atmosphere inside Dakota Thyme is so warm and inviting with great colors and a replica tin ceiling that takes me back to the really good, really old days!  I am obviously not the only one who feels this way about the ambiance of the restaurant; both times I have been there for lunch, the dining area was full! 

Next, the food, ordered deli-style from a counter and then delivered to your table, is very tasty.  My first visit, I had the crab cakes and a side of soup.  I consider myself somewhat of a crab cake connoisseur, ordering this at almost all restaurants that serve it because it is my favorite.  The crab cakes were light, well-sized, and scrumptious!  My second visit I chose a three-cheese grilled cheese and the same red pepper tomato bisque soup from my first visit—because it was good enough to order twice!  Warming me from the inside, this comfort food made my day!

Of course, Dakota Thyme wouldn’t make it on my list of businesses that promote the wine industry if there was no wine!  The by-the-glass wine list is decent; however, the by-the-bottle list is impressive for an establishment of this size.  Dakota Thyme keeps an ever-evolving selection for bottle sale—both for on-site and off-site consumption. In November, there was a Beaujolais Nouveau just a week after its release date (from my phone calls, one of only two places in Rapid to carry this wine).  For New Year’s, a wonderful selection of bubbly was in the house, including a Gruet (considered the best American sparkling), a Prosecco, and others.  Dakota Thyme even gave away a bottle of Dom Perignon in January.  I was so jealous when I found out about this contest too late!  Customers can find producers from Primal Roots to Barnett Vineyards to Sterling Vineyards (one of my favorites).  To keep this up-to-date list, Dakota Thyme also regularly puts wines on sale for as low as $9.95 a bottle!  Yes, the wine itself calls you to stop here.

However, how impressive the mood, the food, and the drinks are, they pale in comparison to the “piece de resistance”:  the home-baked goods!  The breads range from Brioche, to light rye, to dark rye, to caraway, to focaccia, to croissants.  The desserts include an array of cookies, cupcakes, tartlets, baklava, and even King cakes (for Mardi Gras).  Next time I stop I have promised myself I will not be watching calories; I WILL have a dessert! 

So whether it be for a hearty breakfast, a comforting lunch, or a fun special occasion (like beer tastings, wine tastings, or artists’ receptions that Dakota Thyme hosts) stop by soon.  Get your food, drink your wine, have your cake--and eat it too!  You will not be disappointed.  I haven’t been! 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Say It Isn't So!

Over a year ago, I decided I wanted to try to promote the wine industry in every form in and around the Black Hills and Wyoming.  I have written multiple “reviews” of wine or wine-related businesses, but, at this point, I haven’t written about all of the places I’ve visited or wanted to write about.  I was much chagrined to find out that one of the places I have visited, yet never wrote about, closed in December. 

Manchegos in Rapid City was a tapas-style bar with a focus on wine, especially Spanish wines.  The atmosphere was absolutely amazing!  The small bar was filled with dark wood and often had live music on the weekends.  The main dining room was spacious and well designed.  I loved the Spanish tiles on the wall and the booths in front of the tiles.  The outdoor patio was a special place to dine, as well as the roof top deck (which I never sat but did go check out).  Every detail was covered, even down to the beautiful tile work in the bathrooms (okay, I only actually saw the women’s bathroom, but I HEARD the men’s was cool too)!  As for the food, I enjoyed many of the tapas menu items.  My favorite was the warm potato and corn salad, but I also loved the garlic mussels, garlic shrimp, and the caprese salad.  The best part of Manchegos, however, was the Enomatic wine machine!  The Enomatic was a wall of wine with an automatic measuring system where a wine lover could choose one ounce, three ounces, or five ounces of any of the wines in the Enomatic.  A debit card was loaded with a dollar amount and wineauxs (French for wino J) could sample whatever they wanted or choose a full glass of a favorite wine. 

I am disappointed that this business closed its doors before its one-year anniversary.  I loved the atmosphere and the idea of the tapas menu.  I also loved how much the Enomatic promoted people try to wines they may not have and did so in such a fun way.  There are already future plans for the wonderful new building in Rapid City; I really look forward to what is in store for this prime downtown spot.  I hope that the new business owners (owners of the current Firehouse just down the street) will continue the fun atmosphere, and I tip my hat to the former owners for trying a new approach in the hills. 

Here is the link to the Rapid City Journal article on Manchegos' closing. 

Rapid City Journal's Article on Manchegos' Closing

Just Because

Today my "Outlaw" (long story, maybe some day I'll write about it) decided to make the very special dish beef Bourguignon. She decided this because it was a very special day...Sunday! Yes, Outlaw Michelle decided to make her girlfriends a meal that though it is not difficult to make, it is incredibly time consuming--many hours of time--just because!  We had tried to look for and wait for that special occasion, and there have been occasions, but often, those occasions don't come with the time beef Bourguignon needs. So today we are eating a classic French stew, made even more famous by the movie Julie and Julia, just so our group of friends can get together and enjoy each other's company. We could have kept putting it off because there was no time or occasion, but why?

I have written about this before, but it is worth repeating, probably over and over again.  Life is too short to always wait to use the fine china or (in my case) the Reidel glasses. I use fine crystal stemware every day, and if one breaks, it breaks! I do cellar bottles of wine, but only ones I have specifically researched to age. The more expensive bottles of wine I buy every day, I drink--no matter what price I paid! True, we can't eat or drink everything we want all day, all the time.  However, saving remarkable food, drinks, or friends only for once in a while is not living well.  Life is meant to be enjoyed!  Use the good sheets. Wear that expensive pair of shoes.  Break out the fine dishes.  Drive the nice car.  Eat that decadent dessert. Sip the higher priced wine.  But, most importantly--get together with those friends! I am...because it is a special occasion after all--just because!

Here is Julia Child's classic recipe for beef Bourguignon.  You can find it from a quick Google search.  My sister-outlaw Michelle never really follows a recipe exactly, but these are the basic guidelines to follow.  Yes, look at all of those steps!  That's why this is such a special treat!


  • 1 6 ounce piece chunk bacon
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 pounds lean stew beef, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups red wine, young and full bodied
  • 3 cups beef stock
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 cloves mashed garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 bay leaf, crumbled
  • 20 small white pearl onions
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • herb bouquet (4 parsley sprigs, one-half bay leaf, one-quarter teaspoon thyme, tied in cheesecloth)
  • 1 pound fresh mushrooms, quartered


  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Remove bacon rind and cut into lardons (sticks 1/4-inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long). Simmer rind and lardons for 10 minutes in 1 1/2 quarts water. Drain and dry.
  3. Sauté lardons in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a flameproof casserole over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to side dish with a slotted spoon.
  4. Heat fat in casserole until almost smoking. Dry beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Add beef, a few pieces at a time, and sauté until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the lardons. In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. Pour out the excess fat.
  5. Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly. Set casserole uncovered in middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat again and return to oven for 4 minutes (this browns the flour and coves the meat with a light crust). Remove casserole and turn oven down to 325 degrees.
  6. Stir in wine and 2 to 3 cups stock, just enough so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs and bacon rind. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove. Cover casserole and set in lower third of oven. Regulate heat so that liquid simmers very slowly for 3 to 4 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.
  7. While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms. Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons butter with one and one-half tablespoons of the oil until bubbling in a skillet. Add onions and sauté over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling them so they will brown as evenly as possible. Be careful not to break their skins. You cannot expect them to brown uniformly. Add 1/2 cup of the stock, salt and pepper to taste and the herb bouquet. Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but hold their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Remove herb bouquet and set onions aside.
  8. Wipe out skillet and heat remaining oil and butter over high heat. As soon as you see butter has begun to subside, indicating it is hot enough, add mushrooms. Toss and shake pan for 4 to 5 minutes. As soon as they have begun to brown lightly, remove from heat. When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan.
  9. Wash out the casserole and return the beef and lardons to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms on top. Skim fat off sauce in saucepan. Simmer sauce for 1-2 minutes, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. If too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons stock. Taste carefully for seasoning.
  10. Pour sauce over meat and vegetables. Cover and simmer 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times. Serve in casserole, or arrange stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles or rice, and decorated with parsley.  (We had mashed potatoes.)