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Restaurant Happenings - November 2003

Buck Up for Thanksgiving
by Annabelle Numaguchi

Buck’s Grill House
1393 N. Highway 191 (just north of town) (435) 259-5201.

Dinner is served nightly starting at 5:30, reservations accepted and Take-Out is available.

Thanksgiving Dinner will be served on November 27, from 3:30 to 8:00 p.m. (Reservations required) and is $19.95 for adults, $12.95 for kids.

The usual images associated with Thanksgiving are warm thoughts of family gathering around mounds of mashed potatoes, roast turkey, savory gravy and spiced pumpkin pie. The downside, of course, is mounds of dirty dishes, crowded grocery stores and hours of prep time making the copious traditional meal. For those would-be cooks of Thanksgiving dinner who are awaiting the holiday with mixed anticipation, buck up! Or better yet, get up to Buck’s.

Chef Tim Buckingham of Buck’s Grill House is once again increasing Moab’s fine cuisine options. His restaurant is serving a traditional Thanksgiving menu this November 27. Bucks is making it possible for the entire family, Mom included, to enjoy a sumptuous holiday feast of roast fresh turkey or glazed ham, home-made soup or chowder, stuffing, mashed potatoes and cranberry chutney without the traditional mess and fuss.

Thanksgiving is not the only occasion that warrants a trip to Bucks, on the other hand. Just about any special circumstance-a first date, a birthday celebration, a desire to treat yourself to good food-makes eating refined southwestern cuisine at this moderately-priced restaurant worthwhile.
Considering Buckingham’s impressive vitae as both a chef and restaurateur, of which he is both at Buck’s, diners at his current place are getting a real bargain while getting a chance to sample authentic southwestern and Mexican dishes tailored to refined palates.

A native of Moab, Buckingham grew up during the uranium boom, but found himself drawn to a very different career path. He quickly realized that he wanted to turn his interest in cooking into more than a hobby and moved to Santa Barbara to attend a two-year culinary program.

California turned out to be a good choice of locale in which to embark on his kitchen pursuits. Buckingham worked under various experienced chefs during a revolutionary time for California cooking, and he found himself “learning so much more after school had ended.” His experience includes working at the first-class San Ysidro Ranch, where he cooked for celebrities such as Robert Mitchum, Bette Davis and Mick Jagger.

He obviously proved his mettle and became the executive chef at a reputable California-style bistro, The Wine Cask. Under this guise, he earned the distinguished honor of being rated by The Food and Wine Companion as one of the top ten “New American Star Chefs,” which praised his dishes as, “delicately prepared, yet flavors are robust.”

Eager to return to his hometown to raise his son in the spectacular outdoors he’d grown up enjoying, Buckingham returned to Moab in 1991, just as the area was becoming discovered as a vacation destination. He opened The Center Cafe, a highly rated restaurant specializing in haute cuisine which still exists today under new chefs and owners. Although maintaining such an elegant restaurant in a town still pulling out of an economic slump was touch-and-go at first, The Center Cafe eventually caught on.

By 1995, Buckingham was eager to start a new endeavor with what he describes as “a more widespread appeal.” He sold The Center Cafe and took the opportunity of buying Buck’s current location, which was property settled in 1898 as part of a ranch. He envisioned Buck’s Grill House as fine dining western-style, hence the restaurant’s motto “Feed Your Spirit.” Buckingham describes his place as “keeping the quality of the dining high but offering it at a more medium price range,” which sums up Buck’s appeal.

Buck’s opened in the spring of 1996 and has been providing dressed-up, homemade southwestern cuisine ever since. Everything, from the bread to the sauces, is made from scratch in Buckingham’s kitchen. Most of the dishes are his own creation, with certain exceptions like the Machacha Beef Tacos, which are slow cooked, shredded and air dried with spices and served in an adobo sauce-an authentic recipe he learned from the Mexicans he cooked with in California.

As a chef, Buckingham likes to take traditional fare and put a twist to it that enlivens it without engulfing the original appeal of the dish. For example, his Elk Stew is slow cooked and tastes like an elegant blend of game meat, root vegetables, cabbage, fennel and beets. The dish is a notch above the usual while still retaining all of the wholesomeness and comfort one associates with stew. He tops his Blackened Utah Trout with mango ginger marmalade, his Cowboy Pork Chop with barbeque butter and his Roasted Game Hen with roasted tomato garlic butter to add a deeper dimension to each dish.

Buckingham has also kept his menu interesting for non-meat eaters. He creates excitement in his vegetarian dishes the same way as he does with the meat ones, by adding unexpected but inviting ingredients to traditional recipes. His Vegetable Enchilada incorporates feta cheese in with the black beans and adobo sauce. A refreshing cilantro pesto wakes up his Southwest Pasta dish of linguini tossed with grilled vegetables.

Even the desserts at Buck’s exhibit this fine tuning of Buckingham’s. The offerings include Port Flan and Bourbon Pecan Pie, tempting both for their decadence and enticing marriage of flavors.

Thanksgiving dinner at Buck’s promises to blend traditional with sophisticated, true to Buckingham’s form. You don’t have to cook, clean and shop for a sumptuous, homemade meal this November. If the thought of piled-high dishes in the sink is getting you down, buck up. Simply pick up the phone and make reservations at Buck’s so that everyone in the family can enjoy the holiday.

Buck’s Grill House is located at 1393 N. Highway 191 (just north of town) and can be reached at (435) 259-5201. Dinner is served nightly starting at 5:30, reservations accepted and Take-Out is available. Thanksgiving Dinner will be served on November 27, from 3:30 to 8:00 p.m. (Reservations required) and is $19.95 for adults, $12.95 for kids.


Recipe of the Month

Pumpkin Pie
Buck’s Grill House

Makes One 9-inch pie

Most traditional pumpkin pies have a soggy crust. In this version, prebaking the pie shell before filling it remedies the problem. For a truly spirited pumpkin pie, add up to 2 tablespoons of either rum or brandy to the filling.

4 Tbsp. butter

1 3/4 cups canned pumpkin (pureed) OR 1 3/4 cups pumpkin (fresh, well-drained puree)

1 3/4 cups milk
3 eggs
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. salt
fresh ground nutmeg (optional)
Sweetened Whipped Cream (optional)

Heat oven to 450°. Using your favorite pie dough recipe, line a 9-inch pie tin with the dough and crimp the edges. Prick the bottom and sides of the pastry with a fork. Line the pastry with double thickness of aluminum foil.

Bake in a preheated oven until the pastry begins to brown, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 375°??remove the aluminum foil, and continue to bake unitl the crust is lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Reduce heat to 350°. For the filling, melt the butter. In a large bowl, combine butter, ppumpkin, milk, eggs, brown sugar, spices, and salt. Pour the filling into the prebaked pastry shell. Bake pie in preheated oven until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes.
Pie can be baked several hours ahead.

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