Thursday, September 20, 2012

Medora, North Dakota: Pitchfork Fondue


Steaks are speared on pitchforks in Medora, North Dakota.

Medora, North Dakota is known as the home of former President and Rough Rider Teddy Roosevelt, the northern Badlands, and something called a  Pitchfork Steak Fondue.   Local families and tourists flock to the summertime event.

Cowboy cooks spear steaks on pitchforks and thrust them into vats of hot oil.  Don’t get too close, but it’s quite an operation to watch.

Steaks are cooked in a cauldron of hot oil.

Cowboy cooks prepare the beef.
You may feel as if you are in prison when given a partitioned metal tray but trust me, the food is delicious. Select your sides from the buffet - baked beans, baked potatoes, salad options, coleslaw, Texas toast, and fresh fruit – then let the cowboys slap a perfectly done medium-rare steak on your tray.  Wine and beer are available for an extra fee. 

Metal Tray holds the Pitchfork Fondue Meal.

Events begin around 6:00 pm in a pavilion on a hill overlooking the town.  The view is spectacular with nearly 360 degrees of open sky. Musicians from the famed Medora Musical serenade diners with some foot stompin' tunes.

Town of Medora, North Dakota as seen from the Pitchfork Fondue Pavilion.
Kids are attracted to the hillside which simply begs for a roll. Photographers eagerly await sunset at the panoramic site overlooking Teddy Roosevelt National Park. Eventually, dessert is served. Brownies and cake earn high marks and rank as crowd pleasers.

Most folks hang around until the Medora Musical begins in the nearby amphitheater.  The wait is a bit long as the show doesn't start until 8:30. However,  stomachs are full and just sittin' and soaking in the scenery seems rather nice. 

Read this and other food blog stories on Wanderfood Wednesdays. 

For other dining options in Medora please read my trip specific blog: Good Girls in the Badlands.

Dining at Theodores in the Rough Riders Hotel.
Fine Dining at Theordores.

Breakfast at Cowboy Cafe.
Town of Medora, North Dakota

Monday, September 10, 2012

Lunch with an Astronaut


As a travel writer I’ve met my share of million mile airline members and platinum level frequent flyers, but I recently dined with a man who undoubtedly has flown more miles than anyone I’ve ever met.

Debi Lander with Astronaut Charlie Walker

Charlie Walker, veteran of three space missions, and I were introduced before he spoke at the Kennedy Space Center’s Lunch with an Astronaut program.  Charlie was very personable and willing to share his experiences.

The luncheon began with a slideshow, Charlie's aptly chosen topic:  Food in Space. 
Astronaut Charlie Walker speaks with guests at Kennedy Space Center.

Anyone old enough to remember the first Mercury 7 astronauts may recall space food in squeeze tubes. Certainly not a meal I'd enjoy, but these were men who had the right stuff and were boldly going where no man had gone before.  They were so busy in their cramped space capsules their food didn’t really matter.

The Gemini and later Apollo flights to the moon had more palatable provisions. Astronauts drank what became a popular instant orange drink called Tang. They nourished their bodies with freeze-dried foods like stew or pot roast.  At mealtime an astronaut would inject water through a syringe to rehydrate the packaged contents. Charlie’s photos didn’t make these meals look appetizing either.
Dehydrated Space Meal 

By the late 1990's, NASA had established a space station and the food onboard was more normal.  Charlie told the story of a crewmember of Mexican decent who chose tortillas for his menu. When the other astronauts saw how easily he managed to roll up his lunchmeat or breakfast eggs, future missions included burritos and tortillas.
Space Food

More recent flights used trays with Velcro corners to secure meal containers and magnets to restrain utensils in the weightless environment.  The quantity of  fresh food has remained scarce and the overall quality was never intended to be gourmet. 

The Lunch with an Astronaut program also includes a question and answer period.  Kids in the audience particularly enjoyed asking Charlie about the sensation of  flying in space and his favorite memories.   

Visitors to the Kennedy Space Center can attend Lunch with an Astronaut for an additional fee.  The buffet offerings are fresh, healthy and quite delicious. No space food or fast food is served.
 Price is $24.99 for adults and $15.99 for children ages 3-11, in addition to admission.

If you would like to meet an astronaut, you can make reservations online or call 866-737-5235.
Seating is limited.
Click here to view the program menu.
Seating begins at 12:00 p.m. daily. Briefing runs approximately 1 hour. 
Read this and other food blog stories on Wanderfood Wednesdays.