I typically have good luck finding something, but the most recent business trip was different. This was Yuma, Arizona. I spent three days there without hazard pay.
©2015 Chris Terrell
No, it's not 1975, but 2015!
On the first night there, I did manage to find a steak restaurant called “Hunter Steakhouse.” It got decent ratings on Trip Advisor and Zomato, so what the hell. The sign out front read proudly, “Established 1970.” When I opened the door, I almost expected steam to escape, much like Doc Brown’s DeLorean in Back to the Future. It was 1975; I was four years old; and I was having dinner with my parents in a steak restaurant in Burlington, North Carolina.
Hunter Steakhouse had the same wooden railings and red vinyl booths; the same wood-beamed walls and ceilings; and white tablecloths with burgundy napkins. Large pepper mills were housed in special racks throughout the dining room. The carpet was clad in browns and greens. The chandelier lights were covered with miniature shades. This place was old school.
An earnest, efficient maitre’d escorted me to my table. With a teutonic flourish, he snapped my napkin authoritatively into place. Next came the drink order. And while it may not be fair, I judge a steak restaurant on the quality of its martinis. There’s just something about starting off a steak dinner with a well-made martini that just can’t be beat. Hunter Steakhouse passed the test. Another requirement is good bread, and lots of it. Again, they didn’t fail here. The server delivered a whole sourdough loaf with a ramekin filled with whipped butter. Ah, butter!
My love for butter began in that steakhouse I mentioned earlier. In my mind, my parents went there all the time, though truth be told, it was more likely a few times a year on special occasions. I wasn’t crazy about the place—too grown up; too dark; no T.V. What I did like was the bowl on the table full of little paper squares with two-inch squares of butter covered with wax paper that read in bold red letters, “BUTTER.” I would grab a square, tear off the wax cover and gulp down the pat of butter in one quick bite. I would then repeat this process a dozen times until, during a lull in my parents’ dull conversation, my mom finally noticed and took the bowl away from me.
The other item on the menu that I looked forward to was the French dressing! Being five, I was usually uninterested in salad unless it came with lots of croutons, cheese, and French dressing. Yes, that sweet, ketchup-based, day-glo red dressing that is such a rare find on today’s menus. (Even Hunter Steakhouse in Yuma, Arizona didn’t have any.) But back in the day, no restaurant worth its salt would be without French dressing. And just as French dressing will forever be associated with the 1960s and 1970s, so will balsamic vinaigrette be tied to the late 20th and early 21st Century food scene. I could go the rest of my life without being offered balsamic vinaigrette dressing by an earnest, yet dull, server at the local Olive Garden or Applebee’s.
Here’s the recipe:
Classic 1960s French Dressing
1⁄2 cup ketchup
1⁄2 cup sugar
1⁄2 cup red wine vinegar
1⁄2 cup onion, grated
1 teaspoon paprika
1⁄2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup salad oil
salt and pepper to taste
Add the ketchup, sugar, vinegar, onion, paprika and Worcestershire to a food processor bowl.
Pulse until blended.
With the processor running, slowly add the oil.
Check the seasonings.
Cover and refrigerate until needed