The Black Hills of South Dakota have stolen my heart. It's a place where the endless sky is angry and the moon shines with such brilliance it's rarely ever dark. Where the rain clouds break with a concentrated intensity leaving mirror-like puddles that reflect the moody sky above. A place of such profound beauty - of wild fields overrun with purple flowers and amber grass; of silver, granite mountains and islands of lush, fragrant pine forests - that my pulse begins to race just thinking of it. I've come home with a light heart, a renewed spirit, and loads of inspiration for new recipes.
The next day we woke early to drive through the dense trees and great, green pastures that flow like water in the valleys of the Black Hills. I was in search of one of those mighty herds of bison you so often see on postcards from South Dakota. Alas, the bison were no where to be found. But we did find some breathtaking views as we wound our way through the steep terrain toward Mount Rushmore. . .
Mount Rushmore. An American icon. I remember visiting here as a small child when the monumental faces seemed vast and immeasurable to my little eyes. I expected them to be smaller somehow, as all things which appear large to a child are to the eyes of an adult. But, no! They were just as immense and grandiose as I remembered. And I watched as my children took in the sight, their eyes growing wide with wonder, just as mine must have done so many years ago . . .
The sun was beginning to sink as we headed back through the hills when, lo and behold, there in the shadow of the setting sun grazed the massive herd of bison for which I had been seeking all day! Majestic and dignified, their imposing black bodies seemed to blend seamlessly into the trees and hills behind them. I felt a tingle of excitement, as if time had stopped and I was witness to an era when these animals grazed free and wild across all of the Northern United States. Being slightly irreverent, I realize now, I made Jalapeno Cheddar Bison Burgers on the grill that evening . . .
We hit the Naked Winery tasting room the next day, where we soon learned that they "aim to tease." The kids made themselves at home, snuggling into the rustic couch to watch Sponge Bob, as we were seduced by wine after wine with names like Foreplay, Risqué, Cougar, and Booty Call. Naked Winery is a small winery in Hood River, Oregon (with no relation to the Naked Wine Club, by the way). Each wine was more tantalizing than the last, but we all agreed that Cougar, a sparkling white table wine that tastes of sun-ripe peaches and of the Oregon rain, was the best. The label describes it as, Sweet and sexy, this feline is ready to pounce on any untamed palate. This wine is no naïve little kitten, but a lusty puss offering ripe, fleshy peach flavors. She fondles you with light sparkling strokes, then grips you with her cocksure claws. Get ready to learn the meaning of lusciousness, you hungry cub - this refined Cougar is what you've been craving.
What more can I say? I left with far more bottles than I had intended. The simple pleasures . . .
The Four Mile Old West Town lies exactly four miles down the road from Custer. After patiently waiting while the adults imbibed, the kids were itching to explore, and this was just the place. Relics from the past pack themselves into rickety, crooked buildings like layer upon layer of dust and long forgotten lives. Mind the broken glass and rusted metal; this place is the very definition of rustic!
As we head for home, full of life once again, I'm reminded of the ancient words of a Blackfoot warrior:
What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of the buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.
Life thrives here in South Dakota! The recipes are coming soon!
Buglin' Bull Restaurant and Sports Bar
511 Mt. Rushmore Road, Custer, SD 57730
430 Mt Rushmore Rd, Custer, SD 57730
Four Mile Old West Town
11921 West Highway 16, Custer, SD 57730