How does bison differ in flavor and texture from beef? For a comparison tasting we asked Martin Saylor, executive chef of Butterfield 9 in downtown Washington, a restaurant where bison is on the menu every day, to prepare a Black Angus beef tenderloin and New York strip steak as well as the same two cuts of locally raised bison from Georgetown Farm in Free Union, Va.
Before cooking, all steaks were rubbed with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. Saylor pan-seared the beef over medium-high heat for approximately 3 1/2 minutes on each side. Lean bison cooks faster than beef. Therefore Saylor pan-seared the bison, at the same temperature, for approximately 2 1/2 minutes on each side. All steaks were finished in a 500-degree oven for three to four minutes. The medium-rare steaks rested, after cooking, for five to seven minutes.
The results: Both were delicious, but we preferred the flavor of bison. The bison steaks had a cleaner, far less greasy flavor than the beef. We detected no wild or gamy flavor. Rather, the bison was slightly sweet. The bison tenderloin had a more pleasing texture and better "mouth feel" than the beef tenderloin. The bison strip steak was chewier than the beef strip. But this was "chewy" in a good way. The beef strip, in comparison, had a mushy texture.
Where the Buffalo Roam
Lean, ground bison meat from Georgetown Farm, Free Union, Va. is available at Fresh Fields and Sutton Place Gourmet stores. For a full range of fresh cuts -- steaks, roasts and ribs -- visit Georgetown Farm's Buffalo Hill Specialty Meats & Gift Shop, Route 230, Madison, Va.; call 888-328-5326. Or order by mail. Recipes are available on the farm's Web site: www.eatlean.com.
Locally raised bison is also available at the following farms. Before planning a trip call ahead for availability.
Heritage Bison Frozen bison tenderloin ($14 per pound), roasts ($6 per pound) and ground meat ($4 per pound) are available at John Brigante's 87-acre Hidden Dream Farm (midway between Frederick and Baltimore). A sampler gift box with a three- to four-pound roast, two to three pounds of steak and three to four pounds of chopped meat is about $60. Sales by appointment and by mail. Woodbine; call 410-442-1791. Web site: www.heritagebison.com.
Land O'Lakes Farm On his farm, near the Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Dick Wildes sells frozen, ground bison ($4.25 per pound, 5-pound minimum). Sales by appointment. Hollywood; call 301- 932-1800.
Tatonka Acres Bison Ranch Mark and Billie Jo Sellers call their business Buffalo Billie's Bison Meat. All meat -- ground bison ($4.50 per pound) sirloin steaks ($12 per pound) and chuck roasts ($6 per pound) -- is sold frozen. Boonsboro; call 301-797-2476.
Cibola Farms Visit Mike Sipes and Rob Ferguson's Trading Post store (Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.) for frozen bison steaks, ribs, roasts and ground meat. Top sirloin steak is $9.25 per pound. Also: farm-raised, fresh and frozen chicken, rabbit and goat. 10075 Stone Bridge Rd., Culpepper; Call 540-727-8590. Web site: www.cibolafarm.com.
Legacy/Thistlewood The Stensrud family of Legacy Ranch and the Dawson family of Thistlewood Farm have formed a 65-head bison partnership. All meat -- ground patties, steaks and roasts -- is sold vacuum-packed and frozen. Rib eye steaks are $13.75 per pound. Sales by appointment in Chantilly and Culpepper; call 703-754-4947.
Where Bison Is Served
Several dozen area restaurants have bison burger or steak on the menu now and again. We found seven restaurants where locally raised bison is always on the menu, two that feature it as a daily special and one that serves bison every weekend. Look for bison on the menu at:
* Billy Martin's Tavern,
1264 Wisconsin Ave. NW;
* Buckeye Steakhouse, 8637 Sudley
Rd., Manassas; call 703-392-1252
(bison on weekends only).
* Buffalo Billiards, 1330 19th St. NW;
* Butterfield 9, 600 14th St. NW;
* Cashion's Eat Place, 1819 Columbia
Rd. NW; call 202-797-1819.
* Jaleo, 480 Seventh St. NW;
* Johnny's Half Shell, 2002 P St. NW;
* Marcel's, 2401 Pennsylvania Ave.,
NW; call 202-296-1166.
* Red Sage, 605 14th St. NW;
(bison is a daily special).
* Tragara, 4935 Cordell Ave., Bethesda;
(bison is a daily special).