At the lavish fundraiser dinner for President Obama in Chicago tonight, where tickets cost $38,500 a head, chefs Michael Kornick and Erick Williams of mk restaurant will be serving a first course of steak tartare made of Tallgrass Beef. Located on the Red Buffalo Ranch outside of the southeastern Kansas town of Sedan, Tallgrass Beef is a leader in the grass-fed beef movement—that is, cows that are never given hormones and never raised in restricted feed lots. Red Buffalo Ranch and Tallgrass Beef are owned by local CBS-TV anchor Bill Kurtis, who has a deep affinity for the heartland.
Kurtis grew up in Independence, Kansas, home town of playwright William Inge and the historic site of the childhood home of Little House on the Prairie writer Laura Ingalls Wilder. Both Independence and Sedan are close to the Oklahoma border. Since I grew up in Wichita, the nearest big city, Kansas is a natural conversational topic whenever Kurtis and I chat. We both love the never-ending sky—this is the real Big Sky country—and the wide-open tallgrass prairies.
Sedan, with a population of 1,222, looks like a prosperous version of the town in The Last Picture Show: a Main Street with charming old storefronts and eccentricities like the Emmett Kelley Museum, dedicated to the Sedan native son who created the famous “Weary Willie” clown character based on 1930s hobos. However, while the Emmett Kelly Museum has some Kelly memorabilia, its main display is a collection of 1600 Jim Beam bottles. There is also an annual Yellow Brick Road Festival (this year you can catch it on May 28) with Wizard of Oz costumes, blue grass music and a serving of mountain oysters, otherwise known as bulls’ testicles.
No mountain oysters are on the menu for the President’s fundraising dinner, but there is something fitting about Tallgrass beef tartare being served. It comes from a place where the sky is so huge, and the horizon line is so easy to see, that the possibilities seem endless. And surely that’s something the President has an appetite for.