The Down-Low on Buffalo
Whether you’re already an adventurous wild game eater or you are just starting out on your wild game journey, Buffalo is sure to be a staple meat that you’ll want to sink your teeth into. There are actual two different types of buffalo that are commonly sold to the public for consumption, Bison and Water Buffalo. Bison is what you’ll find most often in restaurants. Bison is most common across North America and Europe. The animals are large and nomadic and travel together in herds.The Bison typically is a peaceful animal but have been known to, “attack anything, often without warning or apparent reason. They can move at speeds up to 35 mph and cover long distances at a lumbering gallop (Wikipedia).” The diet of Bison typically consists of the normal fare of a herbivore including grass and simple grains. It is for this reason that Bison most typically live near grassy plains and large prairies. Much like cattle Bison are grazers and most often will search for low lying trees and bush on which they may dine. Bison is “more adept grazers than cattle and they appear to be somewhat more intelligent.”
Furthermore, due to their size and ability to travel at high speeds. Bison do not have to deal with such an expansive list of predators. Most notably Bison must fear the American Grey Wolf and also Brown bears and coyotes. It is also important here to make the distinction in the name Bison versus the more commonly used term buffalo. Bison stems from a greek word meaning, “ox-like animal (encarta.com).” Buffalo more typically refers to the Asian Water Buffalo which will be discussed.
So, What does Bison Taste Like Anyway?
Individuals like the media mogul Ted Turner have long championed the use of Bison in the meat industry. Still it’s implementation in restaurants has been slow due to American’s consistent desire for beef as opposed to Bison. Still, “Restaurants like Ruby Tuesdays have slowly begun to add the item to their menu (Wikipedia).” Although Sammy’s Wild Game Grill typically stocks the Asian Water Buffalo because its flavor is closer to beef and it is leaner, at times Sammy’s does carry Bison for use in its burgers and sausages. According to owner and CEO Samuel Ballarin, “Buffalo meat is so popular with our customers that if we cannot find Water Buffalo for our burgers, we will use Bison instead.” According to SeriousEats.com “Bison is notable for its tender, lean and soft texture, with an overall flavor more delicate than ordinary beef.” According to Sammy, “ Eating Bison or even Water Buffalo for that matter is almost like cheating the system because the flavor is very similar to beef but it’s so much healthier for you. They both have less fat and higher protein but they don’t taste too gamey or strange.” It is for these reasons that many who are just beginning their wild game experiment should begin with Water Buffalo originates in parts of Asia and China. Unlike Bison, it can be darker in color and looks slightly more like regular cattle than Bison does. Water buffalo are also sometimes called “Swamp buffalo and river buffalo in different parts of the world (Wikipedia).” Furthermore, according to World Watch List for Animal Diversity, “There are more than 130 Million Water Buffalos in the world and more human beings depend on them for survival than any other domestic animal.” Water Buffalo are known for their tendency to craft holes with their horns which then fill with water and the buffalo will then “wallow” or rest in those ditches. Through the use of this technique, Water Buffalo have become able to withstand very hot and increasingly colder temperatures by using a coating of mud to protect themselves. Throughout the world, Water Buffalo are used for the toiling of rice fields and are quite adept at it. Additionally, a Water Buffalo’s diet is quite different than a Bison’s. In fact, the “animals are known for digging holes and grazing while submerged in water, the thrive on many aquatic plants including reeds” (encarta.com).
It’s a well-known fact in the dairy industry that Water Buffalo Milk contains more protein and fatty acids than the milk of regular cattle, but did you know that “many of the dairy products we drink are infused with Water Buffalo milk” (The Buffalo Milk and Cheese Industry). Depending on the season and time of year it is, your favorite milk product will contain more or What does Water Buffalo Taste Like? According to quora.com: “Its meat will taste like beef. Water buffalo are usually used as a beast of burden, pulling and hauling, and are not eaten young when the meat is tender and mildly flavored, instead Water Buffalo are eaten after they have aged more so than Bison.” According to restaurant owner Samuel Ballarin, “Even kids who come into the restaurant love Water Buffalo. Sometimes you get those people who will come together and one of them won’t want to try wild game and will ask for beef instead but their significant other or friend will tell me to try to sneak water buffalo past them, and it works nearly every time. I always tell them afterward and they seem so shocked it’s funny.”
Both Water Buffalo and Bison are healthier than beef. Both contain less calories than beef and are higher in protein. According to livestrong.com buffalo meat contains “about 29 grams of protein and is much higher in B-12 than beef.” Furthermore, Buffalo are grass fed and free to roam so even after processing both are still healthier than beef as they are “not given hormones, antibiotics, and other chemicals.” Buffalo meat also is slightly lower in cholesterol
So in conclusion, during your next trip out to a restaurant for lunch or dinner stop by Sammy’s Wild Game Grill located at 3715 Washington Avenue in Houston, Texas and give Buffalo meat a try. Become a Buffalo believer today, your body will thank you.
Wild Game Kebabs: Sammys Got The Whole Kit and Caboodle!
Just in time for January Sammy’s Wild Game Owner and Head Chef, Samuel Ballarin, has introduced a fun and fresh new menu item that’s sure to spice up your next visit to his restaurant, Wild Game Kebabs. The Kebabs are the newest addition to the wild game hotspot’s ever expanding menu. While Sammy’s first started as a simple burger and Sausage dog spot as time has progressed so too has the eatery’s menu. As the owner puts it, “I’ve always had a vision for what I wanted Sammy’s to be, but when we were first starting out a few years ago I knew I had to get the basics down first. I started with burgers and sausage dogs because after having a few friends try them at my house everybody liked them.”
After a few years, the owner began to add more to his menu slowly. “I always listened to what my customers wanted and tried to merge what they wanted with my own ideas for the restaurant.” After adding wild game salads and giving customers the option to choose what meat they wanted on top of the greens, Sammy then decided to add empanadas, an homage to his Spanish background and love for latin cuisine, Sammy began to have customers ask for even more variety on his menu. “I started having people come into the restaurant and ask for more traditional entree-like items. A lot of people wanted steaks but with the space we had at the store I knew this would be difficult to accomplish. But, I also knew I had to do something, as they say, the customer is always right.” After pushing his culinary creativity Sammy finally had the answer, Wild Game Kebabs. “Every time I add something to the menu, I think it through first. I have to make sure that it will work out, and that’s sometimes more difficult than people think. I had to make sure I had the real estate and the tools necessary to do it, I have to do a few tests to make sure the taste is up to my standards, and then most importantly I have to make sure that my cooks can replicate the item with speed and consistency. After a lot of thought, the kebabs seemed to be the way to go.
Introduced just under a month ago the new kebabs have been gaining popularity with customers. “Everybody that comes in asks about them and I’ve gotten a lot of compliments from people who’ve tried them. For Sammy’s Wild Game the Kebabs represent a big step in a new direction, a push towards a higher quality dining experience. “We’ve never really been ‘a fast food’ restaurant, we all put a lot of work into our product, we just get it out to our customers quickly,” says General Manager Adam Diehl. The folks at Sammy’s hope that the kebabs and other items that they plan to roll out in the future will allow people to start viewing them as more of a restaurant or a casual eatery than a fast food spot. “These kebabs are no joke, the meat we use is high quality and very tender. Right now we are using Venison and will eventually add different meats as time goes on,” says the owner. The Kebabs are marinated in Chimichurri and the delicious meat is surrounded by grilled bell pepper and onion. Customers have the option to have the skewers served either with a side of white rice or with traditional fresh cut french fries.The kebabs also come with your choice of drink and are priced at just $16.95.
Other Sammy’s News:
In other Wild Game News is the restaurant’s recent involvement with Houston’s Day for Night Festival. The festival took place on December 19-20 and is meant to highlight the evolution of light and sound in modern culture. Both musical artists such as Kendrick Lamar and Flying Lotus performed alongside exhibits meant to feature light and sound by creative artists like David Cihelna and Gene Han who worked on an installation known as “Sparse.” Another popular installation at the festival was the “Infinity Room” by Turkish Artist Refik Anadol. In the midst of it all, Sammy’s was there to provide their popular sausage dogs to hungry festival-goers. According to the owner, “The Festival was great, the music was awesome, and the art was mind bending. Plus it’s always good to get out there and serve our food to new and regular customers.
So, what are you waiting for? Stop by Sammy’s today and try the delectable new Kebabs or sink your teeth into one of their popular sausage dogs.
The Down-Low on Buffalo
As a new year opens, so too does conversations about those promises to turn over a new leaf and pursue a new beginning by way of a New Year’s Resolution. For some these resolutions will be to wake up earlier in the morning or even to be nicer to their spouses or coworkers. However according to recent research by the search engine giant Google “over 37% of New Year’s resolutions will be to either lose weight or to stay fit and healthy.” Still research from Forbes.com also shows that only 8% of people achieve their resolutions. In essence, that means that close to 92% of people who attempt to lose weight starting January 1st will fail.
Why is it that so many people that start with the best of intentions are unable to stay the course? There are a variety of reasons, but for this writer, three big facts come to mind.
First: Diets are hard, and they require an extreme sense of devotion as well as large amounts of lifestyle changes to accomplish.
Second: As Americans we’ve been trained to want everything fast, and our way.
Third: So-called fad diets like the Atkins diet or Slim Fast shakes just don’t work. In fact research by the Federal Trade Commission has demonstrated that “fad or restrictive diets have a 95% failure rate.”
Wow! Reading these facts it becomes quite easy to become discouraged and even feel like throwing in the towel. Are weight loss and a lifestyle change even possible? You might be surprised to find that the answer is a resounding “Yes.” Sure for those of us wanting to lose weight and live a healthier life, sacrifice is an undeniable necessity but readers will be happy to discover that the path to health based nirvana does not have to be so difficult and drastic. Losing weight doesn’t require buying a book, mixing a shake or even giving hundreds of your hard earned dollars to a weight loss program like Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers. Surely programs like these are not without valuable and they can be successful for the right individual, but for many they are too expensive and time-consuming to be considered viable options.
So where does that leave the “Average Joe” wanting to shed a few pounds? In fact, the answer is relatively simple. Would you believe me if I said that living a healthier life and shedding a few pounds in the process would be possible by making small changes in your diet, but that you could still enjoy a burger, sausage dogs and even the occasional order of fries? It might sound like a sales pitch, but it's true.
For Texans looking to live a healthier lifestyle or simply to try some exotic and “different” food, look no further than Sammy’s Wild Game Grill. Opened in 2011 by owner Samuel Ballarin, the quaint Texas eatery serves up a wide variety of exotic game in both sausage, burger, and even salad form. Mr. Ballarin, known affectionately by his customers as “Sammy” grew up himself in the restaurant industry. Hailing from Spain originally a young Sammy worked in his father’s own restaurant which soon became a local favorite. After coming to the United States in his teen years Sammy continued to work in a variety of restaurants and hone his craft. With a natural love for latin food and a taste for different meats, Sammy soon became interested in owning his own business and following in his father’s footsteps as a chef and restauranteur. Very soon afterward with the help of some good friends and family members, Sammy’s Wild Game Grill was born. His goal was simple, offer patrons a variety of different alternatives to the traditional beef burger or pork sausage and make them fall in love with food they might never have thought to try. “I wanted to give people a chance to try everything that I could think of, or that I had tried myself and liked. I started with the simple stuff like Buffalo burgers and Rabbit sausage to more exotic meats like Kangaroo and Camel.”
With a focus on developing his own flavor and a zest for Latin-influenced cuisine, Sammy began to build his restaurant’s menu and soon added a variety of sauces to kick the flavor up a notch. “I found this misconception that just because something wasn’t beef or pork and because it was healthier for you, that people thought it had to taste weird, that’s just not true. I made it my mission to change their minds one, burger, sausage or salad at a time.”
Soon Sammy had added a cilantro based sauce for those with a mild palate. Next, he added a mildly spicy Ahi Pepper Mayo made with the Peruvian peppers that he had grown to love as a result of his experience with latin cuisine. Finally, for those with a taste for spice he added his Cajun Remoulade and Ghost Pepper hot sauces. Before too long Sammy and his trusted team of General Manager Adam Diehl and Assistant Manager Matthew Diehl had made a name for themselves and began to participate in events around the community. “We’ve done the Houston Grand Prix and the Chili Cook-off and we are always very popular at FreePress SummerFest.”
4years into the opening of his business, Sammy is still working to expand his menu and change the way people think about fast food. “We have a drive through and we always work to get food out to customers as fast as possible, we’ve added meats like Yak, which tastes like beef but is way healthier and also Iguana which tastes like a lean chicken. We also have recently added empanadas and tacos to our menu. Guests that eat at Sammy’s are given the choice to go with the regular menu items as well as a constantly changing variety of seasonal meats. “We’ve got something for everybody, if you want to play it safe we have stuff that tastes like beef, but if you’re feeling adventurous we have something for you as well. There is so much to choose from and it’s all so much healthier than beef.”
Sammy’s does not use hormones or additives in any of their meats and they are all higher in protein and lower in fat than the average fast food fare- without being much pricier either-, “We want people to try our food and fall in love without having to reach too deep into their pockets. We want people to realize that healthy food does not have to be boring or bland” says the owner. There is certainly research to show that Wild Game is healthier than regular meats and proteins. Live strong.com lists some of the benefits of eating wild game as; higher lean protein, higher Omega 3 Fatty acids and higher iron and zinc count.”
So for those of you looking to shed some pounds, or just to try some great food this year, make Sammy’s Wild Game Grill located at 3715 Washington Avenue the first stop on your list. The food is great, the atmosphere is family friendly and warm, the staff is knowledgeable and you certainly stand a better chance at sticking to that new year’s resolution. Happy Eating!