Grass & Grain

Grass & Grain 5-19-15

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By Donna Sullivan, Editor "Insanity," Deanna Mun- son joked when asked what made she and her husband Chuck decide to open a restaurant featuring their award-winning Angus beef. But it was quickly evident that something much deeper inspired the move – pride. Pride in the family she mar- ried into that has spent nine decades developing the pure- bred Black Angus genetics that consistently produce a high-quality product worthy of showcasing. The catalyst for opening a restaurant was when Mun- son's won Best Steak in the Nation at the American Royal steak competition. Contestants submit a frozen ribeye steak and the blind judging, which is done at Kansas State University's sensory lab at Olathe, is per- formed by a panel of trained judges and chefs who judge the meat for juiciness, ten- derness and flavor. Within each of those traits they also judge for initial, sustained and overall of each one, for instance, initial juiciness, sustained juiciness and over- all juiciness. There is a final category of overall satisfac- tion to the palate. There are divisions for grass-fed and grain-fed beef. Competing in the grain-fed category, Mun- son describes their beef as grass-raised and grain-fed. "The animals are totally grass fed until the last por- tion of life, at which point they are put in a grain lot, but can still get to grass," she said. With the contest win under their belt, they began to look to the future. "When you win something as major as that, you need to do some- thing with your meat other than what you've done," Munson reflected. Not that what they had been doing was anything to be taken lightly. For a good number of years they sold their beef at the Kansas City Stockyards, where many high-end restaurants were their customers. They sold to Iowa Beef in Emporia, and when it was sold to Tyson Foods, were featured in their Tyson Gourmet division geared to upper end steak houses and restaurants. When Tyson closed, their only option was to truck the cattle to Garden City or Grand Island, Nebraska. But they knew that the long hauls would compromise the qual- ity of their beef. So they opened a retail store in Junc- tion City and also began sell- ing their meat on the inter- net. That brought its own set of problems, as those cus- tomers wanted mainly the filets or t-bones. "You can't do that, you have to sell the whole animal," she pointed out. They were granted membership to the National Association of Specialty Food Trade (NASFT), who had never carried beef before because they didn't believe there was really any differ- ence in beef. One taste of Munson's beef changed their minds. They set up at the NASFT Fancy Food Show in Washington, D.C., where 20,000 people got a taste of Munson beef. But selling outside the state of Kansas is something they are now trying to get away from due to fact that the meat has to be federally inspected and Munson does- n't care for their processing. Their usual processor is Brad Dieckmann, owner of Clay Center Locker. "I would say he is phenomenal- ly good and that is part of why our meat turns out so good," said Munson. They are also phasing out internet sales for the same reason. Along with the impetus of winning the award, Munson lists her reasons for starting a restaurant as the need to sell all the meat they process each year from their 250- cow herd; the pride she feels for the Munson family, and the urging of their daughter Michelle, who had a great interest in showcasing the prime quality meat from her father and grandfather's en- deavors. "It was pride in her dad and pride in Kansas," Munson explained. With both she and Chuck in their 70s, Munson queried, "Would you start a business at that age if those weren't things you wanted to do?" So they purchased a for- mer restaurant building in Junction City, completely re- modeled it and opened Mun- son's Prime Steak House, where their beef is the cen- terpiece of a four- course meal served family-style. The unique dining experi- ence begins with each person picking out their own steak from a freezer in the center of the dining room. As the appetizers, cole slaw and seasonal surprise are en- joyed, the steaks are seared and grilled to the diner's specification. As much as possible, Munson also uses locally-sourced produce in their meals. Topping off the feast is homemade ice cream, which is a story in itself. Munson began making homemade ice cream for the Geary County Fair after she retired from Kansas State University in 2004. That year they were low on funds for the fair and looking for ways to generate interest that wouldn't cost a small fortune. She volun- teered to make homemade ice cream herself and ended up making 65 gallons in 1 and 1½ gallon freezers. It was such a huge success, the fair board wanted to make it a yearly tradition. "Over my dead body," she said. But while at the Kansas State Fair she saw a man with a big freezer and upon inquir- ing about it learned that he got it off the internet from Lehman's Hardware in Kin- dred, Ohio. They commis- sion an Amish family to lo- cate an old John Deere 1917 single cylinder "hit and miss" motor, restore it, paint it up and build a wagon that will hold two freezers. She ordered the set up and told the fair board they would make ice cream for the fair as a donation for years to come. "Because we feel strongly about supporting 4- H," she explained. Along with the Geary County Fair, they have made ice cream for numerous events in the sur- rounding areas for the past ten years. On a visit to Silver Dollar City in Branson, she had seen a large ice cream freez- er in one of the shops and discreetly took pictures of it. When they decided to open the restaurant, they took their farm crew to Branson and stealthily examined the freezer to see how it was made. "Then I decided that was unfair and went back and found the management to ask about it," she recalled. "They were the most helpful, generous people you could ever hope to know. Before the day was over, the farm guys were back there taking measurements." Their proj- ect for that winter was repli- cating the ice cream freezer one piece at a time. The fin- ished product, along with being a sight to behold, can freeze four canisters at a time in eighteen minutes consistently. Munson uses her grandmother's recipe, substituting Egg Beaters for eggs, so they will be pasteur- ized. She uses Jersey milk from Emrich Family Cream- ery in Onaga, and believes it Munson's Prime is located just off I-70 at 426 Golden Belt Blvd. in Junction City. Munson's run a closed herd of 250 purebred Black Angus cows and use low-stress handling techniques. The beef is dry-aged, then vacuum-packed and flash-frozen with no preservatives, flavor enhancers or other additives. The dining room at Munson's Prime reflects the heritage and heart of a cattleman in every detail. There is also a bar and lounge area. The ice cream freezer, built by Munson farm employ- ees, is an impressive sight and can freeze four canis- ters in eighteen minutes. Deanna Munson uses her grandmother's recipe and Jersey milk from Emrich Family Creamery in Onaga. Courtesy photos Munson's Prime offers beef-centered fine dining experience Continued on page 3 Sect. 1 5-19-15.qxp:Layout 1 5/14/15 12:16 PM Page 1

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