STURGIS | Alpine Inn chef Clark Braun transformed an elegant, upscale beef dish into an equally elegant sandwich and walked away with top honors in the South Dakota Beef Industry Council’s Sturgis Beef Throwdown.
Braun’s Steak Diane sandwich, served at the Alpine Inn in Hill City, topped nine other entries from restaurants across the Black Hills during this week's food competition that highlights the state's top meat product.
Braun said the dish starts with beef filet tips, sliced thin and seared quickly on the grill.
The sandwich is served on a Ciabatta-like, yet tender bun, and topped with delicately cut mushrooms indicative of fine knife skills.
“You took Steak Diane, a fancy table-side flaming thing, and you put it in every man’s vessel, the sandwich,” said Food Network celebrity judge and chef Justin Warner.
Other participating restaurants included Red Rock Restaurant in Wall, Sliders Bar & Grill, Countryside Grill, Paddy O'Neill's and Vertex Sky Bar in Rapid City, T-Grille and FLYT Steakhouse in Deadwood, Baker’s Bakery & Café in Custer, and The Knuckle Saloon and Loud American Roadhouse in Sturgis.
Warner said all of the entries, which ranged from steak tips, gourmet burgers and a cheeseburger pizza, were outstanding.
“The food that has been here has been over the top, out of control, truly inspired,” said Warner, who was joined in judging the entries by ranchers Gary Deering of Hereford and Les Shaw of White Owl.
Shaw and Deering alternated traveling with Warner to participating restaurants earlier this week, with the final tasting completed Wednesday. The winner was announced Thursday.
Warner said the process of picking a winner caused him to lose some sleep and wasn’t unanimous.
“I did not know this job would involve squabbling with ranchers,” he said with a laugh.
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Braun earned bragging rights and a large trophy for the win.
“It’s easy when you’ve got the best product to work with,” Braun said. “Thank you, ranchers.”
Rally-goers and local residents can still participate in the Throwdown before Sunday by obtaining a Sturgis Beef Throwdown passport from rally headquarters at the corner of Harley-Davidson Way and Main Street in Sturgis.
Participants need to go to each restaurant and ask for the signature dish to get a passport stamp.
Each three stamps will count as a single entry in a raffle for five packages, ranging from $100 to $500 in South Dakota Beef Bucks, which are pre-paid Visa Cards that can be used to purchase beef dinners at various restaurants, and other beef swag prizes.
Stamped passports must be returned to rally headquarters by Sunday to be eligible for prizes, which will be awarded after the rally.
However, Braun’s winning dish must be sampled soon since the Alpine Inn is not open on Sunday.
Braun said the dish, initially created just for this year’s rally, may be added to the Alpine Inn’s regular menu.
“We’ve sold the heck out of them this week,” he said.