By Scott Beveridge
TETON VILLAGE, Wyo. – The cable cars to the top of a Teton Mountain ridge are mostly empty this late August afternoon during the off-season at Wyoming's rich skiing country.
Most American children are back to school now as summer vacation comes to an end and the crowds are beginning to thin at the nearby Grand Teton National Park.
"So what is there to do here now?" I ask the hotel clerk while checking into The Alpenhof, an older yet charming German-theme lodge where the flatland rises toward the steep ski slopes in Teton Village, Wyo.
She suggests taking advantage of a discount ticket to the top of the mountain or riding the free gondola to the restaurants there, one of which, the Couloir, offers of four-course meal starting at $85.
"Ride to the top and then come back down to eat somewhere else," she suggests after I say that mountainous meal plan is not in my budget.
So I take the free cable car up the steep rise to a height of 9,000 feet above the hotels, which already sit nearly 5,000 feet above sea level. The return ride to the village is not as scary since my mind is on food and the Cascade Restaurant is calling my name.
Located inside Teton Mountain Lodge and Spa, the Cascade is supposed to be among the best places to eat in this pricey, tightly-built village in the Jackson Hole section of western Wyoming.
While looking over the menu there, where a three-course meal costs nearly $40, my server is quick to suggest the buffalo sliders, or a plate of small burgers made with local dry-aged ground buffalo steak.
"Those are awesome," he says. "They are the number one seller year round."
To heck with the smoked pheasant raviolis in sage prosciutto sauce. I'm having the $15 buffalo burgers, which show up three on a rectangular white plate in what turns out to be a gourmet feast.
At first they taste a bit salty, much thanks to their being topped with thin slices of pancetta, or Italian bacon. A sweet taste also my my taste buds from the oven-dried tomatoes on these little sandwiches.
The best flavors, the server says, arrive in the truffle aioli condiment. It's a mayonnaise made with truffle oil and egg whites, he said.
It has been a long way around getting to this meal, but well worth the ride.
The wonderful buffalo sliders at the Cascade Restaurant in Teton Village, Wyo. (Beveridge photo)