Carne Pleasures

 

TABLEHOPPING

À LA RECHERCHE DU ROAST BEEF: Bret Hazlett had plunged deep into a remembrance of Arby's past. "Arby's was good, really, really good--in the Seventies. We serve roast beef like they used to. Exactly like Arby's used to." Sensing that Tablehopping was about to fake a call-waiting interruption, Hazlett became more strident. "It was good! Really. Don't you remember?" Ahem, no. But here at Tablehopping our motto is to each his own Proustian madeleine, and so we packed up and drove to a section of strip mall in the northeast quad of the Lexington/Larpenteur intersection. This is the site of Bart and Bret Hazlett's new fast-food restaurant, a bright, spic-and-span place where they serve, well, you know what. If all goes well, the Hazletts plan to turn Maverick's into a chain.

But don't laugh at those Hazletts, they've proved prescient before: Bart founded Panini Catering, which produces those ubiquitous coffee-shop sandwiches, and there are Hazletts in charge of the Warehouse District café Montana and the Bryn Mawr Coffee Shop. And if this is beginning to sound like some kind of Western posse, that's no coincidence: Twins Bret and Bart were named after the cowboy twins from the TV show.

So does the beef come from the ol' Hazlett ranch? Um, no, but that sandwich, a bargain at $2.29, is pretty durn good. Not Texas-sized, but definitely Oklahoma-big, it holds a pile of warm, fresh beef carved from a thoroughly honest-looking roast perched behind the counter. Maverick's also offers sandwiches of long-cooked brisket, touched with either garlic or barbecue sauce and cushioned by sweet, tender Blackey's Bakery kaiser rolls.

The buns are particularly commendable for holding their own against Maverick's zippy horseradish sauce or cinnamon-laced barbecue sauce. (Clap, clap, bravo, buns!) Complement your sandwich with a great coleslaw (all crisp, sweet and zingy, 65 cents), and close with a rich, smooth mocha pudding ($1.05). My only recommendation would be to swap those frozen fries, onion rings, and potato cakes for the real thing posthaste--just swing by the Wienery on the West Bank or Paw's Dogs at 494 and France to see how easy it is.

But the question remains: Why did mom go along with the Maverick twins thing? "She had too many kids to complain about names, I guess," Bret Hazlett says laconically, and I can just hear the swallowed aw-shucks. Maverick's hours are 10:30 a.m.-8:00 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 1746 N. Lexington, Roseville; (651) 488-1788.

SPEAKING OF PROUST: My heart bleeds for "Beth in Ithaca," who is quoted in the latest brochure from Turtle Island Foods as praising Tofurky for evoking "the meat flavors of my youth." Honey, that was one ersatz childhood you got snookered with--what bum deal did you get for fruit and vegetable flavors, an old sock to suck on?

For those of you who've never encountered a Tofurky (www.tofurky.com), imagine a large loaf of a "revolutionary tofu-wheat protein blend," embossed with a brown tofu skin, filled with a stuffinglike wild-rice blend, and accompanied by four something-like-cutouts made from tempeh, wild rice, textured soy protein and cranberries. Oh, and of course--new this year!--the two "WishStixs," fashioned from Tofurky Jerky.

Now, far be it from me to make fun of vegetarians who are saving the world for sorry gluttons like me. But why would you bother with this ghost of a parody of a memory when Mother Nature has so beneficently supplied us with magnificent, centerpiece-ready vegetarian options like pastry, potatoes, pumpkins, and squash? Oh, well. I'm only grateful for the inspiration all this has provided for me: Watch for my new line of meat-free critters, including Tofugoose--shove soybeans down its tofuthroat and you'll get tofoie gras! And Tofucow--with a squeezable pouch of soy milk, and a tofumignon at the rear. With my profits, I promise to leave this feckless lifestyle behind and dedicate myself to releasing tofeagles and snowy tofowls into the wild.

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