by Lisa Atkinson
Tseh. Yansi. In my Native languages, those are the words for buffalo/bison. Since I don’t eat beef (not traditional; also not good for the ‘aina), buffalo is my go-to for red meat.
Prior to moving to Hilo, it was as easy to get as walking six blocks to the grocery store where I could buy tenderloin, NY steak, rib eye, burger, or, on a REALLY good day, a bone-in T-bone. Even prior to moving, I’d been watching the bison herd on Kauai with envy, and had made a few attempts when on-island to see if I could procure some. No luck. So a couple of months ago I made a phone call (and sent an e-mail) directly to one of the major Mainland sources: Jim Henzi, Senior Vice President at Sierra Meat and Seafood. I’d seen an article while Googling “Big Island Bison” indicating that a major bison producer might be looking to establish a herd here and I thought I’d see if I could get in on it. Well, Jim said they weren’t planning on that at this point, but that they did have a partnership with Suisan and shipped some products here. So I called Suisan. They suggested I contact KTA. So I called KTA Puainako and left a message (I’m sure the guy who took my message thought I was lōlō) for a manager in the Meat Department. About an hour later I got a call back. I thought I heard the person say, “This is bison calling,” to which I chuckled and said, “I love bison! Thank you for calling!” I then realized that it was BRYSON calling–not bison (so embarrassed). He told me that he would be attending a food show the following day, where there was supposed to be a bison purveyor. I asked if he could see if he could get me some fresh bone-in rib-eye.
The following Monday, Bryson called to tell me that he’d met the bison guy and told him he had a customer who’d like bone-in rib eye. The bison guy said, “Lisa?” Yup, it was Jim Henzi! About four weeks later, my beautiful FRESH 15 lb bone-in rib-eye rack came in.
The guys at KTA cut it to my specifications, and off I went to break it down further (to last longer) and begin making my favorite buffalo-y things (see above- processing, then the rewards of buffalo carpaccio and buffalo tartare). Turns out it’s a small world after all. And Bryson at KTA is my new hero.