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Even Cow Girl Gets the Blues

How now brown cow: Steak doesn't cut it at Everett's.
Erik Guzowski

Someone stop me before I have a cow.

I don't want to churn out my own milk. I'm certainly not in it for the slaughter. I've just decided I want a pet cow: all deep, velvet brown eyes framed with thick ebony lashes, gentle rubbery lips that feather against my fingers, a buttery moo to welcome me when I come out to feed it. It would be my bovine buddy.

The cow I want isn't just any milk-maker. It's a new breed called a "compact cow," bred by an industrious farmer in Rockwell, Iowa. These specialty animals are Lilliputian, topping out at 35 inches tall, a friendly 400 pounds of lovable livestock. The farmer's got 50 of them and is fielding inquiries from as far as Europe, Mexico and Argentina from people like me, charmed by the latest concept in unique, trendy pets. He's even got some that leap around like teeny, rabid rodeo bulls.

I've got room in my barn. And even at $1,000, the cow would go great with my two tiny, black and silver pygmy goats, other trendy animals I took home on a whim. Little cows and tiny goats may not do much, but the idea just sounds so cool.

Thinking about buying a cow has got me thinking about eating a cow, perhaps a hefty rib eye, porterhouse, filet mignon or New York strip, grilled to a deep beefiness and spilling gold-red juices when cut. I've chosen the new Everett's in north Scottsdale, because it doesn't serve just any steak. Billing itself as the nation's first all-natural, all-organic steak house, the restaurant opened this spring, trumpeting a menu free of toxic pesticides, fertilizers, hormones and antibiotics.

All ingredients come from special vendors that adhere to strict, uniform standards verified by independent state or private organizations. The entire wine list is organic, and there are organic cocktails (a Lemon Drop martini of UK5 Organic Vodka, organic lemon juice and organic sugar). Virtually everything is organic: the pear, apple and bleu cheese salad; the shrimp and orzo pasta in peppered vodka-tomato sauce; the La Trappe Blond Trappist ale; the Tazo green iced tea. A healthful steak house, so trendy it's perfect.

Good intentions, good gimmick. But intentions that, unfortunately, don't translate to reality. Cool concept or not, Everett's food is lousy. What a disappointment my steak turns out to be — organic-schmanic, this wildly overpriced beef would have been better served to have stayed on the hoof.

I'm no stranger to the kind of hype that summoned me to Everett's. I know I'm a sucker for it. I crave every single "As Seen on TV" gadget, even though they usually break. After so many fiascoes, it would seem I'd be smart enough to see through the charade.

Hype is what got me those goats, after all, an expensive pair of pedigreed animals that since have turned me into their slave. All I really wanted was freedom from the weeds that threaten to swallow my home after every rain. I'd tried everything — pre-emergents, backbreaking hand-pulling, insults and prayer. A friend joked about goats, and it sounded so obvious.

Oh yes, the breeder told me, a goat would strip my gravel clean in minutes. The best choice was the pygmy, since it was so darn cute to boot. I met the goats, I chose one, and the breeder injected the little animal with an anti-bloat medicine because surely it would balloon, given its voracious appetite.

I spent $500 building a goat run. Then $300 for a custom sun shade. Then $100 for a goat carrier and goat house. Then about three hours driving back and forth to the goat farm, way, way west of Goodyear.

But the goat wouldn't eat. Not weeds. Not lush green grass. Nothing. It just stood in its run and yelled at me in its loud, angry cat voice.

The goat hurled vulgarities at me for days, quieting just long enough to nibble — finally — but only on fresh hay that carpeted my car with leafy dust as I trekked it in from an overpriced Scottsdale pet boutique. And I'm allergic to hay.

I called the breeder, scratching the fiery rash on my arms. She listened politely, then suggested that my goat was lonely. Get another goat, she said. Then goat number one will settle in, and both will eat like Weed Whackers. She had the perfect auxiliary goat for me.

I did it. And then I bought more hay, because while the one goat didn't eat any weeds, the two goats didn't eat weeds twice as much. They just stood on their house and stared at me. At least the furry things finally shut up.

So now I'm at Everett's, drawn by the intrigue of another trendy notion — a certified organic, dry-aged, grass-fed New York steak — and, again, I'm feeling like I've been completely ripped off.

Ultimately, I've spent $32 on a piece of meat that's so poorly prepared and tasteless that I feed it to my dog Santiago. This is about as satisfying as realizing that I'm going to be spending $15 a week to buy premium alfalfa pellets for as long as I'm stuck with those cranky, weed-hating goats (they won't even eat hay anymore, having discovered that pellets come packed with tasty corn, grain and molasses).

It's unbelievable that a steak house doesn't know how to cook steak, but the medium-rare steaks we ordered are seriously raw, pulsing with cool, claret gore. I send mine back; my dining companion suffers, sawing through flabby fat and chewy muscle, worried that his recooked rib eye will somehow be even worse. Mine certainly isn't much better for its extended time with the flame, tasting brown and charcoal-charred. A side of carrots and skinny green beans is crunchy-raw, a baked potato mealy and the puny size of a lemon, and au gratin potatoes mushy under a flabby cream sauce.

I can't believe I'm paying $8 for one of the most unremarkable Caesar salads in existence, either. The chop of romaine has none of the creamy anchovy-rich dressing it's known for and barely any dressing at all. No promised powerful Parmigiano-Reggiano, either.

My goat breeder at first wanted to sell me a "lap" goat, one she had raised indoors. I should have run then. And my dining companion and I should have turned tail as soon as we approached Everett's front door, to be greeted by a manager who ran out to grab us off the sidewalk. He already had menus in his hand; we couldn't have avoided going in if we'd tried.

No wonder, the place is completely empty — it's pretty with dark clubby wood, charcoal-painted walls, black ceilings and a friendly-looking bar smack in the center of the room. But what is that smell, sort of a sulfurous vanilla, that assaults our senses throughout the meal?

There's no breadbasket. And we're immediately upsold for an appetizer, with the waitress insisting we go for the baby lamb chops. She must have recognized me as the person who was persuaded to purchase rhinestone-studded collars for my goats.

So now we're nibbling on four miniature Frenched chops, passable but unremarkable and mucked up with a thick beard of mustard-herb crust and lumpy, harsh-flavored basil-mint pesto that leaves oil rings on the plate.

I focus instead on another salad, a decent toss of field greens and feta cheese crumbles over a splayed tomato. The vinaigrette dressing doesn't do it for me; it's too sweet and balsamic, but the dish is the best thing about the evening.

The coffee is organic, air-roasted in Santa Fe, and it's good — clean, hot, strong. New York-style cheesecake (organic, of course) is fine, smothered in sliced strawberries and sticky coulis.

The bill comes, and I've got that odd, sickly feeling in my stomach again — $136 for a meal of miserable, organic steak. I've been had by the hype again.

Stop me now, please. Give me the strength — or the smarts — to pass on that beautiful tiny cow.

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Everett's Steakhouse

20701 N. Scottsdale Road
Scottsdale, AZ 85255

480-515-5891


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