Grub Steak

Mobil three-star-rated chef Michael DeMaria has taken over food management for Rawhide, including the Golden Belle Steakhouse and Saloon, catering and cookouts. But don't look for anything radical from the owner of north Scottsdale's upscale Michael's at The Citadel, at least not yet.

"Rawhide is what it is," says DeMaria. "The best thing about it is its surroundings, but this is no 'Michael's hits the chuck wagon.' Don't be looking for any dry-aged steak with foie gras."

Relating his activities to "a bird pecking at a nut," DeMaria says he and his team will be analyzing all dining aspects of the 30-year-old, 1880s-style theme park to help it compete with the growing number of chain restaurants entering north Scottsdale. Already, he has added corn bread and skillet biscuits to the Golden Belle's menu, and instituted a Sunday brunch featuring hand-carved prime rib and roasted pork, plus custom-made omelets, sausage, country-fried potatoes and homemade peach cobbler.

Rawhide -- featuring carnival rides, performances by "high-fallin' Rough Rider stunt men" and Western vittles like mesquite grilled steaks, barbecued chicken, baby-back ribs and cowboy beans -- may seem like an odd step for DeMaria. His background includes Lon's at the Hermosa Inn, T. Cook's at the Royal Palms, and the Arizona Biltmore. His namesake restaurant offers such signatures as Juniper duck breast with foie gras and apricot-scented couscous, and herb-seared Chilean sea bass with braised fennel and truffled mashed potatoes.

But Rawhide has evolved into a prime location on the high-dollar southeast corner of Scottsdale and Pinnacle Peak roads. And a check of the current menu already shows more flair than the simple amusement-park grub we remember from our childhood: fried rattlesnake, Rocky Mountain oysters, buffalo kebabs and mesquite-broiled shrimp.

The Pain of Spain: An irritated reader insists I correct the dining time listed in the recent Barcelona review (serving until 10 p.m.). Apparently, she and her group drove from Scottsdale to Chandler, arriving at 9:10 p.m. To her dismay, she was turned away, told that although the kitchen remains open until 10 p.m., the last table seating actually is at 8:30.

"I have traveled throughout the entire planet in my line of work (hotel food and beverage director)," she writes. "This is a joke!"

I don't know what her situation was -- on my visits, people were still being seated past 8:30, and a call to the restaurant confirmed I could get a table at my random request of 9:30.

Sounds to me like just another case of confusion for our poor Barcelona buddy.