As she and her team begin pre-dinner prep on a recent Friday afternoon, Executive Chef Tanya Broesder realizes it's been almost a year to the day since Masselow's Steakhouse reopened after a six-month, pandemic-caused pause last year.
When the award-winning steakhouse at Northern Quest Resort and Casino reopened last September, it introduced a totally new format of two fixed-price, coursed menus. Two options, a three-course menu at $70 per person and a four-course menu at $90, replaced the white-linen steakhouse's previous a la carte-style offerings.
Broesder says the new format has resulted in better efficiency and quality control of ingredients like its USDA Prime steaks, fresh seafood, seasonal produce and more.
"It mainstreams the menu and keeps our food costs controlled, so we are utilizing everything we bring in, which means less waste and fresher product. We're not keeping a bunch of things on hand that don't [sell]," Broesder says.
Masselow's culinary team recently released the first of its seasonal fall menus, and continues to develop new items that may be included on the next iteration.
Since it is a steakhouse, however, one thing that won't ever leave Masselow's two menu options is its USDA Prime beef, showcased in three steak options: a Manhattan steak, ribeye and filet mignon. (In industry-spreak, Prime beef is the highest USDA grade and comes from young, well-fed cows, featuring abundant marbling of fat and protein.)
While there's some distinction between this fall's three- and four-course menus, diners can find an 8-ounce ribeye steak as an entree option on both. A meat-and-potatoes plate is a steakhouse classic after all, but under Broesder's direction, the dish is both comforting and refined.
"We ask for a minimum of a 28-day wet age before the steaks arrive to us from our vendors," Broesder says.
Wet aging is a process in which the meat is vacuum sealed, versus dry aging that exposes the meat to air inside a cooler. Both aging processes are done to allow natural enzymes to tenderize the meat.
"Then we hand cut all the primal [cuts] here. And, you know, just seasoning with simple salt and pepper is all your steak needs," she continues. "We don't put a bunch of seasonings on there. We have a wonderful charbroiler and serve it with traditional things."
Those traditional accoutrements include buttery-smooth russet mashed potatoes plated with a flourish via a large decorative pastry tip, and a side of seasonal veggies lightly sauteed in oil and white wine that might be baby carrots one night and broccolini the next. For a steak sauce, Broesder chose a traditional French béarnaise.
"Béarnaise is a very traditional steakhouse sauce," she says. "I feel that the buttery tarragon plays well with the fat of the ribeye, but of course if a guest sees a different sauce, like a horseradish demi, we'll offer whatever they'd enjoy."
This flexibility and focus on guests' satisfaction is a hallmark of the Masselow's experience, where white-gloved waitstaff present each artfully plated dish, and the wine and spirits list offers some of the most luxurious, high-end brands to be found in the Inland Northwest.
"We have one goal, which is to make our guests happy," Broesder says. "And it's not about me writing a menu and handing it to my team, it's about us creating a menu so that we all buy in as a group and we're all proud of this menu."
If guests aren't ready to commit to an entire three- or four-course meal — both are filling and include a bread course and palate-whetting amuse bouche, in addition to a salad course and dessert; the four-course adds a round of appetizers — Masselow's lounge still serves an a la carte selection. The lounge offerings include several shareable appetizers and fully portioned entrees, including steak and a burger.
Broesder expects Masselow's switch from a la carte to a fixed-price menu to be permanent, especially considering the myriad challenges that have arisen in the hospitality industry since the pandemic began, from staffing and ingredient sourcing struggles to rising costs all around.
"Between the dining room and the bar, we probably serve about 100-plus steaks a night," she says. "Doing this, we get to control the flow of the dining room so no guests feel rushed, and we do ask for reservations so we can make sure things are placed, and so the restaurant doesn't get too full because then it's noisy and less enjoyable."
Broesder has been with Masselow's since 2009, starting as a cook before landing a promotion to sous chef and eventually to executive chef in 2014. The rural Iowa native has loved being in the kitchen and caring for others through food since childhood.
"I grew up on a dairy farm in Iowa, and we were just constantly going — butchering something, canning something, pickling — and we had a garden that we all took care of," she recalls.
"We had laying hens for eggs every day, and we'd bottle feed calves. Just doing all of that growing up, it changes your perspective on things. Your work ethic is different, and your drive to achieve the things you want," she continues.
At home, she usually took the lead on family meals.
"I'd make supper while my dad and siblings were out doing chores," she says.
Broesder's lifelong passion of caring for others through a hearty, lovingly prepared meal continues for her staff. Each Sunday, the Masselow's team has a "family dinner" before opening for dinner service, and before the staff head into their two days off each Monday and Tuesday.
"We create a meal for the front and back [of house] and have that meal together, and then by 4 pm we're back to business to make sure we're set and open at 5 pm," she says. "We literally are a family unit, spending eight hours a day, five days a week, together. To have people back in the kitchen a year ago was so amazing."
The chef's family roots at Northern Quest stretch a little deeper than her tight-knit team. Broesder met her husband of seven years, Peter Disantis, at the venue. Disantis runs the casino's Riverbank Taphouse and its team member dining room.
"We have crazy, almost opposite schedules, so it's nice to have your other half in the same building as you — you actually get to see them a little bit," she says. "But it's also great because he's been here for 16 years, and I've been here 12. To see where we have come, [Masselow's] used to be a gravel lot when I first started here!" ♦
Masselow's Steakhouse • 100 N. Hayford Rd., Airway Heights • Open Wed-Sun 5-10 pm • northernquest.com • 509-481-6020