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A little bit country, a little bit heart and soul

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By Julianne Munn

The Rustic Ranch and Bakery restaurant in Inverness is a little more countrified these days, with its Saturday menu featuring game-night entries ranging from bison to gator, along with other items.

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Owners Kim and Chad McPherson opened the eatery about two years ago after entirely remodeling and updating the building in the heart of downtown with hand-hewn log walls and counters and other country-western decor.

McPherson, a native of Citrus County, wanted the restaurant to reflect the area’s farming history and branded the wood booths with logos of old families in the area, such as Rooks, Van Ness and Bellamy.

The restaurant was an instant hit in the community, with its menu of all fresh foods and on-site roasted turkeys, roasts and other home-style cooked dishes at very affordable prices.

Breakfasts are favorites with patrons and they are very much out of the ordinary, and include such recent specials as “the Volcano,” a tower of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, onions, cheese on a bed of country fried potatoes for $5.25. Various other fall specials are $4.

You can order breakfast seven days a week until 4 p.m. and the list of both traditional and unique items is long, with pastries and biscuits baked daily on the premises.

“The Saturday game night was inspired by the opening of my husband Chad’s McPherson’s Archery and Outdoor Pro Shop,” Kim McPherson explained.

The new business is on State Road 44 just past the Holiday Inn Express west of Inverness. Game night coincides nicely with annual hunting seasons in Florida, she noted.

Entrees that have appeared on the Saturday night menu include bison ribs, slow-roasted with a balsamic sauce ($15.95); Cajun gator fried crisp and topped with a spicy sauce ($13.95); quail ($12.95); plus chicken-fried rabbit served with mashed potatoes and gravy; Uncle Bo’s Duck, breast of duck wrapped in bacon and cooked on a grill or in a smoker.

“There is nothing frozen in our restaurant,” McPherson said. “Most of our goods are bought locally as much as possible, except for some of the game, such as bison. Other choices have included venison, frog legs, and crawfish.”

She said head chef Scott Kartune and the staff will also prepare game provided by customers on request.

Steaks, chicken, pork and seafood at Rustic Ranch is prepared on the open-flame wood-fired grill. “We’re known for that,” McPherson said, “it gives goods a great flavor.”

The McPhersons’ restaurant originated from the Cinnamon Sticks concept, another well-known eatery in Inverness.

With an eye toward inclusion of nouveau Southern-style cooking, there is the fried green tomato BLT — but that’s not all. Vegetables are often flavored with bacon or ham, for example.

Soups are homemade, as are all bakery items, by Tammi Jo Bass, turkeys are oven0-roasted and meat and poultry cut and cooked on the premises.

Such creations as the Sicilian meatloaf are tasty and interesting. The meatloaf is mae with beef and pork, stuffed with salami, ham, Provolone cheese and topped with marinara sauce.

The complete roasted turkey dinner with stuffing, from-scratch mashed potatoes, bacon-cooked green beans and cranberry sauce tops out at $9.99 ($6.99 for seniors), and most folks will need a to-go box for leftovers.

Also for dinner, which starts at 4 p.m., you can get a 14-ounce King Cut Prime Rib and various seafood, pasta, beef, pork and poultry entrees all well under $20.

Pork chops, hash, steak, ham, smoked and fresh sausage and bacon are all available, as well as “skillets,” pancakes, biscuits, waffles, homemade granola, French toast stuffed and plain, breakfast panini, bagels, slow-cooked oats and much more.

Thirsty? Just about any beverage you can think of is ready and waiting, including cappuccino and lattes in an array of flavors, smoothies, coffees, teas and the Arnold Palmer (half tea and half lemonade).

It seems impossible to go away hungry from this restaurant, and it’s open seven days a week at 104 U.S. 41, Inverness. Hours are 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday; and Sundays from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. For information and for catering, call 352-726-7333.

The following recipes are shared by Kim and Chad McPherson:

BISON RIBS
* 1 1/2 cups raspberry balsamic vinegar
* 1/4 cup Rustic Ranch Seasoning (Mix in blender 1/2 part Montreal seasoning, 1/4 part mesquite seasoning and 1/4 part garlic powder)
* 1 1/2 tablespoons thyme
* 1 1/2 tablespoons rosemary
* 1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
* 3 cloves garlic, smashed

Combine above and marinate bison (or other) ribs in mixture overnight. Slow-roast ribs for 4 hours, covered, in a 250-degree oven.

UNCLE BO’S DUCK
* 1 pound rabbit meat, cut in chunks.

Season flour with salt and pepper to taste for dredging rabbit. Lightly beat 2 eggs in separate bowl. Dip rabbit chunks into flour mix, then egg wash and then flour again. Fry until crisp in vegetable oil. Serve with mashed potatoes and small, sweet green peas.

CAJUN GATOR
* 1 pound gator meat, cut into bite-sized chunks
* 2 tomatoes
* 2 eggs
* 1 sweet onion
* 1 green pepper
* 1 red pepper
* 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
* Lime juice
* 2 cloves garlic, smashed
* 1/2 jalapeno pepper, diced
* 1 cans tomato paste
* 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
* 1/2 cup Thai chili sauce
* Yellow rice made according to package directions

Sauté all ingredients except gator and rice on low heat about 1 hour. Makes rice and set aside.

Pound gator pieces very thin and dip into Autrey Seafood Seasoning (available in supermarkets), then into lightly beaten eggs and again into seafood seasoning. Set aside. Incorporate into sautéed mixture and heat. Serve with yellow rice.

Julianne Munn is the food writer for the Citrus County Chronicle. Email her at jmunn2@tampabay.rr.com.