A BUZZ WITH YOUR MEAT As if you don't get enough coffee already, now you can enjoy espresso with your steak. Rippe's, the "blue jeans steakhouse" arm of Paul Mackay's beefy restaurant empire, is now offering a 12-ounce filet mignon dusted with Starbuck's dark espresso blend. Rippe's chef Alli Jester lobbied management to give the idea a try, stimulated by a tip from server Catherine Mathison, whose aunt in Montana has tried a similar preparation. It was a hard sell, but according to manager (and Mackay scion) Chad Mackay, the coffee-and-steak combo is already popular with Rippe's diners, especially out-of-towners who, knowing how coffee-crazy we Seattleites are, get down and do as the Romans do. We jumped at the chance to try the steak when invited to do so, and found ourselves at a table otherwise completely surrounded with Starbucks marketing types. Feeling pretty darn self-conscious, we bit into our steaks, with 16 coffee-committed eyes boring into us. Fortunately, we liked what we tasted. The steak, from the same supplier who provides El Gaucho with its famous 28-day-aged Angus beef, was delicious. We did think the coffee rub, while agreeable enough, seemed a little one-dimensional, needing some cayenne or other peppery condiment to zing it up a notch. But if you're not feeling adventurous, you can always ask them to hold the java. And at $28.95 per person (including salad and two sides) you sure can't argue with the price. THE ILLEST OF TIMING Maybe this isn't the best week to run two stories about eating beef, but we couldn't resist passing on a press release received the day Washington's own mad cow scare began: In "Holiday Entertaining Made Easier with Beef," the Washington State Beef Commission suggested dinner hosts serve beef stew or a classic beef rib roast "for an extra simple holiday treat." We pity the poor PR lackey who mailed out that press release the day before the bad news broke. 1-2-3 For a company that hasn't been around that long, Pleasant Valley Dairy isn't doing badly: The small family-owned cheese-making operation near Montesano in Grays Harbor County entered its products in the international Royal Toronto Agricultural Fair and took all the top spotsa bronze medal for its alpine-Swiss-style mutschlikäse, a silver for its farmhouse cheddar, and a gold for its Gouda. Pleasant Valley cheeses are available in the Seattle area at Beecher's Handmade Cheese in the Pike Place Market. Food and/or beverage news? E-mail Hot Dish at email@example.com.