The Game is On

Saturday, January 5, 2008

...The table, that is. I recently went to the home of some good hunter/foodie friends of mine for a delightful dinner party. Hank and Holly are good old fashioned hunters who take great pride in all the jolly aspects of carnivorism. When we arrived we were informed that practically everything served to us that night had been killed, cleaned, and prepared by them, and in the case of any greenery, grown by them. It was destined to be an impressive meal to be sure.

The night started out with red wine, martinis, and delicious amounts of home made snacky bits. Homemade dill pickles, smoked king salmon with mustard (which had been caught as a 32 lb. salmon from the Sac River.) pickled okra, Greek yogurt cheese with pomegranate seeds, a deliciously spicy smoked shad with garlic aioli (props for putting that together from a very bony fish). All of which tickled the taste buds.

However, in my opinion, the best antipasti platter was the cured meat plate. Wild boar finocchiona with fennel, antelope bresaola, antelope peperone, Bledsoe pork salchicon (paprika salami), and lardons of guanciale (aka: best bacon ever). Remember that line from the movie Contact about how they should have sent a poet? Yeah... this was its edible equivalent.

We all then sat down, most of us with wine in one hand and a martini in the other - as if there were any other way to attend a dinner party. Hank then presented us with bowls of wild duck broth. Simple. Easy. Very flavorful. It was gamey and slightly pungent, with a slight flavor of maybe barley or some other kind of grass in the background.

We were then served a delicious homemade rosemary pasta prepared by Sac Bee writer Amy Pyle (who is absolutely fabulous, by the by). The pasta cavorted with a sultry venison sugo, which together made for an woodsy dish with delightful green and grassy notes. This was followed by a delicious salad of mixed greens and a dressing of warm duck fat and Meyer lemon.

As the conversation grew and intensified, so did the dishes and spirits lifted further than ever before. A simple side of leeks and crimini mushrooms topped with gremolata proffered an assortment of meaty and heady scents, a perfect opening act for the main course. Slow roasted elk, and idea of gamey taste had been inoculated into my mind but it was surprisingly tame and paired well with the gin and juniper sauce.

The night was finished with glasses of port and pear preserved two ways. One in particular being stewed in red wine, and served with a side of homemade vanilla ice cream (using some of my Tahitian beans, yay!).

Overall, it was an amazing meal, one not to be missed. It really showed the diverse flavors and profiles of wild game. I felt it brought me closer to the sources of food and I was provided with a look at hunting that I never had before, rather than one of indifference and at times revulsion, I was intrigued and amazed and found myself wanting to learn more. Part of food is understanding that it might not always be pretty, but it is an essential part of eating, life and the world. Simply putting out of your mind that the food on your plate may have once been running around is irresponsible of the fervent food lover. So while I doubt I'll be shooting my own ducks any time soon but I certainly have a new respect for those who do and know how to prepare it so deliciously well. Special thanks goes out again to our dinner's hosts!!!Cured meat picture by Elise Bauer.


  1. Gawd, your photos make my food look sooo good! Gotta have you over more often...

    And yes, that, well, visceral connection to our food is a huge reason we took up hunting, fishing and gardening. Thanks for the kind words.


  2. I want to clarify to everyone that I am immensely impressed with my hosts who seem to have such a greater grasp of the concept of food as a whole than most people. When I grew up I didn't understand hunting at all. I appreciate it now for what it is and those who have the skill to do it and really make use of what they hunt. I myself however am too squeamish for fishing.

  3. It was damn impressive that the majority of the food we ate for dinner that night was killed and prepared by our hosts. We've got to see what we can bribe Hank with to get some more of that wild boar sausage.

  4. that is really impressive. i'm a mostly vegetarian, but i think the idea of people who actually hunt their own meat is SO much better than people who just buy meat in the grocery store and don't think about where it comes from. and i would much rather eat an animal that was caught in the wild than one that had been raised in a cage for slaughter and injected with massive doses of antibiotics throughout its short life.

  5. Looks like a beautiful meal. The antipasti plate reminds me of one I had in Spello, Italy. You're lucky to live in such a wonderfully foody place.

  6. yummy. I love the tasty words you used to describe time, invite me too!


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