There is more elk meat available in Manhattan than you might think. So, why limit your carnivoracity to the usual beef, pork and lamb?
Game meats are highly seasonal, and now is the time to sample the mammals (elk, venison, bison, rabbit) and fowl (pheasant, partridge, squab, goose) served throughout the city in unusual and extravagant preparations.
We talked to chefs about cooking these strange creatures, many of which hail from small-scale, local farms.
44 Henry St., Brooklyn, 718-834-1776
Any conversation about game in Gotham turns to Henry’s End, the venerable Brooklyn Heights restaurant that’s held a game meat festival for about 26 years. Seven or eight daily game selections, from turtle soup ($10.95) and ostrich ($24.95) to buffalo steak ($33.50) and kangaroo ($27.95), are offered from October to February every year. “We get game regulars,” said owner Mark Lahm. “Customers look forward to it, and the week it ends I get calls asking when it’s starting again.”
Must-have: Elk chops ($36.95) — coated with a mustard-and-herb crust, baked and served with Madeira sauce — are a longtime classic.
65 E. 55th St., 212-307-7311
Marcus Jernmark, the Swedish chef now in charge at Aquavit, sees game meat as central to Scandinavian cuisine. “What’s important for me is to tell the unique Swedish story, and I would say that great seafood and game meat is probably the best way to express that,” he said. “The fall and the winter are when our cuisine really expresses itself, with all the pickling and preservation combined with warm hearty foods like elk stews.” Aquavit offers an $84 prix-fixe that features a house-aged red deer with beets, truffles and västerbotten cheese.
Must-haves: Huckleberry-studded elk bourguignon ($26), venison tartare with traditional pickled accompaniments ($13)
91 S. 6th St. 718-599-3090
This Williamsburg bastion of outrageous BBQ will use its Asian palette of flavors to cook up some goose this winter ($59 per person, as part of a special whole-bird dinner, for 8-10 people). The ’Cue’s Steve Haritopoulos puts the geese through a three-day brine and cure process, with some serious time in the backyard smoker. “We do enjoy using game meats here when the season is right,” he said. “New Yorkers are definitely ready to expand their horizons with more exotic meats.”
Must-haves: Fatty ‘Cue is willing to arrange large-format cut (such as a side of beef or full leg of lamb) and whole-bird dinners by special order. Meats and prices vary.
60 E. 65th St., 212-288-0033
In November, chef Daniel Boulud hosted his annual $1,000-a-plate game feast; the banquet included terrine of wood pigeon and wild hare ravioliFor those who missed the feast or whose pockets are not so deep, Boulud’s top-tier dining room is still serving quail ballontine and flax-seed crusted loin of venison. Boulud notes, however, that game meats aren’t difficult for the home cook: “Wrap venison in cured Italian lardo, or even bacon will do the trick. For a little luxury and depth of flavor, thread the venison with black truffle,” he said.
Must-haves: Part of the three-course prix fixe ($105), flax-seed-crusted Millbrook venison loin is served with quince marmalade, butternut squash puree and glazed chayote.
40 Rivington St., 212-677-2172.
Lower East Side newcomer Gentleman Farmer serves no less than three unusual animals on its brief menu: venison sausage with blueberry sauce ($10), pheasant pate ($9) and a braised rabbit entrée ($22) (There are also snails, but that’s another story.) Chef-owner Karim Nounouh was trained in France, where game meats are considered far more mundane, but he’s found that his downtown clientele has warmly embraced these intense flavors.
Must-have: The pheasant pate, served warm with melting brie and truffle oil, is especially popular.