Rachel Trigg of Springfield dined on elk recently at Alexandria's La Bergerie. "I hadn't tried it before and wanted to see how it tasted."
Her adventurous taste buds did not steer her wrong. "I liked it, it was done exactly as I asked it to be done," she said. "It was tender and it tasted really good." Her husband, James Trigg agreed, "I liked it ... we were torn between getting the elk or the lamb, so we got both and traded tastes."
The couple want to return to La Bergerie just for the elk. Only this time "I'm going to get it done blue (very rare)" said Rachel Trigg. Game meats are traditional in nearly all cuisines, including early American. While pigs have always been an inexpensive animal to raise for meat, the family cow was there to provide milk, chickens to provide eggs.
Red meats generally came from hunting. Even today, there are places in the United State where families rely on the various hunting seasons to provide the majority of their meat for the year. At the same time, ranched and farmed game meats are becoming a gourmet item now widely available to order on the internet and featured more often in restaurants and upscale grocers such as Whole Foods.
WHAT DO GAME meats — deer, buffalo, elk and rabbit — have over beef for the red meat lover? For one thing, they are much lower in fat and calories overall while sacrificing none of the taste. Another strong point in their favor is whether ranched (free roaming and grazing over large acreage) or farmed (animals are more domesticated and fed as well as graze), game animals are normally raised naturally and humanely.
When ordering something like elk or venison, the meat should either be barely cooked (blue to rare) for steak-type cuts, or very well cooked, as in stews. Rabbit is generally served braised (a moist, slow cooked method), fried like chicken, or, as in the case of Restaurant Eve, in a terrine. Sausage, a frequent venue for less tender cuts, is another popular form game meats take, and anyone who has ever had homemade elk sausage will agree pork sausage has nothing on it.
Gadsbys Tavern, an Old Town landmark and hybrid of history museum and restaurant, serves a frontier game pie recalling a time when all the leftover bits from the week's hunt would get simmered together for a stew.
"We've used the game pie for quite some time," said manager Sean Flaherty.
He commented that it's "hit or miss" how often the dish gets ordered, but that orders tend to drop off in the summer months. "Stews are more wintry type (food)," Flaherty added.
Las Tapas, a Spanish restaurant focusing mainly on Tapas (little dishes) serves quail and rabbit, traditionally from Spain, according to manager Douglas Bolanos.
"We're in here for ten years," said Bolanos, and in that time they have always had these frequently ordered dishes on the menu.
Le Gaulois has been serving game as long as they've been around -
collectively more than 30 years. "17 years in Georgetown... 17, 18
years maybe (in Alexandria)," said Assistant Manager Mo Touihri. They have always offered quail, duck, venison and rabbit, all of which get ordered often.
"The rabbit and venison when the season is," said Touihri, explaining
that these dishes aren't always available..
So who says Bambi and Thumper can't be tasty as well as entertaining?