Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Buffalo, Elk, and Quail

     Today I’d like to talk about several exotic meats that I recently had at a single sitting; quail, buffalo (bison), and elk.  I had this meal at the Bald Headed Bistro in Cleveland, Tennessee, which is an oddly named but good, slightly upscale restaurant.  The name of this particular order was the Game Platter.
     To be accurate, I’ve actually had bison and a form of quail before—raw quail eggs at sushi restaurants and bison several times, most often as a burger.  I found both of these to be quite tasty, although I have to admit that I didn’t find the bison to taste much different than beef.
     And, as usual, I did my half-assed research on the food(s) of the post in question.  Bison meat is healthier than beef, being higher in protein and lower in fat and cholesterol.  Also, adventurous but strict practicing Jews can partake, as a few butchers produce kosher bison meat.  I was surprised to learn that true bison are becoming increasingly rare—due to frequent inbreeding with cattle, all but an estimated 12,000-15,000 of “bison” are really beefalo hybrids.  It’s tough to tell which are which without genetic testing, as the beefalo usually resemble bison.
     Elk is a very healthy food as well.  It does bison a couple better, as it has more protein and less fat and cholesterol than beef, pork, and chicken.  Eastern medicine also considers the powdered antlers (referred to as “velvet,” but actually meaning the antler itself, and not the velvet-like skin on young, growing, antlers) to have useful effects, capable of stimulating the immune system, acting as an anticancer agent, and even serving as an aphrodisiac (these claims haven’t been proven scientifically).  The only downside to elk is their propensity to disease, especially one major one—chronic wasting disease.  As I mentioned in my venison post (elk are members of the deer family), this is another nasty prion ailment similar to mad cow.  So hunters need to be very careful, and aware of the signs of this disease.
     But back to the Game Platter, which consisted of fried quail with a sauce, jalapeno bacon-wrapped Kentucky Bison, and elk tenderloin.  The quail was good—reminiscent of other small game birds I’ve had such as Cornish Game Hen.  The bison was a tad disappointing—okay, but not spectacular.  I’ve enjoyed it more in burger form.  The elk, though, was the pick of the litter—absolutely fantastic.  As the cut’s name suggested, it was nice and tender, and it had the noticeable but not overpowering gamey taste I’m a huge fan of.  I would recommend any of these to omnivores or carnivores, with the elk being my obvious favorite.  As far as availability goes, unless you’re a hunter or live near a restaurant/butcher shop/grocery store with an unusually good variety, getting quail or elk might be kind of challenging.  But buffalo burgers, while uncommon, are still easier to find.
     And if you’re in the southeast Tennessee area, I would certainly recommend checking out the Bald Headed Bistro.  It’s on the pricey side, but I think it’s worth it, whether you get the exotics or just stick with regular fare.

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