Time was, the wildest game one encountered in New York was the occasional raccoon in an alley. But starting in the mid-1980s, adventurous importers like Ariane Daguin of D’Artagnan and Andrew Hamilton of Scottish Wild Harvest began introducing diners to game birds like pheasant or partridge, creatures prized abroad for flavor and character; and today they offer a wide variety of wild game to chefs and home cooks alike. In Manhattan, Terrance Brennan is well known for his annual game tasting menu at Picholine, and both Tom Colicchio’s Craft and Daniel Boulud’s armada of eateries offer the meats.
Henry’s End, in Brooklyn Heights, has created a game-based menu from October until early March for the past 25 years, offering seven or eight game dishes a night including venison, wild boar, even reindeer. Though the beasts are farm-raised, owner Mark Lahm says the original appeal lay in game’s natural healthfulness, though latter-day meat mania surely hasn’t hurt.
Lahm found wild Scottish birds “a bit too gamey” and instead sources “wild species” from domestic farm operations, adding that farm-raised game is conveniently free of buckshot, a pardonable nuisance diners of hunted meats occasionally endure. “We started off small with a week before Christmas; now we do it for almost half the year,” Lahm said. Rattlesnake, anyone?
At press time, Lahm’s game menu ($85, including wine pairings) included hoisin-glazed wild boar belly, chanterelle-stuffed quail with an andouille-pinot noir reduction, kangaroo fillet served with pancetta, and an herb-crusted elk chop. Game on, as they say.