BANNER ART BY TRENTON DUERKSEN

Some of the game meats D'Artagnan offers. Court esy D'Art agnan
BY MATTHEW WEXLER
9:04 am Nov. 22, 2012
It's just you and a handfuI of
friends gathering around the
Thanksgiving tabIe this year, so
you toss on your vest, wooI coat,
and derby and head out, of
course, to Washington Market.
The largest of its kind in North
America, the market is comprised of
dozens of blocks of f ood stalls in
lower Manhattan, stretching f rom
West Street to Fulton and beyond.
You weave among them to procure
your squash and your cranberries,
and you ultimately have to decide
whether to go f or the goose or the
grouse. There's not a bird in sight
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that has a pop-up thermometer.
Of course, this is 1900, when the city
of f ered diners a f ar greater array of
f ood products and, in particular, wild
game of all kinds.
"Ì think the market system actually
promoted the consumption of these
products,¨ f ood historian Sarah
Lohman said when we spoke recently
on the phone, citing an 1885 Harper's Weekly illustration of Thanksgiving shopping in Washington
Market (pictured below). Lohman pointed out that hunted animals like bear, moose, and wild boar were
regularly available "You also have to remember that 'the wilderness' was a lot closer in the 19th
century, with f reshly hunted game coming f rom Long Ìsland and New Jersey. When we lost the market
system, game meat disappeared.¨
Rum & Blackbird Tasting Tours
Founder Moira Campbell, who hosts
historical culinary tours through Hell's
Kitchen, said the now bustling and
gentrif ied neighborhood was once
home to Paddy's Market, another
mainstay shopping area f or Ìrish,
Greek, and Ìtalian immigrants who
were accustomed to a broader range
of game birds. Pushcarts lined the
streets, overf lowing with a variety of
meats, produce and vegetables.
"The Department of Public Markets,¨
Campbell said in a recent phone call,
"in cooperation with the Port Authority of New York, ordered the disbandment of the market in 1937 to
widen the streets in preparation f or the building of the Lincoln Tunnel. This broad-scale modernization
and raise funds for Staten Ìslanders
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moved shoppers indoors, and the local purveyors, who perhaps only carried a small quantity of
poussin, squab, and game meats, were f orced out of business.¨
While the abundance of wild game essentially disappeared f rom the city by the 1930s, a handf ul of
local meat shops have cultivated a dedicated f ollowing f or those on the hunt f or more interesting cuts
beyond the New York strip.
Ottomanelli & Sons Meat Market in the West Village (pictured below) has been a f amily-run operation
f or more than 60 years. Brothers Frank, Joseph, and Jerry (nicknamed "the game warden¨) now
oversee the shop, but say their f ather was ahead of his time and instrumental in exposing New
Yorkers to dif f erent kinds of meat÷beginning with buf f alo÷during the 1970s and '80s, when most
people were purchasing pre-butchered, pre-packaged products.
Ottomanelli's has since become a
destination f or hard-to-f ind imports
like Red Tail deer and kangaroo (both
f rom New Zealand), and domestic
products such as Cavendish game
birds f rom Vermont and Plantation
quail f rom Georgia. Though the
display cases overf low with a vast
array of oddly shaped breasts, loins,
and chops, very f ew of them are
actually wild. The Food and Drug
Administration's stringent laws on wild
game prohibit most of it f rom ever
reaching the consumer.
Ariane Daguin, owner and f ounder of D'Artagnan, a leading purveyor of natural and organic meats,
said that the country's antiquated laws are not doing the wild game business any f avors.
"The laws f all under the Department of Agriculture and include antemortem inspection, which doesn't
exist in any other civilized country,¨ said Daguin when we spoke recently, "There are f aster and more
accurate ways to determine whether an animal is healthy and antibiotic-f ree.¨
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Ìt was 1985 when Daguin launched her business in New York City, distributing duck and f oie gras out of
the back of a van to chef s hungry to of f er more eclectic dishes. She quickly realized the need to
diversif y, and today, D'Artagnan products are served in most of the city's top restaurants. The
company is one of the f ew to import truly wild game, which according to Daguin, can only come f rom
one country: Scotland. Adventurous home cooks can order online and experiment with mild red-legged
partridge as an introduction, or, f or the not-so f aint-of -heart, robustly f lavored grouse f rom the
Highlands.
"The easiest introduction to game birds is quail,¨ Daguin said. "That is, if you're not squeamish about
the f act that they're small.¨ Typically weighing in at just a pound, she suggests a quick marinade, 15
minutes in the oven, and voilà!
While the exoticism of game meats
may appeal to those adept in the
kitchen, they can also present
technical challenges. Recette's chef
Jesse Schenker is the Daniel Boone
of the Meat Packing District, his
ingenuity warranting two stars f rom
The New York Times and New York
Magazine's Best New Restaurant
(2010). Schenker considers game both
a noun and an adjective, ref erring not
only to the types of meats available,
but also the strong-f lavored and
sometimes "bitter, f orest, and knarly¨
qualities associated with certain birds.
"Ìt's traditional to marry sweetness
and acidity to combat the pronounced
iron f lavor that is of ten present,¨ said
Schenker when we spoke at his
restaurant recently, during a brief
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break between the restaurant's
brunch and dinner service, "but
creativity rarely begins f rom a culinary
perspective. We're thinking about the
season. What is the environment that
these animals come f rom? What are
they eating?¨ Once a month, Schenker and his team present Mondays with Jesse, an experimental
tasting menu where he can get wild with dishes like partridge stuf f ed with macaroni & cheese and
collard greens, or squab carpaccio with apple croquette and blood consommé.
For local game, chef Ìan Kapitan of Alobar in Long Ìsland City, turns to Fossil Farms f or responsibly
raised and traceable products. Kapitan f eels that the controlled environment yields a better quality and
more consistent product.
"Ì'm trying to reduce our f ootprint by keeping things local as well as have a relationship with f armers,¨
he said, "Education through the media and people's own interest has also shif ted the perception as
more inf ormation is released about the protein versus f at, and other variables. Ì can't even sell a
Caesar salad, but Ì can sell blood sausage.¨
Photo of Jesse Schenker by Albert Cheung.
RELATED TAGS: CULTURE ARÌANE DAGUÌN BUTCHERS D' ARTAGNAN FOOD GAME
MEAT JESSE SCHENKER MEAT MEAT PURVEYORS MOÌRACAMPBELL
OTTOMANELLÌ & SONS MEAT MARKET RUM & BLACKBÌRD TASTÌNG TOURS SARAH LOHMAN THANKSGÌVÌNG WÌLD
GAME
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