It’s gotten harder and harder to sit down and enjoy a nice, juicy venison steak.
Used to be you bought a license, threw on blaze orange, and tromped into the woods with a shotgun. Or, like me, waited for one of your manly friends to do so and invite you over for dinner once all the gore was gone.
These days, you have to worry about chronic wasting disease—related to mad cow disease. It’s exceedingly rare, but may have contributed to the 2001 deaths of two hunters from Michigan. So for some people now, deer hunting is out.
The risk of contamination with farmed venison is much smaller. Yet, the crisis is laying waste to that market as well. Because of CWD, new federal regulations have significantly raised the cost of inspecting and selling prime venison. As a result, very few restaurants will be serving it this year.
Fortunately, for bebop-loving carnivores, the Dakota Jazz Club & Restaurant will be. Jack Riebel, head chef there, has laid claim to the entire 2009 inventory of Lofton Ridge Deer Farm in Chisago City.
“I grew up eating hunted venison and I love it,” Riebel says. “Really good venison is iron rich and mineral-y, more like organ meats—liver and kidney—than beef. And it’s versatile. Because the flavor doesn’t come from fat, but from the meat itself, it works with so many different preparations.”
One that Riebel is planning is a venison tenderloin with a reduction of smoked onions, blueberries, and chanterelles on a bed of sweet graham-cracker grits. This dish is wild and a little gamey, full of the twigs and mossy fungi that deer tend to eat. The sauce is marbled, but the meat is blood-red and silken; it chews like butter and slides down the throat.
Dakota Jazz Club & Restaurant
1010 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis