Where to Buy Exotic Game Meats

“A happy hunter. Bear hunting is an important recreational sport on the refuge”
 11 May 1957 US Fish and Wildlife Service, National Digital Library
Exotic game meats were once  much more commonly available in New York City than they are today.  Below, a few suggestions on where to get your own hands on a serving of bear, moose, or beaver (although you won’t be able to find moose mouffle anywhere).
Go  hunting.  New Jersey has a five-day hunting season for black bear, which usually falls in early December.  The Division of Fish and Wildlife posts on it annually here.  Read tips on how to cook the bear once you’ve bagged it here.
A whole raccoon, cooked by the the French Culinary Insitute blog.

Order from Czimer’s Butcher Shop, in Illinois.  I found out about this place from Cooking Issues: the French Culinary Insitute blog who ordered up and cooked beaver,  yak, a whole raccoon, some bear, and a lion steak.   We both went “bonkers” for beaver; read my write-up on eating beaver here.

Dinner at Henry’s EndElk chop, venison sausage, and wild boar belly.

Dine at Henry’s End, a restaurant in Brooklyn Heights, who have an annual winter “Wild Game Festival.”  The menu is generally available October through early spring and currently includes Turtle Soup, Elk Chops, Wild Boar Ragout, Buffalo Hangar Steak, and Kangaroo.  I’ve eaten there; read about it here.

All game meats sold in shops and restaurants in the United States is farmed, not wild.  Wild meats do not comply with FDA regulations.  I find store bought meat to be generally milder than the real wild stuff, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Does anyone know any other game meat resources?

Events: Tomorrow! Free Beaver!

Masters of Social Gastronomy: Strange Meats!
Public Assembly, 70 North 6th Street in Williamsburg
When: Tuesday, January 31st.  Doors at 7

We’re kicking off a new bar room lecture series all about food!  Each month, Sarah Lohman of Four Pounds Flour and Jonathan Soma of the Brooklyn Brainery will take on a curious food topic and break down the history, science, and stories behind it.

This month’s topic is STRANGE MEAT! Sarah will recount her adventures eating beaver, bear and moose “mouffle,” along with the historic precedent for each. Soma will be taking on unusual meat preparations, from how to turn jerky into cotton candy to what to do with a pig’s head.

Word on the street is we might even have samples.

RSVP on Facebook, if that’s your jam!

NYHS: Unusual Meats

In our final installment of our exploration of the New York Historical Society’s culinary collection, we are taking a look at Unusual Meats, a pamphlet published in 1919.  Because frankly, who wouldn’t be intrigued by a pamphlet called Unusual Meats?

The meats in question are those sold by Swift’s Fancy Meats company, which are in fact not at all fancy, and are in fact offal.

Like brains.

And pork “plucks.”

and Beef melts.

And other suspiciously named body parts.  A “melt,” I found out, is actually the pancreas.  And I really wanted to try the Salisbury beef melts after pancreas meat was prominently featured in last week’s episodes of American Horror Story.  But butchers don’t seem to carry pancreas anymore, so all I could get my hands on was a veal heart.

When I purchased the heat, I had fully intended cooking it according to the recipe below.  But at the moment, the heart is just sitting in my refrigerator.  After the moose face…I’m just so tired.

The History Dish: Moose Face

Moose Mouffle stew.

Ok, what? What am I talking about?  Here. Read this, from The Moose Book, published in 1916.

…A military chaplain (Rev. Joshua Fraser) writing of a dinner in an Indian camp on the upper Ottawa thus describes a dish of muffle ‘The crowning dish was that grandest of all dishes moose mouffle. This is the immense upper lip and nostrils of the animal, and I have no hesitation in pronouncing it one of the most toothsome and savoury of all the dishes within the range of the gastronomic art. It is white and tender as spring chicken, yet firm and substantial as fresh beef, with a flavor combining the excellencies of both. I eat to repletion, yet was not sensible of any of that uneasy heaviness which generally follows a too hearty meal.’

The edible portion of the muffle comprises the fibrous flesh of the cheek and the gelatinous prehensile upper lip. The cartilaginous nasal septum is, of course, not eaten… When I shot my first moose the guide who was something of an epicure and a skillful cook withal described stewed muffle in terms of extravagant praise. His mouth fairly watered at thoughts of royal banquets in the woods when simply a dish of muffle with pilot bread and tea had constituted the menu.

This is not even the first and only place I’ve read about moose mouffle, you can read more about it here.  It’s even mentioned in the Joy of Cooking.

When the idea of mouffle was first presented to me, my curiousity was peaked.  I placed a call to my friends in Alaska, who called thier friends, and an APB was put out: should someone take down a moose, please save the mouffle for Sarah Lohman.

A year passed.  Attempts were made, but a moose was never felled.  Then, one day, I was tramping through the wilds of South Dakota.  I was there for a wedding, in a spot far outside the realm of internet connections and cell phones.  On my first night there, I got a chance to check my email: I found a dozen desperate messages, facebook posts, and later, voicemails–they had got a moose.  They needed to send my the mouffle, NOW.

It wasn’t doable; I wouldn’t be back in New York for a week.  So we took the risk of freezing the mouffle, even thought it might affect the flavor, and it was shipped to me when I returned home.  It arrived via fed ex, and I opened the cooler to find a huge trashbag, just barely reaveling something large, bloody and hairy within.  I stuck it on the bottom shelf of my refrigerator, too terrified to look.  They also generously sent me a big, floppity, moose tongue as a bonus prize.

As part of the deal, my arctic providers require that I serve my cooking to at least one other person besides myself.  So I sent out a facebook invitation:

Let’s call it mystery meat. It’s large and from Alaska, and hopefully it will taste good. I’ll reveal the ingredients when you arrive. It’s not any kind of genitalia. Please come?

And to my great surprise, people did indeed come.  But I’m getting ahead of myself–the day of the feast, preparations began eight hours ahead of time.  Beware–there is some gruesome content below.

The tongue was easy part.  It was large, and bloody, but also looked less terrfying than beef.  It didn’t smell very good, and I had to trim some bristly hairs off of it.  To cook it, I used a historic recipe and a modern crookpot, which you can read about here.

Cooked moose tongue. It tasted better than it looks.

When I was brave enough to open the bag of thawed mouffle, I discovered literally half a moose face, hair and all.  I am not a skilled butcher, I have done very little breaking down of my own meat, let alone skinning half the head of a wild animal.

Moose face. What the shit do I do with this thing?

I knew I needed to start by removing the hair, so I googled up a plan to scald the moose head (here).  I set a huge pot of water on the stove, waiting until it was steaming, and dunked in my moose face.

Wet moose stinks.  And I didn’t scald it right: when I pulled out the moose face, the fur was still firmly attached, and the flesh was slighty cooked.  I fucked up.  The hair, which should scrape off easily, was immovable.  I tried hacking away at the skull to skin it, hair and all, with little result.  At this point, I was standing in my kitchen, wrestling half a moose head, in near tears.  The house stunk of boiled moose.  I realized I needed help.

I called the Meat Hook.

“You have a what?”

“A moose snout.  It’s supposed to be the most delicios part of the moose.  If I brought this in, could you skin and debone it for me?”

The Meat Hook is a trendy, back-to-the-land type butcher shop in Brooklyn, attached to a classroom space that teaches things like butchering and knife skills.  I figured if anyone could help me, it was them.

“You want us to… take the cheek meat out?”

“No, the mouffle.  It’s their prehensile upper lip.”

“Yeah, I’m going to go ahead and say we don’t do that.”


So I placed a call to Alaska, where I got skinning advice from a fisherman:  “Get you sharpest knife.  Find a place where the skin is already a little loose, and pull on it.  Cut underneath while pulling the skin away.”

It actually worked, although I was poorley equipped in the knife department.  It took me nearly two hours, but I ended up with a tidy pile of meat, and fur all over my kitchen.  A friend walked in halfway through this process and later commented: “I saw her with half an animal’s snout in her hand.  It was disturbing.”

Skinning the moose.

I discovered the the cheeks were tough to skin and contained very little meat; I should have just focused on the paydirt in the nose: “It’s all in the honker,” Boyfriend Brian commented.  The nose meat was plentiful, and  easy to skin and cut.  Although I don’t know if I could call it meat: more the texture of butter than fat, but more gelatinous than muscle.  It was was white and firm and appeared to be food.

That's about half a moose face.

The inside of a moose nose. I skinned the rest of this and cubed the flesh.

The resulting pile of moose meat.

I rinsed the mouffle meat and picked out the hairs as best I could, and followed the recipe from The Moose Book:

Stewed Muffle of Moose: Clean the muffle thoroughly by skinning, shaving off the skin of the nostrils with a sharp knife. Wash thoroughly and cut into two inch pieces. Put the meat into a stew pan, with a slice of clear fat salt pork cut into dice, and an onion cut up fine. Add cold water to cover and let it stew gently till tender four or five hours. Add water as it boils away being sure to have plenty of broth when done. Add sliced potato in season to cook. Thicken, season and serve.”

I used bacon instead of salt pork, and seasoned with salt, pepper, and dried herbs: thyme, parsley, and sage.  I thickened with a little cornstarch before I served it up.  Simple enough.

As the stew slowly simmered, the apartment began to smell better, but the soup retained some essense of the wet moose stank.  Shortly before dinnertime, Roommate Jeff came home.  “It smells like face in here,” he commented. Other friends soon arrived, a half dozen in all, ready to eat some face.

Contemplating the mouffle stew.


I served the tongue first: it was perfectly tender, as it always is with my slow-cooker recipe.  I sliced it and arranged it on a rustic plate. The response:

“It’s good!” “It’s SO good!” “So light!” “So Tender!”  “Can we have more?”  It was declared to taste like the most tender, most flavorful pot roast.  I wasn’t such a fan, but maybe that’s because I spent the whole day covered in moose gore.

Next, the mouffle stew.  Honest reactions?  The cheek meat was chewy; the white mouffle meat tender, but generally flavourless.  Some people ate it with gusto, others had to steel themselves before placing it in their mouths.  It really wasn’t bad–but it wasn’t good either.  It lacked any flavor other than the bacon and herbs from the soup itself.  It certainly wasn’t the great gastronomic delicacy that was promised.

I left most of my soup behind; other guests were members of the clean plate club.  We paused for a moment, regarding the results of the day’s efforts.  Then, I broke the silence: “So we’re ordering pizza, right?”

Appetite City: Chop Suey

A few things to know after you watch the episode:

1. I don’t know what I was talking about, or what happened with the editing, but a gizzard does not help a chicken digest “meat.”  It’s a digestion aid in general, where chickens store small stones to help them grind food.

2.  Some people enjoy the texture of a chicken gizzard.  It’s been described by people who love it as “crunchy,” which is exactly how I would describe it.  It was like biting into a meat apple.

By the turn of the century, New York had a large Chinatown, although its expansion had been frozen by the strict Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.  This law was the first to enforce a restriction on immigration in our country and did so on the basis of race.  Chinese workers, who were seen as a threat to the American economy because they would work longer hours for less pay, were banned entry to the United States.  They were not allowed to become citizens and were not allowed to send for their wives and children.

The result was a dominantly male enclave surrounding Mott street; many of the men worked and owned laundries and cooks, “female” work was one of the few jobs in which they could find opportunities.  Chinatown became an object of fascination for New Yorkers and tourists alike, and “slumming” parties (their words, not mine) were led through the neighborhood, complete with a guide and police escort.  In addition to viewing an opium-smoking demo, groups were almost always taken to the Chop Suey houses.  As a result, Chop Suey became a faddish dish in America.  By the 1920s it was an avant-garde dish for dinner parties, accompanied by an exotic “show you” sauce.  By the 1950s, housewives across American were stocking their cabinets with bottles of  Kikkoman and the dish became a weeknight staple.

The recipe I used for chop suey comes from a 1902 newspaper article that William Grimes dug up in his research for the book Appetite City.  You can read the full article, reprinted in the Pittsburgh Press, here.  Although the dish seems to be invented here in America, it’s one of those iconic foods whose origin is shrouded in myth.  Many stories exists, none of them seem to be factual.  But perhaps there wasn’t a single origin point; it seems more likely that America’s Chop Suey is the logical descendant of dishes available in China that use up little scraps of everything.  Perhaps no one before had named the adaptable stir fry that became so iconic to Americans.  From the Evening Post:

“Chop suey, the national dish of China for at least twenty-five centuries, bids fair to become a standard food in this country.  There are some 60 Chinese restaurants scattered over the different boroughs of Greater New York, whose cheif attraction is this popular composition, and several American restaurant have endeavored to take advantage of its popularity by adding it to their daily bill of fair.  There is a rediculous amount of mystery concerning the dish.  It is simple, economical, and easily made.”

Give it a try, and decide for yourself.


Chop Suey
From the New York Evening Post, 1902. 

1 lb pork
2 chicken livers
2 chicken gizzards
1/4 lb celery
1/4 lb canned mushrooms
1/4 lb bean sprouts
4 tb oil
1 tb chopped onions
1/2 clove garlic
white & red pepper
Worcestershire Sauce or Shoyu (Soy) Sauce

1. Make rice.

2. Cut pork into 1/4 inch pieces. Dice chicken livers and slice chicken gizzards.  Slice celery; finely chop onions and garlic. 

3. Put oil into a skillet over high heat. Add meat, celery, and fry until lightly colored.  Add 1/2 cup boiling water, onions, garlic and seasonings.  Cook approximately five more minutes, or until nearly tender, stirring constantly; then add mushrooms and bean sprouts and cook two minutes more.

4. Add a teaspoon shoyu sauce and serve over rice.

Beaver Bonanza Part II: A Brief History of Beaver

Bloody beaver.

My first challenge after my beaver meat arrived was to put it in some historical context and to see if there was a precedent for beaver eating.  I turned to Thomas De Voe, the man in charge of New York City’s food markets in the middle of the 19th century, who also wrote The Market Assistant: Containing a brief description of every article of human food sold in the public markets of the cities of New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Brooklyn; including the various domestic and wild animals, poultry, game, fish, vegetables, fruits &c., &c. with many curious incidents and anecdotes. Did he know how indispensable his book would be to future historians?

I checked out his passage on beaver and came to an amazing realization: Victorians weren’t eating beaver, because by the middle of the 19th century, they had hunted it to near extinction.  Beaver pelts were too valuable for their fashion cred, in terms of muffs, coats, and hats.  Here’s what De Voe says:

This animal was once a native here, but civilization and the beaver’s valued skin have almost exterminated the family, although now and then a specimen is taken in our State. It is said the ‘flesh of this animal is greatly prized by hunters and voyageurs, especially when roasted in the skin after the fur is singed off. ‘  This of course is an expensive luxury and is frowned upon by the fur traders.  ‘Care must be taken, however, to examine the herbage on which the animals feed, or mischief may follow an unwary repast.  Mr. Ross’s party were once poisoned by feasting heartily on beaver and some of them had a very narrow escape.  The Indians eat this kind of beaver but they roast it; boiled, they say, it is pernicious.’

Professor Kalm, in his ‘Travels in America,’ in 1748, says ‘Beaver flesh is eaten, not only by the Indians, but likewise by the Europeans, and especially by the French on their fasting days; for his Holiness, in his system, has ranged the beaver among the fish. The flesh is reckoned best if the beaver has lived upon vegetables. The tail is likewise eaten after it has been well boiled and roasted afterwards.

So, according to what De Voe has heard: 1. Beaver is good roasted. 2. Beaver can be poisonous.  (Perhaps not poison, but I suspect, that like bear, the beaver’s diet varies by season from one based heavily on plants and berries, to one based on fish.  The latter can give the meat an unpleasant, fishy taste. ) 3.  A beaver is a fish, therefore it can be eaten on Fridays.  (Good news for you Catholics out there.) 4. Beaver tail is damn tasty.

I know number three to be true, thanks to a great post at the French Culinary Institutes’s blog, Cooking Issues.  Not too long ago, they ordered up some exotic meats from Crizmer’s outside of Chicago, including both beaver tail and beaver flapper, which are two different things.  Of the beaver tail, they said “Beaver tail is straight up fantastic.  It has a woody-musky aroma and flavor that is unique among all meats I have tried…Man, was it good.”  This statement gave me hope, as I prepped my beaver meat for consumption.

Tomorrow: recipes and the big beaver tasting.

Beaver Bonanza Part One: The Arrival

This is going to be a meat adventure.

On Friday, the buzzer rang.  A Fed-Ex man tromped up four flights of stairs and handed me a large package.  Inside, I found the following missive:

Alaskan Culinary Challenge January 2011
Beaver Bonanza!

Welcome to your first Alaskan culinary challenge!

The object of this challenge is to research, prepare and serve…Much like Iron Chef, view this as the “secret ingredient.”   Test your culinary skills and have fun!

1. Shipped item must be consumed withing 2-3 days.
2. Prepared meal MUST be served to at least one person besides yourself.

Using the ingredients in a historical fashion (four pounds flour worthy) is encouraged.

Documentation and feedback/report is favorable.  Future culinary challenges are more likely if previous challenge was given proper attention.

Recipe sharing is also favorable.

Failure to complete this challenge will result in mockery of the highest caliber.

Your partners in crime in the 49th.

Inside the box, five neatly wrapped portions of meat, all labeled “Beaver.”

Stay tuned.