Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Feeling the Passion

It is so hard to believe that I have been away from blogging for such a long time. I got a new job last year and became extremely busy with travel, late nights at the office, and when I did find myself with some free time I wanted to spend it with the kids and wife, not with my nose in a computer.

But I getting back into the swing of things. I am feeling that calling to want to write about my experiences, if not for others enjoyment, at least as a chronicle for my kids to read into the future. A blog is a great way to keep a 21st century diary.

I was reading through some back posts and found myself smiling and chuckling out loud over some of the adventures the past two years. Good times indeed! I am have kept up with some of my favorite bloggers who continue to keep me connected with the writing I have been missing on my own.

With hunting season literally beginning tomorrow, I have found that I am more amped this year than I have been in many. First I think it is because of the excellent fall forecast for ducks that the industry rags keep talking about. But second, we are into our second year at the duck club and things are looking awesome this year. We've spent more time preparing the table and now I am anxious to enjoy the feast.

So if you are one of the few who still gets these posts, then thanks for sticking around. I will see if I can't scare up some new material for this year that interests and entertains you.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Getting Back into The Swing

Oh Lordy, I know, I know. It has been F-O-R-E-V-E-R since I have written a post. I don't know what it is, but it just seemed so hard to make the time to pull everything together over the holidays. Unlike some of my fellow blogger peeps who are either in the outdoor industry and blog for their job or they are making their blog a full-time pursuit, I am just an average Joe working five days a week, 10 hours a day, and have a wife, two kids, two dogs, and a cat.

Over the holidays I was burning the candle at both ends and by the time I would sit down at night to begin writing, I would suddenly find myself sound asleep on the couch only to be awaken by the cat climbing on my head. Go to bed, wake up, repeat.

When I am not working I'm being a husband and dad, ensuring that I am checking homework and rooting on The Daughter's dance or The Boy's soccer and basketball.

On the weekends I am totally committed to going out with The Hunting Partner chasing those wonderful feathered fowl, which have been a little harder to come by this year, but we're still at it every weekend day. The season has been generally slow, but things are picking up and The Hunting Partner and I hunted a new place last weekend and pulled out the first limits of the season. Hope runs eternal! More about that later.

Oh, and my wife and I also hosted a couple of wild game dinner parties, including a five-course duck and pheasant dinner on New Years Eve for 14 people. I promise to write about that one. Let me just say - FABULOUS!

Don't get me wrong, I am not complaining at all and feel so blessed to have a fantastic life. Its just that I want to be able to do more blogging because I really enjoy it! I feel bad because I get emails from you, my readers, checking in on me and hoping that everything is OK. I appreciate all those warm thoughts and feel guilty that you are looking for me but I've been absent.

The New Year is for promises and resolutions. I've been reflective and made my list and I promise it does include getting back into the swing of things with regular posts.

Thanks for hanging in there with me and look for more... soon.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Fowl Feast

For those of you who’ve been following this blog for a while will remember that late November is my birthday. Some years it lands on Thanksgiving Day, but it usually brackets the holiday by a day or two. My family claim to fame is that my parents brought me home from the hospital on Thanksgiving Day, and I always would remind them that they had much to be thankful for that year. My four older siblings would beg to differ.

Last year I turned the big 4-0 and wrote this post about the incredible birthday present that my dear wife gave me. Since this year would be the much less climactic 41, I was prepared to just ease into and out of the day without much fanfare. The last 10 weeks at work have been very busy, so honestly I was looking forward to just downshifting and taking it easy.

But my wife, being the amazing, wonderful person she is, had other plans. A month ago she had attended a client function and met Jeffery Pooler, the owner of Pearl on the River, a new localrestaurant in Sacramento. They got to chatting and my wife learned that Jeff had opened Pearl earlier this year and was really making his culinary footprint on the city. According to Jeff, Pearl on the River is committed to featuring the freshest, most flavorful dishes from local farms. Their ‘live menu’ means that the menu may change daily to accent the best of the local region.

Pearl’s other specialty is that their executive chef, Matthew Jones, loves to work with wild game! After learning this little gem, my wife decided that an evening at Pearl on the River with 16 close friends and fellow hunters would be the perfect birthday present.

We decided that we would bring Chef Matthew a trio of fowl including ducks, geese, and pheasants to work his magic. The mallards and pintails as well as Canada geese and specks were some of those we had harvested a couple months ago in Saskatchewan, which I wrote about here. We had fewer pheasants than I would have liked because the season was barely two weeks old. But they were whole birds so I hoped Chef would have enough to do something interesting.

I have to admit, I was a little nervous because I knew nothing about Pearl or Chef Matthew. There are a couple of other nice restaurants in Sacramento that have become known for their wild game feasts, but because my wife had met Jeff and arranged everything (including dropping off the meat), I just quietly hoped that these guys knew how to prepare wild game – which is very different from domestic, farm-raised meats.


Arriving at Pearl we learned that the restaurant had reserved the upstairs kitchen for our group, which can seat about 25 guests around a horseshoe-shaped open kitchen where Chef Matthew, his sous chefs and assistants cook, entertain, and talk with their guests all evening. They thought of everything to give their guests an interactive experience, including mounted cameras inside the kitchen that had a live feed to flat screens on the walls so you could get a birds-eye view of the chefs at work.

As Chef Matthew began plating the first course in front of us, I drew hopeful that the dish was going to taste as good as it looked. And did it ever! The evening would provide seven courses overall, and started with an amazing paired appetizer of goose breast pate’ on crostini with applewood smoked bacon and lemon dressed micro arugula, and duck breast pate’ on crostini with truffle oil and micro arugula.

The subtle smoky flavor of the bacon with the pate’ was a tremendous combination!

The second dish was comprised of duck confit won tons with an asian-style cranberry dipping sauce. The richness of the duck with the spark of the dipping sauce was the perfect combination of strong and sharp flavors put together in one amazing dish.

The evening was off to an incredible start, and any anxiety I had about this chef’s ability to create spectacular food with wild game were quickly vanished.

Next was a very interesting dish - duck confit ravioli with rich duck stock and parmesan cheese. The duck stock made this dish. It was a very light broth that really allowed the flavor of the ravioli to shine.

At this point we moved from the starter wine into the main red with an amazing bottle of Roth Estate cabernet. I really love Roth Estate wine. My wife bought a bottle a year or so ago simply because she thought it was cool that there was a wine with our last name. Turned out that Roth winery is a small family owned vintner located about 50 miles of my house in the heart of the world famous Napa Valley. The cab is deep and oaky with just the right richness for the next dish, which was grilled rare duck breast marinated in orange juice with spicy orange glaze and potato parsnip puree. Although it doesn’t sound like the wine would go with this dish, it actually paired very well. The orange flavor was very ‘behind-the-scenes’, which didn’t conflict with the wine in the least bit.

On to dish number five! Frisse and spinach salad with blue cheese, apples, roasted goose breast tossed with sherry vinaigrette accompanied with a fried duck leg. Of the seven courses, this was my third favorite dish of the night. I am a sucker for blue cheese and apples in spinach salad so you throw on some goose breast and it’s near perfection. The little duck leg on the side might as well been just for looks, but I appreciated that Chef Matthew tried using every part of the game we had given him.

Next was a dish that I felt was the best dish of the evening. Roasted pheasant with baby green beans, butternut squash bread pudding and cranberry sauce. OMG! This was a like our own little sneak peak of Thanksgiving dinner, but kicked up about ten thousand notches. The pheasant was pulled (think pulled pork) and accompanied the butternut squash bread pudding perfectly! Get that combination on your fork, add a touch of cranberry sauce and this one really knocked it out of the ballpark.

At this point all of our guests were buzzing with how wonderful each new dish had been better than the last one. But honestly we were starting to run out of room to taste much more. Even though each of the dishes had been small, six plates equal a lot of food. So when Chef Matthew announced that we would be moving on to dessert, we were glad to know that we would be rounding out this incredible meal with a palate-cleansing finishing dish.

What we didn’t expect was that Chef Matthew had one more trick up his sleeve – house made chocolate dipped duck confit vanilla ice cream. What’s that you say, ‘chocolate dipped duck confit’ in vanilla ice cream. Why yes, that is what I said! This one you will just have to take my word, it was incredible! It was the perfect combination of sweet vanilla with a touch of chocolate saltiness in between when you found a small piece of duck confit. It was the most interesting and one of the most fun desserts I’ve ever experienced. If the pheasant wasn’t so amazing, this would have been my favorite dish of the night.

Between all of the incredible food were a lot of laughs, good fellowship, and a good-natured ribbing from seasons gone-by. I would like to thank owner Jeffery Pooler, executive Chef Matthew Jones, the sous chefs and helpers for putting on an incredible event. If you are ever in Sacramento and want a fantastic wild game meal, look up Pearl on the River for a truly amazing experience. From the live cooking in front of your group, to the bantering with the guests, it was a wonderful night that accentuated how great it is to hunt, eat, and live.