Most meat you’ll encounter in a restaurant was raised on a farm. But when you see wild boar on Barrington’s menu, know that “wild” is an accurate adjective. The animal wasn’t raised or touched by human hands until it was harvested. Barrington’s chef and owner Bruce Moffett says no one would attempt to domesticate such an animal. “They’re not exactly docile,” he says. “They’re pretty dangerous.”
But they’re also pretty tasty – at least in Moffett’s hands. Moffett describes the meat as “rich, heavy and perfect for fall and winter.” He calls wild boar a cross between steak and pork but says it’s definitely a red meat. Barrington’s will harness the wildness by making a ragout and serving it with a creamy risotto and roasted Brussels sprouts.
Moffett is eager to share his taste for the untamed with Charlotte diners. He suggests anyone trying wild boar – or the bison short rib, which they’ll also offer – order “something big” to drink along with it. “I’d pair it with a Merlot or Zinfandel,” he says.
At Zebra, squab will make an appearance on the winter menu. Never heard of it? It’s farm-raised baby pigeon, says Zebra chef/owner Jim Alexander. “Squab is like duck, without the fat,” says Alexander. “It’s all dark meat, and the breast is the only part we eat. The thighs and legs go into stock. We serve squab medium to medium rare. It is delicate, sweet, savory and earthy all at once.” Alexander advises pairing it with a red burgundy, Oregon Pinot Noir or a Rosso di Montalcino.
Alexander likes to source his food locally. He partners so closely with the farmers who supply Zebra with produce that they check in with him to see what he’d like planted. The Farm at Dover Vineyards in Cabarrus County supplies Zebra with squash and Swiss chard, among other seasonal favorites. Zebra’s squab comes from Palmetto Farms in South Carolina.
“When cooked perfectly, the squab breast is caramelized with the skin on,” Alexander says.
Zebra pairs the bird with wild mushroom duxelles and coats it with squab glace. “We also use squab on about every wine dinner we do,” Alexander says. “I just love squab.” Alexander also offers venison, what he calls the “crème de la crème” – the tenderloin – as well as a slow-braised, bone-in rib or shank.
Just around the corner from Zebra, Rooster’s typically celebrates fall and winter with quail, lamb and the more exotic antelope and bison, with an occasional feature of rabbit. Rooster’s quail and rabbit are sourced locally from Palmetto Farms and Riot Foods. Anson Mills in South Carolina supplies the restaurant with artisanal grains like farro, Sea Island Red Peas, grits and the purple-black forbidden rice.
“At Rooster’s SouthPark location – and all of Jim Noble’s restaurants – we try to butcher down all of the meat ourselves,” says Jack Dillon, general manager. “…And from tail to snout, we find use for the animals in the form of house bacons, barbecue, chops and sausages. This goes for lamb and the game birds, as well.”
Dillon says the colder months may be a time to celebrate wild game, but he’s quick to remind people about wild-caught fish, too. “We have a local purveyor, Rock Stone, who drives fish to us from the coast in the back of his pickup truck.