All righty: the post you've all been waiting for - the Nelson Rod & Gun Club Game Dinner Rundown, Food Edition! A rundown of the events of the evening aside from the buffet can be found over here.
So, I had assumed after my 2007 experience that the food would be terrible. In fact, I made sure I ate a big late lunch, and even suggested to my brother that we might need to nip out to the A&W down the street during dinner because the food might be that bad. We were told well in advance that the club ladies would be doing the cooking, which indicated to me that the food wouldn't be that great - maybe a bit like gamey camping grub.
I am thrilled to report the food was great, and unlike 2007, which featured mainly elk meat done in various ways, there was a lot of variety this year. Thank God. The club actually brought in a professional to cook all the roasts. Her name is Jennifer, and I recognized her as the owner and cook at Nelson's Vienna Cafe, a place I go to quite often when I'm Nelson, because it shares a space with a second-hand book shop. Vienna Cafe serves great lunches, great coffee drinks, nice baking, and does beautiful celebration cakes. The roasts last night (moose, elk, white tail deer, mule deer, turkey, bear ham, and salmon) were done to perfection, and I was impressed.
So, Let's get started, shall we?
As we entered the hall, we were offered appies, and as we circulated around the hall looking at all the prizes on offer (door prizes, bucket draws, silent and live auction items) appies were circulated. This alone indicated to me that things might be a bit better than my previous experience, and right away the tone for the evening was set: game meat at it's best! The appy platters were all the same, containing cheese, crackers, three different types of elk sausage (pepperoni, garlic coil, and one other I can't remember), big horn sheep meatballs in sweet & sour sauce, and, yes, you are reading this right, cougar meatballs in cranberry sauce. The elk pepperoni was excellent, and the big horn sheep meatballs were pretty good, but the cougar meatballs were kind of gross. The meat was dry and tasted funny, and the sauce wasn't very good. They were also cold. Now, I am actually not a fan of cougar hunting on any level for any reason, and I was reluctant to even partake in any cougar, but I thought - it's already dead, I might as well try at least one ball, if for no better reason to tell all my foodblogging pals that I actually ate some cougar. So, yes, I tried some cougar, I didn't like it, and I'll never try any again. It was kind of weird to be eating cat of any kind, especially when a stuffed cougar stared down at us from its place on the stage with it's glassy eyes. In fact, it was downright creepy.
OK, onto the buffet. Like I said lots of variety, and even some non-game offerings for those not totally into the whole game meat thing. There were also salads, buns, mashed potatoes, homemade pickles, and some homemade condiments - cranberry sauce, horseradish, and oregon grape jelly. I actually tried the oregon grape jelly and found it to be quite delicious! We have so many oregon grapes around here that I might have to pick a bunch and try making some jelly myself!
Exhibit #1: Mule Deer. I couldn't get a good picture because there was a lot of bustling action going on at the buffet table, but you're not missing much because this looks exactly like roast beef. I didn't take any, but my brother Jem did, so I tried some of his. He didn't care for it, and neither did I; very strong and gamey.
Exhibit #2: White Tail Deer & Turkey This year's non-game selection included Glace Ham (I didn't eat it or take a picture) and turkey. In this picture, we have the star of the show for me, the roast white tail deer. It was AWESOME! Cooked to absolute perfection and decently rare, it was the most tender, melt-in-your-mouth meat I had ever tasted in my entire life. It was like butter. I had seconds! Next to it, was the turkey, which was very moist and flavourful, but not wild - it was a Butterball. Well, who knew? Butterballs rock, obviously, because this turkey was fantasic! It went quickly and I never got any seconds.
Exhibit #3: Moose & Elk Nothing terribly exciting about either of these game meats, which I've had before (my dad used to hunt moose and I had my fill of elk at the 2007 dinner). I took some pictures but didn't try either.
Exhibit #4: Sockeye Salmon This was cooked to perfection as well, and stuffed with lemon. It's hard to do salmon well in a buffet situation where chafing dishes are used, but this salmon was the bomb and it went quickly, too, so there were no left-overs when I went up for seconds.
Exhibit #5: Cougar Stew and Cougar Meatballs Couldn't do the stew, for reasons mentioned above. My dad and my brother really liked it, though, and there wasn't much left over at the end of the night. The one appy meatball I had was enough, but they put of them out a pan after all the tables had gone through the buffet line because I guess there were a lot of leftovers.
Exhibit #6: Elk Meatloaf This looked promising, and elk is OK meat, but when I tried this meatloaf, I didn't care for it. It came with a creamy sauce that was sort of sweet, but the meatloaf itself just wasn't very good. This was quite a popular dish, though; this pan went fast and they had to bring another one out.
Exhibit #7: Bear Ham OH MY GOD. I couldn't do this one at all. It just looked absolutely grotesque - and fatty, too, for some reason. In fact, it was the fattiest meat there. I tried some bear sausage at the 2007 dinner and really didn't like it. There didn't seem to be any point in my trying this. And there was a stuffed bear looking at us as we ate (see above taxidermy pic)...
Exhibit #8: Tomato & Basil Elk Sausage This was OK. The sauce was good and the sausage was OK, though a bit on the dry side. This was also a very popular dish that went quickly.
Exhibit #9: Dessert I have absolutely no idea what this was. It was a very strange cross between lemon meringue pie and ambrosia. It had a cakey bottom, a lemon pudding layer, then all these marshmallows. It was OK, but it was very weird.
The full Flickr set from the evening can be viewed here.
I encourage you to read about the rest of the evening here, including how I became the proud owner of a Hot Lips Elk Call - with picture of me trying to learn how to toot the thing!