At this time of the year my palate is tired and looking for new experiences. It’s not unlike me to head to a great restaurant and select something on the menu I would not normally order; something I probably would not experiment with in my home kitchen.
Chef Tim Bando, owner of Grove Hill in Chagrin Falls, is responsible for my recent open-mindedness to venison. “People think they don’t like it – they say it tastes gamey or even has an ammonia-type character. It’s likely that the venison they’ve had has been wild harvested by a hunter they know, and the animal was stressed, which will definitely affect the taste of the meat,” he says.
Bando serves it as a small plate, with whipped sweet potatoes and a dried cherry balsamic sauce. Seared in a heavy pan, it needs little embellishment. To the eye, it looks like a typical cut of beef tenderloin. I found the taste really appealing, mild and clean, with a rich irony flavor that offered much more complexity than a typical filet of beef.
Bando notes that venison served in his restaurant is ranch-raised from New Zealand and is a mule deer or axis deer, not the familiar white-tailed deer. It is very lean and low fat, and is harvested in a manner that does not stress the animal.
Venison is much harder to come by, and rarely found in grocery stores. To get it, talk to a trusted butcher or order online. Better yet, head to Grove Hill in Chagrin Falls (25 Pleasant Drive, just behind the square) where the atmosphere is relaxed and casual, and the menu offerings are akin to a fine dining experience.
Enjoy this video of Tim preparing his venison dish, by Edible Cleveland contributor Karin McKenna and Ben Clark Music.