As a young teenager, I was lucky enough to visit France a few times, thanks in great part to a determined French teacher, who strongly suggested I should get a pen-pal. After several letters (with not a few Johnny Halliday and Sylvie Vartan records along the way) we made arrangements for a summer exchange.
The family, who lived on a farm in Charente, had also recently spent time in Morocco, which meant couscous made a frequent appearance—as did the local, mobile butcher, who made house calls. On the given day, he would come around ten in the morning—usually already well fortified.
Animals were slaughtered and butchered right on the farm, a fact brought home to me shortly after I arrived, when one night after dinner, I wandered into the granary (which adjoined the old farmhouse) and came face to face with a whole sheep’s head, which stared right back.
As a guest I was offered first choice of the “special” bits at every meal which involved meat. But although I was quite used to eating kidneys, tongue and the like at home, there were definitely a few things on these platters I hadn’t tried before. And most of them I liked.
The opportunity to travel at an early age is something I believe every kid should have the chance to do. I can’t thank that teacher enough for setting the wheels in motion that made me far more understanding and accepting of others than had I stayed at home.
Moreover, unquestionably, my exposure to farming both at home and abroad were invaluable in shaping my understanding of from where our food comes.
All this by way of introduction to this week’s Courier review, which takes a quick look at Gastown’s tasty, vibrant—and more than a little “odd bit” inclined— Wildebeest Restaurant …
Beest masters get to the meat of the matter
Newly opened Wildebeest already packing ’em in with nose-to-tail delights
The Hired Belly has a great admiration for newbies who hit the ground running. Take the case of recently unveiled Wildebeest, an unabashed homage to all things carnivorous across from SFU Woodward’s.
To be fair, Wildebeest’s owners are hardly neophytes. James Iranzad hails from successes such as Kitsilano’s Abigail’s Party, among others, while Josh Pape holds court at The Diamond, Gastown’s most discreet liquid retreat.
Walk in and, aside from the sheer expanse of the place, you’ll be struck by the fact it’s already busy-and for good reason. There’s serious protein happening here that’s sure to appeal to the rapidly growing “nose to tail” movement re-embracing the likes of beef tongue and bone marrow.
The return to “down-to-earth” eating-making use of the whole animal-comes on the heels of Jennifer McLagan’s ground-breaking Odd Bits cookbook, which pronounced it past time for us to regain respect for everything from pig’s ears to cockscombs.
Not that you’ll find anything radical on Wildebeest’s list, but it’s still a flesh-lover’s playground, as it slices through roasted organic beef tongue ($14), bone marrow with parsley and potato salad ($13), and applewood-smoked duck liver torchon ($18).