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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sunday's Wild Foods Feast in Marin: Tasting the Swamp in the Land of Beemers

Posted By on Tue, Nov 17, 2009 at 10:07 AM

click to enlarge Alligator bites: A fitting background for hot sauce.
  • Alligator bites: A fitting background for hot sauce.
On Sunday, we braved the well-appointed wilds of Marin County to devour a Savory Thymes-sponsored feast of game and foraged delicacies to benefit Swamp Cabbage, a documentary-in-process by Hayley Downs and Julie Kahn.

The irony in the occasion -- patrons and gourmands gathering at a mansion high in the hills of the country's fifth wealthiest county to celebrate a movie about isolated "cracker" communities populating rural Florida's rapidly disappearing natural landscape -- was as palpable as the fine flavors in the dishes savored and the potency of the drinks imbibed. The setting was sumptuous, and the food, a massive spread of snacks and platters tucked into nooks along paths and clearings in the large backyard, proved worth the trek. Especially Morgan Maki's venison and boar roasts, lavender shortbread cookies, and an endless parade of beehive-oven pizzas topped with chanterelles, hen of the woods mushrooms, thyme, olive oil, and Bellwether Crescenza cheese. The best thing we ate, however, had to be the crispy alligator bites fried up by Linh Phu of Flour + Water. Skewered, they were soft and chewy, sort of like clam strips, a sweet, subtle canvas for hot sauce dribbles and lemon squirts.

In addition, this blogger had the honor of weighing in on a jerky-crafting contest rather dangerously dubbed a Jerk Off. In our judgely capacity, we picked the Marin Suns Farms entry, citing its deep, rich taste and agreeably balanced union of jerky-appropriate essences with a welcome dearth of overbold one-dimensional flavors jutting out from the mix. Early in the evening, as we were face-deep in a mug of mead, we'd overheard a man grousing very loudly to his companions, histrionically slamming our favorite jerky for off-putting saltiness. We briefly fretted over our mead-scarred palette, but felt vindicated when the selection tied for first in the popular vote with Maria Finn's brittle, sugary sockeye salmon Squaw Candy. We also learned that the complainer had to have been joking.

He was, as it turned out, Nate Dorris, the man who'd made the jerky we'd chosen.

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