Bite - Wild game
’Tis the season to be primal. Flanders has the gastronomic advantage of being located next to the woods of Wallonia to the south. From now until the end of December, these woods are teeming with game: pheasant, hare, deer, boar and other wild animals. Furthermore, berries, nuts and mushrooms grow in abundance at this time of the year, providing the perfect accompaniment to game dishes.
Due to the free-range nature of game, the meat is leaner than that of domesticated animals and therefore healthier. It also tends to be tougher which is why it is best slow-cooked and/or marinated for tenderness. You can tell a good piece of large game meat, such as deer or boar, by its deep red colour (with the exception of young boar's meat which is light pink).
Game birds, such as pheasant and partridge, are light and golden in colour when cooked. These specialty meats are most often served with seasonal sides like puree, winter vegetables (like cabbage and roots), mushrooms and tart berries. Even if we may not be doing any foraging or hunting ourselves, we can still enjoy the earthy flavours of game in a number of fine Flemish restaurants. Here is Bite's pick of some of the best spots to sink your teeth into some wild meat.
At Restaurant Figaro in Hasselt (www.figaro.be) the wild menu currently features fillet of deer (venison) with wild berries, celery and blood sausage and native pheasant with black salsify roots, sprout leaves and hazelnuts. They also often have partridge with chestnuts (pictured).
Another address known for its game is Restaurant Ladeuze in Maarkedal, East Flanders (www.la-deuze.be). They offer home-grown pumpkin soup and red wine marinated saddle of hare served with a duo of vegetable puree and forest mushrooms in a spicy pepper sauce.
Then there's the aptly named Puur Herfst (Pure Autumn) menu at Restaurant Den Dyver in Bruges (www.dijver.be): wild boar dry-cured on Rodenbach beer wood with apple-sage-boar sausage, croquettes, radishes and cranberries.
In Limburg province, picturesque Oud-Rekem (proud bearer of the title "Flanders' most beautiful village") is home to the ultra-classy Restaurant Poortgebouw (www.poortgebouw.be) whose seasonal menu includes wood pigeon breast fillet with red berries and golden chanterelle mushrooms.
Partridge and cabbage in a wild mushroom jus or venison steak with cabbage stoemp and hunter's sauce are on the menu at Restaurant Vina Clara in Borgerhout (www.vinaclara.be).
At De Harlekijn in Zwevegem, West Flanders (www.restaurantdeharlekijn.be), enjoy venison chops in a sauce made from the famous syrup of Liége, alongside stewed witloof, sprouts and hazelnut croquettes.
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