Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Grizzly House, Part I

Python. Alligator. Ostrich. Shark. Buffalo. It may sound like a trip to the zoo, but actually it was just dinner at the Grizzly House Restaurant in the mountain town of Banff, Canada. Not only did we eat these exotic meats – along with venison, wild boar, and a frog’s leg – we cooked them ourselves.

I was in Banff last week with my friend/colleague Jessica for a conference. We had dinner plans with Joe, one of our favorite future (hopefully) clients. We didn’t have a venue planned, but a Canadian friend recommended we sample some exotic meats at the Grizzly House, with the caveat that we opt for the hot stone over the fondue. Like you, most likely, I had no idea what he was talking about but Jessica, Joe, and I decided to give it a whirl. After yet another television conference, where we talk about multi-platforming ad nauseum, these are the things we’ll remember, right?

Right. We walked in to Barry Manilow music, mood lighting, and buffalo heads mounted on the walls. Our waiter Billy was very welcoming and talked a mile a minute explaining all of our different options. In awe of his well-rehearsed spiel, Jessica dubbed him “the Ron Popeil of game meat.” Per their menu, Grizzly House specializes in “Alberta Beef, exotic game meats, and seafood.” Appetizers include soups and salads with an Alpine bent. Steaks are served with salad or soup, vegetables, fried onions, and rice or rosti. But the raison d’etre of the restaurant is its raw meat – cooked at the table either in a hot oil fondue or on a smooth, 600-degree hot stone. Billy pushed the complete fondue (or hot stone) dinners that came with soup or salad, an appetizer, main course, and dessert. We came for the exotic meats, though, and got down to business.

We ordered The Hunter Fondue Dinner (six ounces of buffalo, wild boar, and venison for $50.95) and the Exotic Fondue Dinner (seven ounces of shark, alligator, python, ostrich, frogs legs, buffalo, and venison for $61.95). As we had been advised, we requested the hot stone.

Soon enough Billy returned with a steaming hot stone and plates of raw cubes of meat. He gave us cooking instructions (python 45 seconds, venison one minute for medium well, etc.) and a sampling of four sauces. We got to cooking.

Jessica and Joe were both alarmingly brave. I tried to act nonchalant, but putting a morsel of python into my mouth wasn’t the easiest thing to do. With each chunk of meat my squeamishness only increased. I wanted to be cool and adventurous; hopefully I pulled it off.

So how did it all taste?

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