Some fellows and I have a regular Thursday-night mutual society and drinking club. This week is our second-annual game night. Anticipated menu items: roast goose breast, elk stew, sautéed seal and squirrel-on-a-stick. There might be an odd vegetable thrown in. We’d surely appreciate your advice.
When I read “game night” in the subject line of your e-mail, I thought of something more mainstream, specifically football.
Sautéed seal and squirrel kebabs? That’s Fear Factor dining to most of the world. I must concede I am flying more or less blind with regard to such items. I’ve sampled my share of offbeat proteins, including pig’s eyeball. And I’ve just published a cookbook with The Globe’s Lucy Waverman called The Flavour Principle that covers a broad spectrum of global tastes and ingredients. But I have yet to tuck into some fine seal or squirrel.
Permit me to speak only of what I know. Game, with its gutsy, organ-meat overtones, generally is fond of bold beverages. This is no occasion for wimpy pinot grigio. In the case of dark meat such as goose or elk (is squirrel dark? I’m not sure I want to know), go for intense berry fruit. One of my top choices for goose and antler-bearing mammals is red zinfandel. The wine’s jammy intensity replicates the berry compotes chefs are so fond of serving on the plate with such meats. It’s sweet yin to the game’s funky yang.
My other top choice: pretty much any red from France’s Rhône Valley, such as Côte-Rôtie, Crozes-Hermitage, Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Côtes du Rhône. They’ve got solid fruit but also complementary blasts of spice and herbs.
As for seal specifically, I’ll go out on a limb. I gather it tastes a little like beef liver. So I’d vote for a not-too-heavy but gutsy red, like Chianti or Rioja, especially if you’re tossing onions into that sauté pan.