Eating Bear for the First Time:
Like many hunters (The term applies to me in the loosest possible since. More often than not I am simply an armed hiker) I have something of an affinity for game meat. Some don’t like it’s toughness, or the savory flavor that comes from an animal reared in the wild. I love it. I am partial to duck as far as fowl goes, and it is hard to beat a good venison back strap, but some of the more obscure game has eluded me (see what I did there?) It is not every day that a man gets to try bear meat – California black bear in this case, so when the duties of my position as Managing Editor at Cigar & Spirits Magazine brought me this opportunity, I jumped on it.
Filipe, the owner of El Duende Tequila, was hosting a tasting, pairing his line of tequilas with various game meats, all prepared at his restaurant, Artichoke’s Heart, in Hollywood, California. There was a duck sausage, antelope from India, Northern California venison, and octopus, along with some excellent, but less exotic beef. The star of the occasion, at least to my mind, was the bear. It was killed on a hunting trip in Northern California – the chef was not specific as to the location, and I am likely the only member of the group who would have any desire to take a similar meal on my own. The hunter, Filipe’s brother, had a bear tag, as well as deer, which he was hunting that day. After tracking a deer he had shot to where it had died, he found that a California black bear had been following him, and the same blood trail. The resulting encounter apparently went far better for Filipe’s brother than for the bear.
The meat was cut into strips and pan seared in their very own tequila reposado. Bear is tough, but flavorful. Not as stringy as I had anticipated, with a peppery spice accompanying the gamey taste. This blended well with the tequila. The roughness of the well cooked meat was a stark contrast to the smooth tequila. It did not quench your thirst, cool you down, or cleanse your palette. Instead, the sweet, buttery spice of the reposado danced with the rich flavor of the meat. The bear’s chewiness only adding to the lingering taste.
All due credit goes to Hector, the chef at Artichoke’s Heart, who’s considerable skills behind a skillet really ensured an outstanding experience for all. The tequilas from El Duende were smooth, sweet, and peppery, without the bite. In shorty, they were excellent, and worthy of any who fancy themselves a connoisseur of such spirits.