Monday, October 12, 2015

Nicky USA’s Wild About Game 2015: Favorites from the Mountain

Wild About Game returned to the beautiful Resort at the Mountain for its 15th year of bringing specialty farmers, purveyors, chefs and foodies together for an exciting day of food and drink.

This year’s chef competition featured chefs from Seattle and Portland who were assigned specialty game around which they would create their dishes for the competition. The game included Nicky Farms water buffalo, rabbit (which was how the company started), quail and the new addition to the family, Hawaiian venison.
Chefs from Seattle and Portland faced off at Wild About Game 2015
The winner of the Wild About Game professionally judged competition was Carlo Lamagna of Clyde Commons. Chef Carlo prepared Rabbit Arroz Caldo.

The People's choice award winner was Andrew Mace of Le Pigeon.  Chef Andrew prepared Chicken Fried Quail with smoked foie gras pumpkin pie.

My first experience with Wild About Game, Nicky USA’s celebration of quality meats and accompaniments including the exciting cooking competition, was full of learning and memorable experiences. I came away with my own favorites, perhaps for different reasons than the criteria for the winning chefs.

Of course the backdrop to the whole event was the beautiful Resort at the Mountain in Welches. The sun was amazing, the fall colors brilliant and the weather was perfect for the indoor-outdoor event. So the location had to be tops on my list of favs.
View from Wild About Game at The Resort at the Mountain
Fav Learning Opportunity
In love with shrooms!
Ever since writing about mushroom events in the Pacific Northwest, I’ve been fascinated with the variety and sources of my favorite meat accompaniment. Bob from Misty Mountain Mushrooms in Yamhill, Oregon was there with a great display of foraged and cultivated mushrooms. He also was eager to explain the process and the sourcing of the mushrooms. Much to the delight of attendees, he gave each of us a package of baby Shiitake mushrooms to take home.

Fav Dish
The chefs from The Heathman Hotel wowed me!
I have to admit that I did more wandering around the marketplace and photographing of the competing chefs than I did standing in long lines for tastes so my favorite is one that was not in the competition. I enjoyed the tender Karobuta Pork short ribs in pork neck jus with apple butter, pickled winter squash and dried cherries.  The pork was tender and the sauce had the right amount of sweetness to make me want to enjoy a full dinner entrée. This wonderful pork dish was prepared by chefs from the Heathman Restaurant & Bar located in The Heathman Hotel, a downtown Portland landmark.

Fav Beverage
Tom from the SE Wine Collective describes the wines
they brought to WAG2015
I am definitely a wine aficionado so skip tastes of local brews, ciders and coffees. This limits me to the wine and spirits purveyors at most events. Wild About Game invited the Southeast Wine Collective with wines from their Division Wine Making Company. Kate Norris and Tom Monroe make wines that are a reflection of their experience gained in France. So it was not a surprise that their 2014 Pinot Noir was light and ready to drink and reminiscent to me, anyway, of the style of a Nouveau Beaujolais. Their tasting room, located in an urban neighborhood of Portland, offers tastings of wines from the collective as well as small plates.

Fav Food Art
Amazing, delicate offering from Conserva
Brightly colored translucent orbs decorated with brilliant blue and purple flowers resting on small spoons caught the eye of all photographers. The Sabores Concentrados were being featured by  Viridian Farms. What attracted our eyes was described as applewood smoked steelhead trout roe, blue borage flower, white truffle infused olive oil caviar with alyssum and pimpinella. Conserva by Viridian Farms, is a culinary boutique focused on curated flavors of Spain and France. This was only one example of their offerings.

Fav Foodie Personality
Oysterman Dan had great stories to tell as he shucked.
Watch a handsome, muscular guy named Dan shuck oysters and hear his family story and you’ll be entranced. Hamma Hamma is a fifth generation family-run shellfish farm on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. Their beds are located at the mouth of one of the shortest, coldest, and least developed rivers in Washington State. You can visit the farm in Lilliwaup and shop at their store.

Fav Food Guide
Nicky USA founder, Geoff Latham succumbs to the wiles
of the Hamma Hamma oysters
A patient, yet enthusiastic Geoff Latham, founder of Nicky USA, was the guide through the event for our group of media representatives. Before the event opened to the public he took us to each vendor to let them explain the highlights of their products. It was an amazing learning experience. Geoff stopped to taste some of his favorites, finding it difficult to resist. He’d be swamped once the event got started so this was his chance to show his enthusiasm for his partners and farmers. It was through this tour, that I knew exactly where to return for more photos and information… and, of course, to taste.

Fav Business Concept
Simple graphics, great idea!
Like I said, I'm not a coffee person but I couldn't resist listening to the story of Happy Cup. Happy Cup Coffee creates jobs for individuals with disabilities while bringing ethically traded coffee to the market. 100% of Happy Cup proceeds goes towards programing for the disabled. Their coffees are batch roasted in Portland. I liked their graphics and friends said their coffees were excellent. I'll be looking into their gift box offerings. 

Fav Place to Relax
It may not look like it but the Skyway is a great place to stop for food, drink and music.
After a long day of learning and tasting, I was ready for a relaxing evening. Once Wild About Game made their awards and closed up, the party moved a couple miles up the highway to Zig Zag. The after party took place at a well-known mountain barbeque joint called Skyway Bar and Grill. This funky and fun place has been there for years but I had never stopped there. I found a welcoming fireplace with a roaring fire amidst the crazy, eclectic décor. Outside on their large patio another fire roared. The food, featuring Nicky Farms protein was excellent. I ate by the fire, talked to people by the fire and vowed to return to have dinner there and listen to live music some day. 
Yep, more delicious meats!
Wild About Game Recommendation
If you love exploring the tastes and beauty of food and drink, you’ll find something different at Wild About Game. Nicky USA finds the quality exotic game that chefs are demanding.

And of course, that game has to be accompanied by other locally sourced, quality food and drink. Put the full network of Nicky USA on display in a scenic setting and you have Wild About Game.

The ticket prices, $65 per person in advance and $75 at the door, were reasonable given that everything is provided, for the entire day, once you enter.

Consider staying overnight. You may not want to drive after all that eating and drinking and you’ll be ready to relax.

Oh yes, don't invite your vegetarian friends!

More Information
Nicky USA Website

Nicky USA 25th Anniversary Video

Photography Copyright: Elizabeth R. Rose