Where the wild things are served

Once again, Meriden Lion member and Executive Chef Joe Berg of ARC Eatery on Research Parkway in Meriden has taken patrons of the Meriden Lions Fourth Annual Game Dinner on a fantastic wild game adventure in eating.

Having attended all four dinners and being the old curmudgeon that I am, it is my solemn duty to give you a report on the recent game dinner.

I could not get enough of the first presentation, called, “I’ll prove I can cook pizza” that was served to us at our tables. I should point out that while I like all game dinners, there is something special about one where you can sit down and have the various goodies served to you. The “pizza” slices consisted of Applewood-smoked pheasant with cheddar cheese and bacon. I lost count of the slices our table downed.

The first course was supposed to be a combination of ground elk stuffed cabbage along with a smoked venison kielbasa (smoked locally by Filipek Brothers right here in Meriden) accompanied with caramelized onion confit and red cabbage. However, the stuffed cabbage needed some more time in the oven, so we received the venison kielbasa with the onion and red cabbage and then devoured the stuffed cabbage when it came out. While I absolutely loved the elk stuffing in the cabbage, the cabbage itself could have used some more cooking time.

I always look forward to whatever presentation Chef Joe Berg will come up with for the salad course of the game dinner and this one was no exception. The micro-greens carried the name of “ARCqua-ponic” on the menu and were accompanied with sliced duck breast, walnuts and blue cheese. The sliced duck breast was tender and delicious beyond belief.

The entree was a classic crusty elk and mushroom pot pie with roasted root vegetables. It was a melt-in-your-mouth presentation in a tasty gravy.

The topper for the whole affair in my book was paella of blue fish, striped bass, venison sausage and duck served with saffron rice. It was served family style.

There were a few at our table who shall remain nameless that appeared to be put off by the bluefish in the paella simply because bluefish has often carried the stigma of being considered oily and fishy tasting. As for me, I love bluefish, especially if it is prepared the right way, and I would expect nothing less out of a kitchen that Joe Berg is heading up. I think I had three servings of the paella and scoffed up all of the bluefish I could find in it.

The dinner finished off with a chocolate “Moose-Mousse” accompanied by a moose cookie. I would have preferred the donut dessert that Chef Berg wowed us with at the very first game dinner. I also missed the smoked bluefish pate that was served with various crackers and breadsticks as an appetizer. However, that’s just me being me (just ask Edna).

Joe Berg and his group of Meriden Lion volunteers are always pushing the envelope when it comes to making each and every game dinner an exciting culinary adventure when it comes to serving up wild game, and this year was no different. For the fourth year in a row, the Meriden Lions Club Annul Game Dinner was once again a huge success, and I do have to mention that Lion Art Forcier headed up this annual game dinner. Kudos to all of my fellow Lions for a job well done.

ANNUAL ST. JUDE UPLAND GAME SHOOT

I guess you could call it mixing business with pleasure when three of my Meriden Rod & Gun Club buddies and yours truly headed out to Millstream Hunting Preserve in Lebanon, CT for some really exciting Chukar partridge as well as ringnecked pheasant hunting (and some missing).

The game birds that are taken there are then turned into some mighty fine eating for those that attend the Meriden Rod & Gun Club’s Annual St. Jude Day event on the club grounds at the end of March.

It appears that the hunt will become an annual event with club members like Rich Kruglik, John Waitkus, Lou Santos and your old outdoor writer enjoying the camaraderie of Millstream owner Don Favry and our hunting guides, Bill Paul and my cousin George Lewandowski.

We hunted over Bill Paul’s well-trained shorthair pointers and cousin George’s Lab and were impressed by the hunting abilities of both breeds of hunting dogs.

Millstream Hunting Preserve has undergone a huge change both in location and the type of hunts they now offer. If you are on the e-mail list you can get updates on hunt specials like I did back in early September where Don was offering Chukar hunts at a discount price if you booked them in advance. The Meriden club booked a Chukar hunt for four guns plus we had a six pheasant hunt that was generously donated by Millstream for our St. Jude raffle this past March. Lou Santos had won it and tossed it in with the Chukar hunt.

As I said, Millstream has undergone some big changes and for my money offers up some really great upland game hunting in open fields that make for some great shooting opportunities.

In today’s limited access for hunting upland game such as pheasant, Chukars, Hungarian partridge and quail, Millstream Hunting Preserve is like an oasis in the desert. The fields are cut-over corn and hay fields divided by hedgerows that offer the game birds plenty of shelter and it is not at all unusual to flush birds left over from other hunts.

There is nothing rushed about a hunt at Millstream and you will never run into any other hunters while you are in the field. It’s really a great place to take a kid to or to introduce a newcomer to the fun of upland game hunting. Another thing about Millstream that makes it so appealing to those who might only get one or two chances to upland hunt a year is the fact that you do not need a hunting license to hunt Millstream.

And you never know whom you might run into there. I went out to the preserve to see Don Favry and he said he had a couple of hunters out hunting. Imagine my surprise when I found out the hunters were John Gopian from Hunter’s Ambulance and his son, Staff Sergeant Nathan Gopian stationed at Cannon AFB in New Mexico. John says it was Nathan’s first upland game hunt ever. They had an excellent day in the field with their Millstream guides.

I like the morning hunts and upon arriving at Millstream we were treated to a Continental breakfast of coffee and some delicious coffee cake as well as some pleasant conversations with Don and our guides, and then it was time to do some hunting Millstream style.

The day we hunted the weather was absolutely perfect and the birds were flying like their tails were on fire. To me, the Chukars seem to be like a cross between a pheasant and a quail. They do not get the elevation of a pheasant when they fly, but they really move out and offer some really great wingshooting.

We had a very memorable hunt with some good shots made by our crew as well as some good misses, but that is what upland hunting is all about

It was interesting to note the low-flying Canada geese that winged overhead during our hunt because Millstream Hunting Preserve does offer up some fabulous goose and duck hunting. When waterfowl hunting you are required to have all of the state and federal licenses and waterfowl stamps, plus and up-to-date HIP permit.

Hunts at Millstream are not just limited to upland game and waterfowl. They also have some great hunting for whitetailed deer in the various seasons on private lands, and to date they have had an admirable success rate.

Why travel to those far off states when you can have a great deer hunt right here in Connecticut for a lot less money?

Of course, to hunt deer on Millstream’s private land holdings you do have to have the proper private land deer permits as well as an up-to -date firearms hunting license or archery license. They also include black powder for deer in their hunting menu.

What a great Christmas gift a hunt at Millstream Hunting Preserve would be for the sportsman in your family. To get a hunt for that someone special, you can contact Don Favry at Millstream Hunting Preserve by calling him on his cell phone at (860) 836-5744.

Me? I had such a good time I can feel another Millstream hunt coming up in the near future.

THE PERFECT CHRISTMAS GIFT

For the outdoorsman? A gift card from a local tackle shop, shooting range or gun store.

See ya’ and God Bless America and watch over our troops wherever they may be.



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