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Gourmet Wild

Go Wild with your Holiday Meal
“Wild” food you don’t have to hunt or forage

By Hoy Murphy

Suppose there’s a chance you don’t want to hunt or forage or even cook wild food for your holiday meal, but you’re still curious about how it tastes. Several West Virginia restaurants offer such items on their menus, including the Bavarian Inn in Shepherdstown, Stillwaters at Stonewall Resort, and The Ember restaurant at Snowshoe Mountain Resort, among several others.

Ember Restaurant“We do a lot of wild game specials,” said Brian Ball, Ember Restaurant Chef /Proprietor. “For about 20 years we have been taking the traditional game recipes and giving them a modern twist. For instance, our ancestors used to cure meats with salt to give them a good taste. We’ll heat a slab of japanese sea salt to 600 degrees, take the slab of sea salt out to the customers, and they can cook the meat themselves tableside.”

The seasonally changing Ember menu often includes items such as elk, wild boar, pheasant, venison, trout, waterfowl, and wild plants. A “typical” wild foods meal could include:

  • Smoked-pheasant salad that’s done with native goat cheese and dandelion greens, with hot molasses and pork belly dressing for the salad.
  • A modern interpretation of fish and chips featuring pecan-encrusted native trout with sweet potato pommes frites (French fries).
  • Wild boar medallions with turkey confit, blackberry gastrique, cabbage and apple slaw.

“We have several wild game brokers who supply us with game from all over the world.  We use a lot of venison shank in the classic French tradition. We cook duck, pheasant, and quail. This past fall I cooked squirrel brains for an episode of ‘Bizarre Foods’ with Andrew Zimmern for the Travel Channel, but that won’t be on the new menu this winter.”

Ball says his “wild” menu is part of the attraction of Snowshoe Mountain Resort and he sees himself as somewhat of an emissary for the state.

Ember Restaurant“We get people coming to the mountains from all over, and I want to give them a sample of what the mountains are all about. We have created a fusion style of cooking that takes traditional Appalachian cooking and does modern interpretations of those dishes.”

However, there is one popular West Virginia game animal that you will not see on the Ember’s menu.

“We do not do bear. I don’t believe it to be a customer friendly item. Especially since there’s a good chance the customer might see a live one walking past the dining room window while he’s eating.”

Hoy Murphy has lived in West Virginia all his life, currently in Kanawha County. He enjoys camping with his family, especially at Audra and North Bend state parks. Contact:

Brian Ball, Chef and Proprietor of Ember Restaurant
"People are very health conscious about their food. The wild food we prepare and serve is ‘free range,’ free of steroids and preservatives.”

Brian Ball

Ember Restaurant