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On the Menu: What to Pair with Wild Game

Let's get a little creative with some great ways to put a wild game dinner together.

In a world where we're trying not only to eat better for ourselves but also for the planet, wild game hits all the marks: it's lower in fat, has more nutrition and is more sustainable than farmed meat. And during hunting season, it's definitely on the menu!

As with any food and beverage pairing, the key is to know how the meats' texture, taste and fattiness work with other elements of the meal.

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Unlike farmed meats, game meat is denser because the animal uses its muscles more, and the taste may reflect the animal's diet in the wild, too.

Let's take a gander at what traditionally-and unexpectedly-pairs well.


Deer and elk meat is lower in saturated fat than other red meats, is full of iron and essential vitamins, and of course is a great source of protein.

All this means that venison demands other foods and drinks that can stand up to its stronger taste and finer texture.

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Fruit: Try pairing venison with the tart, sweet flavors of cranberry, cherry, pomegranate, raisin or citrus that will balance and even enhance its richness. If you can, pick your own wild juniper berries or rosemary to add to a sherry or port-wine sauce. Blueberries work, too.

Vegetables and sides: Like fruit, sweeter veggies play well with venison: think glazed carrots and mashed sweet potatoes in winter, grilled corn or haricot verts in summer. Anything with earthy mushroom flavors is perfect, like wild rice or a saucy noodle dish, works as a side. Or consider a hearty stew of venison, mushrooms, onion and carrots served over mashed potatoes.

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Drinks: Venison's texture and taste lends itself to elegant yet sturdy red wines. You can't miss with a good pinot noir but red burgundy and Bordeaux work well, as does Barolo. Or try strong beer like a Belgian ale or stout.

Wild-caught fish

Few things taste fresher than that fish you caught after a long, tiring day on the water. And it's so good for you, too!

Fruit: Of course lemon is the go-to fruit for fish... but you can always switch it up and dress with other citrus, like grapefruit or mandarin orange. Feeling adventurous? Try these watermelon-and-salmon kebabs!

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And believe it or not, you can make a tasty berry compote to top wild-caught trout right at your camp. Just pick some wild berries, add some onion and mint, and reduce to a syrupy consistency. Then pour over very crispy fish.

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Vegetables and sides: Almost anything goes with fish-the trick is the timing. Sides that can be cooked around the same amount of time as your fish include mushroom rice pilaf, a tangy slaw, oven-roasted Brussels sprouts or broccoli, and these 15-minute parmesan mushrooms.

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Drinks: Even the most basic among us know that fish generally pairs best with white wine. Flaky fish like wild striped bass pairs best with zesty wines like sauvignon blanc or Chablis, while meatier fish like wild salmon and swordfish holds up to oaky Chardonnays. If it's beer, opt for an IPA or kolsch. Surprisingly, berry-flavored hard seltzers are a great match for things like mackerel and fried catfish!

Wild Fowl

People have hunted birds like ducks, turkey, geese, quail and pheasants for a good long time. Game birds are best cooked quickly and their taste often depends on what they eat in the wild.

Fruit: Forget your duck l'orange - duck meat's moist fattiness was made to match up with the delicate sweetness of pears and the acid of berries. Try this duck-with-berry-sauce recipe, featuring berries and rosemary you could go harvest yourself.

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Wild goose, which is said to be twice as flavorful as chicken and is an elegant choice for Christmas dinner, goes well with apples and dried fruit either roasted or in a sauce.

Wild turkey pairs surprisingly well with roasted red grapes soaked in balsamic vinegar. And of course, the flavor of beer goes together well, so why not try the ultimate beer-can turkey care of Food Network's Cat Cora?

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Vegetables and sides: Crispy roasted rosemary potatoes, parsnips, sauteed green beans, sweet potatoes... really, anything goes.

Drinks: Like venison, wild fowl is more aromatic than your basic factory-farmed chicken, so you'll want a low-tannin, medium-bodied wine to go with it. Shiraz, pinot noir or chianti work well with wild duck, while wild goose can stand up to a more intense Bordeaux or burgundy. Or - dare we suggest - pairing wild turkey with Wild Turkey straight up?

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