An Offer I Couldn’t Refuse
I recently received an invitation to a seven-course meal at the Endangered Wolf Center, featuring a menu of locally foraged foods. The name of the event: “Eat What the Wolves Eat.” I pondered what that might be. Would everything be raw and weird? I read on.
As it turned out, the fundraising dinner was prepared by Chef Rob Connoley, a St. Louisan and James Beard Foundation 2014 semifinalist, who specializes in foraged and hunted ingredients. The dinner held at the Wolf Center in Eureka included 30 different ingredients gathered from the woods of Missouri. It wasn’t exactly what wolves eat—unless they’re true gourmets—but the dishes reflected the ingredients found within their food chain.
Further adding to the wonder of the evening, Connoley and his assistant prepared the unique meal for 24 people in a facility without a kitchen. They used two hot plates and a couple of skillets. The event was truly an amazing display of culinary artistry and skill. Below are photos of most of the dishes we were served and a description of the major ingredients.
But Was It Good?
Now, I was willing to cut the chef some slack in the preparation of this meal. If he could just make these plant foods mildly edible, forget flavor and looks. After all, he was using ingredients that Wilma Flintstone would have gathered and trying to prepare them to please today’s palate.
But there was no need for concern. Despite the unrecognizable names of many of the ingredients, there was nothing gross or unpleasant. I was completely amazed by the preparation, flavor and downright goodness of the woodland foods. If I hadn’t know what was in each dish (the printed menu told all), I would never had guessed it was anything but a trendy, well-prepared meal in an upscale restaurant.
Chef Connoley plans pop up dinners in the area this summer and hopes to open a restaurant next year. An event similar to the one at the Wolf Center will be held on August 13 at Shaw Nature Reserve. Not only do you get to eat like the wolves, you’re able to forage with the chef before dinner.