Star-Bulletin Features

Chef Larry Trott, right, and sous chef Rodney Wong prepared a selection of game dishes for a tasting last week. The dishes are served in the dining room of One Kalakaua, a senior living center. In the foreground are plates of pousson (a small, free-range chicken) and venison.

Fair game

Plates of buffalo, ostrich
and venison are served to
seniors as low-fat alternatives

By Betty Shimabukuro

IT looks a bit like a Barbie Doll leg -- or, actually a Ken Doll leg, being a bit beefy for Barbie. But, no, it is a rabbit tenderloin, and it is dinner.

This is One Kalakaua, retirement community, a home where the buffalo roam, and the deer and the rabbits are dinner.

And seldom is heard a discouraging word ...

Just about everyone here is watching what they eat, keeping an eye on extraneous fat, sodium and calories.

It's a tough crowd and a captive audience for chef Larry Trott. "When you feed the same people 365 days a year and they are all well-traveled, it's a major challenge."

Trott's suggestion: game meats on a "Spa Cuisine" menu that includes, on various days, honey-glazed grilled ostrich, venison with a Merlot wine reduction on a bed of portobello mushrooms, rabbit in a mustard-cream sauce and the Kalakaua Burger -- made with buffalo.

Bambi, Peter Rabbit and Big Bird, he sometimes calls his new offerings (yes, we all know that Big Bird is not an ostrich, but you get the idea).

These meats run leaner and cleaner than your average beef, pork and chicken. Data compiled by Seattle's Finest Meats, a major retailer in exotic game, shows that a 100 gram serving of buffalo has 109 calories and just 2 grams of fat, compared to 272 calories and 18 grams of fat for the same amount of beef.

A rabbit tenderloin, seasoned with garlic and pepper, is ready for the sauté pan. It will be served with a mustard-cream sauce. For the recipe, see below.

The seniors at One Kalakaua are wise to these kinds of numbers.

Joan Soon says she pays careful attention to the nutritional breakdowns offered for the spa meals, and so do most of her fellow residents. "It's shocking to see how much fat we've been eating. So vigorously."

Many residents are dealing with diabetes and doctors' orders to cut back on sodium, she says, so they have to pay attention to what they eat.

Personally, she's a fan of the rabbit dishes and she also likes buffalo, in steak and burgers. "Believe me," she says, "when we don't like something, we tell Larry."

They do have high standards, Trott says. "A lot of people would call this institutional food service, but this is not. This is a restaurant."

Oahu restaurants as a whole are steadily adding game to their menus, says Karen Syrmos, director of gourmet and specialty foods for King Food Service. She estimates sales of such items as rabbit, venison, pheasant, even wild boar, to be up 30 percent this year over last, with particular interest among high-end chefs.

Joan Soon, left, tried the ostrich while Josephine Kimata cut into her venison plate in the One Kalakaua dining room. They both said they enjoy the new "spa cuisine."

In the next three years, Syrmos predicts, game as cuisine will increase dramatically, catching up with trends across the country.

"You go to the mainland and there really is not an avant-garde restaurant where there's not game on the menu."

So what about flavor? The challenge with ultra-lean meats is taste and texture -- the whole ball game as far as cooking goes. With less fat generally comes less flavor and a tendency for meat to dry out.

Trott takes the approach traditional with game meats: bold sauces made with lots of red wine and vinegar, which cuts the gamey taste. Fruits make their way into many dishes and sauces, especially raspberries and dried fruits such as raisins and prunes. "We watch the cream, but you can use cream, lightly."

Herbs and other seasonings are also called into service, but not salt. "We hardly use salt because of the sodium," Trott says, "but also, I'm a believer that salt extracts liquids."

Also to maintain texture, these meats are cooked medium-rare. If a diner insists on well-done, Trott will cook it medium-rare, then slice the meat and run it under the broiler to preserve moisture. Timing in the kitchen is critical, he adds, since a dish that sits even five minutes will start to dry out.

These specialty meats do cost more than beef and chicken, but Trott says there is no fat or skin to trim away, making the price worth paying. "If I buy venison striploin for $14 a pound, I have zero trim. I have zero waste."

Kalakaua One chef Larry Trott picked up an interest in cooking for seniors while in culinary school at Kapiolani Community College. He says an instructor advised him that it was a wise career path: "In a few years there's going to be a lot of retired people in Hawaii."

His customers have little tolerance for waste, he says. Garnishes in his kitchen run strictly to chopped parsley and chives. Trott says he tried fancier things such as fresh basil and thyme, but that was short-lived. "They said, 'Why are you wasting money on this?' Yeah, it's their money and they take it very seriously."

The new dishes have been offered for three weeks, alongside the sandwiches, salads, saimin and standard entrées. But the menu points out the nutritional differences: sautéed chicken with Italian ham and mozzarella, 32 grams fat; grilled ostrich, 2 grams fat.

On one night last week, Trott says, out of 200 dinners served, 70 were the ostrich special. "These people are flipping out over ostrich."

Rabbit tenderloin

They aren't radicals, though. Trott says the favorite meal at One Kalakaua remains corned beef and cabbage, with its 22 grams of fat per plate.

The seniors at One Kalakaua pay a monthly fee of $1,000 to $1,500 for services including one meal a day in the dining room. To try Trott's menu you'll have to make friends with a resident who'll give up a meal ticket on your behalf. Trott is offering a formal debut of his new menu at a "Spa Day" Friday, but that's also a private affair.

This doesn't mean you can't learn from the example of these lean-eating seniors. Game meats and birds are available at R. Field Food and Wine stores. You'll have to place an order at R. Field in the Beretania Foodland, but at the Kailua store, many items are at hand in the freezer.

And to get you started, here is one of Trott's favorite recipes. If getting a hold of rabbit loin is too difficult, you can try it with chicken breast.

Note that although rabbit is a very low-fat meat, this recipe includes cream and butter, which boosts the fat content considerably.


Rabbit in Mustard Sauce

1 pound rabbit loin
Granulated garlic and pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons butter
1 shallot, minced
4 teaspoons Creole mustard
1/3 cup white wine
1 teaspoon veal stock
1/3 cup heavy cream

Remove muscle sheath from rabbit loin and cut into 4 equal parts. Season with garlic and pepper.

Melt butter in skillet on medium heat. Sauté rabbit and shallot in butter until brown. Remove rabbit and any juices; keep warm.

To the same skillet, add 3 teaspoons of the mustard, plus wine and veal stock to pan. Deglaze well; reduce by two-thirds. Add cream and cook over high heat until reduced by half. Remove from heat. Add remaining mustard and rabbit juices.

Slice rabbit on the bias. Serve with sauce. Serves 4.

Approximate nutritional analysis, per serving: 320 calories, 22 g total fat, 12 g saturated fat, 120 mg cholesterol, 220 mg sodium, 2 g carbohydrate, 24 g protein.*

Do It Electric
Click for online
calendars and events.

E-mail to Features Editor


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2002 Honolulu Star-Bulletin