About 125 guests, mostly area hunters, gathered at Chestnut on Biltmore Avenue for the 10th annual Wild Game Dinner at the end of February. Forrest Jarrett, retired chief law enforcement officer of Norfolk Southern Railway, tells how it began: “It started with a fundraising dinner for Quail Unlimited 10 years ago. A bunch of hunting buddies—Ron Moore, Dr. Toby Cole, Dr. Angelo Cammarata, Jerry Rodgers, Marvin Butler and Jay Swain—all pooled our wild game.”
“In 2004, Toby Cole and I along with Chef Joe Scully came up with the idea to have this annual dinner,” Moore says. “It’s a great opportunity for a lot of folks to get together, many of whom enjoy the outdoors. The menu is generally made up of different things we’ve pursued during the hunting seasons. Some years we’ll have elk or alligator, or we may even include bear, so we never know exactly what we’ll have. Joe and his staff, first at the Corner Kitchen in Biltmore Village and now at Chestnut, create an unbelievably great menu.”
Judge Alan Thornburg said the “bird seasons” run September-March. He hunts one or two weekends a month for duck, grouse, dove and quail. “Most of us are hunters, and we like to support wildlife conservation,” he says.
This year’s menu featured smoked duck tacos with jicama slaw, smoked trout dip with preserved lemon on rye crisps, house-made andouille sausage with locally made mustard, smoked turkey soup with orzo and vegetables, venison saltimbocca with house-smoked ham and locally made cheese, pecan crusted quail and more. Those who partook did not need to pick and choose because everything was included in the price of the evening.
Swain says he is impressed with what Scully has done over the years. “Joe is one of Asheville’s premier chefs. He really has helped advance our food culture.” According to Butler, who attended the first game dinner and has attended every year since, the event is always sold out. “It seems like Joe adds something new every year, and it just gets better and better.”
Photo: Chestnut Executive Chef Joe Scully chats with event organizer Toby Cole at the 10th annual Wild Game Dinner.