Birds Gone Wild

From the great outdoors to your oven

And what the heck makes these Wild Acres birds so good that even a restaurant critic can't wreck them? I made a lovely, lovely wild turkey of Ebnet's, too, and I swear the thing was only marginally enhanced by the Henry VIII-like feeling I got by calling the game preserve and ordering a fowl to be executed.

For the birds: Wild Acres owner Pat Ebnet (left), his wife Kelli, and Goodfellow's executive sous chef Jack Riebel and executive chef Kevin Cullen
Kathy Easthagen
For the birds: Wild Acres owner Pat Ebnet (left), his wife Kelli, and Goodfellow's executive sous chef Jack Riebel and executive chef Kevin Cullen

Unfortunately, I can't answer why these birds are so tasty without venturing into uncomfortable, sticky-sweet Garrison Keillor territory, but you know. Just lots of good Minnesota air, sunlight, tender loving care, some Pequot Lakes-area bug snacks, and an occasional pumpkin to devour, or Christmas tree to pick apart. "Birds are just like kids," Ebnet explained to me. "Keep them warm, keep them out of drafts, and give them stuff to play with, or they'll pick fights with each other." Stuff like sod clumps, sand pens, and bundles of sorghum, millet, and corn to pick at. (Speaking of kids, the young Ebnets, six-year-old Joel and nine-year-old Kaylene, can each catch a partridge in a fishing net faster than you can say "oven thermometer.") The Wild Acres ducks swim and roam the grassy hills--they'd escape, except there's too much food around. Ebnet says in summer there are no mosquitoes at his place, because the ducks and geese eat all the larvae. But I have to say it's the pheasants that impress me the most. They live outside all year round, including that part of the all-year that comes after New Year's. Ebnet says that all they need is a few huts made out of hay bales, Christmas trees to pick apart for fun, a little snow shoveling to keep the common areas clear for snacking and hanging out, and someone to check the perimeter fence for potential coyote or mink holes. Because New York chefs aren't the only ones who would kill to have access to pheasants on that level.

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