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RestaurantsNorth Bay
March 1-7, 2006

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Specialty Meat Markets

By Matt Pamatmat

"Specialty" or "exotic" meats are vague, relative terms that could mean anything from fancy prosciutto to a pig head to alligator steak. Here's a subjective list of some local meat purveyors.

Mexican restaurants in the North Bay usually carry cabeza (cow head/face meat), lengua (tongue), birria de chivo (goat) and beef byproducts. Carnicerias, or Hispanic meat markets, are an excellent source for the home cook. Among our favorites: Lola's Market, (440 Dutton Ave. at Sebastopol Road, Santa Rosa. 707.577.8846); Carniceria del Reeno, (1413 Grant Ave., Novato. 415.892.3876); and La Luna Market (1153 Rutherford Road, Rutherford. 707.963.3211).

Upscale specialty markets like Oliver's, Fiesta, Petaluma Market, Mill Valley Market and others usually carry whole rabbit, and can special order rattlesnake, eel, emu, capon (de-sexed chickens with "marbled" meat), alligator and more. Just ask, and give them some time to find it for you. This goes for other meat departments at larger-scale grocery stores: ask the butchers what they can get their hands on in the way of exotic or specialty meats.

Trader Joe's regularly carries buffalo burgers in the frozen section. Defrost and slap 'em in a pan, but don't overcook. Also, the Washoe House, located at Stony Point and Roblar roads in Cotati, has buffalo burgers on the menu.

Filipino cuisine features exotic and interesting uses of meat, including balut (fertilized baby duck egg), dinuguan (blood stew), kambing (goat), and lechon (whole pig). Sound yummy? Get thee to Vallejo, where the Filipino population is growing and markets serve their burgeoning customer base.

The San Francisco-based Golden Gate Meat Company has Kobe beef and turtle, among other unique meats.

Ask around with friends and family and you're sure to find a hunter within six degrees of separation. My wife has a co-worker who has bear meat in her home freezer. This is probably some of the best exotic meat—minimally processed, fresh and you can find out exactly where it came from.

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