You know that weird thing where you hear about something for the (seemingly) first time and it strikes you as odd/interesting/worth paying attention to? And then suddenly you are seeing/hearing/talking about said thing over and over and it seems more than coincidence? Almost freaky? Like said thing is either stalking you or you have been subconsciously stalking it?
This is what happened to me and duck fat. (For the non foodies, yes, that is the fat rendered from ducks, and used as a distinct ingredient.)
First it was that New York Times Magazine spread on chef's tattoos from way back in March. I love chefs. I love tattoos. I loved this spread. And even though the pork tattoo is ballsy, it was the duck fat tattoo that stuck with me.
''I love duck fat,'' said Jill Barron, the executive chef at De Cero, a
Mexicanrestaurant in Chicago. ''I love cooking with it; I love rendering it. It's my favorite fat.''
Next it was reading restaurant reviews and generic Bon Appetit-Gourmet-yada yada that was not particularly memorable, except that duck fat was popping up all over the place. So when we ventured to York, Maine to check out the new gourmet foodie store Trillium, and saw a tub of duck fat, I knew I was taking it home. $5 for the tub, which seems fair and good.
I used the duck fat to saute some new potatoes I had gotten at the farm market a few hours before. Wondrous. (This is also some fore-shadowing. The combination of duck fat and potatoes proves to be the star again and again in this chronicle of fowl fat.) I also tried spreading it on toasty good quality bread, much to B's horror, although he gamely tried it and pronounced it too gamey. I thought it was ok, but would've been better if I were making grilled cheese, very savory style, with the bread. It should be noted here that B did not like the truffle cheese we had on our scrambled eggs that we ate with our potatoes and toast (for dinner). So his opinions about such things should almost be discarded.
The duck fat has the quality and consistency of room temperature butter, even very cold. It is white, and very clean. It didn't brown when cooking the potatoes - more experimentation is in order.
Finally, a friend told me about and then the next day I read about, a restaurant in Portland, Maine, called Duckfat. So we went.
We ordered the Belgian frites, of course, and of course they are fried in duck fat and come with a sauce, of which there are many choices. If you are tired of reading this post, you can stop here because this was the highlight of Duckfat. Not that the rest wasn't very good, it was. It's just that these are the best damn fries in the world. If you are anywhere near Portland, and are not afflicted with vegetarianism, you need to get thee to Duckfat and get thee some frites. I loved loved loved these.
Those wooden things sticking out are little forks. I loved my cute little frite fork.
B and I each ordered a panini, and they were real and not trendy so much. His was the BTC, with very good bacon, a tomato reduction that was very good. I will say I could've used much more cheese. Mine was the duck confit panini with plum chutney and boursin. Too much chutney. I wish I had tried the fig and port sweet panini. I got a black and white milk shake that was delicious. Next time I will order a vanilla one because mine melted together too quickly but the vanilla part I did taste was amazing. B got a home made ginger brew which he hated. He likes Jamaican style ginger beer and this wasn't. It tasted like ginger powder.
I very much liked the food, and am happy to try other things. Duckfat has definite service issues. It is counter service, but at the same time you are in line you're trying to gage if you are going to have a table when you get your food, because there aren't very many tables (in fact, I don't know if you can tell from the photos, but we are really sitting at a 2 foot by 12 inch slab up against a wall). It worked, at one point two different parties behind us staked claims to tables before food, leaving us and the people in front of us a little hurt and confused, but it all worked out. Also many other people got their drinks before us, so we had our nice hot salty fries and no refreshing beverage. I think the best thing might be to order ahead, and take your food out on a picnic.
In the end (is this finally the end of the duck fat saga? I still have some left in the fridge . . .) I do love duck fat. Especially when potatoes are fried in it. But not enough to obsess over it, and not enough to tattoo the word on my body. Though it really is wonderful, and I've been itching for another tattoo . . .