I've always fantasized about living in a neighborhood that had everything within walking distance that I needed to be happy: a stroll away from a nice cup of coffee, a comfortable place to wet my whistle and, most important, a quality marketplace. It's part of my ongoing and typically American fascination with a European lifestyle.
Until recently, Five Points lacked the latter of these requisites, but ever since Curtis Park Delicatessen moved into the neighborhood, my dreams have essentially come true.
I can't say enough about the guys who run the market, Mike and Joe. They make killer sandwiches, carry a legitimate selection of cheeses and meats and, best of all, they'll special order pretty much anything you want. Case in point: I walked in the other day and asked for quail. I'd never had it before and besides, what better way to fulfill my European fantasies than to cook what Brillat-Savarin deemed "the daintiest and most charming" of all birds? The staff at Curtis Park Deli said it wouldn't be a problem and that they'd give me a call when the birds were in, which happened to be the very next day. And as I walked home with my quail, I happily felt like a true cook, something everyone should feel like in my opinion.
I invited a few friends over for dinner that night, and thinking the meal needed to be particularly special, went to the liquor store with Belgian beer on my mind. I was looking for a Quadrupel or Quad, a strong, dark and sweet ale that I thought would pair well with the quail and the occasion. Since I couldn't find one from a local brewery, however, I settled on Avery Brewing's Eighteen, a dry-hopped rye saison I had yet to try. I figured the rye might offer an interesting flavor with quail. (That said, it would be nice to see more Quads out there; it's a great style and especially wonderful with food.)
Following more advice from Brillat-Savarin, I roasted the quail with a simple stuffing, so as not to overpower its delicate flavor. The quail turned out to be delicious (especially the tender little wings and legs), but the beer was not. It was watery and bland for the most part, and the hops and rye didn't agree with the esters from the yeast at all. I was surprised that Avery missed the mark since it usually gets it right, but we had other beers and didn't let the slight setback ruin the meal. As a bonus, one of my guests brought a lovely orzo and squash salad that ended up being a perfect addition to the roasted quail, the recipe for which is below.
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4 quail, rinsed and patted dry, innards removed 1/2 day-old baguette (or a fresh one slightly toasted in the oven), crumbled 1/2 onion, peeled and chopped 1/2 stick butter Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 1. Saute onions in 1 tablespoon of butter with a pinch of salt until soft. 2. Combine onions, bread crumbs, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl. 3. Add 2 tablespoons melted butter. 4. Using your hands (my favorite tool in the kitchen), mix until the stuffing is moist and clumps together, adding more butter if necessary. 4. Stuff each quail with stuffing mixture and place the birds on a buttered baking sheet. 5. Brush each bird with melted butter and season liberally with salt and pepper. 6. Roast the quail in the oven for 30 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees, and cook until the quail are golden brown (about 5 minutes).