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Wild game dishes abound

Lavonne Solarz (left) and Diane Karst looked through the “Taste of the Wild” coo

BAXTER — Just as Minnesota neighbors swap favorite recipes, the Brainerd Dispatch and Northland Arboretum joined forces to produce “Taste of the Wild,” a cookbook featuring northwoods cooking traditions.

Tuesday’s cookbook launch, which was conducted in conjunction with the celebration of the Brainerd Dispatch’s 130th anniversary, featured game delicacies, wine and beer sampling and conversation about cooking. Nearly 300 people were expected to attend the event at the arboretum.

Gloria and Vern Schroeder who live on Farm Island near Aitkin said they enjoy cooking and eating game. Venison fondue is one of their favorite dishes. Vern Schroeder said he’s never had a problem preparing game. His wife said too many people over-worry about the distinct taste that game meals offer diners.

“Let it be whatever it is,” she said of the taste.

They even confessed, at least on one occasion, to serving elk and antelope to unsuspecting guests who previously had said they weren’t too keen on game dishes.

Those attending Tuesday’s event were treated to offerings by area restaurants, including goose and duck treats from the “Taste of the Wild” cookbook. The cookbooks, which may be purchased at the arboretum or at the Dispatch office in west Brainerd, cost $20. Half of the proceeds go to the arboretum. The cookbook features suggested craft beer and wine pairings as well as recipes solicited for the publication.

Brian S. Peterson, the Dispatch’s outdoors editor, contributed a recipe for Dirty Minnesota Rice and Dale Braddy, executive director of the arboretum, contributed a recipe for Pheasant Casserole.

“I think it’s a great partnership,” Braddy said, noting that the arboretum at 37 years old, was just a kid compared to the newspaper.

Braddy’s attention was drawn to Barbeque Beaver as he thought of the 43 beaver he’s had to relocate from the arboretum in his seven years there.

“They’ll take 200 trees in a heartbeat,” he said of the pesky beavers.

Dispatch Publisher Tim Bogenschutz said hunters have been drawn to the Brainerd area for years and the cookbook was an attempt to share the type of recipes that friends have shared with each other for years.

“Please take a look at our book because we’re really proud of it,” he said.

Ron Morris, president of the arboretum, said the cookbook reminded him of his late father, Bill Morris, who was a game warden and excellent chef and who often tried out recipes on his family.

“Half the time we didn’t know what it was,” Morris said.

Braddy said 26,000 people a year go through the arboretum every year. He said there were 27 weddings there last year. With 540 acres and more than 21 miles of trails, he said Northland Arboretum is all the more precious because of the increasing urbanization that surrounds it.

“It’s right in the heart of two cities,” he said.

Morris said membership in the arboretum has increased from 200 to 1,100. Popular events such as the Winter Wonderland have raised the arboretum’s profile in the community.

Also part of the cookbook launching were presentations in the conference room at the arboretum’s building by Crow Wing Co-op, Prairie Bay and Heartland Animal Rescue Team.

Vendors and contributors at the event were J. Lohr Vineyards and Wines, C & L Distributing, Prairie Bay, Ernie’s, Black Bear, Crow Wing Co-op, Shwiky Meats, Party World and Culligan. Prizes were donated by the Brainerd Dispatch, C & L Distributing, Cash Wise, Crow Wing Co-op, Deerwood Bank, Ernie’s, Northland Arboretum, Prairie Bay and Shwiky Meats.

42 Photos - Taste Of The Wild Dinner - Spotted© Photo Gallery

MIKE O’ROURKE may be reached at or 855-5860.