That is proper: The nutrient-dense meat comes from a deer. However in contrast to the wild recreation that makes up a lot of the venison one may need in Colorado, the axis deer inhabiting the island of Maui is leaner, has extra protein, and has an total pleasing taste with out the signature gaminess venison is thought for. Consuming the deer additionally has extra of a optimistic environmental affect, because the South Asian animal is an invasive species in Hawaii.
The initiative to assist save the ecosystem of the island from the fast-breeding deer comes from Maui Nui Venison’s husband-and-wife founders, Jake and Ku‘ulani Musie, who began the enterprise in 2017 with the concept of not solely providing the scrumptious and wholesome meat to the plenty, however to eradicate the invasive animals.
“Jake now has an organization that manages the harvesting of those animals, all with the large image of Maui in thoughts,” says Olivia co-owner Heather Morrison. “It’s a enterprise for Jake, however they do not have gross sales objectives, solely administration objectives. They’re within the enterprise of saving the ecosystem of Maui.”
The brown, speckled axis deer first got here to the islands in 1868 as a present to King Kamehameha V, again when Hawaii was impartial from america. Native to Nepal, with no pure predators and a year-round breeding cycle, the deer multiplied, stripping the land, taking meals from herd animals, spreading sickness and usually inflicting havoc to the island’s ecosystem. Immediately, axis deer are an actual drawback — one thing Musie hopes to vary by sustainably harvesting the animal for meat. Final 12 months alone, his workforce harvested round 500,000 kilos of venison.
So how did the axis deer invade the Denver-based Olivia? Morrison and her husband, Olivia co-owner Austin Carson, had lately began incorporating the venison into their home-cooked meals after listening to about this system. It is easy to order on-line from the Maui Nui Venison web site, so they’d some shipped in. For Morrison, consuming the nutrient-dense meat modified her life.
“As soon as I began consuming it, my always-anemic physique had completely wholesome iron ranges,” she says. “It has been examined, and it is essentially the most nutrient-dense purple meat you may get.”
Plus, she provides, it tastes nice. So good that Morrison and Carson introduced it to their different enterprise companion at Olivia, chef Ty Leon. He agreed, and shortly he and one other Olivia chef, Cody Boi, put it on the menu, utilizing it in pasta dishes, serving it in fillet kind, and taking part in round with floor venison.
“I grew up searching, and I’m not a fan of recreation meat, however that is utterly totally different,” says Leon. “It isn’t gamey in any way. It is a wealthy form of meat, which is bizarre to say, nevertheless it’s scrumptious.”
In tandem with Olivia’s ongoing dedication to training and actually exploring the world of meals with its workers, in January Boi traveled to Maui with Morrison and Carson. The purpose of the journey was to see how the deer have been harvested, find out about Musie’s dedication to the setting and his firm, and garner inspiration for a particular dinner that includes axis deer on the restaurant again in Denver. On August 30, company of Olivia can discover out simply what Boi and the workforce discovered, in addition to meet Musie and ask questions in regards to the deer, Maui Nui Venison and the corporate’s conservation efforts. Reservations can be found by way of Tock.
The meal will embrace 5 programs meshing Polynesian flavors with Olivia’s signature Italian fare, with the axis deer because the star. Dishes embrace tuna crudo with kombu shoyu; kalua lasagna made with braised venison shank and banana leaf-infused pasta; and rib chops of venison carried out katsu-style with edamame pesto. Additionally take pleasure in venison culurgiones (a kind of Sardinian ravioli) with a saimin consommé, a ramen-like soup present in Hawaii. For dessert, anticipate a pile of the famed Hawaiian fried-dough malasadas, which might be served with ardour fruit and coconut.
Do not miss the particular cocktail menu, both. Carson has curated eight Polynesian-influenced libations, together with an espresso martini made with Hawaiian Kona espresso and rum-raisin amaro; a Negroni Bianco made with rum agricole, caramelized coconut and black pepper bitters; and the Rye Ti, made with rye, blackstrap, Cointreau, macadamia and mint.
The dinner prices $125 per particular person, with an non-compulsory $75 wine pairing from Halter Ranch, a vineyard in Paso Robles, California, recognized for its sustainable wine manufacturing. Cocktails are offered individually.
Even when the dinner sells out or you may’t make it that night time, Olivia nonetheless affords Maui Nui Venison on its day-to-day menu, although the dish adjustments. Presently, diners can order Venison Polpette, a kind of meatball with foie gras cream, potato mousse and huckleberry preserves. The venison has additionally appeared in a rendition of osso buco, venison strip loin and an array of pasta dishes.
Not solely is Olivia one of many solely locations within the nation to serve the axis deer, however in Denver, it is laborious to search out deer meat at any restaurant. Actually, venison refers to not solely deer meat, however elk, moose, caribou, antelope and pronghorn, too. The 2 foremost recreation meat locations within the space, the Fort in Morrison and the Buckhorn Alternate in Denver, each serve elk, however no deer meat. Eaters may even discover elk to cook dinner at residence from some meat purveyors such because the Native Butcher in RiNo’s Denver Central Market.
I used to be capable of attempt axis deer on the 2022 Little Nell Culinary Fest in Aspen, when chef Krista Garcia, government chef at Resort Wailea in Maui, introduced it together with her to cook dinner on the lodge. It was, because the others say, merely great.
Analysis with regards to native venison additionally introduced the deer-meat lower generally known as the Denver leg to gentle. Recreation knowledgeable Jason Nauert, lovingly generally known as Jason the Butcher, says the Denver leg consists of seven muscle groups within the again leg. In essence, he provides, it is a deboned model of a deer leg. As to why it is referred to as the Denver leg, he says he doesn’t know, however he mentions that folks merely appear to love to call issues after the Mile Excessive Metropolis (assume Denver omelet and Denver steak).
But though there’s a complete lower of venison named after Denver, there aren’t many locations to truly get it with out going out and searching a deer your self. As an alternative, skip the entire leg, and head to Olivia for a style of axis deer. Whereas it is not a neighborhood product, all the pieces in regards to the meat is optimistic and, maybe extra necessary, scrumptious.
Olivia is situated at 290 Downing Avenue and is open from 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday by Saturday. For extra info, go to oliviadenver.com.