The headline really says it all — squirrel is in, in a big way.
This week’s massive, three-hour-long East Bay black out has inspired every chef in Berkeley and Oakland to add squirrel to their menu. The twelve million complaints to PG&E website and thousands of comments on local website Berkeleyside displayed residents’ rage towards the small rodent. Everyone, it turns out, wanted to it eat. This, says North Berkeley resident Paul Smith, would “ensure that such a travesty would never happen again.”
“I was planning on binging on old episodes of ‘Orange is the New Black,’ all week” said Smith. “My wife allows me only 5 episodes a day, and that evening’s blackout prevented me from getting my quota for the day. I simply didn’t know how I’m going to cope.”
So Smith called up his friend Matt Gandin, the chef at Downtown Berkeley’s Comal and one known for incorporating “unsavory” ingredients like crickets into his menu. “I told him, ‘Man, you just gotta cook me some squirrel,’ ” said Smith. “I just couldn’t stop thinking about eating it.”
Gandin took Smith’s advice, and added a squirrel quesadilla to his shared plates menu. The trend caught like wildfire.
“The demand is huge,” said James Syhabout of Commis, Hawker Fare and The Dock at Linden Street. “The minute the power came back on, customers starting calling and asking for squirrel. They didn’t seem to care that the meat just doesn’t taste good.”
Syhabout is currently serving the rodent at all three of his restaurants. At Commis, you can dine on sous vide butter poached squirrel heart served on a foam of Douglas fir bark foam. Step into Hawker Fare and you’ll see skewered squirrel tail slicked with spicy fermented black bean paste. Down at The Dock, he’s created a riff on his popular popcorn dish — deep-fried popped squirrel eyes.
But if these dishes sound a little too, well, fancy, there’s a more rustic option at Piedmont Avenue’s Homestead. The restaurant has a back-to-the-land ethos, so throwing a few squirrels into its wood-burning hearth was a no brainer, explained owners Fred and Elizabeth Sassen. “There’s nothing but rodent and salt on the plate,” said Fred Sassen. “It’s just squirrel, straight up.”
Just the way we like it.