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Meat and greet

Chef starts 'carnivore club' at Corner BYOB in Hampden

By Larry Perl, lperl@patuxent.com

July 21, 2011

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From bear to boar, chef Bernard Dehaene has a lot on his plate these days at Corner BYOB in Hampden.

Dehaene, from Brussels, Belgium, and new owner Cecille Fenix, from the Philippines, gave local foodies something to chew on in March. They turned the longtime greasy-spoon Avenue Diner at Elm Avenue and West 36th Street into an upscale eatery serving what Fenix calls "Continental comfort food."

But Dehaene now is taking diners out of their comfort zone — serving a kangaroo steak and a bear chop, along with his more sedate entrees like lamb, Dover sole and mussel pots.

Now, with Felix's bemused blessing, Dehaene is organizing a kind of meat-and-greet — a series of adventurous dinners for members of his newly formed "exotic meat club," a.k.a. "a carnivore club," he said.

Starting this fall, club members will enjoy — or maybe not, he admits — a meat-eaters menu, in which everything is on the table for consideration, no matter how exotic, including kangaroo, elk, python, bison, boar, yak, African lion, black bear, caribou and even black bear smoked bacon marinated in vodka for a month or more. He'll also offer partridge and squab and pheasants.

And if you don't want meat, try ostrich eggs, or Thai water bug injected with the aforementioned vodka and deep-fried.

He'll also serve grasshopper ("don't eat the legs," he warned. "Those are like toothpicks"), and he's already serving frog's legs as appetizers.

He admits the club is a gambit with a probable membership fee of $25 to $50.

"Of course, it's not for everybody," he said.

But as of last week, 178 people had sent emails of interest.

"We're a little overwhelmed by the response," he said.

The club is an outgrowth of the "Flintstones dinners" he did as a chef in Philadelphia. And he knows where to get rare meats, Canadian elk from Telluride, Colo., python from Thailand, and black bear, which is shipped whole and skinned from Chicago.

It's unclear where the lion comes from.

"I've only been able to get it once," Dehaene said.

Fenix used to work with Dehaene at the Belgian restaurant Mannequin Pis in Olney, Md., where he was the owner and chef.

"I give Chef Bernard carte blanche when it comes to food," Fenix said. "He's such a creative fellow. He needs someone administrative behind the scenes."

Dehaene is also planning foie gras tastings at participating restaurants, ands looking for special knives to give his club members. He will offer a shish kabob of exotic meats at Corner BYOB, to promote the club.

Why the obsession with exotic meats?

"There's not that many restaurants that serve exotic meats," Dehaene said. "Everybody has a veal chop or filet mignon."

And he considers himself a teacher, even to his own staff, in how to cook python or black bear..

"My guys in the kitchen have never cooked anything like that," he said.

"I'm not doing this to make money," he said. "I'm doing it to educate people that these (meats) can taste good.

"Not all of them will be delicious. But it's something to try if (people) are adventurous."

To join the exotic meats club, email meetme@cornerbyob, or go to http://www.cornerbyob.com.