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It wasn't long after chefs Jan Jorgensen and Soren Bredahl (from long-established Two Chefs restaurant) took over Scotty's gourmet market a year ago August that they realized they had a problem: The addition of a top-end butcher operation was producing a lot of meat scraps. Fancy prime scraps to be sure, but still. "We render the fat to cook our fried chicken," Jorgensen explains (beef fat is the secret behind the tastiness of many European deep-fried dishes), and with the leaner leavings make Bolognese sauce. "But we're talking 250 pounds of Bolognese. How much can you sell in a week?"
The two chefs' solution, brainstorm of Jorgensen, who owns two dogs: gourmet dog food. In collaboration with a homeopathic practitioner, he devised a good-and-good-for-Fido formula featuring the 24-karat scraps plus broccoli, carrots, squash, oatmeal, rice, and whole cranberries (for healthy kidneys).
A restaurant reviewer's job, however, is not judging food's health benefits but its taste. And initially, taste-testing seemed to present a problem since it is my opinion, as the ex-owner of a boxer who once polished off two grocery bags of stale Halloween candy corn (wrappers and all) plus a box of cigars, that dogs will eat just about anything. I therefore enlisted the aid of my fussy feline colleagues Busby and Maypo -- though it must be mentioned that because cats, unlike dogs, require taurine, Scotty's gourmet dog food is not complete cat nutrition. But then neither is caviar, the favorite food of 21-year-old Siamese Busby (who, to establish her expertise, invariably picks imported Caspian osetra over cheaper American sturgeon eggs in blind tastings). Critics must occasionally take risks for our art.
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Maypo, whose favorite food is charcoal-grilled chicken, took one sniff of the Scotty's and stalked under the bed, refusing to come out for even a bite until I doused it with mango barbecue sauce. Busby lapped up every bit of the dog food's liquid, which I suspect contains some mighty tasty fat drippings. She refused, however, to do more than nibble the solids until I doctored them with roasted garlic butter, and even then ate around every cranberry.
At that point it didn't seem fair not to at least attempt to find a discerning dog to test Scotty's stuff. Fortuitously my friend Sweetie, a very picky terrier, had just moved to Miami with her human companion, Babs. Since Sweetie normally favors cucumbers and matzohs, she was presented with canapes of gourmet dog food atop both these items plus a helping of the food alone. Bingo! This normally dainty eater inhaled the unadorned dog food within seconds; followed up by scarfing every bit, including the berries, off her former favorite nibbles (which she ignored); and then tore around the table snapping for more -- most assertively. If I had not known better, I'd have sworn I was dealing with a pit bull instead of an eight-pound Yorkshire.
Jane, a Lab, also liked the stuff. But then Jane likes almost anything except coffee beans.
Yes, I did also sample the stuff myself; Jorgensen assured me it was entirely human-quality except for lack of salt, pepper, and seasonings. I thought it needed salt, pepper, and seasonings. Also the broccoli was cooked far too soft for my taste. But fortunately I provisioned myself with some of that truly tasty beef-fat-fried chicken, plus the two chefs' fresh creamy coleslaw and delectable penne pasta/vegetable salad -- in which the broccoli was perfectly al dente. The Bolognese was terrific, too.
A final note: Because of patent delays on the dog food's name -- which I can't mention -- it's not yet commercially available for sale. When it is, probably soon after the new year, Jorgensen estimated a rough price of $3.50 per pound for this upscale doggie treat. For now he's giving away whatever's in his freezer to dog-owning Scotty's customers, for free. Happy holidays, hounds.