Dive Bar Boar
A blue-collar watering hole in Seaside teaches us a thing or two about wild boar and togetherness.
Thursday, January 31, 2013
“Run! You son of a bitch, RUN!” screams a man at a television when a wide receiver catches the pigskin and goes in for the touchdown with defenders hot on his trail.
Not too long ago, a similar idea likely crossed the mind of a wild boar in Parkville as it was chased and cornered by a pack of catahoulas and ended by the business end of a hunting knife.
The beast weighed 130 pounds, and after being cleaned and gutted and portioned out, about 60 pounds of the meat made its way into the hands of local boar master Gary Martin, who marinated the ended hog for a week in a simple mixture of soy sauce, water and Italian herbs to “get the gaminess out,” as he put it.
Around the same time, a rudimentary sign was drafted on green posterboard and taped to the wall of Cuz’s Sportsman’s Club to advertise the wild boar feed to take place 3pm Saturday, Jan. 12. (This sign was later replaced by a professionally made advertisement for $3 Bud Light and wild boar.)
As it happened, the meat hit the grill at about 1pm that Saturday and people were chowing down by 2:30pm. When your correspondent showed up 45 minutes later, the bar was in the sort of state as a house in the wake of a holiday feast: pots and pans with scraps of food remaining, paper plates piled with used napkins, all eyes glued on the football game, attendees – now occupied by cigarettes, heavy drinking and heavier food – comatose.
Cuz’s Sportsman’s Club is a sort of cultural wormhole into a sect of American life as lived by a special breed of human not unlike ones at the heart center of other bars across America. There are no beer-pong playing frat boys, no tourists, no suits, no martinis. This is a workingman’s bar, a sportsman’s bar, a local’s bar. Perched along the row of barstools are men in blue jeans, T-shirts and work boots; half of them wear baseball caps. A black labrador licks barbecue sauce off plates in a garbage bin. More dogs roam in and out of the bar through the open door in the rear. A jovial game of dice happens on the bartop. Shots and beers are bought and exchanged with fluency.
Everybody seems to know one another, like they are all connected in some way beyond barstools and brewskies.
As it turns out, they are. Grant Townsend, a towering 6-foot-8-inch regular at Cuz’s (who happens to married to the bar’s proprietor), points his equally long fingers toward man after man sitting along the bar, their names and occupations flowing out of his mouth like Coors from the tap. Tradesmen: general contractors, masters of plumbing, construction, welding, all regulars (“family,” as Townsend puts it) here at the bar, relishing in the aftermath of the wild boar feed.
Townsend has been privy to his share of these boar feeds at Cuz’s and says when it comes to wild boar, Martin’s reputation is unquestioned. “I know the best in Monterey County,” says Townsend of the area’s wild boar chieftains. “They all say it’s Gary Martin.”
Wearing a green sweatshirt wrapped in an apron stained by barbecue sauce and embroidered with a depiction of two hog hooves, between which reads, “I ate the whole thing,” Martin, 67, owns his own slice of hog heaven up in the wilds of Mendocino County and says he’s been hunting wild boars since he was 15 years old. He estimates he’s killed 3,000 boars in his time, a total that maxed out 10 years ago, when he says he gave up the hunt. “I don’t like killing things no more,” he says.
Martin says a friend delivered the meat to him for today’s feed. On this particular day Terry Seeders, an old friend of Martin’s, was recruited to help cook the boar, which was basted in a simple barbecue sauce of ketchup and vinegar. They grilled over two charcoal grills out in the back lot, where a makeshift putting green is usually on scene.
My entire assignment was to attend the wild boar feed at Cuz’s. By arriving fashionably late, I ended up missing the main attraction. But I was still wooed by the genuine people who lingered after the feed. They are salt-of-the-earth folks, accommodating to strangers like me.
As for the boar, I obtained what was certifiably the very last bite in the place. Just a fingerful of the labor and love that went into the entire day.
I took my bite and reflected on everything that it meant.
The meat was spicy, fatty, chewy and most excellent, a one-bite window into a world I’ve never seen much of and probably won’t see again, like a beloved vacation home for a special clan. Keep your eyes peeled for the next feed at Cuz’s – like the inevitable, albeit to-date-unplanned, Super Bowl potluck. You’ll bite off more flavor than you expect.
CUZ’S SPORTSMAN’S CLUB • 594 Broadway Ave., Seaside. • 394-2666
Boaring In: Gary Martin on prepping wild pig.
“My best tip is to marinade it for three or four days to get the gaminess out. I use a 1:1 ratio of soy sauce and water – too much soy overpowers – and then I add one big tablespoon of dry Italian herbs per quart of mixture. Slow cook the boar for three or four hours in a smoker. But the best way to cook it is just on a charcoal grill, maybe with some mesquite wood and Kingston briquettes. If you use wood, it’s got to be a hard wood; nothing too sappy. Any kind of fruit tree wood (cherry, almond, apricot) will work great. I usually soak the wood in water for four or five days to bring out the smoke flavor. The boar cooks quickly on a hot grill. Cut the pieces an inch thick and brown on each side for four or five minutes and it’s done. It’s perfectly OK to be light pink or medium in the center. It doesn’t hurt to squeeze a bit of fresh lemon over the finished product to bring out flavor. For two pounds of meat, squeeze one lemon over the finished meat right before serving.”