Duck has always been a popular menu item, but you were more likely to find it featured on a table with linen rather than paper napkins. Recently more casual dining restaurants have been offering duck on their menus with regularity. Most home cooks aren’t willing to tackle this tricky, expensive meat. The lack of familiarity and expense of duck has made it less popular on casual dining menus in the past. In the Raleigh area, the trend is changing with duck making more appearances on moderately priced menus.
Finding sources of duck also has gotten easier for chefs. Mike Badger, the Director of the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association (APPPA) has said: “What I see is anything duck increasing in demand.” The trend has proven true in the Triangle area, including local farms like Joyce Farms. Most local farms offer specific breeds of duck, such as Peking, the most commonly consumed duck in the United States.
“The popularity of duck on restaurant menus correlates with the rise of the caliber of talent working in this region,” says Royale chef Jeff Seizer, who often features a duck confit special on his lunch menu. You’ll find duck tacos on the menu of Cantina 18, a casual Mexican fusion restaurant in Cameron Village by Chef Jason Smith of 18 Restaurant Group. Both chefs spent time honing their culinary skills in New York at Danny Meyer’s Union Square Café, among other notable restaurants.
Sporting a more intense poultry flavor than chicken, the deeply red meat of duck is rich with fat. Because ducks are waterfowl, they have a thick insulating layer of fat. This fat becomes a flavorful source of juiciness when duck is roasted or confitted.
Duck confit is most often used in casual dining. This preparation slowly simmers duck legs and thighs in duck fat for hours producing a highly flavorful, tender, rich meat. Duck is showcased with waffles or as spicy duck enchiladas at Brier Creek Beer Garden and as a pulled duck sandwich at the Oak and Dagger. These dishes allow the flavor of duck to soar in the form of shredded or chopped meat.