For 30 years, D'Artagnan, which is based in New York, has been a godsend for chefs who want scarce, high-end ingredients to execute classic recipes that call for them.
Well, now supplies from D'Artagnan are closer to home. The company has been on an expansion track, first opening a distribution center in Chicago and now in Houston close to George Bush Intercontinental Airport. It's easier than ever for Houston chefs to obtain items like foie gras, pâté, cured ham and game meats.
Founder Ariane Daguin was at Prohibition Supper Club and Bar earlier this week to celebrate the opening of the Houston facility, as well as D'Artagnan's 30th anniversary, with a feast featuring her company's products. Prohibition's chef Ben McPherson collaborated with guest chefs Jon Gross of Uchi Houston, Mark Cox of Mark's American Cuisine, Ryan Hildebrand of Triniti and Ryan Savoie of Saint Arnold Brewing Company. Proceeds from the event benefitted the Houston Food Bank. Wine was donated by M. Chapoutier to keep costs down and ensure as money as possible went to the charity.
D'Artagnan's focus is not on importing goods to the United States. Instead, it works with local farmers to create domestic versions of high-end products. Daguin says, "In the beginning, it was particularly difficult. We had to beg farmers to raise the animals we wanted raised. But today, 30 years later, farmers are knocking at the door and want to be part of the program because we're growing. It's a nice way to make a living without having a cloud over your head, like in factory farming."
The high demand for these high-quality products means the animals raised for food are kept in better conditions as well. Why did D'Artagnan choose Houston as a good place for a distribution facility? Daguin says, "We saw the same patterns here in Houston as we saw in Chicago, where consumers were starting to be very conscious of good food. They were starting to understand that 'you are what you eat' so you have to eat things that are good and wholesome. To be excellent on the plate, chefs have to understand that now matter how good you cook, if you start with bad ingredients it's not going to be very good."
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We asked Daguin how she involved in the food business. "I'm the seventh generation in the food business. My father, my grandfather and his father were all in the restaurant business in Auch, Gascony, where d'Artagnan from The Three Musketeers came from. Because I was the daughter, it was always understood that my brother was going to be the one taking over the business. So, I wanted to show that I could do something on my own and that's how I ended up in the United States."
The menu included McPherson's Hay Roasted Porcelet Shoulder, Ballotine of "Saddle" (a single slice of which included tenderloin and pork belly forcemeat) roasted red grapes, and a bit of frisée dressed in pecan milk-Banyuls vinaigrette. "This is our idea of a "salad," joked McPherson.
Another hit of the night was Mark Cox's Strube Ranch Texas Wagyu Ribeye. The strip of fork-tender steak was expertly paired with slices of beets and a round of light, creamy sweet potato.
D'Artagnan doesn't just supply its products to chefs. Consumers can create their own top-notch dishes at home with ingredients like black truffles, Frenched rack of lamb and Rohan duck. The company not only sells to the trade but has a retail web site, too.