Kal Morsey’s taste buds never forgot the water buffalo milk he was raised on in Egypt. So when he drank the sweet and savory milk while on a business trip to Pakistan, he knew what he had to do.
“There (was) a breeder in Texas that had water buffalo and I went to see the breeder and I tried the milk,” the Los Altos Hills resident said. “It took me back. I (thought), ‘I will do this, whatever it takes. I have to bring this to the United States.’”
That was four years ago. Now Kal and his wife, Yulia, own close to 400 water buffalo in Wilton. And last week, the couple opened their first restaurant showcasing the products of the water buffalo: Morsey’s Farmhouse Kitchen at 134 Main St.
“The concept of the restaurant itself is a little different,” Yulia said. “We get it from Europe. It’s a very popular concept when you have everything in the house. It’s farm-to-table, of course, but it’s everything. It’s breakfast, lunch and dinner. But (at) the same time, it’s your grocery store.”
In addition to the regular menu – which rolls out in full this week – Morsey’s offers what they call “Grab and Go,” where customers can purchase their water buffalo milk, mozzarella and gelato. They also sell breads made with water buffalo milk and butter and Lavazza coffee – a popular Italian roast.
Executive Chef Tim Uttaro sums up Morsey’s in one phrase: “contemporary Californian cuisine with European influence.”
“As far as the rest of the world, really the United States is the only country where it’s just strictly cow milk,” Uttaro said. “The rest of the world is water buffalo milk, goat milk, things of that nature.”
Uttaro, who has experience working with bison, or American buffalo, said his biggest challenge has been perfecting the recipes for the variety of breads Morsey’s offers. Because they use water buffalo milk and butter in the breads, which act differently than cow milk and butter, according to Uttaro, his baking team has worked with 50-100 recipes to perfect the croissants, brioche and ale bread.
But the breads are only part of the array of water buffalo-inspired cuisine Morsey’s offers. Uttaro said they use water buffalo ghee – clarified butter – in the cooking of all of their dishes. And when the eatery’s soft opening is over, Uttaro said you can expect a variety of cuts of water buffalo meat. The chef said Morsey’s will be using everything but the head and the hooves, per USDA regulations. So that means patrons might be able to snack on water buffalo tongue sometime in the near future.
Yulia and Uttaro also boasted of the health benefits of the water buffalo milk in comparison to cow milk. Kal and Yulia’s daughter is severely lactose intolerant, so much so that Yulia said a scoop of ice cream could send her daughter to the emergency room. But a scoop of water buffalo gelato? No problem.
Yulia said it has to do with the fact that water buffalo milk has less lactate than cow milk. She also pointed to the sweetness of buffalo milk and how it contains less cholesterol, more protein and more calcium than the U.S. counterpart.
“I’m actually looking for somebody, a nutritionist or a doctor, (to test the milk) because no study has been (done),” she said. “We’d like to share the information with the public … (because) it’s opened up the huge niche for people who are suffering with dairy-free diets.”
In the meantime, you can find Kal and Yulia running their showcase eatery and introducing water buffalo to American palates.
“(I want to) leave a legacy to my kids where we have this concept to grow to many places,” Kal said. “That’s what my dream is.”