It's been a voyage around the world of lamb lately. Icelandic lamb, Australian lamb and American lamb. As a lamb lover, this sampling has been a culinary voyage of great delight. However, I know some people who dislike lamb, who think it tastes too gamey, and won't ever order it at a restaurant or cook it at home. I'm sure though they would enjoy lamb if it were prepared differently from what they've tasted before. Lamb is a versatile meat and can be showcased in so many, many ways. You merely need to be open to trying something new.
Recently, the American Lamb Board hosted a media lunch at Tavern Road where Chef Louis Dibiccari prepared us a four-course lamb meal. Lisa and Phillip Webster, owners of North Star Sheep Farm in Windham, Maine, provided the lamb and Lisa also gave a short talk about lamb and her farm. Richard Doucette, the in-house butcher at Tavern Road, gave a butchery demo while Lisa gave her talk. In addition, Formaggio Kitchen served several sheep's milk cheeses prior to our lunch and 90+ Cellars provided four wines for the lunch.
The American Lamb Board "is an industry-funded research and promotions commodity board that represents all sectors of the American Lamb industry including producers, feeders, seed stock producers and processors. The Board, appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture, is focused on increasing demand by promoting the freshness, flavor, nutritional benefits, and culinary versatility of American Lamb." They will also be hosting the Lamb Jamb next month, where 20 New England chefs will compete, trying to create the best lamb dish.
North Star Sheep Farm, which has been in operation since 1997 though their families have been involved in raising sheep for over 100 years. Lisa and Phillip actually became sheep farmers in Maine around 1984, and then in 1997, they bought the 225-acre Stevens Farm in Windham. They raise several thousand sheep, all of which are pasture raised on certified organic grass. They do not use an antibiotic or hormones on the sheep, and if any sheep actually needs antibiotics, it is automatically removed from the meat program. They are passionate about sustainable farming, and are an Animal Welfare Approved farm. They believe in whole lamb sales so nothing goes to waste. They also offer some Lamb Recipes on their website.
For more info, in Lisa's own words, please watch the two videos below.
Formaggio Kitchen presented four sheep's milk cheese, and my favorite was a new cheese for me, the Zimbro, a Portuguese raw sheep's milk cheese. It is a thistle-rennet cheese, which is aged for 60 days, and presents a creamy, pudding-like interior. You remove the top of the cheese and then scoop out the soft cheese. In the photo above, you can see the Zimbro on the left with a spoon sticking in it. The Zimbro possessed such an appealing and interesting taste, with soft herbal accents. All of the cheeses were tasty, but the Zimbro was special.
The first course was Lamb Biranyi, with wild rice, black garlic, rabe, cashew, and dried apricot, and accompanied by a papadum. An excellent presentation, this dish burst with delicious flavors and a nice blend of textures, from the tender lamb to the crunchy cashews. Savory, with sweet accents. this was an addictive dish and I would order it again if it were on the menu.
90+ Cellars , who supplied four wines for the lunch, including the Lot 65 French Fusion White, Lot 118 Sauvignon Blanc Reserve, Lot 75 Pinot Noir, and Lot 72 Saint Emilion Grand Cru. I've had these wines before and they are very good, values wines. However, he also shared a new wine they will soon be selling, actually a new label, Earthshaker Wines, that showcases terroir. The wine was the 2013 Syrah, from Knights Valley, Sonoma, California, and it retails for around $15. It was easy drinking, but with complexity and character, making this an excellent value. Deep black fruit flavors, strong spice and restrained tannins. A perfect choice for lamb,
Will I see you at the Lamb Jam?