Saturday, May 25, 2013
If you have to be a lamb in this life, Phil Webster says, you’ll want to live on North Star Sheep Farm, where there’s 600 acres of grass pasture to roam and never any growth hormones or antibiotics on the menu.
“Our lambs, they’re super happy,” Webster said.
This year-round, organic lamb operation (it hasn’t gotten certification yet, but is working on it) supplies meat to about a dozen restaurants in southern and midcoast Maine, including Hugo’s, the East Ender and Grace in Portland, Buck’s Naked BBQ in Freeport and Windham, Natalie’s in Camden, and most recently, The Well at Jordan’s Farm in Cape Elizabeth.
What are the restaurants doing with these home-grown animals?
At Grace, chef Pete Sueltenfuss has partnered with North Star to create something called a “Whole Beast Feast.”
Give the restaurant 72 hours’ notice, and the chef will prepare for your party of six to eight a unique four-course meal using different parts of a whole artisanal lamb, with optional beer and wine pairings. The dinners are $55 per person, plus $25 extra for the optional pairings.
A recent dinner began with an amuse of lamb tartare and couscous paired with a glass of Allagash White. A bit of harissa gave the tartare a nice touch of heat, but not too much. The meat mixture was sprinkled with sesame seeds and served with a slice of cucumber.
The first course was a lamb “bresaola” served with a charred fennel and basalmic puree and some arugula. It was paired with an Arabella merlot.
Next came smoked lamb shoulder served in an individual cast iron pan with the house rigatoni, Castelventrano olives, sungold tomatoes and a touch of ouzo. The dish was topped with a creamy goat’s milk ricotta. This course was paired with a Teira zinfandel.
The third course was a stuffed leg of lamb served family style with a corn and pine nut relish. This dish, along with the others, had great lamb flavor without being gamey. Two sides accompanied the lamb – a corn polenta and some milkweed pods that had been cooked tempura style. This course was paired with a Tomero malbec.
Here's the milkweed, which was a big hit at our table:
The final course was a sumac and spruce-spiced lamb chop served with squash puree, marinated squash, pea greens, and a squash blossom stuffed with lamb neck. The lamb neck was especially memorable and bursting with flavor. This dish was paired with a Riva Rey Tempranillo.
Grace is located at 15 Chestnut St. in Portland. To make reservations for a Whole Beast Feast, call 828-4422.
Meredith Goad has harvested oysters on the Chesapeake Bay, eaten reindeer in Finland and sipped hot chai in the Himalayas. She writes the weekly Soup to Nuts column and enjoys a good cocktail.
Susan Axelrod's food writing career began in the kitchen; she owned a restaurant and catering business before turning to journalism more than a decade ago. To relax, she bakes, gardens and hikes with her husband and their two dogs. A newcomer to Portland, she is an online content producer for the Press Herald.
Susan can be contacted at 791-6310 or saxelrod [at] pressherald.com.
On Twitter: @susansaxelrod
Wendy Almeida and her family have a smattering of livestock and a summer garden. After 10 years of her kids being involved in 4-H, she's finally accepted the term "hobby farm" to describe her family's work at sustainable living. These days her morning starts with milking a goat before heading into the office for her day job as an assistant editor for features.
Wendy can be contacted at wea [at] mainetoday.com or on Twitter @wea1021.