Ron's Weekly Tuesday, June 8, 2010
America's best lamb? It stars this week with the best of farm, field & sea!
The gentle climate of the Pacific Northwest is ideal for many kinds of food: fish, seafood, berries, vegetables, and pastured meats. Often overlooked is the quality of our lamb. Unlike the Southwest, the gentle temperatures and abundant wild herbs and grasses create pastured lamb of mild and sweet eating.
This week we’re featuring spring lamb from Oregon's Willamette Valley, the end of the Oregon Trail. Raised at Cattail Creek, we believe that this may well be the tastiest lamb in America. In addition, we have live spot prawns from Puget Sound, line-caught King Salmon from off the coast, Local Sea Scallops, Spring Boletus Mushrooms, tender Spring Chicken, eggs rushed from our farm, and an abundance of other Pacific Northwest goodies.
The glow of candles and romantic guitar waits to enchant you alongside our chef’s nationally acclaimed culinary creations.
Our nightly Garden Tour begins at 6:30 (4:30 on Sunday). Come at 6:10 (3:40 on Sunday), and we'll also have an Open House in the Wine Cellar where you can check out the 25,000 bottles of wines covering some 4,200 selections! This is also the most extensive collection of Oregon and Washington wines in the world.
I invite you to join us again this season for a remarkable and memorable evening. Celebrate a birthday or anniversary—or just the pure joy of living. To reserve you table, give us a call at 425-485-5300 between 10 am and 5 PM, or here on line 24 hours a day!
"Thursday, October 8, 2009
Clean meat, mystery meat
Yesterday I had the unusual experience of seeing the path two different meats--one lamb, one beef-- travelled on their way from the slaughterhouse to market. The two businesses must be at the farthest ends of the spectrum of food safety and traceability. Opposite ends.
I am chef de cuisine at a restaurant that purchases whole lambs from Cattail Creek lamb, with pastures in the Willamette Valley. Yesterday we received a 65# whole lamb, just like we do every Wednesday. Two hours after it arrived Nick butchered it, cutting rosy chops rimmed with a band of clean white fat. The meat fairly sparkled, evidence of its freshness.
Later, at home, I read a story in the New York Times was about an e.coli outbreak in 2007 traced to hamburgers mixed and sold by Cargill. Among the victims was a 22 year old woman whose reaction to the e.coli was so severe that she developed permanent paralysis.
At the top of the ingredient list in the Cargill burgers was simply "beef." Yet that was not the whole story. Cargill purchased trim from multiple sources, including a plant that takes fatty trim, warms it, centrifuges off the fat, treats what remains with amonia, and repackages it as lean beef product. That ground burger meat was a geographic mish mash, too. Logs show it contained beef from Texas, Nebraska, South Dakota and Uruguay. It's unclear which plant was the source of the e.coli outbreak.
My head swam as I read this account, which attempted to trace the path of the e.coli.
My point is not simply to share a horrifying story about unsafe food. Rather, read this article to understand the makings of the hamburgers we serve nationwide in fast food joints, schools and retirement communities.
I know most people would consider it atypical to be able to cook fresh meat like the lamb from Cattail Creek, which I have seen grazing on ample acreage of lush, green grass. Yes, safety first, especially in food. But what I love about Cattail Creek lamb is how rich and herbal it tastes. I don't have to worry about whether it's safe. That's the kind of traceability I wish for all our food.
Posted by Kelly Myers at 5:57 AM 0 comments
Labels: Cargill, Cattail Creek, e.coli, food safety, lamb "
"Talk of the Table
Honesty, Truth & Farming
by Cathy Whims
As a chef living in the Northwest, I’m lucky to be surrounded by quality-focused farmers. More and more diners are looking for humanely raised natural meats on the menu that have come from local farms. Cattail Creek Lamb has been a staple ingredient on Nostrana’s menu for four years and running because of their integrity-driven farming practices and the lamb’s sweet, mild flavor. That’s what I’m looking for, and that’s what diners at Nostrana have come to expect.
I had a great conversation recently with John Neumeister and I gathered some insights from him about chef-farmer relationships, the benefits of buying local and more.
Q: Your first major restaurant customer was Alice Waters in 1985, how has the chef-farmer relationship changed since then?
A: In the ‘80s, farmers and chefs were learning each other’s needs and how to work together. There was a lot of flexibility and experimentation. In the last few years, relationships have matured, the growing pains have been worked out, and the standards and expectations for both quality and service have risen. Those of us who have done it for a while understand that reliability, consistency, freshness, portioning and other factors are crucial for chefs. These improved chef-farmer relationships have raised the bar so I think it is more difficult for new producers to break in.
Q: What is the benefit of working directly with chefs?
A: Small independent farmers selling direct to restaurants are totally focused on producing superior quality: taste and tenderness. Chefs understand that they have to start with great ingredients to make great food so we are already on the same page. There’s nothing better for us than to do our part for an outstanding entrée.
Q: Do you have any solutions for chefs who have been hesitant to buy whole animals?
A: Without a band saw there are some things that are difficult, like removing the chine bone from a rack. But many things can be done with a handsaw and the chef can enjoy substantial cost savings, not to mention the satisfaction of working with all of an animal. For only 10 cents a pound, we can help by cutting the lamb into the six primal cuts of shoulder, saddle and leg.
Q: What contributes to the higher cost of ordering from a natural meat producer?
A: Meat raised and processed in the commercial industrial model is cheaper than naturally raised meat and of course, you can taste the difference. Just in the production, there’s more hand work involved with maintaining pastures without chemicals and more care and attention paid to the animals. In the processing plant, we take extra steps like Dry-Aging whole carcasses for six days to improve tenderness and concentrate flavor. We also pay careful attention to our customers’ needs. As an example, we sell by the unit not the case, so if a restaurant only needs eight racks, not a case, we’ll sort those out.
Q: Many chefs, including myself, consider your lamb to be the best in the Northwest. What’s the secret?
A: I’d be happy to give away our “secret.” It’s only eight words but every one is critical -rapidly growing young lambs on lush green pasture. This simple formula produces lambs that are wonderfully tender and have the distinctive yet mild taste people love. And we live in one of the best regions of the world to raise pastured lambs nearly year round, the Willamette Valley of Oregon.
Cathy Whims is the chef and owner of Nostrana in Portland, OR and was most recently nominated for a James Beard Award in 2009 for Best Chef Northwest. Nostrana is a neighborhood restaurant reminiscent of an Italian road-house serving classical and inventive seasonal dishes reflective of Cathy’s close, personal relationships with Northwest farmers. The Oregonian named Nostrana Oregon’s Restaurant of the Year in 2006. To learn more about Cathy Whims, visit www.nostrana.com."
- Northwest Stir August 2009 nwstir.com
"Our connection to Cattail Creek is straightforward. [Cattail Creek] raises the best possible lamb. Everytime we cook [Cattail Creek] lamb, we think of all [they] do to bring them to us."
- Chef Robert Reynolds, The Paley's Place Cookbook, April 15, 2007
"... Cattail Creek Lamb has found a niche: providing sustainably raised, grass-fed local organic lamb to restaurants and specialty food stores."
- Jessica MacMurray Blaine, Register Guard, April 11, 2007
"The sheep at Cattail Creek graze on pastures that get no chemical treatments. Neumeister occasionally supplements their diet with Eastern Oregon grass and alfalfa. He has built a reputation for providing consistently good cuts of meat all year. "
- Susan Palmer, Register Guard, December 4th, 2005