For the "Love" of Lamb
Sampling chops, ribs, legs, shoulders and even bellies prepared by “cowboy” chef (and Iron Chef winner) Tim Love, this past Monday was a lamb-alicious day for me and colleague Kris Caputo Hurley. The American Lamb Board is a client based in our Austin office and we were asked to help with media and events in the Sacramento area. It’s a tough job escorting a celebrity chef and enjoying my very favorite delicacy, but hey, we are team players!
The day started in Dixon with Superior Farm’s “Culinary Day” which included a facility tour and a delicious barbecue prepared by Chef Love at the Dixon fairgrounds. Attendees included area chefs, local media and members of the San Francisco Food Society. Chef Love also participated in a video news segment where he demonstrated cooking techniques and shared tips for preparing and cooking lamb. After grilling pounds of legs, chops, ribs and sirloin, the group enjoyed lunch with Chef Love (by the way, I just love saying Chef Love – Chef Loooove!). The day could not have been better – it was a rare 80-degree July afternoon with a cool breeze that one would expect while in the L.B.C. rather than Lambtown U.S.A
The next event was a dinner at Mulvaney’s Building & Loan (homage to “It’s a Wonderful Life”). Owner Patrick Mulvaney is one of our favorite chefs – and people – in Sacramento, and he just happened to be one of the attendees at the Culinary Day. When we were charged with planning a dinner, we thought of Patrick right away because he is known to do a whole lamb and pig on spits for “All Saints Day” and pretty much invites the whole town. Since the goal of the American Lamb Board is to educate consumers about lamb preparation, and encourage people to buy locally, we invited members and friends of Slow Food Sacramento, as well as food writers and local farmers.
For those who have not yet had the great pleasure of dining at Mulvaney’s, it is in the old New Helvetica building on 19th near L Street. The menu is seasonal and Patrick is one of the few chefs in town who buys only locally grown produce and meats. He also owns Culinary Specialists catering company (which we used for our open house party last year – to this day, that’s what people remember – the awesome food!)
The weather continued to be spectacular and Mulvaney’s patio was set up beautifully with the lamb gently spinning on the spit. The Trefethen family provided wine for the guests and passed appetizers included smoked salmon on housemade potato chips with crème fraiche and chives, crispy fillo cups filled with summery delights, marinated lamb pinxtos, and mushroom risotto cakes with truffled cream. Chef Love created a surprise lamb “gnudi” (a.k.a. ignudi, nudi, or nude ravioli – a favorite of Kris’ and mine that we were introduced to by our grape commission client at the Spotted Pig in Greenwich Village. I swear, we really do work hard!)
Chef Love is the real deal. From the moment he arrived, he jumped right in – Patrick had told him earlier, “My kitchen is your kitchen.” There was something quite touching and sentimental in seeing these two very different chefs working in harmony, not speaking, but communicating in a secret chef language, it was like the most beautiful pas de deux I’ve ever seen.
Chef Love and Patrick carved the lamb together and then the show began – a parade of servers, along with Patrick and Chef Love, marched out with family style platters of various lamb cuts with Tuscan salsa verde, Ray Yeung’s heirloom tomatoes with handmade mozzarella, basil, and Apollo olive oil, Sloughhouse corn ravioli with fresh savory, Del Rio cherry tomato with grana padano, Uncle Bob’s potatoes, and grilled Full Belly Farms’ squashes.
We had planned to have an intimate gathering of 50, however, nearly 100 guests showed up taking every last one of Patrick’s stashed chairs. It was a great, eclectic group with farmers and chefs mingling with doctors, lawyers and politicos, us PR people and neighborhood foodies. As I took a moment to take it all in, I noticed how happy and relaxed everyone looked. People were passing platters to their neighbors, insisting they take the last ravioli and sharing bites of Chef Love’s smoked lamb belly from their forks. Good food and good wine truly are the great equalizer.
My husband made a new friend (you see, I was working after all) from Bear Flag farms, Tina Reikers, who supplied the peaches for the stone fruit strudels with lavender ice cream. Chef Love also made my husband’s night when he talked about his appearance on Iron Chef – he asked what the secret ingredient was, and when Chef Love replied, “chilies,” my husband shrieked like a Justin Timberlake fan, “I remember that episode – you beat Morimoto!” As the dessert plates were taken away, the place was still roaring with cheerful diners. As I made my rounds to say goodbye, people expressed how much they enjoyed the event and shared with me their favorite lamb dish of the evening. I’m sure all would agree that when lamb is on the menu at Mulvaney’s, they’ll be baaaaaack.