I apologize for disappearing these past couple weeks, but if you have been following me via Instagram or Snapchat, you know I have a pretty good explanation. I got to experience one of the most incredible blog trips I have ever been on, and I’ve had a bit of a hard time adjusting back to reality. That, and after looking at all the photos I took from the trip and thinking about all the things I learned, I had no idea how I was going to sit and write a post about it all that would do it justice! To sum it up, I can’t wait to tell you about all the cheese and lamb I ate, the wine I drank, the sheep we herded, and the beautiful Sonoma landscape that has now ruined me for my real life. Kidding, I love Houston…. but… I wouldn’t mind moving to wine country and becoming an artisan cheese-maker some day :).
The thought of attending a trip to Sonoma with Superior Farms intrigued me because they are an all natural sustainable lamb company, and I haven’t really had or cooked a whole lot of lamb in my life. For some reason lamb in the United States has a stigma that it is only a “holiday” or “celebratory” meat, which explains my lack of eating it growing up. The US consumes less than 1 lb. of it a year, vs other countries at about 26 lb. annually – this is a HUGE difference. When I tried to come up with a reason why, the first thought that came to my head was, “Well, lamb has always tasted gamey to me.” I said this out loud, and someone quickly dropped some knowledge on me to correct that statement. American lamb is bred for its meat, whereas Australian lamb is bred for its wool –Duh, why didn’t I know that before? (The lamb you buy at Costco is from New Zealand…. do your best to find American lamb, it will totally change everything you thought about lamb)!
One of the other great parts of this trip was getting to meet these incredibly talented and sweet bloggers – Sue from We Are Not Martha, and Erica from Nibbles & Fesats. Be sure to check them out if you don’t know who they are already, they were such a pleasure to share this experience with!
To kick off the trip, Superior Farms took us to Souvla in San Francisco to try their American lamb and taste the difference firsthand. Oh my goshhhhhhh, if you ever get a chance to go, you must try their award winning fries, the lamb gyros, wildflower honey frozen greek yogurt… basically just go with a group so you can get everything on the menu. When our group asked what we wanted to order, I quickly spoke up in normal me fashion asking if we could just get one of everything on the menu…. smart move :).
Is your mouth watering yet?!
That night we drove about halfway to our next destination (Bellwether Farms aka Cheese Heaven), and stayed at this beautiful hotel right on the edge of Richardson Bay. I couldn’t even believe how stunning the view was at sunset, with the backdrop of the orange skies framing Mt. Tamalpais, just beautiful.
The next morning we woke up and made our way to Bellwether Farms for a tour, yogurt and cheese tasting, and full cheese-making lesson. I don’t know how to even begin to tell you how much I learned on this tour, but I am going to try! Liam Callahan, a second generation sheep farmer, showed us everything that goes into their farm – from raising the sheep, to milking and making cheese and yogurt, and all the labor in between. It was so fun to see how passionate and excited he was about the products he is putting out into the market.
I wish I could describe the smell of this “cheese-locker” to you – there was a faint smell of peppercorn and rosemary in the air from the aging Blackstone cheese, combined with a hay or barn-like smell, and butter…. that is about the best I can do. All I can really say is, it smelled like what I imagine heaven to smell like.
And, in case you are interested in the cheese-making process, here is a little Cheese-making 101 for you:
Here are a few fun facts about the sheep & Bellwether Farms:
- Sheep have to be happy otherwise stress hormones shut down milk production – this was something that really struck me in a good way, knowing that they are raising their animals in a happy and stress-free environment.
- Sheep’s milk is higher in fat and protein than cows milk, with a thicker mouth feel.
- Sheep’s milk is much more expensive than cows milk, so it is often mixed in cheeses to allow the general public to taste it more affordably.
- Bellwether Farms sells at Central Market, Whole Foods, and other specialty grocers. You can check your local retail location here.
- Bellwether Farms makes one of the only sheep’s milk yogurts on the market – and it’s to die for!!
- Cindy Callahan started the dairy farm in 1986. They began making cheese in 1990 and haven’t stopped since!
We even got a special sneak peak of their brand new Blackstone cheese and it was sooooo good! The sample they gave us to take home was gone in about 2 minutes :).
I can’t wait to finish telling you about my trip later this week… trust me, you wont want to miss what I did next!!! But…. here is a sneak peak of the dish we had that evening at dinner, and the recipe below!! I can’t even begin to tell you how amazing this herb crusted saddle of lamb was…. unreal.
The chef paired it with these gorgeous morel mushrooms, fresh romano beans, sweet onion, and creamy red floriani polenta…. holy wow.
- 1 bone in leg of lamb, trimmed (about 5 lb.) or 2 racks of lamb
- 3 Tbs. olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1-2 Tbs. chopped fresh rosemary
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 Tbs. chopped fresh mint
- 2 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 Tbs. fresh thyme, chopped
- 2 cup panko bread crumbs
- 3 Tbs. Dijon mustard
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
- 2 tsp. honey
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Set up a roasting pan and rack.
- Pat the lamb dry and season with salt and pepper.
- In a bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well.
- Coat the lamb completely with the mixture, and roast until the thickest part of the lamb reaches your desired temperature - 125°F to 130°F for medium rare, 15 to 20 minutes, or 130°F to 135°F for medium, 20 to 25 minutes.
- Once the lamb is done, let it rest on a cutting board for at least 10 minutes before you slice.
- Slice the lamb and serve! Enjoy!
(This is a sponsored post. All opinions are completely my own, based on my own experience.)