Last weekend we went to Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. Before any of you make any smart-alecky comments like, “Why???”, or, “Is there something I don’t know about you?”, let me explain.
No, I am not interested in animal husbandry, nor do I have a secret sheep shearing hobby. Simply put, animals are one more participant in the farmers’ market experience, usually as the donor of wool, meat, milk, or eggs. Someone we don’t usually get to meet.
Besides, they are terribly cute, sometimes to the point of grotesqueness:
The Festival, one of the biggest of its kind in the US, is not just about the sheep to shawl contests, showcasing hundreds of breeds, or working sheep dog demonstrations (which are pretty cool, by the way).
It is also about fantastic locally produced food, be it lamb, goat milk products, or sheep’s milk cheeses. A large variety of local farmstead meats and meat products were available for purchase, or immediate consumption (tasty lamb burgers, barbecued lamb ribs, grilled lamb, 100% lamb hot dogs, kabobs, etc.).
Besides the a la carte options, one could buy tickets to the Shepherd’s Feast, which is a full-blown lamb-eating bacchanalia…
Besides the meats, I was suitably impressed by the artisanal raw sheep’s milk aged cheeses from Shepherds Manor Creamery that reminded me of simple Pecorinos. But for me personally, the real stars of the show were goat cheeses from Caprikorn Farms, as after being in France, I am desperate for fresh goat milk products. The chevre was made earlier that week, and was still quite goaty, even though it was made with pasteurized milk. The 60-day raw milk goat Gouda was delectable, as well. I ended up with a nice supply of both, and left the festival to enjoy them in the privacy of my own home.
Reminiscing about France, the first thing I put together was a vegetarian-friendly version of salade lyonnaise, with warm herbed fresh goat cheese discs instead of lardons:
My mock lyonnaise shows off the striking indigo frisee, paired with cage-free local poached eggs, the aforementioned goat cheese, and a simple vinaigrette dressing.
The next appetizer appeared in the form of grilled baby zucchini from the farmers’ market stuffed with fresh chevre:
It was followed by more goodies from the market: goat butter, French breakfast radishes, Persian cukes, fleur de sel de Camargue, cornichons, chives, rosemary boule, and raw milk goat Gouda:
And finally, a rustic salad of roasted new potatoes, raw milk 60-day goat Gouda, chives, roasted ramps, and cornichons:
Everything was washed down with a fantastic little-known white from a pioneering wine region in eastern Languedoc called Larzac (classified vin de pays de L’Herault) : 2010 Domaine du Pas d’Escalette Les Clapas. It is an amazingly complex, fresh, and elegant field blend with great limestony minerality.
Thank you, goats and sheep, for a lovely lunch!