Friday, January 18, 2019
For Love of the Lamb Prompts Restaurateur to Eat His Words
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A steady stream of lamb aficionados enjoyed the buffet at Cristina’s.
 
Saturday, October 7, 2017
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

Tom Nickel laughed when John and Diane Peavey told him about the sheep parade they were thinking of staging.

“I thought that was the dumbest idea ever,” recalled the Sawtooth Club owner. “No one’s going to come to Ketchum to watch sheep go down the street.”

Twenty-one years later Tom Nickel was eating his words as he served up lamb stroganoff as part of the For the Love of Lamb restaurant walk on Friday evening to people who had come from Toronto, Canada, Fort Lauderdale, Florida and Laguna Beach, Calif., to watch struttin’ mutton.

 
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Tom Nickel switched from barbecue lamb to lamb stroganoff this year.
 

“I love this event now. It comes at a time of the year we need visitors. And it comes at a time of the year—fall—when I mot want people to see the beauty here,” he said.

Lamb could hardly be found on a restaurant menu in the Wood River Valley when the Trailing of the Sheep started. Flat Top Sheep Rancher John Peavey used to create a scene, occasionally asking why he couldn’t get a good lamb shank in a local restaurant.

On Friday 10 restaurants provided tasty bites featuring lamb in all sorts of forms from Town Square Tavern’s Moroccan lamb tagine to Rominna’s Italian-style roast lamb, which tasted as if an Italian mama had been slaving over the stove for a month.

Jason “Train” Spicer of Whiskey Jacques served up a Moroccan lamb puff pastry wrapped in Phyllo dough, while Kellie Havens handed out lamb gyros covered with a cucumber dill crema with pistachio dust.

 
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Jason “Train” Spicer served up Moroccan lamb wrapped in puff pastry because he thought no one else would do Moroccan.
 

Mae and Callie Rasberry reached back to their El Paso childhood to create a savory lamb carnitas featuring tiny bits of eggplant served on a tostado shell, while daughter Lucy Mae handed out marble-sized cupcakes iced to look like tiny lambs with rolling mounds of “wooly” icing.

“We come up with a new dish for this every year,” said Callie Rasberry. “And we hadn’t done Mexican for awhile.”

The line outside Cristina’s stretched around the corner, just as it does every year. And those who had forked over $5 for the privilege of standing in it were rewarded with slices of roast leg of lamb with gravy, scalloped potatoes accented with rosemary, a beet and asparagus salad, brie, figs and chocolate fondue with biscotti.

“Cristina does such a good job. She loves to feed us,” said Andrea Rule.

 
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The beet, asparagus and pea salad at Cristina’s featured the brightest green asparagus you ever saw.
 

Sharon and Lynn Bockemohle shared the meal with Sharon’s high school friend Meg George, a marriage and family counselor from southern California. They had worked up an appetite at the sheep dog trials earlier in the afternoon and were looking forward to today’s Sheep Folklife Fair and Sunday’s Trailing of the Sheep Parade.

“This is more fabulous than ever,” said Sharon Bockemohle. “Look at the bright green asparagus in the salad!”

The Trailing of the Sheep Festival provided 865 pound of lamb in various cuts to the restaurants for the Love of Lamb, said Carol Waller, spokesman for the festival.

The festival sold 1,000 tickets. And organizers offered two-for-one bites the last day, which made for 2,000 bites in the first year the trailing has charged for bite night.

 
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Photographer Anne Jeffery was among the artists who greeted diners with lamb art at the Limelight Hotel.
 

Paul and Beth Willis were among the disappointed who were left without tickets. But Lisa Cesari didn’t mind. She went to Despo’s and got a lamb taco for $5.99—one of many lamb specials restaurants have this weekend.

“It was so good. And it filled up my belly so I’m happy!” she said.

The dine-around prompted Jack Sept to recall summers on his grandfathers sheep ranch in Montana.

“He’d give me the bum lambs that the mothers rejected,” Sept said as he savored his meal at Rominna’s. “So I’d milk the cows and separate the cream, then sell the cream to the mailman who would pick up the cream and bring back empty bottles and a pay check. Then I’d put the leftover skim milk in whiskey bottles with nipples and feed the bum lambs. I think about that every time I eat lamb.”

 

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