By Jean Schurman
This weekend’s event, ARTrageous in the Bitterroot, not only will bring a visual feast of art to the forefront in the valley, it will recognize the culinary arts as well. Eleven restaurants in the valley will be featuring Bitterroot Valley raised lamb served up in many different ways.
ARTrageous coordinator, Kris Komar, said she was hoping to bring attention to the many producers, chefs and ingredients that are here in the valley that can make dining a work of art. This year, the featured ingredient is lamb grown by Jim Ellingson on his ranch on Old Darby Road.
Ellingson raises sheep that are a cross between Targhee, Rambouillet and Merino breeds. This is a dual-purpose breed, producing both wool and meat. He thinks the idea of having his lambs in all the different restaurants is a great opportunity for himself but also to promote lamb in general.
“There are so many different ways the chefs are preparing the lamb, the weekend won’t be long enough to try it all.”
Ellingson has been at the ranch on Old Darby Road for 19 years. For years he ran a large flock but recently downsized to about 80 ewes. Some of the lambs he sold in the past ended up as the featured courses on a cruise ship in the Caribbean. The chefs there loved the taste of the meat and the size of the lambs. He knew he had a good product and so he jumped at the chance to showcase his lamb in his own backyard.
He is supplying 10 lambs, which average about 150 pounds, to the various restaurants. The restaurants built their dishes around the availability of the different cuts of lamb. Interestingly enough, the shanks, which at one time were not considered that desirable, were the first cuts to be taken. Of course, there will be lamb chops and rack of lamb but there will also be other dishes.
Darla Coleman, owner of The Farm Table at Sleeping Child Farm, said her chef, Annette O’Leary, is from Ireland and is very excited to have fresh, homegrown lamb.
Rich Marcus of The Catered Table in Stevensville will be serving lamb kabobs with a traditional Moroccan spice, Ras el hanout, and a gorgonzola cream sauce. He will also have rack of lamb and lamb chops in a special sauce. He said that he was excited to have the opportunity to enhance the arts and showcase his restaurant as well.
Karen Suennen of the Spice of Life restaurant in Hamilton said this was a great way to promote local lamb. Many of her customers have asked about having lamb on the menu and she said the price was especially good.
“I thought it was nice that I didn’t have to buy the whole lamb, just the cuts I wanted, and have it priced so reasonably,” she said.
She will be serving rack of lamb featuring a rosemary and red wine cream sauce with a balsamic vinegar reduction.
Other restaurants involved in the DineAround are Bitter Root Brewery, Bouilla, Higher Ground Brewery, Moose Creek BBQ, and the Signal Grill, all in Hamilton; the Wild Mare in Corvallis, and Mission Bistro in Stevensville.
Ellingson is hoping to make it to some of the restaurants to try some of the dishes. He is also hoping this will prompt more interest in locally grown lamb. If anyone is interested in purchasing lambs, he can be contacted at 363-0579.
Other events taking place this weekend include a Gala party at the First Interstate Building at the Fairgrounds on Friday night from 6 to 10 p.m., an ARTwalkabout on Friday from 6 to 8 p.m. and on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and an art show and sale at the Fairgrounds featuring over 100 Montana Artrepreneur artists from across the state. The Montana Arts Council is a sponsor of this event, which features painting and sculpture but also leatherwork, pottery, fabric art and more.