Three years ago, Craig Rogers (aka The Shepherd) of Border Springs Farm organized a little event for his restaurant customers. He dubbed it ‘Lambstock’ and chefs and industry folk from all over the southeast arrived to spend a weekend camping, cooking, drinking, and exploring the farm from lambing to border collie agility. Fast forward to year three of the event and it’s a little bigger–in all the right ways.
Still a gathering of those in the industry, the event attracts chefs, writes, vinters, bartenders, documentarians, farmers, you-name-its from all over Virginia to Alabama and even as far north as New Jersey. There are designated lamb pits and a shelter for cooking/gathering under; there is a stage for the bands Craig invites to play (The Breedings pictured–check them out!) and the bonfire is lit by blowtorches. Camping is plentiful in the fields and the food and drinks flow freely from the gathered chefs. Virginia Wine sent down samplings of their Governor’s Cup wines, Fullsteam arranged for kegs of their brews. Even the DC Craft Bartenders Guild got in on the action with a gin and cantaloupe punch, as well as Foundation, one of my favorite bars in Raleigh, which served up a Foggy Ridge Cider cocktail. I drank a few of those, it’s true.
And the food. My god, the food. Starting with breakfast, chefs rotated through the kitchen area under the pavilion or out at the grills/pits and served up some of the best food I’ve ever eaten (talk about glamping). Starting with breakfast on the morning I arrived (Sunday morning), hungover chefs dished up biscuits & lamb gravy, lamb chorizo links, potato hash, and scrambled eggs. Later in the day, lamb hot dogs made an appearance. And snacks of duck fat cornbread. Then came the coup d’etat of the evening: whole roasted lamb, lamb heart (crusted in Indian spices–what I’d give for another bite of that), freshly foraged chanterelles, more things than I can remember. And then the next morning’s posole from Anthony (I can’t stop thinking about it, that stuff had healing powers) followed by lamb corndogs, headcheese, pimento cheese, pate, some fruit here and there, and bloody mary’s. I can’t keep it straight.
But the thing that stood out to me the most, though, wasn’t the food or the drinks or even the magnificent view of the hills and sheep and clouds. It was the people. A newcomer and not a chef, I wasn’t sure if I’d be welcomed. But Craig, in his generous hospitality, welcomed me into the fold, as did the others there, and after just a few hours, it felt like I knew everyone there. Everyone shared the experience with each other and I’m amazed that they chose to share it with me.
Lambstock goes down as a 2012 highlight for me and I can’t wait to visit the chefs in their restaurants, keep the conversation going online and in person. It’s like summer camp except this year I’m going to keep up the correspondence. I promise to write, ya’ll, I promise.