Be still, my bleating heart.
I knew it was going to be a great interview when his driving directions were, “Take Exit 47, and when you get to Swinny Switch, just pull into the beer joint and give me a call.” When we got to the four-way stop that is Swinny Switch, it was no difficult task to determine which of the three establishments gracing three of the four corners was our rendevouz piont. Let’s play a game. See if you can pick out the Texas beer joint!
If you guessed the first two, you’re obviously not from around here.
The Family Business
Loncito Cartwright is a self-proclaimed grass farmer who just happens to be raising some of Texas’s most delicious grass-fed lamb at the family ranch in Dinero, TX. His father, Lon Cartwright, Sr., has been a cattle rancher at Twin Oaks Ranch since 1939, first for his uncle, then for himself. When we asked Loncito why he chose to focus on lamb, he replied with a shrug, “I just picked lamb because I like red wine.” Lon, Sr., told us that when Loncito first announced that he was going to be raising lamb, he chuckled, “I disowned him.” Loncito later mentioned, “Everyone in the business has some unfair advantage. My dad is mine.”
You Know You Want It
If you live in the Austin area, you can meet Loncito yourself at the Sunset Valley Farmer’s Market every Saturday morning. He should be wearing those trademark black RayBans. You can find his lamb at the Wheatsville Coop on Guadelupe, or order it from several Austin menus including that of Olivia on South Lamar and Kerby Lane Cafes, and from San Antonio menus like that of The Cove.
There was so much more, but space is running out. I’ll try to squeeze it all into the book.
PS: I don’t have pictures of the lamb lollipops he sent home with us because we devoured them before the camera even had a chance. This is roughly how I cooked them: Chop up 4 cloves garlic with leaves from 3 sprigs rosemary, kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Smush (that’s right, smush) it all together with some extra virgin olive oil until it starts to look like pesto, and rub it on both sides of the lamb lollipops. Sear in a skillet (or hot, hot grill) over high heat for 2-3 min per side. You still want the middle to be pink, so we’re aiming for medium-rare here. Let rest (if you can stand it) for 5 minutes before serving. Figure on 3-4 lollipops per person, depending on what else you’re serving.