I'm fond of lamb, but I rarely order it for myself in a restaurant. That's because my wife, who happens to be my most frequent dining companion, is also fond of lamb -- so fond, in fact, that I once nicknamed her "Lamb Chop" in print. She took it with good humor but has ever since used the nickname as a sort of gastronomic trump card whenever lamb is on the menu in any of its guises. Rack of lamb, leg of lamb, lamb kebabs, even ground lamb in shepherd's pie -- you name it, she says her nickname trumps even my restaurant critic card, and she is thus the one entitled to order the dish. I'm not about to argue with her, of course, and I must admit that she's generous when it comes to sharing bites. Still, it's not the same as having a lamb dish of my very own.
Now, thanks to Shane Ingram, chef/proprietor of Four Square restaurant in Durham, my years of deprivation are over. Through Thanksgiving, Ingram is serving up a special three-course menu starring lamb in all three courses. Not just any lamb, either, but Dorper lamb, a breed known for the high quality of its meat, which is grass-fed and raised without hormones, antibiotics or other chemicals by Pope Farm (www.dorperscedargrovenc.com) in Orange County.
Once the lamb is delivered to Four Square kitchen, chef Ingram works his culinary magic on it, transforming primal cuts into a frequently changing prix fixe menu of two appetizer courses followed by an entrée. Recent highlights include lamb carpaccio with a pumpkinseed aioli, lamb Bolognese with saffron pappardelle, bacon-wrapped lamb noisettes, and herb-roasted leg of lamb with Parmesan-pesto gnocchi.
This weekend's offering will start off with a shaved pepper lamb-and-watercress salad in a minted cider vinaigrette. Crispy phyllo-wrapped lamb loin with mushroom duxelles will follow, and the entrée -- braised leg of lamb with cranberry black walnut spaetzle, baked sweet potatoes and natural reduction -- promises to bring the proceedings to a savory conclusion. The dishes are also available individually, but I'm splurging on the whole three-course extravaganza -- even if my wife orders it. That way, at long last, I can have my lamb and Lamb Chop, too.
What: locally raised lamb
How much: $45 for the three-course menu
Where: Four Square, 2701 Chapel Hill Road, Durham, 401-9877, www.foursquarerestaurant.com