For months and months Phil Noble has been telling me about his cows and the beef he was planning to sell at the farmers markets. His farm near Hemet is a farmers market favorite and right now I'm all over the garlic scapes and young garlic he's selling. But last Sunday at the Hillcrest farmers market I took home something else from his stand: a one-pound sample package of ground beef.
Yes, Sage Mountain Farm is now also Sage Mountain Pastures. Phil has partnered with Sam and Rose Benedict (Sam is a local business consultant who researches climate change). Together they own a small herd of Guernsey, Angus, and Holstein cattle. The animals are fed on a movable feast of grass and post-harvest crops, and finished on organic grains--what Noble calls a "polyphase approach."
So, no, they're not strictly grass fed. For the partners, there's no avoiding the grains, at least for the time being. "The reason we're adding grains is that we're trying to get restaurants involved and the chefs tell us they want more fat on the beef because that's what the customer wants," said Sam Benedict.
Benedict also said that they're working on getting the beef certified as organic.
Customers can purchase the beef by portion, not by cut. Sage Mountain Pastures is selling whole beef (400 pounds), half, one-quarter, and one-eighth -- all at $8.50 a pound, which includes cutting, wrapping, and freezing. The portions include a variety of cuts. A $75 non-refundable deposit is required for each eighth of beef ordered. Or, you can buy one-pound packages of ground beef.
I used half of my ground beef last night to make a burger. Because I was concerned that the leanness of the meat would make it dry I added a little chopped onion, along with minced young garlic (from Sage Mountain Farm), some red pepper sauce, and salt and pepper. Then I grilled it on top of the stove. I needn't have worried; the flavors and texture were terrific.
Visit Sage Mountain Pastures at the Hillcrest and Adams Ave. farmers markets and Little Italy Mercato or contact Noble for an order at SageMtnPastures@gmail.com.