Chef Jensen Lorenzen has been working in kitchens since the age of 14, eventually apprenticing locally at Mare Blu and opening his own restaurant, Papillon, 22. He and his wife, Grace, have been the proprietors of the Cass House — a luxury bed-and-breakfast, restaurant and wedding/event venue — since it opened in 2007.
“Everything that I know about cooking and hospitality is the result of patience, research and imitation,” said Lorenzen. “I have no formal training, so I have created my own methods for learning. While I would not consider my training typical, it has been intensely focused, motivated by my passion to serve, and driven entirely by my countless errors along the way.”
Lorenzen’s tasting menus also reflect his commitment to seasonal, local and sustainable products. As he notes on the Cass House website, “Our restaurant is centered in one of the most beautiful growing regions in the world. We feel an enormous amount of gratitude for the relationships we have built with our local providers. This is our home, and we are proud to be contributing in our small way to a healthy and growing food community.”
Q: What is your favorite local/seasonal ingredient that you’re currently using in your menu?
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A: My favorite local ingredient that we are currently using is goat. I like it for a number of reasons.
Other than the obvious — it tastes amazing — goat is an underutilized red meat. Apart from the United States, goats are a regular source of red meat in most parts of the world. Contrary to popular belief, goat is not the most widely consumed red meat in the world, but it follows only pork, chicken and beef, respectively.
So it is relatively common, and for good reason. In comparison to other livestock, goat is low maintenance, high yield, nutritious and produces a number of useful milk products.
Old Creek Ranch in Cayucos raises my favorite breed, the South African Boer goat.
Q: How are you currently using it at the Cass House?
A: We prefer buying whole animals because they are compact and easy to butcher into a variety of cuts for the restaurant.
Currently we are braising the shanks and shoulders in our wood oven and poaching the brined loins in local olive oil.
Meat goats are usually slaughtered at about 50 to 60 pounds so they are small and tender enough to prepare as you would a small spring lamb. However, the meat tends to be darker and, in my opinion, superior in flavor to lamb.
Q: How does this particular product represent your culinary style/background/philosophy?
A: It is a local product, nutritious, sustainable and delicious — cooked or raw.
Q: How would home cooks approach goat in their own kitchens?
A: Prepare goat as you would lamb: tartare, braise, poach, grill or stew. I would recommend a light salt brine a day prior to using, as it brightens the goat’s natural acidity and minerality.
Q: What is your favorite dish to cook at home and why?
A: My favorite dish to cook at home is roasted chicken. Virtually any time of the year, with proper technique, a roasted chicken is a perfect example of simplicity and indulgence.
Q: What is your favorite food and wine pairing and why?
A: My favorite food/wine pairing currently is roasted chicken from Rinconada Farm with Reef Points Hard Cider. I know a hard cider is not technically a wine, although some may call it an “apple-wine.” Reef Points is hand-pressed and bottled by former Cass House employee Patrick Martinez. It is my go-to beverage for the season.