Orange leader’s clean beef ‘Shamrock burger’ perking up taste buds at popular grille
It’s First Selectman Jim Zeoli’s first year selling USDA approved beef through his Shamrock Farm business and already he’s got a winning burger on the specials menu of a popular local restaurant.
Cristian Mortali, 21, who has worked for many years at Shamrock Farm, was the “brainchild” behind the idea to promote putting the grass-fed, hormone-free and antibiotic free meat on a menu, Zeoli said.
Mortali, who is friends with Orange Ale House and Grille owner Jim Hassenmayer, said he approached Hassenmayer because “locally grown” products are popular and there’s nothing more locally minded than the ale house, a popular venue that draws from other communities, as well. The Orange Ale House and Grille, 517 Boston Post Road, is known for accommodating fundraisers of all kinds and for being community-minded all around.
“I thought there would be no better way to promote,” an orange grown burger,” Mortali said. “Eating local a big deal — he was immediately interested.”
And so, the “Shamrock burger” was born — described on the specials menu as a “fresh half pound locally sourced, grass-fed, hormone-free beef from Shamrock Farm in Orange (USDA inspected).” The burger is topped with lettuce, tomato, onion on a brioche or sesame bun. Cheese is optional, and a side is included. The price is $14.99.
Zeoli has sold livestock through Shamrock Farm for many years, but this is his first year selling the meat, which is available at the Orange Farmer’s Market Thursday nights, at the Oxford Farmer’s Market Mondays or by arrangement can be ordered and picked up at Shamrock Farm.
Zeoli said he sells all kinds of cuts including ground beef, filet mignon, ribs, roasts and more. A woman who works for him raises lambs and sells all kinds of cuts of those as well.
Zeoli’s cows roam the pasture eating grass — so they are not too fatty — and aren’t given growth hormones or antibiotics.
Mortali said not only is Zeoli’s ground beef healthier than “cheap feed lot beef,” — it’s also tastier and leaner.
“There’s definitely a difference,” he said.
Mortali, a graduate of University of Connecticut’s two-year agriculture program, said that while he got the burgers on the menu, he had nothing to do with the recipe.
“I told them, ‘I’m not a chef, I’m a cow person,” Mortali said.
On Facebook, Hassenmayer Orange Ale House promoted the Shamrock burger with these words: “Introducing our newest burger addiction,” — no, it didn’t say addition. The post warns of “limited availability.”
On customer, Steven Chagno, commented on the Facebook Post: “Now this is a burger I can make a special trip for!”
Another customer, Craig Stahl, wrote on Facebook, “I had one tonight....Great Burger from Orange Ale House Grille and Burger Bar....and Shamrock Farm Stand.....It took 2 Jim’s to make it happen..”
There is no mention of Zeoli on the menu or his status as first selectman.
While he’s had Zeoli’s burgers, Mortali hasn’t had a chance yet to try a Shamrock burger yet, he said, because he’s up milking cows at 5 a.m. and goes to bed early — but he plans to try one at the Ale House this weekend.
The restaurant just started selling Shamrock burgers early this week and they’re selling fast, Mortali said, as he had to make a second, unexpected delivery Thursday.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Zeoli said of having one his farm’s cuts on a local menu.
Zeoli added: “It’s a new venue for the next generation,” of farmers. “It’s absolutely wonderful.”
Mortali, who wants to be a farmer someday, but recognizes the obstacles such as land costs, said agriculture is an important part of Orange history and that’s another reason to celebrate the Shamrock burger.