Chop Chop

The Wagyu of lamb, New Zealand's Alpine Merino

It takes one heck of a product to get Justin Marx excited.

The founder of Marx Foods, a Seattle-based specialty foods shop, tastes and tests mushrooms, fish and exotic fruits all day. But when we chatted with him recently, it was New Zealand's Alpine Merino lamb that he couldn't stop talking about.

Marx first tried the delicate lamb at Pier 24 in Dunedin, New Zealand, and after a recent trip to New Zealand earlier this year, he swears he saw Merino lamb on nearly every restaurant menu.

Now Marx has brought Merino to the States for the first time, offering a variety of cuts ($170 to $400 for 11 to 19 pounds) at his newest website, NewZealMeats.com.

To source the lamb, Marx connected with Nokomai Station, among other Alpine Merino famers, who lend their cool, mountainous pastures for the Spanish lamb breed to graze on. And it's that hill country diet of Alpine herbs and grass that makes the Merino lamb so special.

When we tested ribs and chops in our test kitchen, the Merino cuts smelled plenty gamey, like most other lamb we've tried. But the meat's flavor is counterintuitively clean, and its texture is silky and well-marbled. Lean like venison, it cooks faster than most other lamb, yielding a quicker, more delicious result.

The lamb is already in the kitchens of Waterbar and Waiheke Island Yacht Club, both in San Francisco.

Soon, everyone will be talking about it, we'll bet.