Pretty Much says it all…
I’ve been waiting for Lamb Jam as long as some people wait for babies, the latest generation of iPhone, Christmas or the newest season of Black Mirror. For the most part, these sorts of hyped up waits never do the trick in triggering some cathartic release of euphoria, but apparently, I’ve been doing it all wrong. Walking through the doors in the back dock of Union market, assaulted in all visceral regards by the phenomenon the American Lamb Board has been bringing to our fair district for years now, it was immediately obvious that this was the element of anticipation missing from my year. 17 Chefs, 15 winemakers, breweries, distilleries and coffee companies tossed into one room, all vying for the title of DC’s best lamb.
The onlooker is free to participate in lamb inspired activities ranging from caricatures, interactive photo booths, mingling with other lamb lovers, butchering demonstrations (complete with protein giveaways) and even a spice rub station…but of course, it’s hard to pay notice to these elements when the real attraction is being served up hot and fresh, in ample quantities, from the hands that created it. Just as Pandora Radio offers up a moiety of influences and interpretations on a central theme, Lamb jam is a creative generator best enjoyed randomly by the bystander.
One can meander through each category in sequence: Middle East, Mediterranean, Asian and Latin America in sequence as in fact flipping through stations during the work day or randomly on shuffle. It is in fact, a full on jam session orchestrated by DC’s most creative food minds. Besides having unlimited access to every dish including full observation of assembly, endless supplies of local brews and wine, participants are free to pick the brains of the chefs and owners responsible for the plethora of ewe inspired dishes. It goes without saying that leaving Lamb Jam hungry, undernourished or under the day’s protein quota is not possible. Besides being a prime spot to meet potential suitors, partners in foodie crime or to simply engorge oneself on the world’s most trusty red meat, Lamb Jam is a brief look into the undercurrents of DC’s food scenes, showcasing favorite haunts and leading DC eaters to new venues.
Chef Dean Dupuis from Brasserie Beck won best in show and best in the Asian category with a charcoal grilled Vietnamese style lamb in grape leaves that were reminiscent of dolmah paired with garnishes of peanuts and cilantro on a bed of noodles.
The people voted Victor Albisu of Del Campo the victor winning peoples choice and also best in the Latin Amerian category voted on panel judges with his black lamb birria that boasted burnt Tomatillo and cuttlefish escabeche marrying the land and the sea in bright briny and rich, fatty notes.
Keith Cabot of Evening Star Cafe won best in the Middle Eastern category with a homey lamb shoulder with a harissa glaze, sided with quinoa tabbouleh and balanced with mint and preserved lemon.
Best In Mediterranean: The chef at Gravitas, Matt Baker, brought a braised lamb shoulder grounded with stewed white beans and warm flat bread. Keeping with the theme, it was sided with a unique tatziki spiked with feta making it stick out in the category and a herb salad so we could pretend it wasn’t all about the lamb.
Besides the two headed lamb caricature, I walked away with, my favorite bite of the day belonged to Chef Scott Kroener of Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House with grilled, middle eastern spice rubbed lamb ribs that not only fell off the bone in the most pleasing way, were subtly noted with the earthy tones I enjoy of traditional middle eastern cooking that allowed the unique taste of lamb to surface. In an event meant to edify the mighty ewe, this was the simplest and most powerful rendition. No sauces, sides or wine needed. My favorite libation came from One Eight Distillery, a Rock Creek White Whiskey … because why not drink whiskey all the time? Even when you don’t want to drink whiskey.
Make certain to get your tickets for next years jam session and in the mean time, check out the American Lamb board on Facebook to get inspired in your kitchen. Ewe owe it to yourself. Trust me.