Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Re-cap: Lamb Jam 2012

The American Lamb Jam Tour stopped in DC last week for the second annual cooking competition. 18 of the city’s best chefs participated in the event, competing for the top lamb dish in one of four categories: leg, shoulder, shank, and loin. A large crowd showed up to Washington’s Eastern Market to sample the dishes along with some of the region’s finest beer and wine.

Chef John Critchley of Urbana Restaurant came away the big winner of the evening, taking not only the Top Leg dish of the event but also Best in Show.  His creation was a lamb leg puposa with queso blanco and lamb tongue curtido.  Chef Dimitri Moshovitis of Cava Mezze was another big winner, capturing top shank honors and eliciting a huge roar from the crowd for his braised lamb shank ravioli.  The dish blended wild mushrooms, summer truffle, and the braised lamb topped with Cava’s lamb demi-glace perfectly.

Another crowd favorite, as evidenced by long lines throughout the evening, was Bibiana and Chef Nick Stefanelli’s lamb shoulder stuffed with cacio cavallo.  This gem, which won the shoulder category, was among the most audacious of the night’s entries.  It offered a stretched-curd cheese so rich and strong in flavor that its taste remained with me 30 minutes and eight dishes later.

The winner of the loin group was Chef Rodney Scruggs of Occidental Grill and Seafood.  He made perhaps the most traditional lamb dish of the competition - dried rub grilled lamb loin salad.  It was your classic fresh lamb dish, chilled lamb brushed with a tangy rhubarb vinaigrette paired with mixed greens, beets, and pickled mushrooms.  There were only a few entries with chilled lamb so it naturally stood apart from its higher temperature competition, but its refreshing taste cannot be understated.

My favorite dish, and the most unique of the event, was Chef Peter Smith of PS 7’s Restaurant’s pull apart lamb sticky buns.  Imagine a tastefully prepared Cinnabun with less sugar coating and filled with warm, slightly spicy lamb meat, and voila!  The creativity was certainly appreciated and the finished product, served on top of additional lamb shank pieces, was delicious.  It’s a dish that could be served as an appetizer or a dessert item, proving its versatility in taste.

The American Lamb Tour provided the crowd with a real treat when they conducted a live butchering demonstration with DC’s own Pam Ginsberg of Wagshal’s.  Readers will be spared images but needless to say Pam had her way with the piece of meat. 
Overall, lamb lovers got what they paid for, and much more, at Lamb Jam 2012.  The event had a charitable twist as well, as portions of the proceeds went to Share Strength, a non-profit dedicated to ending child hunger in America.  Capital Cooking will eagerly await the American Lamb Tour’s next stop in our nation’s capital!

Photos by Bart Kendrick

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