Lamb Jam 2014
Every year the American Lamb Board hosts an event called Lamb Jam. It's a tasting competition that brings together some of the best chefs across the area to battle it out for the best lamb dish. This year I was excited to be one of the judges who had the chance to sample every dish blindly (not knowing which dish belonged to which chef) and then grade them based on presentation, creativity, and taste. At the end of the tasting, all of the judges banned together to pick a winner in the following categories: best shank, best leg, best ground, best shoulder, and best in show. In addition to the judges' table, there is also a people's choice competition and those who purchased tickets to the event were able to mill around Eastern Market in the beautiful weather, taste all of the chef's dishes, and also have a nice sampling of local wines and beers.
Lamb is a great ingredient, and one I order often when I am out at a nice restaurant. There were a few dishes that were major standouts for me, and many of them happened to make it to the winner's circle. With almost 20 chefs competing from some of DC, Maryland, and Virginia's best restaurants, the food was top notch. Below are the winners:
- Best Shank: Cumin lamb shank chow fun by Chef Erik Bruner-Yang from Maketto/Toki Underground (pictured above.) The dish was super spicy, incredibly inventive, and we all agreed it was deserving of a win.
- Best Leg: Lamb empanadas by Chef Victor Albisu from Del Campo (pictured above.) The flaky pastry dough with crisped edges stuffed with lamb was delicious, and the chimichurri sauce added just the right amount of spice.
- Best Ground: Curried lamb sausage by Chef Wes Morton from Art and Soul. We were surprised to hear that Chef Wes Morton was responsible for this dish with all of the Indian flavors, as his cooking tends to be southern focused. It was a great combination.
- Best Shoulder: Lamb benedict by Chef Dimitri Moshovitis from Cava Mezze Grill (pictured above.) As soon as this dish hit the table, we all were very excited to eat it. The presentation was adorable, and the lamb sausage was topped with a quail egg, harissa hollandaise, and crispy lamb bacon. This was my favorite dish of the night.
- People's Choice: Lamb benedict by Chef Dimitri Moshovitis from Cava Mezze Grill.
- Best in Show: Dagwood sandwich by Chef RJ Scruggs from The Occidental Grill (pictured above.) This lamb sandwich had a sweet touch of strawberry jam, and was served on a board with a lamb fat and rosemary shortbread cookie, and a strawberry milkshake. The crowd loved it.
Other dishes I enjoyed that didn't make the finals, but are pictured above included Aggio's lamb bolognese and Zaytinya's lamb kibbeh with ewe creme, dandelion greens, wild garlic, and alfalfa sprouts. Now that the DC winner has been crowned, the team from The Occidental Grill moves onto the Lamb Jam finals which will take place in California in September where they will compete against the winners of San Francisco, Seattle and Boston. Best of luck to our DC team!