photos + report: dc lamb jam 2013 @ eastern market

On a gorgeous Monday afternoon in Eastern Market, hundreds of food lovers gathered to celebrate the versatility of lamb. Possibly one of our most underused food resources, lamb was showcased in endless capacities as DC’s best battled it out to win the title of Best in Show at the American Lamb Board’s DC Lamb Jam. Not only were we inundated with facts about lamb, DIY lamb rub stations, games and giveaways, but there was there plenty (see: way too much) to eat and drink.

With a portion of the proceeds going to DC Central Kitchen (who just did an amazing job with Soundbites 2013), Lamb Jam challenged guests to reconsider the presence of lamb in their diets with a baffling array of dishes, with everything from lamb short ribs to tacos to rolled lamb cigar pastries. Chef Jon Critchley of Bourbon Steak created a lamb belly baozi with lemongrass and juniper, and served with a spectacular lamb XO sauce on the side. Cedar’s Chef Aaron McCloud quite literally rolled out a Jamison Farm lamb shank cigar with swiss chard jam, pickled asparagus, and minted lamb jus, garnished beautifully with a complex flavor to match.

Every ambitious dish stood out with inventive pairings and “why didn’t I think of that?!” ingredients, but there were great moments too; namely, Del Campo’s chef Victor Albisu calling, “Lamb and clam! Lamb and clam!” only to receive quizzical and confused looks in response to the spectacular lamb and clam tacos he was serving up. And of course, there were even more shenanigans at Pizzeria Orzo’s station with Chef Will Artley and company.

The spirits in play ranged from an endless wine selection inside, to beer sponsors including Allagash, Madfox, and 3 Stars. But the drink that truly claimed victory on this stunning spring afternoon was concocted by none other than Buffalo & Bergen/Hank’s Oyster Bar mixtress Gina Chersevani wowed us all with the Shocker, a citrus slush made with Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye.

Naturally, the winner of Best in Show came from where you’d least expect. Chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley of Ripple, who wowed us back in March at Lamb Board’s DC Lamb Crawl with a seared lamb heart carpaccio, found victory with a lamb shank ragu with potato gnocci, fava’s, pickled ramps, and parmesan. In a sea of paper plates, it was the least visually striking entry, but the one with the most powerful flavors. After only three months at Ripple, I can’t wait to see Chef Marjorie at the finale, and everything else she has in store for the Cleveland Park spot.

The winners of the DC Lamb Jam 2013 are as follows:

Best in Show & Best Shank Dish- Going to the 2013 NYC Lamb Jam Finale!
Marjorie Meek-Bradley of Ripple
Lamb Shank Ragu with Potato Gnocci, Fava’s, Pickled Ramps, Parmesan  

People’s Choice:
Dimitri Moshovitis of Cava Mezze Restaurant
Braised Lamb Shank in Barolo, Goat Cheese Gnocchi, Truffle and Aged Parmesan


Best Leg Dish:
Lee Gregory of The Roosevelt
Smoked Leg of Lamb, SC Farro “Dirty Rice”, Red Onion Marmalade, Green Tomato Relish


Best Breast Dish:
Will Artley of Pizzeria Orso
Braised Lamb Belly with Tomato Jam


Best Shoulder Dish:
Victor Albisu of Del Campo

Roasted Lamb and Clam Taco- Lamb Shank, Grilled Clam Salsa Verde, Grilled Guacamole