Well, this past Sunday, I had the pleasure of attending the first annual, sold out event, DC Lamb Jamb, held in the ballroom of the downtown Ritz Carlton, DC. Poised for the festivities, I threw on my most casual clothes and stepped out to hail a cab and get on my merry way to stuffing my face full of lamb inspired delicacies and a bevy of wine samples from 2-5 that afternoon.

I got off to a slightly shaky start, as I bounced out of my apartment, sans umbrella, and realized I didn’t have cash for a cab…and the sky looked to be slightly ominous and threatening a storm. No worries, I would make the quick stroll down to my friendly neighborhood 7-11 to use the ATM and then hop in a cab lickety-split to avoid the rain.

On my way to the convenience store, I was passed by two empty cabs trolling for passengers. Darn it! Ah well, there would be more. I popped into the 7-11, attempting to avoid the display of rolling meat products that were sure to ruin my appetite for the upcoming festivities.

Having the money mission accomplished, I crossed the street to wait for my hired chariot to arrive. No such luck. I waited….and waited…and waited. All the while, a woman of menacing stature sat idle in a jalopy of a minivan across the street, staring at me as if she was considering whether or not to step out and give me a good ass-beating. But alas, she found me not worth the effort. And then the rain started. I looked at the sky and asked mother nature not to kill my proverbial buzz, and she politely accommodated me.

Finally, after about a half and hour of staving off Starey McStareson over there, and dodging raindrops, i hailed my cab and made it to the Ritz. I was immediately struck by the enthusiasm buzzing around the event. I mean, look at this guy and tell me you don’t get the slightest tinge of excitement?

Ok, all kidding aside…and to be honest, it was so swamp-like hot outside that I think I would have been doing the same in his well-polished shoes. So, moving on…after some assistance from the ever-so-friendly staff, i found my way to the food and started exploring.

Upon entering the event, I was barraged by a wave of deliciousness. The room was a flutter with foodies juggling wine glasses, plates full of tender lamb, cameras and the like. I took a moment to do a sweep of the room, but you really could determine the crowd favorites, as the lines backed up about 20 deep for some, but all seemed to be moving very fast. I have to say, as I glanced over at the butchery station, I knew it was probably quite interesting, and the butcher quite a talented lady, but I was a slight bit disturbed by the live demonstration that showed attendees how to power through bones and ever so artfully and skillfully break down a carcass. Hypocritical, yes. But…what can I say. Not my strong suit.

I started back from the beginning and found the selections that I thought looked to be most appealing, and worked my way through my top picks. I put in the good fight, but I must admit…I eventually had to give way to the pinch of my buttons and retire my plastic fork. That said, I unfortunately didn’t get to try a very large portion of each dish, but I did manage to at least get a taste of most, as well as a few very tasty wines that I had not yet heard of. So, since my review would be the size of a novel if I went on about each of my favorites, here is the run down on my top picks for the event, short and sweet:

Kristen’s Picks (if I do say so myself):
Bibiana, Nick Stefanelli
Lamb Shoulder Confit, with Charred Eggplant, Lamb Ravioli & Ramps

My take: Buttery, smooth, rich goodness. All of the flavors melded together into a perfection of taste. My favorite of the day.

Eatwell DC, Billy McCormick
Tajine of Lamb Leg with Preserved Lemons and Green Olives

My take: Buttery, smooth, rich goodness. All of the flavors melded together into a perfection of taste. My favorite of the day. Just such a comforting and flavorful combination and so much to experience on one plate

Restaurant Nora, Todd Woods
Porcini-Salt Crusted Organic Leg of Lamb with Sheep’s Milk Ricotta Gnudi, Fava Beans, Lamb’s Quarters, Fiddlehead Ferns and Spring Garlic Jus

My take: So smooth and rich between the tender lamb and smoothness of the ricotta. Add in the mixture of herbs and it was a flavor explosion.

Bastille, Christopher Poteaux
Tajine of Lamb Shoulder

My take: Just a simple, honest-to-goodness flavor that you expect of one of your favorite home-cooked dishes. A true comfort feeling, with the flavor and heartiness to match

DeLILLE Cellars, Metier Blanc (Wine)
The nose features a mouth-watering citrus core, especially lime, with notes of bee pollen, white flowers, jasmine tea, honey and a touch of vanilla bean. This is a sleek and elegant Viognier, with a creamy texture on the palate from the Roussanne. Bright, rich and balanced with a great mid-palate, this wine will enhance any summertime meal.

My take: Crisp, fresh, flavorful, and delightful. I would have purchased a few bottles on the spot, had it been a reasonable request. A definite must try for the summer with a light fish dish!
(please send an email with questions or for contacts!!)

Official Event Winners:
People’s Choice: BLT Steak, Chef Victor Albisu
o Braised Lamb Shank with Merguez Paella and Charred Ramp Gremolata

Best in Show: Urbana, Chef John Critchley
Slow-cooked Lamb Leg with Preserved Lemon, Dried Herbs and Flowers, Rosemary scented Gypsy Peppers and Cipolini Onion

Leg: Urbana, Chef John Critchley
Slow-cooked Lamb Leg with Preserved Lemon, Dried Herbs and Flowers, Rosemary scented Gypsy Peppers and Cipolini Onion

Loin: Café Atlantico, Chef Richard Brandenburg
Pickled strawberries with black olive lamb pistachio crust served with snap peas

Shank: Zaytinya, Michael Costa
Hunkar Begendi- A traditional Turkish dish of Braised Lamb Shanks with Eggplant Kefalograviera Puree

Shoulder: Bibiana, Nick Stefanelli
Lamb Shoulder Confit, with Charred Eggplant, Lamb Ravioli & Ramps

Participating Chefs:
Adam Sobel- Bourbon Steak
Billy McCormick- Eatwell DC (Logan Tavern, Grillfish, Commissary and The Heights)
Christophe Poteaux- Bastille
Clayton Miller- Trummers on Main
Dan Giusti- 1789
Dennis Marron- Jackson 20 & Grille at Morrison House
Ed Witt- 701
Hamilton Johnson- Vidalia
Joe Palma- Eric Ripert’s West End Bistro at Ritz Carlton
John Critchley- Urbana
Joseph Comfort- Lebanese Taverna
Mike Costa- Zaytinya
Mike Sindoni- AGAINN
Nick Stefanelli- Bibiana
Richard Brandenburg- Café Atlantico
Roberto Donna- Galileo III
Rodney Scruggs- Occidental Grill & Seafood
Todd Woods- Restaurant Nora
Victor Albisu- BLT Steak

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