At this year’s Lamb Jamb, the American Lamb Board invited a handful of local restaurants to get creative with the titular ingredient — a challenge the participating chefs tackled with wildly different strategies. The sold out taste around, which has in previous years been held at neighboring food hall Union Market, this time provided guests an opportunity to eat and drink at historic Eastern Market.
The competitors involved in this year’s cook off included: Tico (served up a Chicago-style lamb sausage), District Distilling Co. (lamb tamale with chickpeas), Sloppy Mama’s (lamb with grits), Federalist Pig (lamb with hoe cakes), Sixth Engine (tamarind lamb ribs), Cava (lamb taco), and Right Proper Brewing Company (raspberry lamb ribs). Complementary drinks were provided by Right Proper, Cava (had a bottle of lamb-infused Rebel Yell bourbon), District Distilling, Williamsburg Winery, Skylark Winery, Port City Brewing Company, 3 Stars Brewing Company, and Flying Dog Brewery. The event was held in conjunction with food-focused local charity, DC Central Kitchen.
Here are some of the takeaways from the evening:
1) And the Big Winner Is: Federalist Pig founder Rob Sonderman, whose slow-roasted lamb with hoe cakes snagged both Best in Show and the People’s Choice award.
When asked about how he was feeling earlier in the evening, Sonderman joked with the assembled food press, “Oh, you know just working on my day off. Can’t complain.”
2) The Coming Soon(ish) News: Dean Dupuis, the Brasserie Beck alum turned executive chef of the forthcoming Succotash going into Penn Quarter calculates that the new restaurant should now open circa August. It’s predecessor landed in National Harbor two summers ago.
3) Build It and They Will Come: There was no shortage of would-be chefs happy to experiment at a Southern biscuit bar stocked with flaky baked goods and an assortment of spreads (pimento cheese, herb butter, marmalade).
4) SWAG: Attendees were welcome to grab pre-packed tins of “BBQ Bash Rub,” a custom blend of chile powder, cumin, rosemary, thyme, garlic, salt, pepper, and brown sugar. But the spice mix didn’t get people nearly as charged up as another giveaway.
“Oooh, hand wipes,” exclaimed one attendee who pocketed a fistful of moist towelettes.
5) Sweet Emotions: “This is what I want,” said one guest as she beelined for the dessert spread provided by Union Kitchen alum Rare Sweets. The home-grown bakery served up chocolate shortbread (shaped like a lamb), cake bites, gingersnap cookies, and panna cotta.
6) SWAG Part 2: There were gratis packets of dental floss right by the sink in the restroom.
7) There’s One in Every Crowd: “Know the bottlenecks, people,” barked an impatient attendee trying to navigate his way through meandering diners.
8) Tapping Out: “We had SAVOR Saturday. Then taking care of the puppy all day yesterday. And now this,” said a participant who sounded overwhelmed by the past 72 hours.
9) Completely Out of Context Quote of the Night: “Were you, like, offering sexual favors or whatever?” a man asked a female companion as they made their way to the 3 Stars table.