Thursday, July 19, 2012

Lamb Jam SF

The 3rd Annual Lamb Jam was held last Sunday at the Presidio in SF. It's all about lamb at this event. It was an Iron chef competition with lamb as its secret ingredient. It was a very unique event. There was a butchery demo, a competition of lamb dishes where you get to be the judge, they have beer and wine plus a lot of lamb goodies and stuff. What's also cool about it was that the place was divided by the lamb parts they were serving. The shank, loin and leg have their own places. Lamb fanatics were definitely in heaven that day.

There was a DIY lamb rub spice kit where you get to choose the different spices that goes in your kit

Butchery demo from Dave the butcher, Chef John Fink and Don Watson

Also a place where art is inspired!

Lamb is a little tricky to cook. It has to be cooked right, often medium rare and shouldn't be too gamey. With this event, all the lamb dishes I've tasted were all amazing and cooked perfectly. Dishes had a perfect balance of acidity, sweetness, some crunchiness, freshness from the herbs and citrus all without overpowering the flavor of the animal.

I have to say, this was the best drink for me that day. Genius! Bourbon Coke slushy..

I love all the lamb dishes but if I have to pick the least, it would be the one from Tacolicious. The meatball was good and the sauce has a kick but I just hoped there was some bread or something that can mellow down the strong flavor. Also compared to the other dishes, there were a lot more different flavors complementing each other but their meatball was good.

CIA shots (Chefs in action)

Chef Adam from Brasserie S&P

One Market chefs


Chef Jen Biesty of Scala's Bistro as the "sheep"

Grand Cafe chefs

The Whole Beast crew

Chef Alicia Jenish and Chef Jen Biesty

The winners this year were:

Jaff Mall (Zin) - People's choice

Dino Vasquez (Eastside West) - Best shank

Antelmo Faria (Tacolicious) - Best leg

Mark Dommen (One Market) - Best shoulder

Vernon Morales (Town Hall) - Best in show/Best loin

Dish shots:

From Brasserie S&P. Grilled lamb loin, fennel confit, meyer lemon relish

Lamb Shoulder tacos from Jackson's. Fresh tortilla, "lava lake lamb", lemon verbena salsa. I can eat a dozen of these

One Market's Lamb shoulder lettuce cups. Very fresh, alot of herbs with a hint of fish sauce. Tasty asian inspired dish

Jake's spiced lamb loin with Chimichurri and Farro salad. Lamb was just perfectly cooked and the salad was amazing

Five's Cocoa and chile crusted lamb loin, roasted fresno chili agrodolce and bean salad. Didn't really tasted the cocoa but the lamb was cooked right.

Zin's red-eye braised lamb with sweet corn grits and Eastside farm chow chow

Puccini and Pinetti's herb braised lamb shank with wild mushroom polenta.

Top chef Jen Biesty's coriander marinated roasted leg of lamb, heirloom carrots, almond olive salad with octopus crackling. Perfect citrus acid balance. 

Tacolicious' lamb meatballs with chipotle sauce. It has a nice kick!

They all deserve to win since all chefs showed different ways to highlight and complement the great flavor of lamb. For me there were 3 standout dishes. Looking back, these dishes show the complexity of each elements. It may look simple but there were a lot of things that those ingredients went through.

Here are my top 3 dishes:

3. Grand Cafe's Lamb merguez with yogurt foam, crispy spiced pita, pickled veggies, plum gelee and roasted tomato. It was definitely flavorful. I took that perfect bite with almost all the ingredients and it worked perfectly. It was also plated beautifully for me so that's a plus.

2. Eastside West's Achiote braised lamb shank with stuffed swiss chard, green olive salsa and that cheesy plantain chips. Great combination of flavors especially that plantains chips dusted with Queso de bola. The swiss chard was also stuffed with ground lamb for that extra lamb kick. It was definitely memorable.

1. Best dish that day for me was Town Hall's The Lamb and the Fig. It was lamb loin wrapped in fig leaf with tomato and fig marmalade, sheep's milk yogurt, and a chickpea polenta. First it looks amazing. It's art in a plate. Second, lamb and fig just marries well together. Great flavors all together and definitely shows how all of them complements each other. You can definitely see the complexity of each component. Amazing dish!

It was a learning experience for me attending this event. It was inspiring. I tasted some of the best lamb dishes in SF. I learned different ways to complement this protein and let it shine. Thanks to the staff of this event for making it a successful event and for letting me experience it! Thanks Courtney! :)

For more Lamb Jam pics visit my facebook page at Fer's Bite.