NEW YORK, NY :: JBF LAMBS & CLAMS // james beard foundation, craig rogers, travis croxton, bryan voltaggio, graeme richie, dylan fultineer, derek brown, chantal tseng

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What happens when you put a shepherd, an oyster farmer, a mixologist & a top chef in one kitchen?

They create a six course tasting menu that makes you wonder why you haven’t paired lamb with clams before.

So today I’m talking about my JBF Lambs & Clams Dining Experience

COCKTAIL HOUR:

  • INDOOR: Chefs Graeme Richie of Volt & Dylan Fultineer of Rappahannock created five exceptional pass hor d’oeurves in the kitchen, while Mixologist Derek Brown & his team served two signature cocktails from the Greenhouse
  • OUTDOOR: Oysterman Travis Croxton prepared a delicious raw bar featuring oysters, clams, salsas and a lamb tartare (until it started pouring rain)

DINNER:

When cocktail hour finished at 7:45pm, I had the honor of sitting downstairs in the Greenhouse at the Chefs Table.

The table was set for 12, but there were 3 seats left vacant for the featured hosts (who typically spend a majority of the night walking around table-to-table to introduce themselves to the guests).

Luckily for me, I was able to meet a new set of faces as each course arrived!

So take a look at the dishes below to see who I met and what I learned about them upon their arrival!

  • 1st Course: Sea Scallop in its Shell with Roe

The first person I met at the table was Hilda Staples who is the owner of Volt & Range Restaurants in Virginia.

When I asked her how she got into the industry, she told me she was studying to be a lawyer and decided that life wasn’t for her. Sound familiar to you?

Instead she became a housewife, fell in love with her new community, and decided to open a bar/restaurant. When she was searching for a Chef, she contacted Bryan Voltaggio (before he became a Top Chef celebrity) and created a partnership based on the fact that they grew up in the same hometown.

  • 2nd Course: Orechiette Pasta with Lambs Tongue

Hilda was sitting with Kelly, and she’s the person who introduced Hilda to Craig Rogers (retired Dean of Business turned Lamb Shepherd)… so basically, we all have Kelly to thank for the creation of Lambs and Clams!

Why? Well, once Craig started getting serious about raising animals on his farm (as a way to cope with retirement), Craig started to sell his products to Hilda and Bryan for Volt Restaurant. Now he’s a renown shepherd and has Al Roaker on his speed dial.

  • 3rd Course: Lambs and Clams – Merguez Sausage and Steamed Clams with Sofrito, Heirloom Beans, Cavolo Nero, and Amontillado Sherry

When the 3rd Course arrived, I got a chance to speak to Travis Croxton (Oysterman + Restaurateur) to hear how he met Craig the Shepherd. Turns out… two years ago at a Volt Event, Craig was shucking oysters next to Travis. As soon as they were introduced, they decided to create a “Lambs and Clams” dish together and have been friends ever since!

Fun Fact! The Lambs and Clams dish is a hearty meal made with ground lamb and a tomato paste sauce. They currently sell the original dish at a farmers market in Washington DC, but for this dinner, Chef Dylan Fultineer decided to substitute the ground lamb with a merguez sausage to make it more delicate due to the amount of courses. Can you say #genius?

  • 4th Course: Lamb Loin with Ramp Leaf Pesto

Fourth course, I was blown away by the lamb loin.

I knew to expect delicious lamb from Craig, but I didn’t expect sweet and smoky flavors cooked to perfection. This course was created by Bryan Voltaggio and prepared by his Chef du Cuisine Graeme Richie.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to meet Chef Bryan (due to an emergency in DC), but I did get a chance to speak with Chef Graeme, who described some of the flavors in his dishes before he started plating!

  • Dessert: Chocolate, Honey, and Caramel Textures

At the very last course, I got a chance to speak with Mixologist Derek Brown and his wife Chantal Tseng who executed the cocktails and wine pairings for the night. Derek was the featured mixologist for this event and is very good friends with Craig, Travis, Hilda and Bryan.

Known for his cocktails in the DC area, I cannot wait to visit Chantal and Derek at their newest bar, Mockingbird (which will be opening soon)!

OVERALL:

I could not have asked for better food or company at the House. I dined incredibly well. Some of my JBF colleagues mentioned that they were going to pace themselves throughout the meal, but I had no intention of restraining myself. The wine flowed, the lamb was to die for, and the clams were practically fresh out of the ocean.

Well done Lambs and Clams crew! I’m looking forward to Lambstock 2013!


 

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