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Thursday, August 23, 2018

Lamb Fest - Top Picks 2018

I tried explaining to a dear friend last week that Church Food Festivals are no longer really all that interesting to me. While they serve a great cause, and some of them may serve great food - there are just so many more robust options for people who actually like to eat.

For example, the Western Pennsylvania Lamb Cook Off this year hosted 34 well known chefs including guest chefs from Vegas and New York. I don't care how sentimental and nostalgic you may be for the church festivals of 'ole. There's just no way that nana and her church pals are up to the task of making better food than the professionals.

The first thing I noticed upon entering this years festival was the protestors! There were a number of folks very peacefully protesting the consumption of meat. I have to give them credit for just how polite they were, I didn't see a single one of them try to knock a kebab on the ground or snatch up any grape leaves.

Here are my top picks for this years festival in no particular order:

Team 9 with their szechuan style lamb served with snap peas and tofu. (Their pressed lamb was almost reminiscent of a terrine or rillettes.)

Team 4 with their multiple courses including a remarkable lamb tallow blueberry parfait. (I know what you are thinking, lamb tallow and desert just don't quite mix - but they do! The lamb fat added a wonderful umami sensation to the dish.)

Team 6 with their trio of homemade lamb sausages. (This was a crowd favorite and the line was long for almost the entire festival.)

Team 8 with their amazing grape leaves, kebabs and hummus. (This team also brought a wonderful exuberance to the festival and made you feel right at home. The grape leaves were almost as good as the ones my mother makes.)

I'd also like to give a shout-out to the folks from Scratch Food and Beverage who put together a very nice lamb dish atop dirty rice. It tasted just like something my family would make.

Overall this is a really great event that is well worth the $65 ticket price. Unlike similar events there is no need to be intimidated by the long lines. Even after hours of slinging lamb not a single one of the vendors had stopped serving food. Be prepared to immediately retire to your couch if you attempt to sample each dish. This is a true lamb feast.