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Sunday, November 21, 2021

Lamb Fest 2021 - South Side Works

 

Some of the Lamb

Lamb Fest is easily one of the top food events in Pittsburgh. This year the event was better than ever. The South Side works turned out to be a perfect venue as it allowed for a very generous lamb flow. In previous years some of the other venues were a little tight and lines seemed to overflow into the thoroughfares surrounding the event. Due to covid concerns it was wonderful to have some additional space at this years event. Our group never had a difficult time finding a nice quiet table to enjoy our lamb and honestly we barely even had to wait in line to try the majority of the dishes.

In particular the VIP lounge was an awesome touch this year. The VIP tickets provided unlimited drinks, a private indoor dining area, a number of awesome sweets and even a very generous Larimer's gift card.

Pictured above is some bozo we saw eating lamb soup cooked by Team 5: The Northwest Shredders. Also pictured are the lamb fat donuts and lamb sausage cooked by Team2: Sheared Excellence and finally one of my favorites, the lamb sloppy jo cooked by Team 9: Average Jo's.

 

MORE LAMB

 

Now let's get down to the brass tax. Ranking this years contestants.  There were so many awesome dishes that it was nearly impossible to rank them. However, I managed to do it anyhow. The teams that placed towards the end of my list shouldn't be disappointed in the results. Their dishes were truly fantastic, much of my rankings were based on personal preferences. Everything I tried at the event was absolutely delicious. The exception is Team 6 who ran out of lamb an hour into the event. I didn't get to try their dish; you really need to learn to pace yourselves boys.

Lamb Rankings 2021

1st Place

Team 7 - Lamb Lettuce Wrap

2nd Place

Team 5 - Shredded Pancake Lamb Stew

3rd Place

Team 4 Lamb Croquette

4th Place

Team 9 - Lamb Sloppy Jo's

5th Place

Team 3 - Lamb Quesabirra

6th Place

Team 1 - Lamb Neua Gae

7th Place

Team 2 - Lamb Dog and Donut

8th Place

Team 8 - Terrine

9th Place

Team 6 - DNF

 Below I've described each dish for your pleasure.

Team 1 - f-f-f-f and a nice chianti - Lamb Neua Gae

This was similar to the lamb lettuce wrap but served in Belgian endive which tends to be somewhat bitter. I heard many of the guests at the event describe the dish itself as bitter, but I would imagine they just aren't accustomed to eating Belgian endive. The dish had a varied texture which added depth. The flavor in general seemed unbalanced and was lacking but it had an awesome spice level. It had one of the best spice levels of any dish at the contest and the team used the entire animal in preparing their dish which is something I appreciate. Word up to my main man Don.

 

Lamb Dog

Team 2 - Sheared Excellence - Lamb Dog and Donut

I have to give Team 2 bonus points for having so many wonderful dishes when all the other contestants only offered one dish. They had a delicious jerky that was loaded with flavor, a lamb donut and also a lamb sausage which was delicious and paired extremely well with feta, onions and cucumber. I felt the sausage was a bit too bread heavy. The donut made a nice presentation but overall was a bit underwhelming.

Team 3 - Slamb Let the Boys be Boys - Lamb Quesabirra

 I absolutely love quesabirra. While I've generally only had the dish prepared with beef, lamb is perfect as well due to the high fat content. Also, the house made tortilla was fantastic. The dish had a great texture and plenty of meat, but it felt like it lacked salt and it was also a bit difficult to eat as the tortilla was lacking in integrity. 

Soju was a member of Team 3 - in case you missed it the owner of Soju had an amazing rant on social media earlier this year explaining his food prices and touching on the topic of what it means to offer authentic food. While the tortilla may have been lacking in integrity no one can say the same about Soju or the other members of Team 3.

Lamb Croquette

Team 4: Casa Vandal - Lamb Croquette

Someone get these guys a bigger deep fryer! Team 4 was the only team that continuously had a line throughout the event. This was because they were individually deep frying croquettes in a deep fryer designed for home use. Due to the process involved each croquette came out piping hot and delicious. I also loved the tangy dipping sauce accompanying the dish. I thought this dish was beautiful but I also felt it could have done a better job featuring the lamb. Shout out to my man Joey.

Team 5 - Northwest Shredders - Shredded Pancake Lamb Stew

Honestly this was probably my favorite dish of the day, but I ranked it second because I almost felt like they were cheating. This stew was absolutely remarkable. Just loaded with flavor and amazing ingredients. The stew featured a ton of tofu, an amazing broth and tender delicious lamb. Again, the lamb almost seemed like an afterthought which is why I ranked them second. Each bowl of stew was customizable and included red pepper, cilantro and pickled garlic as possible options. The day of the event was a bit cold and dreary and this was the perfect dish for such a day. A+++ work. 

Team 6 - The Under dogz - Pure Lamb

The Under dogz were definitely under dogs as they totally blew it. I made the mistake of waiting to try their dish last. Just one hour into the competition they had run out of lamb and closed shop. I told chef Roger Li that I expected more. I'm sad to rank them last, but I didn't even get to try their dish. Lamb is just like sex or a buffet, you need to pace yourself. If you haven't  checked out Parlor Dim Sum by Chef Li I highly recommend that you do. His dim sum boxes are fantastic.

Lamb Lettuce Wrap

Team7 - Wood Fire - Lamb Lettuce Wrap

This was what I considered the best dish of the competition. It was perfectly seasoned and balanced and they did a remarkable job of featuring lamb as the main ingredient. The pomegranate added a magnificent crunch and wonderful texture. I could eat this everyday.

Team 8 - Lambaholics - Terrine with Condiments

Honestly, if it had been a hot day I think this might have been my favorite dish. The terrine itself was absolutely fantastic and loaded with flavor. However, the presentation left a lot to be desired and it just wasn't an ideal dish for a cold rainy day.


Lamb Sloppy Jo

Team 9 0 Average Jo's - Lamb Sloppy Jo's

The lamb sloppy jo was also one of my favorite dishes of the day. The brioche bun was very good and the creme fraiche added a nice balance to the lamb mixture. My only complaint is that the lamb to bread ratio was a bit skewed and I could have used a little more lamb or a little less bread.

If you like lamb you had better get a ticket to next years event. The Western PA Lamb Festival does an amazing job of showcasing not only the versatility of lamb but also the talents of some of the best chefs in the city. It's lamb heaven. 


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