The other day Carrie and I were trying to decide on somewhere to go for lunch and ended up at Fontaine Caffe & Creperie, right off of King Street, in Old Town Alexandria.
We went halfsies on two savory crepes. Our favorite was the Moroccan spinach and feta topped with a mint-yogurt sauce$10.95. If you have ever had a spinach pie at a Lebanese restaurant (or from other middle eastern cuisines) this is reminiscent of one. Something about spinach and feta just goes so well together. The mint-yogurt sauce was a lovely touch and added a brightness to the dish. We were not as big fans of the Old Towner ham, sauteed spinach, caramelized onions$10.95. The texture of the ham was a little off, and although it is hard to believe, there were way too many caramelized onions that were not quite caramelized enough.
Would I come back? Yes, this was a great place for lunch - loved the side salad served with the crepes. Maybe avoid the Old Towner. Next time I am trying a sweet crepe!!
Two weeks ago, I was invited to the VIP Seminar, "Curriculamb: Lamb 101" for the DC Lamb Jam. Lamb Jam is put on by the American Lamb Board. ALB helps host events in Seattle, Boston, Austin, San Francisco and DC, where the winners from each city compete for the ultimate title - the LAMB JAM MASTER.
This year was DC's 5th Lamb Jam (this year is the 6th Lamb Jam - which started in Seattle), and the VIP Seminar was hosted by the winner of last year's Jam, Chef Rodney Scruggs of The Occidental. Also co-hosting was last years winner of Boston's Jam, Chef Nemo Bolin of Cook and Brown Public House in Providence, Rhode Island. After tasting their winning dishes from last year, I can see why they each won in their respective cities.
After arriving at The Occidental for the event, Nadia and I bee-lined straight for the bar. They offered local beer (Devil's Backbone), French wine and a "Lambtastic Libation" made with local rye whiskey (Catoctin). It had strawberry puree, apple vinegar, jalapeno, simple syrup and soda water - very light and refreshing. I had to try one of each of the drinks throughout the night (the woe's of blogging) and was happy to report that each was delicious.
With drinks in hand, we claimed a spot at the table (by the bar of course). The tables were adorned with awesome lamb guides giving tips on cooking, pairing and recipes. Along with that we received a meat thermometer and an apron.
With our spot claimed, we wandered around - meeting the adorable French Master Butcher, Marc, of Four Seasons in Baltimore, who would later on butcher an entire lamb in front of the group. It was not as bad as you think, take it from someone with a weak stomach.
We also wandered back to the outdoor grill that you had to pass when entering and checked out Chef Nemo and Chef Rodney working together to grill some lamb that was going to passed around for an appetizer. Teamwork.
The passed appetizers were a lamb croquette, lamb sausage and a lamb chop. While all delicious, the chop was my favorite.
While they were passing out appetizers, Master Butcher Marc started butchering the lamb and explaining all of the different cuts.
Each chef presented us with 2 dishes - their winning creation from last year, and a new dish of their choosing. The first dish brought out was the winner from last year's DC Lamb Jam by Chef Rodney Scruggs - the Dagwood Sandwich. I LOVED the salty-sweet combo of the goat cheese and strawberry preserves paired with the lamb. I'm a huge fan of fruit with my cheese, and peppery arugula...mmm. The last dish of the night (and Chef Rodney's second) was grilled lamb with a avocado, pearl couscous and a berry compote thing. By this time I was stuffed so I just ate the lamb which was wonderful. You know it's a good cut when it shines on its own.
The second dish we had was a Scotch Egg by Chef Nemo. Although I had never had a scotch egg before because eggs sometimes creep me out - I decided to try it and was super impressed. The egg was cooked perfectly inside. The fried lamb exterior paired with the spicy harissa, tangy yogurt and yolk made for a party in your mouth.
For Chef Nemo's, second dish, the Banh Mi inspired sandwich, he wanted to make something that the home cook could replicate. While he explained how to make it, Rodney took over the grilled. While his ingredients are from scratch - the home cook can definitely take shortcuts, easily being able to make this dish at home!
We also got to sample some of the freshly carved lamb that they grilled up in front of us. So amazing. All it needed was a little salt and pepper and the lamb spoke for itself.
Before leaving, I made sure to get a photo with Chef Rodney. Both he and Chef Nemo were great - they were not stuck up and were willing to talk to everyone. Chef Rodney even recognized me at Sunday's Lamb Jam and made an effort to talk with me. Respect.
Tickets for this event were $100, but my +1 and another blogger and her +1 both agreed that this was well worth the money. From what I hear this VIP Seminar is different from what they have done in previous years, but please, don't change a thing. If this is the way it is set up next year, and I don't get invited (but I would love to be - ;)) - I would be willing to buy my own ticket - that's how much fun I had....and I am cheap. Thanks for a great night!!
I also want to throw in a shout-out to the employees at The Occidental - one of our table mates was gluten and dairy free and they were very accommodating without complaint!
DC Lamb Jam review coming soon!
Although I was invited to attend this event with a +1, I was not paid, nor was I required to write about it.