The afternoon sun beams down through a
grove of trees; blue smoke filters, dancing through each stream of
light. It wafts out from pits of fire, wood and glowing gray ash. A
pig’s head roasts on a grill. Its teeth and jawbone jut from its
mouth, like in Lord Of The Flies. One hand douses it with a
thick red sauce and the lid closes down. A row of ducks hanging by
wires jiggle, twirl and drip on a spit until they burst open above
glowing coals and an earthen vessel filled to the brim with leafy
greens. Someone pays homage to a whole dressed lamb by kissing its
hindquarters before breaking it down with a boning knife and a
hacksaw. The soundtrack to this scene is a funk/soul band whose
electric guitars and rhythmic grooves echo throughout the valley and
rise up to the top of the hill where guests in tents rest and await
their next move.
This is Lambstock. Woodstock for chefs.
And it’s invite-only.
At Lambstock, there’s no such thing
as too many cooks in the kitchen. The annual festival devoted to
food, friends and fun has become a favorite summer getaway for chefs
from all over the Southeast and from points north to rolling hills on
the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s kind of in the middle of
nowhere, right on the North Carolina/Virginia state line, but
everyone who is supposed to know, knows where it is.
As an attendee, you have two options:
cook or clean. It’s a working vacation.
Shepherd Craig Rogers of Border Springs
Farm in Patrick Springs, Va. has been hosting this event for almost a
decade as a way to connect chefs to his pasture-raised product, lamb.
In its early years, Lambstock started small — word is that the
first one began when Top Chef alum Bryan Voltaggio asked if he could
bring some of his chefs down to visit the farm and camp in the
pasture for the night. Other chefs heard and converged on the farm,
and thus Lambstock was born. Rogers used to be a regular at both
Cobblestone and Winston-Salem Fairgrounds Farmers Markets to sell his
wares. This is much better, and more.
As chefs start to arrive, each will
claim a spot among the day’s meals: lunch, supper, dinner, and late
night. Of course, someone will throw together breakfast and surprise
snacks make regular appearances throughout the day. As food finds it
way to the serving table, it’s fair game. “Get it while it’s
hot” is relative here. If you miss it, that’s okay; more of
something else will be up soon.
The event brings together foodservice
professionals from chefs to meat distributors to wineries and craft
breweries in the sheep pasture just off Rogers’ back deck. He
provides lamb from his flock, while beef, pork and seafood are
brought in by like-minded companies and the chefs themselves. A
nearly unlimited supply of beer, wine and spirits graces an open bar
and hundreds of guests will spend three days camping, cooking and
communing in similar fashion to the event’s namesake in Woodstock.
“I don’t even know what I’m standing
in line for,” comments one woman waiting in a line that ends with a
prize of tables full of food. Long rows of tables covered from head
to toe with local produce, meats, cheeses, fruits, fish; the legs of
the tables and each participant groan from the weight of each dish.
Reed Gordon, chef de cuisine at Greensboro Country Club, came through
with jars of sweet and hot pickled watermelon rind. A 5-gallon bucket
filled to the brim with watermelon gazpacho followed behind. Jars of
’shine, pickles, jams and liqueurs are exchanged at a high rate of
speed amongst friends here. Every 25 minutes a new pot, pan, dish or
bottle of a mixed drink appears in order to be consumed.
A cast-iron cauldron swings over a pit
of flowing coals while oil bubbles violently, washing over
double-battered fried chicken. A smoker the size of a small foreign
car sits on a plateau above the pavilion.
It’s all about relationships at
Lambstock. There are no brochures. There are no business cards. It’s
just a good ol’ fashioned time to be eating and drinking with
Lambstock is sharing Southern foodways
and traditions and wild new culinary innovations, too.
Lambstock is fresh, hot cornbread
stuffed oysters appearing at just the right time. Lambstock is
singing and guitars echoing in the valleys until the wee morning
hours and 4 a.m. philosophical discussions. Lambstock is emerging
from a damp tent in the morning to find Greensboro personal chef Lynn
Wells, putting together buttermilk biscuits with bacon pepper jam,
liver pudding and pimento cheese, with slices of Cherokee Purple
Lambstock is life.
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