Thursday, December 10, 2009

Jack & Ted: Greek Masters of Lamb, Ouzo and Tailgating (USC vs. UCLA)

Many food events ago, at Rivera restaurant, Alexia Haidos--who works the PR for them--overheard my excited fervor over this Secret Backyard Barbacoa Restaurant I had recently found out back then.

I love, love, love pit roasted mutton! Its diverse textures in pink flesh, chewy tendons, succulent skin and of course the fat! All sharing that unique wild bite, in my pantheon of protein animals, definitely my number one. I'm not even going to get into its wonderful cheeses and other milk products it produces...

In equal enthusiasm, she told me about these two friends of hers that did a Greek Roasted Lamb from time to time...she swore it was the best, and that I HAD to have it one day.

Well, that day fortunately came really soon:

greek roasted lamb
Salt, Garlic, Oregano, Lemon, Pepper, Olive Oil and Two Greek Guy's Dedication: Best Roast Lamb Thus Far In My Life

It was the tailgate to beat all tailgates, the L.A prideful classic of the local--expensive tuition-prestigious rivals: USC vs. UCLA.

But this was the lamb roast to beat all lamb roast as well.

Jack Stumpus and Ted Tarazi are two Greek guys that just love food, to be more specific, they love roast lamb, and they have might have damn nearly perfected it. It starts with a whole fresh New Zealand lamb that they get at the food-service exclusive Restaurant Depot.

They marinate it that bad boy until gametime in only the textbook-classic of Greek seasonings: Salt, Pepper, Oregano, Garlic, Lemon and Olive Oil. But not after having to personally defrost it, running in warm water. This means having to suspend the animal on its hind legs from ropes, tied up on a broom handle, that is clenched on the top of the shower. It's a three man job, they take turns as one rotates so all sides get an event amount of water, while the others massage the frozen skin until thawed. A kitchen sink doesn't cut it for a whole frozen carcass.

jack smiling
Jack Stumpus Pridefully Cutting the Fruit of His Labor

"It went on at about 11:00 AM" Jack tells me exhausted but still smiling, after having to turn and tend the 30+ lbs animal for the last four and a half hours.

Four Hours Later

It takes about 150 lbs of Kingsford [coal] to do this and a special rotisserie spit that they had to custom order, but this is a small price to pay for tender, charred, crackly, salty, garlicky, peppery lamb perfection.

A couple of ribs here, a shoulder and shank there

Four years of trial and error practice has resulted in a nonpareil flavor and texture that has even made a long time vegetarian friend of theirs change his dietary restrictions. Not to say there has been a couple of flops, they used to depend on their car batteries to mechanically turn the spit. It took killing both of their car batteries and a jump start to make them realize...why not just do it by hand?

Besides, half of the time most passerby's are completely awestruck by it, instantly becoming captivated to spin it for the sheer thrill of turning a live roasting aliment. Lines have formed. This primordial allurement of roast game has even enthralled the local fire Marshal, where instead of shutting them down, very understandably actually asked them for their number so he can call them to cater at one of his family gatherings...

And astute vegetarians need not frail, if somehow you don't find yourself nibbling on a piece of charred divinity, Ted Tarazi's pops is actually responsible for the original Falafel King falafel recipe. Now if only he could personally get them to taste like the ones he had growing up, his dad never wrote down the recipe after selling it, so its been lost ever since. He's also been trying hard to recreate it ever since...and everyday he gets closer.

Holding the Perfect Falafel Scoop, Another Terazi Invention

And last but not least, a Greek gathering would not be complete without some potent and pungent Ouzo, the Anise flavored national spirit of Greece that would make even the most hardcore of alcoholics cringe like a novice lightweight. Especially this kind, the last of Tarazi innovations, homemade and bottled at the Tarazi household, its some hard--but tasty--stuff.

Ted's Mom

Definitely not Mexican pit roasted Barbacoa, but equally--if not even more--damn good.

I asked them if they would ever cater, guess what they said...

Jack Stumpus
Cell 310-592-5194

Ted Tarazi
Cell: 818-512-5077

...tell them the Javier the lamb-loving, skinny foodblogger sent ya'!


Food GPS said...

Good write-up and photos. That lamb looks phenomenal. I was kicking myself when I learned the tailgate would coincide with my trip to Atlanta. I hope Jack and Ted roast another lamb in the near future.

mattatouille said...

that lamb looks delish man, thanks for chronicling that.

rose said...

Great post!
Came across your blog on finals night and made the evening go by so much faster. Now a few of my classmates and I intend on going to the Rio Brazil Café. Look forward to reading more of your posts!

burpandslurp said...

ohmigosh...I was THERE!!! I took a picture of this myself! Haha, we were so close!

Exile Kiss said...

Hi Teenage Glutster,

Nice! That looks like an impressive tailgate party. :)

Anna A. said...

I'm jealous of your Greek feast! Esp the roasted lamb. Next time holler at a Greek woman!!