Blackwall Hitch in Annapolis Offers a Seasonal Recipe for “Spring Lamb”
By Rita Calvert // Photography by Tony Lewis, Jr.
Chef Zachary Pope is navigating a new and grand ship with full crew at Blackwall Hitch in Eastport. With Chef busy at the helm, his steering officer, Lea Hurt, who heads PR and is the voice of operations helped explain some of the restaurant’s history.
It is known that your restaurant highlights a historical bent. Please explain the name and tell us about the history.We do get questions about the name “Blackwall Hitch.” It has a unique history, and it’s all about connection. In 1862 the shipping industry was strong in London’s Blackwall Port and ships were in and out in quick order. Many families left their farms and machine posts to engage in an adventure that would not only change their world, but influence the world we enjoy today. The ships set sail and docked at the sandy coasts of Maryland and Virginia and other parts of the Eastern Seaboard. The strong hooks attached to the docks were the only connection the boats would have, and a nimble shipmate would need to dock the boat and make it secure in a flash. The unique blackwall hitch knot allows for a fast connection as the line draws itself tighter and tighter as the vessel rises and falls with the tide.
Our nautical decor is inspired from the Blackwall Hitch knot. We mixed the nautical and urban with every aspect of the decor from the wall color and finishes to the eclectic lighting and reclaimed furniture.
Chef Pope, what was your background and training to become a chef?I grew up cooking with my mother and grandmother and have loved working with food all my life. Who doesn’t love food? When I was a pre-med student at Baylor, I took a job as a waiter, as many college students do, and was drawn immediately to the kitchen. As I was about to enter my third year of college, I had a conversation with my older brother about what I wanted to do with my life. His simple question was, “Well, what do you like to do?” Within weeks, I enrolled in the Baltimore International Culinary College. I was awarded a fellowship at the Park Hotel, one of Ireland’s premier country resorts famous for classic cuisine. After my fellowship, I returned to the States to work in D.C. kitchens such as Restaurant Vidalia, Georgetown Station, Vintage Wine Bistro (with Gerard Pangaud of Gerard’s Place), Red Sage, Tahoga, Butterfield 9, and Ortanique.
Chef, your menu changes seasonally, how do you come up with fresh ideas?You hit on the key word for inspiration: seasonal. I thrive on the arrival of seasonal foods, and the changes in palate that each season brings—moving from lighter in the spring/summer to heartier in the fall/winter.
What is your earliest memory in the kitchen, Chef Pope? Do you have an affinity for seafood?When I was about eight years old, and a growing boy, I was always hungry. My mom would tell me that her kitchen closes after dinner so I needed to eat before then or she would show me how to make a few simple things that would satisfy my appetite. One of the first meals I mastered was a scrambled egg sandwich. I still love them to this day.
Yes, I love seafood. Diver scallops are my favorite and I try to work them into a menu whenever I get the chance…like the Chef’s Table Wine Dinners we host each month at Blackwall. I’ve used scallops in several of them.
Tell us about the long table by the Raw Bar? What is “WOB”? You offer Wine Dinners?The long table by the raw bar is referred to as the “King’s Table.” It is a beautiful seating area in view of the working kitchen and can accommodate up to 16 guests. We always recommend reservations for groups of this size, and the King’s Table is the perfect setting.
In house, we sometimes refer to the Wine and Oyster Bar as the “WOB.” It is in full view of our working kitchen. The King’s Table and Wine and Oyster Bar seating areas are also where we host our Chef’s Table Wine Dinners. These five-course meals, created by Chef Zachary Pope, are an evening of dining and discussion with Chef and a sommelier as guests enjoy their meal. The close proximity to the kitchen makes these seating areas ideal for guest interaction with Chef.
What makes your parking lot “green”? Are there any other green aspects to the restaurant?Several years ago, we partnered with the Spa Creek Conservancy to reduce and treat storm water runoff in our parking lot before it reached Spa Creek. We installed several pervious concrete areas, following the natural geology of the property; bioretention areas to capture, treat, and allow storm water infiltration; and conservation landscaping using native trees and plants.
We carry this theme of stewardship throughout our restaurant. Our oyster shells are sent to the Oyster Shell Recycling Program. We source our food locally as much as possible. And we have used reclaimed, redecorated furniture pieces and relics in our décor.
Chef Pope’s Spring Lamb with Rosemary Garlic CoatingPortion serves one
Although the recipe is given per rack, the dough mixture should cover 6 to 8 racks.
Rack of lamb (ask the butcher for a nicely trimmed rack—plan on 4 bones per person)
2 tablespoons fresh chopped garlic
2 cups Panko bread crumbs
1/4 stick of butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh chopped rosemary
(if using dried, 3 teaspoons ground)
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon onion powder
Large mixing bowl
Small microwavable bowl
Baking pan or sheet
ProcessPreheat oven to 350 degrees.
Put garlic, butter and olive oil in the microwave for 1 minute until very hot. In large mixing bowl, combine the hot butter mixture with remaining dry ingredients. Using your hands (or a rubber spatula) work the ingredients until an almost dough-like consistency is achieved. If you find your mixture too dry, add a teaspoon or two of water. Flip the dough out onto wax paper, place another sheet of wax paper on top and roll out to an even thickness, 1/4 inch. Remove top layer of wax paper.
Salt and pepper lamb racks generously. Place lamb on baking sheet or pan with fat cap side up. Cut a piece of the prepared dough approximately the same shape and size as the fat cap on the rack of lamb. Lay cut dough on top of the fat cap area, molding to form.
Bake in preheated 350 degree oven, about 25 minutes to achieve a medium finish and create a beautiful crust, but use a meat thermometer with an internal temperature of 140 degrees.
Remove from oven. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.