Governor Hickenlooper grills lamb and eats crow
All photos by Charles Trowbridge.
The final tally from last weekend's NFL playoff game goes beyond the scoreboard for Colorado: Colorado also lost twelve prime lamb chops that Governor John Hickenlooper shipped across the country to Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley to pay off a bet debt. But first, he ate a little crow on the steps of the State Capitol yesterday, where he gathered the troops to support both the Broncos and this state's lamb industry, giving both some chops and Maryland's governor a grilling.
"We're here to settle a debt with Governor Martin O'Malley," Hickenlooper said. "We certainly expected that we were going to have an opportunity to eat some crab cakes this week. I'm stunned." See also: - Five better bets John Hickenlooper could have made with Maryland - John Hickenlooper cites Cheetos, Goldfish when Amendment 64 passes: Official state munchies? - Balls! What does Colorado taste like to you?
Before the Denver Broncos/Baltimore Ravens game last Saturday, Hickenlooper and O'Malley had placed a friendly wager. The stakes: a dozen Chesapeake Bay crab cakes to Colorado if the Broncos won, and lamb chops to Maryland if the Ravens prevailed. Coloradans know how that game turned out: no cakes for the Centennial State and some thick, juicy lamb chops sent cross-country.
Thick-cut lamb chops from the Triple M Bar Ranch.
Of course, in order to properly pay off the bet, Hickenlooper needed to track down the best lamb a governor can get in Colorado. Aide Molly Kreck found David Miller's Triple M Bar Ranch listed as one of three businesses that process lamb through a USDA facility and ship it themselves. But it's not every day that a lamb rancher gets a call from the governor's office.
After receiving the initial phone message, Miller was a little bewildered." All I got out of it was the governor's office wanted us to call, and I thought, 'What in the world?'" he remembered. "So I called back and the first thing she said is, 'This not a hoax or a joke; this is what the governor would like to do.'
"And so we talked a little bit, and then she repeated that again, and I said, 'No, we'd be thrilled and pleased to represent the lamb industry and bring up some lamb and have it shipped. We'd be more than glad to do it." In fact, Miller and his family came to the Capitol to deliver the goods.
David Miller talks about the finer points of chop grilling.
Before the governor got to the podium, Miller gave the crowd a lesson in lamb etiquette, calling for the removal of mint from the grilling table.
"Mint's more of an Eastern thing," he explained. "When I went back East a couple times and ordered lamb, the mint was there, but out here you'll never see it."
And if something's worth doing, it's worth doing right: Kick the mint, grab the dry rub, sear the chop to seal the juices, and cook the sucker until there's a touch of pink in the middle. That's how a chop's done out West. "If you cook it too fast, it's what you put on the bottom of your feet when you have your shoes on," Miller said.
O'Malley, take note: nobody likes to eat shoes.
Hickenlooper congratulated the Broncos for a good season, lamenting the fact that even having the "the best coach and the best quarterback in football--which we do--" sometimes isn't enough to pull out a win.
Hickenlooper lets it be known that the lamb chops had better be cooked correctly, or "beware," O'Malley.
The governor then directed a few jabs at O'Malley, questioning the Maryland governor's ability to cook such a fine piece of meat, and calling attention to the original suggested stakes: beer, of course.
"We were going to bet him beer," Hickenlooper recalled. "As I said before, for it to be a fair bet, we would have had to send two to three bottles of Colorado craft beer for every two or three cases of their beer."
This is true. Colorado's got some damned fine beer and an aesthetically pleasing state shape. Maryland's got some beer and the U.S. Naval Academy. But then, it also has a team in the AFC Championship.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Denver dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.