Lamb Banh Mi.
At the judging table.
Lamb Merguez Hot Dog.
Lamb Meatballs with Rising Tide Zephyr Pickles & Garlic Yogurt.
Lamb Shawarma with Green Garlic Toum, Tabouleh & Pickles and Lamb Jerky with Date Molasses & Turkish Spices.
Grilled Leg of Lamb on Pretzel Bread with Parsley, Fava Beans and Bone Marrow Salad from Chef Graham Botto of Back Bay Grill.
East Ender's Tobacco Smoked Leg of Lamb with Corn Bread, Black Kimchi, Popcorn Mayo.
Lamb Jam tasting glass.
The inexplicably strange cocktail served to the judges with the Lamb "McNuggets." It contained Fernet Branca and cherries. 'Nuf said.
Lamb Leg “McNuggets” with Lamb Fat Ranch.
Smoked Lamb Shank Gyro, Pistachio Lebne, Pickles & Herbs.
Owner Megan Schroeder, Chef Austin Miller and friends from East Ender.
Chef Niko Regas of Emilitsa.
Chefs Kevin Heenan, Brian Wing and Graham Botto of Back Bay Grill.
The winning chef, Nemo Bolin of Cook & Brown Public House in Providence, Rhode Island, with his Scotch egg.
Lisa Webster, right of North Star Sheep Farm in Windham.
The winning dish: Merguez Scotch Egg.
All photos by Ted Axelrod
It’s somewhat embarrassing to admit this, but before Sunday, the last time I visited Boston, it was to row in the Trinity College Women’s Lightweight 8 in the Head of the Charles regatta … in 1983. That’s a looong time ago, but looking out at the river from the patio of the Royal Sonesta Hotel, site of the 2014 Boston Lamb Jam, I remembered that grueling, 3-mile race — and the copious beer drinking that followed — with great fondness.
The Lamb Jam, which takes place in five cities around the country, is a competition and tasting event sponsored by the American Lamb Board. Portland chefs Niko Regas of Emilitsa, Graham Botto of Back Bay Grill and Austin Miller of East Ender were among the 20 competitors who created a dish using American lamb shoulder, leg, shank or ground lamb. The dishes were blind tasted by a judging panel that included food writers from Massachusetts and Rhode Island; Maine was represented by me. There was beer drinking going on here too, with Rising Tide the lone Maine craft brewery in the house, and a butchering demo, which included Lisa Webster of North Star Sheep Farm in Windham.
All three Portland chefs made Maine proud. Back Bay Grill’s Grilled Leg of Lamb on Pretzel Bread with Parsley, Fava Beans and Bone Marrow Salad tied for Best Leg with the Lamb Leg “McNuggets” with Lamb Fat Ranch from Citizen Public House in Boston (the “McNuggets” were a perfect replica, but unlike some of the judges, I wasn’t a fan).
The top prize ultimately went to chef Nemo Bolin of Cook & Brown Public House in Providence, R.I., who also won the ground category with his Merguez Scotch Egg with Pickled Vegetables. This was a British pub snack elevated well beyond its humble origins. A soft-cooked egg was padded with an even layer of spiced ground lamb, then breaded and fried — a delicious melding of flavors and textures without a hint of grease, offset beautifully by the vinegary bits of cauliflower, radishes and other vegs.
Chef Daniel Bojorquez of La Brasa in Boston won the shank category with Lamb Shank Pozole and chef Beau Vestal of New Rivers in Providence won the shoulder category for his Lamb Merguez Hot Dog on a Sweet Onion Roll. The People’s Choice Award went to chef Jim Solomon of Boston’s The Fireplace for his Pomegranate Glazed Lamb Shank with Arugula Pesto and Toasted Walnut Porridge. Bolin will now advance to the Lamb Jam finals at the Savor the Central Coast event in San Luis Obispo, California, in September, to compete against lamb masters from DC, San Francisco and Seattle.
After all of that, I could have used a good row on the Charles!