American Lamb Jam 2012 Highlights, The Charles Hotel, Cambridge

The American Lamb Board, partnered with Boston Chefs, held their third annual Lamb Jam at The Charles Hotel in Boston this past Sunday, February 19, 2012. The event was completely sold out and the upstairs conference room was packed with lamb loving attendees. We loved the ice skating rink in the front of the hotel, filled with youngsters learning to skate.

Boston’s American Lamb Jam was hosted by TV Diner‘s Billy Costa. There were eighteen chefs and restaurants represented at the event, each preparing one lamb dish using either a leg, shank, loin or shoulder cut of American lamb.

Part of the proceeds from Lamb Jam will go to benefit Share Our Strength,  a national non-profit geared towards ending childhood hunger in America by 2015. Their hope to reach this goal by creating public-private partnerships, building public awareness about childhood hunger, improving access to nutritious foods and educating families about nutritious, affordable eating. Help support a great cause and purchase tickets to Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation Boston at the Hynes Convention Center on April 19, 2012.

Chef Brian Alberg of The Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge took home the trophy for Best Overall dish, as well as winning Best Shoulder dish for his Lamb Shoulder & Kale Meatballs with Farm Girl Farm Smoked Tomato Puree & Parmesan Crustade. The flavor of all the components including the lamb and kale meatball was phenomenal. The meatball was tender and tomato sauce went well with the crispy bread.

As the Boston Best in Show winner, Alberg will now compete in California later this year against the other winners of Lamb Jams being held in cities across the country.

Cassie Piuma of Oleana was the People’s Choice favorite for Lebanese Style Lamb Crepe with Harra Sauce, Cucumber & Pomegranate. Every person we chatted with loved Oleana’s crepe and suggested go to Sofra. The crepe was a clever idea. The flavor of the Middle Eastern style filling was mouth-watering and was really enhanced by the other ingredients.  The texture as well as crunchy mouth feel of the fried chickpeas, sesame and sweet juicy pomegranate seeds were delicious. They provided such a neat sensation when you chewed.

Best Leg dish went to Chef Brian Reyelt of Citizen Public House & Oyster Bar for Lamb Leg & Bone Marrow Polpettone with Bourbon Cherries. The presentation with the bone was unbelievably creative. We flipped the bone over to pop out and pry the polpettone out of the bone. The sweetness of the cherry was a nice flavor addition to the tender meat.

Russell House Tavern‘s (BMH review of Russell House Tavern) Chef Michael Scelfo prepared plates of Braised Lamb Shank Terrine, Carraway Brioche, Horseradish and Crispy Lamb Bacon. They also won Best in Shank category. The terrine had a creamy texture and multiple layers of flavors from the carraway and horseradish.The bacon poprocks were a unique and surprisingly fun element in their dish.

There was a Providence first this year with a Rhode Island chef in the competition. He is bringing home a category best trophy to boot! Best Loin dish went to Chef Matt Jennings of Farmstead/La Laiterie (BMH review of La Laiterie) for Korean Lamb Reuben: Red Miso Cured Lamb Loin, Sauerruben, Gochujang 1000 Island and Smoked Emmentaler on a Semolina & Lamb Fat Roll. Jennings served his sandwich with lamb fat fried potato chips which were a huge hit. The potato chips were nicely salted, crunch and as good as duckfat fries. The loin was very tender and the cheese and sauce drenched the sandwich in rich flavor.

Congrats to all the winners! See the continuation of this post below to view the other lamb dishes and alcohol we tried as well as the fun goodies.

The spice station was a new idea this year. It was great to be able to make your own dry spice rubs for lamb or otherwise. The little packets to fill our own personal spice blends on your own was a lot of fun and very popular because by the time we left, they had run out!

Noir in the Charles Hotel served up miniature Bacon Bourbon Old Fashioned cocktails. The bacon infusion was interesting and the burst of citrus really brightened the classic cocktail.

There was also a lamb butchery demo given by butchers from Tavolo and The Meat House, along with beer served by eight area breweries and wine from J. Lohr. Some of our favorite breweries were serving up their beers including Berkshire Brewing CompanyBlue Hills BreweryCape Ann BrewingHarpoon BreweryIpswich AleMayflower Brewing CompanyPretty Things Beer (a BMH favorite) and Rapscallion.

We tried a lovely petite syrah from J. Lohr that we are excited to keep in our red wine rotation going forward.

Pretty Things was a very popular beverage station because they ran out of their Field Mouse’s Farewell farmhouse ale within the first half hour. Their Jack D’or is a wonderful simple table beer that we love to drink regularly ourselves.

Tomasso Trattoria will be competing for awards for Best in Show and People’s Choice. They served Brasato D’agnello, Braised Lamb Ragu, Sweet Peppers and Fregola Salad. The texture of the fregola salad was fantastic and very refreshing.

Nuno Alves and Chris Douglass from Tavolo presented Beer Braised Lamb Shoulder with Seared Potato Gnocchi and Saffron Pepper Sauce One of our fellow attendees came up for fourths and fifths of this dish. It was one of his favorites and he said he loved the fact that the lamb was braised in beer and the gnocchi had a nice texture.

Peter Davis from Henrietta’s Table served Spicy Pulled Lamb Shank with Maine Yellow Eyed Beans and Grafton Farm Cheddar Cheese Grits. We loved the cheesy grits and the flavor of the spiced shank. This dish makes us want to return to The Charles Hotel and dine at Henrietta’s Table.

Louis Dibiccari from Storyville prepared a Lamb Meatball Grinder, Tomato Jam ‘n’ Gravy.  The meatball had a good flavor, but the bread was a bit tough to chew.

Tyson Podolski from Summer Winter prepared Chiang Mia Braised Lamb Shank with Winter Squash Cavatelli, Mint and Cilantro. This dish was one of our favorites. The lamb shank was unbelievably tender and the Asian flavors was a breath of fresh air amongst the other dishes. The cavatelli was perfectly al dente.  We are planning on visiting the Burlington Marriot’s Summer Winter for Restaurant Week in late March.

One of last year’s winners, Jim Solomon from The Fireplace, plated Mayflower Porter Braised Lamb Shank with Sweet Garlic Yogurt and Blood Orange over Cheesy Grits. The blood orange flavor with the creamy grits was a great combination. We also enjoyed the acidity of the yogurt with the lamb.

Rich Garcia from 606 Congress served up Medallions of American Lamb Leg, Winter Vegetables, Citrus and Anchovy Sauce. We really enjoyed seeing the sous vide process. The lamb leg had an interesting soft texture and the umami from the anchovy was quite tasty. The soft vegetables, however did not seem to enhance the dish much.

Toby Hill from Pain D’Avignon prepared Smoked Bone Marrow Beignet with Braised Lamb Shank, Vermont Shepherd Cheese and Blood Orange Mostarda. The size of the beignet was quite large, about palm size. The exterior of the beignet had a beautiful crust and nice soft interior. The flavor of the cheese and mostarda was very nice.

Joseph Margate from Clink made a Red Lamb Bun with Chickpeas and Yogurt. The bun was a great pillowy texture and light sweetness and I enjoyed the flavors of the filling.

Robert Sisca from Bistro du Midi (BMH review of Bistro du Midi) made Applewood smoked Lamb Loin Carpaccio, Baby Fennel, Turnips, Watermelon Radish, Micro Mint, Spicy Pepper Emulsion. There was a large line for this dish and the emulsion was quite vibrant. I liked the crisp of the fennel and turnips and flavor of the radish.

Sel de la Terre (BMH review of Sel de la Terre Mandarin and Sel de la Terre, Natick) served Lamb Loin brushed with Black Garlic Mustard and Garden Herb Breadcrumbs, Black Pudding wrapped with Crispy Shoe String Potatoes and Warm Parsnip Mousse. The sauce had a great flavor and the best part was the black pudding. That dark popover had a great crunch from the potatoes and we could eat more of those alone.

Will Gilson from The Herb Lyceum made Merguez, Wrapped Lamb Loin with Yogurt and Harissa was a good cold dish. The cooling yogurt was a nice touch.

Brian Rae from Rialto made Braised Lamb Sausage with Chickpeas, Grilled Romaine and Ricotta Salata. The sausage had a great snap and flavor.

Cabot Cheese from Vermont was serving aged cheese and promoting their beer infused cheese products and it was nice to try the varieties. If you answered a trivia question about cheese, you could get a plastic cutting board, perfect for chopping vegetables or whatnot. They also had a great machine that cut the cheese into cubes for them which was fun to watch.

One of the best non-lamb related samples was from Captain’s Coffee Brewers, based in Natick, MA. They serve cold brewed iced coffee. It has a great smooth flavor and was not acidic like most coffees. The coffee taste is very concentrated and I could easily see how you could just pour some to have a great instant ice coffee or make a wonderful coffee granita in the summer.

One of the best dessert items were the Harvard Sweet Boutique desserts. The mini salted caramel and peanut butter brownies were luscious, but our favorites were the airy and lightly sweet coconut cookies. Those cookies were mistaken for sugar cookies initially, but were irresistible once you had a bite. Harvard Sweet Boutique has been given accolades by people Rachel Ray and DailyCandy.

The media bag was filled with great samples including a wine glass, a tote, additional dry rub, some lamb jerky, and an adorable and buttery sheep sugar cookie with a 20% off coupon at Harvard Sweet Boutique.

We are looking forward to another fabulous Lamb Jam next year. The event was well run, delicious and a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon while celebrating all things lamb.

Disclaimer: We received complimentary entrance to the event, all opinions are our own. Special thanks to FoodieBytes and Baltz and Company.

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