Last night we attended the 3rd Annual "I LOVE CRABCAKES" Competition at Phillips Seafood in SW DC and it was a real treat of an evening presented by the local chapter of AIWF (American Institute for Food & Wine).
We had seven chefs from the metro area each making crabcakes and serving them along with nice wines and superb BLOODY MARYs made by the Phillips staff (their spicy version is a real zinger!). A small buffet of salad, fruit and soups also had some yummy fried chicken legs! But it was crabcakes that we came for and crabcakes that starred. All were pretty good, but some shone brighter than others:
RICK BECKEL of Hooked (Virginia) which seems to keep getting confused with Hook in Georgetown (I wonder why) had the simplest version with no filler and a simple remoulade. Incidentally, we hear they will open a second location in Shirlington soon!
NATE AUCHTER of Mitsitam Cafe at the National museum of the American Indian rightfully prepared his with a pressed corn mayo binder and served it over a sweet potato puree.
Perhaps the lumpiest (that's good) and best presentation (for me) of the CRAB itself came from JOHN PAYNE, Jr. of Stone's Throw at the Marriott Wardman Park simply because it was a huge lumpy all totally crab cake nicely broiled and then served with a dollop of red pepper puree with a bit of spice. I would have liked a bit more puree to dip and a bit more spice (jalapeno) for flavor.
A big winner for me was our dear friend JIM SWENSON of the National Press Club who created a BLUE CRABCAKE that was not "blue" crab, but crab made with Roquefort BLUE Cheese that had a nice flavor and was enhanced by a simple homemade lattice potato chip on the side.
A newcomer to DC is ROBERT GELMAN of McCormick & Schmick's at National Harbor (whose food we tasted at an event there in May). His New Orleans connections have his crabcake simply prepared with a dollop of jalapeno remoulade on top that had a slight zing and lots of flavor. He explained to us that some of the chefs were presenting the cakes differently to the judges and his came with a BLACKEYE PEA Salad and GINGER SLAW on the side that were both oh so tasty.
KEVIN MESIAH of Seafoodie out in Virginia (past Dulles?) was another favorite of mine as he took the crab, rolled it in a ball, dipped it in panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) and flash fried the ball. What a SUPER appetizer for passing this would make at any party (and they deliver by fedex!).
The winner of both the public vote and the judges vote (a panel of 8 well known food experts/chefs/critics from our area) was CEDRIC MAUPILLIER of Central Michel Richard, and this was most likely for the least pure, but perhaps the most work-intensive and most "French" presentation as each cake sat on a bed of LEEK PUREE and a SCALLOP MOUSSE was used as a binder. YUM YUM.
Besides huge gallon jugs of TABASCO for the chefs and prizes, Chef Maupiller won a $3000 scholarship for a chef-intern at his restaurant (well, at least that is what I heard it to be).
We all had a great night, even though we missed the first night of DC's Restaurant Week, but tonight we will be taking Samuel for more seafood at DC COAST!
HAPPY RESTAURANT WEEK!