Last Friday evening I headed over to SW DC and the ballroom at the Mandarin Oriental where The James Beard Foundation brought Taste America, it's fundraiser on wheels, so to speak.
We had a 90 minute cocktail party with the best food of the night prepared by awesome local chefs, followed by a four course sit down dinner with paired wines.
I made my way down the cocktail area first trying the fun sparkling rose from Lucien Albrecht which went so well with many of the options at each chef's table. I then moved on to a wonderful Jordan 2011 Chardonnay (there was also a Provenance 2011 Sauvignon Blanc). The reds were even better with a divine Newton Claret 2011 and an awesome Grgich Hills 2007 Merlot. Lots of love went into these choices. Bacardi had sponsored the beverages and there were three quite sweet mixed drinks using their rum which I avoided.
I first came upon Marjorie Meeks-Bradley of Ripple (where we had just eaten a couple of weeks before) & Roofer's Union who was assembling CARROT CAVATELLI with Lobster & Chanterelles that was so good I went back for seconds and thirds!
Next to her was one of Washington's newest faces, Chef Ed Scarpone of DBGB Kitchen, Daniel Boulud's first DC spot which is apparently so hot, reservations for months ahead are virtually impossible. He was serving a Truffled BOUDIN BLANC with Pomme Puree, Apples & Pork Jus, which was nice, but my least favorite item of the five chefs present. I guess I won't have to worry about getting a table there, as I would choose the others first!
Chef Jeffrey Buben of Vidalia was there and the only James Beard winner of these five as well. It was obvious as he had a luscious creamy and divine Low Country SHE CRAB Soup (really bisque) with the most adorable and tasty Old Bay Marshmallows (although the menu said it was a Deviled Crab Benne Seed Cracker--nope!). Fourth was Chef Katsuya Fukushima of Daikaya, who I think is one of the most fun chefs in a DC kitchen. We had such a ball at his place a while ago that it made me want to return to his big smile and great demeanor. He had a wonderful dish of Buttered BREAD(really black bread toasted) with Fire Kissed UNI, Aged Ponzu and Jalapeno. He was torching the uni just a tad and delicately layering it on each piece of tiny bread with the ponzu and jalapeno slice (the menu said it was a Japanese Hot Pepper, but it was not). I must have had six or seven of these awesomely tasty tidbits. Finally was Chef Anthony Chittum of Iron Gate, where we also went for the first time last month. He prepared Melted CABBAGE Tortelloni, Surryano Ham & Red Onion Marmalade. which was super with the little piece of Virginia made crisped ham (a la Serrano) and the tasty pasta and sauce. I am glad I had multiples of all but one dish(the boudin), as the dinner was much less impressive than these superb creations.
There was a silent and live auction and I went home with two fun silent packages for dining out as well; I could not resist buying dinner with Chef Marjorie at Ripple!
I had a fun group at my table and we all talked about all the great dishes as the wine was poured. Our wine server had two bottles of the first wine, a Trimbach Rielsing from Alsace, but one was 2010 and one was 2011. I asked him to pour both (he did not realize they were different vintages) and immediately fell in love with the 2010 as it was much fuller than the fruity 2011. James Beard Winner CHARLES PHAN of The Slanted Door in San Francisco was flown in for the event and presented us with Banh Boc Lot PORK & SHRIMP TAPIOCA DUMPLINGS in Banana Leaves which was quite nice, but nothing more special than a really good dumpling (and while plural, there was just one on each plate). The wine was perfect with it and I would have had more, but the meal moved along steadily to the second course cooked by DC's own VIKRAM SUNDERAM where his work at Ripple has won him his James Beard Award (well, no surprise there!). His Baked BLACK COD was Marinated with Honey, Chili, Dill, Star Anise, Cream & Cheese and was the winning dish at the table for sure. The anise was barely evident (which made me happy) and the cheese was a crispy piece of Parmesan atop the dish like a little hat. Seguinot-Bordet Chablis was the paired Chardonnay and another superb wine.
For the main course Chef Phan was brought back with a Braised DUCK LEG, Shitake Mushrooms, Bamboo Shoots & Chinese Dates which again was okay, but not a bowlover, especially since the duck was slightly dry (always a problem with hundreds of people at a large event). The wine was an amazing Grenache/Syrah Gigondas from Gonnet in the Rhone. I kept drinking this for the remainder of the night as I did not really take to the 2007 McKinley Springs Late Harvest Chenin Blanc from Horse Haven Hills in Washington State that was served with dessert. Chef Didier Pouzier of the Mandarin Oriental in DC was allowed to prepare dessert on his own turf and gave us a refreshing Coconut Tapioca, Cucumber Meringue, Fresh Pineapple & Coconut Sorbet that sent us home feeling quite good as it was not heavy or overpowering at all after some of the very rich dishes that preceded.
I always have fun when I go to the James Beard House in NY and attend their events here in DC. I anxiously await the next one!