Wednesday evening I was delighted to attend the first James Beard Celebrity Chef Tour in DC this year hosted by Chef Victor Albisu at his Del Campo (777 I St,NW) where he was joined by a cadre of chefs from all over to serve another awesome mea. Jeff Black, who organizes these events said it was the 3rd time in DC in a year, which makes us a hot destination! YAY!
As always, the event started with a cocktail hour and I tried a Lady Marmalade (don't you just love the name) from Pepita Cantina which had Avua Cahaca, Blood Orange Marmalade, Calvados & Lime. I had another yummy drink from Del Campo, but forgot to jot down the ingredients.
Many yummy hor's d'oevres were passed around and local Chef Scott Drewno from The Source was at the counter frying up yummy dumplings as well. Spicy Potatoes with a creme fraiche dip, uni on a chip with caviar, deep-fried rice with hot sauce and my favorite the monkfish liver all abounded.
We sat down and I had a nice table of folks making it an excellent evening company-wise.
Yummy pupusa-like bread came with il and sea salt; I stopped at one piece.
The first wine was poured, a Casa Silva Sauvignon Blanc "Cool Coast" from Colchagua Valley in Chile 2011, as all the wines were from South America with the Latin themed dinner (subdued Latin music played all night). Our glasses were always full all night and we could not have asked for better service at every moment. Chef Anthony Lamas of Seviche Restaurant in Louisville was at bat first with Tuna Tiradito, Aji, Peanut & Sweet Potato. He said that in Kentucky they do spell Seviche that way, so it was okay....and also told us the awesome peanuts were Tennessee Reds and Carolina Blacks (who knew you could be a peanut afficianado?). I got my grapefruit fix from the wine and the the first course was a huge success across the board.
The second course was prepared by Chef Michael Schlow of Tico Rstaurant from Boston which is now also open in DC (gotta get there soon). His "Spicy Catalan Stew" with Crispy Rice & Crushed Almonds was the hit of the night for everyone. There was indeed spice, shrimp, chorizo, escargot, clams and more with a paprika aioli that had the most awesome texture due to the rice. Flavors abounded and burst out all over in the "stew" which really was not stewlike at all as the "sauce" was thick and not runny.
I never did get to ask the chef what the spicy strands of leaf were atop the dish.
A Catena Zapata Chardonnay "Catena Alta" 2011 from Mendoza, Argentina was a nice wine, and while I know this was a fish-based stew, I think a lighter red would have even been better.As the wine warmed up, the Chardonnay developed and did fight the spice much better.
Third was Chef Jamie Bissonnette of Coppa in Boston and Toro in both Boston & NYC with a Cuttlefish, Crab, Black Chili & Iberico Ham. This was an orzo based "chili" with a little goat cheese and the entire thing was another thick stew-like dish that really had lots of flavor, but did pale a bit next to the Catalan-style dish. Vitivinicola Lafken Pinot Noir, Cuncumen from Leyda, Chile 2011 was a nice unfiltered wine that was on the lighter side; give me Oregon, please.
Fourth was a Asado Trio of Rolled Creekstone Prime Skirt Steak with Parmesan, Sunchoke & Smoked Yolk that had awesome flavor and was one of the stars of the trio. The second star was the Fermin Iberico Pork with Crema & a Smoked Caviar Chimichurri which was the biggest hit at our table (save for the lady next to me who did not eat shellfish or meat--WHY WAS SHE HERE?). The Olive Smoked Rack of Lamb with Tapenade, Roasted Garlic and a Goat Dulce de Leche (which we never did seem to discover) was a very nice lamb chop, but just that. The three meats were paired with an awesomely smooth and delicate but gutsy Malbec Blend from Bressia called "Profundo" 2009 also from Mendoza, as well as a Los Vascos de Rothschild Lafite Cabernet Sauvignon "Le Dix" from Colchagua Valley in Chile that was overly gutsy and just so big I really did not care for it.
The main course was of course prepared by host Chef Victor Albisu (also owns Taco Bamba in Falls Church) who was joined by Chef Antonio Soriano of Astor Bistro in Buenos Aires who came in for this event!
Dessert was an awesome Salted Flan with Meringue, Pistachio & Dulce de Leche Crepe (more of a rolled pancake) prepared by Chef Chris Ford who hails from Bouchon in California and is Corporate Pastry Chef for Bryan Voltaggio Restaurants in DC & Maryland.
It was a hit of a night for all and I am right now in NYC preparing to head out to dinner at James Beard House itself where Chef Alejandro Ayala of Meadowood Resort in Napa will be cooking up a storm!