Each year at the March of Dimes Signature Chef's Gala, the Culinary Dept. of Strathmore University in Virginia is not only a sponsor, but they offer up a super special auction item of a 3-course dinner for 16 people prepared and served with flair and grace in their Culinary School's beautiful setting. We did this three times previously at their location in Woodbridge, but this year they moved the dinner to their beautiful new campus in Alexandria, a mere 20-30 minutes away, and much more convenient. Chefs Noree Hathaway(who runs the program) heads up a truly impressive team in the kitchen that really make you feel like you are in a 5-star restaurant with a flair of home dining.
Our first course was a truly miraculous Shitake Mushroom & Spinach Soup which had swirls of mushroom laced with salty green spinach puree and yummy fried crispy shitakes throughout the blend. We had a Chardonnay (we supplied the wines, but I forgot the brand!) which was a great pairing.
Salads can be a bore, but last night's Arugula Salad with Cara Cara Oranges & Shallot Vinaigrette was amazing from the delicate tasty (and not bitter) baby arugula which was clearly sourced from the best of vendors to the tasty oranges and superb creamy dressing. We paired a Cava Brut with this as I always feel salads should have bubbly, but alas at home we won't open a bottle of sparkling just for one course for the two of us!
The main course was another beautifully sourced and cooked Roasted Halibut with Provencal Vegetables (Carrots, Leeks, etc) that everyone gobbled up with the Bread & Butter California Pinot Noir that also got raves.
Speaking of Bread & Butter, the breads were also delicious and the butter was blended with honey for a touch of sweetness.
Our final course was no less impressive in the form of a White Wine Poached Pear with Madagascar Vanilla Bean Ice Cream with a decadent Caramel Sauce. We hauled a 1994 Fonesca Port from home which wasn't bad either.
We love doing these events as it is work-free and always so enjoyable, but also because we get to see the students work so hard and show their stuff. We asked each one to tell us where they were in their studies and where they hoped to go. It was fun to hear their enthusiastic answers and how much they truly love their studies and this terrific program. Bravo Stratford U!