Wednesday, June 08, 2016

the James Beard Foundation celebration culinary women with a super SUNDAY SUPPER at UNION MARKET (6-5-16)

I had attended the first James Beard SUNDAY SUPPER at Union Station 4 years ago and was thrilled to be able to return this past Sunday for another superb Sunday Dinner, this time benefitting both the James beard Foundation and Women in Culinary Executive Program with a slew of mostly women chefs making merry for the hundreds of us in attendance. On arrival the valet whisked my car away (superb service) and we were welcomed into a covered area outside the market where mixologists and chefs were at work.
My first stop was for a Blackberry Iced Tea which was very nice, but I craved alcohol and made my way to uber mixologist Gina Chersevani of Buffalo and Bergen (actually at Union market) who was whipping up T1 Exceptional Reposado Tequila with Grapefruit, Ginger, Cointreau and Passion Fruit in a magnificent drink that I fell in love with. For us tequila nuts, there was also a shot of T1 Anejo for sipping.
My first food stop was with Chef Jamie Leeds of Hanks Oyster Bar(and many more places now) who was serving a super Crab & Shrimp Summer Seafood Bisque into which she placed a yummy chunk of homemade Corn bread! YUM!
It was hot, but this soup was refreshing and rich and oh so delicious. I wanted seconds, but knew the night would be long and filling, so I refrained.
Suzanne Simon and Bettina Stern of the newly opened CHAIA in Georgetown had a veggie dish as that is what Chaia is about: Spring Asparagus Taco with Green Garlic, Alleghency CHevre, Hot Cherry Pepper Spread and Preserved Lemon. I'll need to pop in to Chaia to see what's tasty on the menu there for sure.
Mikala Brennan of Hula Girl in Shirlington served up crispy wonton chips with Ahi Poke that was simple yet superb. I am in Shirlington all the time and failed to notice this new spot.
Next I visited Jordan Cotton, founder of Cotton and Reed which will open DC's first Rum Distillery across the street soon. He was mixing up several rum cocktails and I loved the one with allspice and Caribbean flavors. Once my run stash at home expires, I'll just have to buy local!
Chefs Ruth Gresser(of Pizzaria Paradiso/Veloce) and Janis McLean(Seasons Culinary Service) had a yummy Crostini con Fegato Escarola which was a simple crostini slathered with Escarole, Chicken Liver, Walnuts, Parmesan and Sour Cherry Drizzle that I could not stop eating!
Freshly shucked Chesapeake Oysters were also being served....I must have finished off a 1/2 dozen.

The dinner bell rang just as the rain started and hundreds of us hurried inside to the long tables and I had a table which was at one end next to the chef's serving area; how lucky for me(and you) since you can see some great photos of the superstar chefs on my FB page! You could spot well known faces in the food biz such as Chefs Haidar Karoum, Nora Pouillon, Ris Lacoste and more floating through the crowds.
Wines were poured and I settled in on the Williamsburg 2015 Viognier (most were from Virginia!) which went very well with a lot of the dishes. Everything is served family style, but there's plenty for everyone and two dishes arrive for each of the three courses. There was also a nice Alain de Treille Rose.
First at bat was Chef Amy Brandwein of Centrolina with Charred Garlic Scapes, Roasted Shitake & Creamed Fava Bean that I fell in love with instantly. It sounds so simple, yet the dish was complex and flavorful. Opposite was the lone male chef of the evening (how did he get in?)Nick Stefanelli of Masseria with Burrata with Skinny Dipper Oysters, Caviar & Cippollini Onions. I love burrata and this was a superb presentation, but I felt it was the least innovative dish of the evening, though still delicious.
I moved to red wine and liked the San Elias Cabernet being served which was perfect with my favorite dish of the evening Macnhester Farms Quail Drummette l'Orange which was an entire deoned quail crispy fried and served with Thai Bird Chiles, Scallion and Orange Glaze. Top Cheftestant Jennifer Carroll, who recently opened her Requin in Fairfax was the source of this delicious dish and I could not compliment her enough. Chef/Author Elizabeth Falkner made the other plate of Carrot Top-Sunflower Seed Pesto, Roasted and Raw Carrots, Spiced Lentils and Seeds that had a flavorful punch and mixed so many different things to sublime veggie offering.

The "main" course was shared with one dish by Top Cheftestant Karen Akunowicz of Myers & Chang in Boston with a yummy Blue Catfish & Green Fried Rice--Peas and Tendrils, Ginger, Lime & Chile that needed more catfish and less lemongrass, but was as tasty as ever. I had to go back to the Viognier as there was no Riesling for this spice-packed dish. The other dish was from one of our favorites, Chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley(watch this space for a super upcoming meal from her this weekend) of Ripple/Smoked & Stacked who pulled out all the strings with a "Tasting of Autumn Olive Farms Pig" consisting of Andouille Sausage, Glazed Shoulder, Roasted Belly, Braised Greens, Chile & Ginger. The dish was lean and tasty and the belly crunchy and flavorful; each element a treat.
By this point I had switched to RdV Vineyards 2010 Rendezvous which sells for close to $100 a bottle and I was surprised to see being served so flowingly. It is still a young Bordeaux blend, but since the bottles were opened on the table at the start of the dinner, by this time it was drinking very well and worked to perfection with all the pork elements!

We adjourned from the dining area back outside, where the rain had passed and temperature and humidity had dropped to a super comfortable evening and many desserts were being served. I skipped the long line for Dolcezza gelato and headed to the miniature pastries:
Christina Marie Chambers of BLACK PEARL in Dc had two and I tried the tasty Rhubarb Orange Crumble Tart with Rhubarb Orange Jam, Almond Poppyseed Crumble, Blond Chocolate and Poached Rhubarb which was nice but could not hold up to the amazing Milk Chocolate Peanut Bites and Valrhona Chocolate Sandwich Cookies from Emily Luchetti of Marlowe/Park Tavern/Cavalier/Leo's Oyster Bar. Bluebird Bakery was represented by Camila Arango & Tom Wellings who served up Kouign Amann-Flakey & Sweet Pastry from Brittany and Strawberry Tarts with Tahitian Vanilla Cram, Wild Strawberry Preserved and Strawberry Meringue.

I was indeed full after a glass of Painous Cava Brut and completely forgot to try the Compass Coffee Nitrogen Infused Cold Brew everyone was raving about!
What an amazing evening it was and lots of money raised for such a good cause!