Friday, June 09, 2017

ART WORKS NOW charity dinner features fearsome female chefs of fortitude (6-8-17)

Last night I was invited to participate in a superb charity event that has been running for 5 years now and by all means is a truly wonderful event. Art Works Now ( is the brainstorm of Barbara Johnson and she spoke how over its short existence has gone from providing art classes and programs for 11 students to over 5000!! Barbara and her spouse Chef Ruth Gresser (of Pizza Paradiso fame) open their gorgeous home each year to a group of talented female chefs and about 50 guests for an intimate and exciting evening of food and drink as well as silent and live auctions of amazing trips and prizes.

The evening started with Sue McWilliams of Sue McWilliams Cooks serving up a yummy Slushie de Lima with Black Raspberry infused Pisco, Passion Fruit Juice, Lime and a Pickled Aji Amarillo Pepper (I got extras) served over a scoop of crushed ice. It was delish and I would have downed a couple more if the temperature were even warmer. It was indeed a gorgeous evening and celebratory so that Zena Polin of The Daily Dish (Silver Spring) was serving up Leo Hillinger Secco Sparkling Rose from Austria, which we actually served at Samuel's Bar Mitzvah exactly a year ago! Zena paired with Wendy Gordon of Flash Public Relations (who procured the wines) for the remainder of the wines all evening and we ended up going home with a wine tasting with munchies at The Daily Dish!
While we sipped, we also noshed on superb hor's d'oevres that seemed to never stop coming and restraint was hard as they were prepared by Bonnie Moore of Willowsford Farms who will definitely have to be noticed in the future!
Willowsford Farm Chicken Pot Pie Fritters (need I say more?)
New Asbury Farm Lamb Meatballs with a slightly kicky Romesco Sauce were irresistible
Country Ham Biscuits with Red Pepper Jelly were simply amazing
Farm Vegetable Risotto with Meadow Creek Appalachian Cheese had to be the best risotto hor's d'oevre ever made, so rich and creamy, warm and tasty on simple spoons we took bites off, but had to return for more and more and more. A true vegetarian dish (no chicken stock used) which truly impressed.

We were escorted into the house for dinner where the chefs were heatedly running around the open kitchen as we observed and settled in.
Lubanzi Wines from South Africa were a new find and on order for the first three courses. I just wish they didn't use colored glasses for the wines (amber for the white and red for the red). The white was a 2016 Chenin Blanc from Swartland and I generally don't care for 100% Chenin but this was refreshing, dry and totally worked with Chef Elizabeth Faulkner's vegan first course: Blackened Eggplant Hummus, Beet Quinoa, Collard Greens, VXO Sauce & Peanuts. It was indeed a dream "salad" with the raw kale (it must have been so well massaged with the dressing as it was so tender) and the beet quinoa so reminiscent of a steak tartare, many vegans would have been fooled!

Up next was TV superstar Chef Carla Hall with her co-chef from Carla's Southern Kitchens, Chef Janis McLean recreating an north African(Ghana) dish in the form of Grilled Shrimp, Braised Plantains, Short Grain Rice and a Spicy Tomato-Ginger Broth that demanded a spoon to get it all sopped (or souped if you prefer) up (there was no bread). This may have been my favorite dish for its novelty and creativity and the small pieces of crispy fried kale on top were simply an added treat.
We had switched to the Lubanzi Red blend of Shiraz (46%), Mourvedre (20%), Cinsault (31%) and Grenache (3%) which I immediately fell in love with and was lucky enough to get a bottle of to take home and share.

Chef Jamie Leeds of Hank's Oyster Bar/Pasta Bar/Cocktail Bar and more shared her duties with the one gentleman in the kitchen from her team, Jay Garrison and they excelled with the most tender of Duck Breasts with a creamy divine Spring Pea Puree with morel Mushrooms, Crunchy Pickled Ramps and a Black Truffle Vinaigrette. I adore duck and loved this dish which, as all the others all night, reflected the spring season and fresh ingredients way above and beyond the norm!

Dessert was from Chefs Caitlyn Dysart & Amy Brandwein (the latter who was unable to attend) from Centrolina and also was spring in essence with Local Strawberries, Ricotta, Robiola Budino and Basil which was truly a combination of a cheese course and a dessert and was elegant simple and light (photos available on my FB page). Paired with a superb sweet Domino de Punctum Dulce Venganza 2014 from Cuenca in Castilla Spain. I searched the bottle and finally discovered it was a Late Harvest Chardonnay which none of us could believe, but so superb it was, I had a second glass.

Record funds were raised and for such a great cause that I was honored to be able to be a part of this amazing event and amazing teaming of women in the kitchen who proved for sure that food in DC is in excellent hands!