February 20, 2014
Cary Pollak for Whisk and Quill
Earlier this month DC’s “Sugar and Champagne Affair” welcomed hundreds of guests who raised cane to benefit the Washington Humane Society. The much-anticipated event held in the Ronald Reagan Building draws both owners and their precious pets to a canine-themed gala. And it’s all for a good cause. Now that’s something to celebrate!
The glamorous fundraiser is the creation of Ellen Kassoff Gray. She and her top toque husband, Todd Gray, who is the Executive Chef at the venerable Equinox restaurant, Todd Gray’s Muse at the Corcoran Gallery, and the kitchen at the Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, VA were co-hosts of the event.
Thirteen years ago Ellen correctly surmised that the local restaurant community and particularly many of the area’s talented pastry chefs would be happy to help her promote the cause of animal welfare, an issue she is passionate about. Ellen again served as Host Committee Chairwoman bringing along her two handsome German Shepherds to meet and greet guests and canine celebs, while Todd could be seen preparing and serving tastings of some of his specialties.
All types of pooches from tiny-as-a-teacup Chihuahuas to massive Marmaduke-sized dogs accompanied their owners to the festivities – many elaborately dressed up or sporting festively colored fur for the occasion. Doris Pasternak was accompanied by her rescue Poodle, Chilly, who has his own blog chillydogblog.com. And Dixie Eng and Julia Jacobus brought their Goldendoodles who regale their fans at GroovyGoldendoodles.com.
Kim and Mike Roberts’ English Bulldog, Ovie, sporting Alexander Ovechin’s #8 jersey
Smaller canine cuties included Kim and Mike Roberts’ English Bulldog, Ovie, who showed up wearing a replica of Washington Capitals’ hockey star’s Alex Ovechkin’s jersey. Kimberly Hammond’s Chihuahua-mix Todd, who has come a long way from being rescued after an oil spill, wore a mini-tuxedo.
Kimberley Hammond’s Chihuahua-mix, Todd, in evening wear
Almost eighty area chefs and wineries created a memorable feast. There were oysters and sushi along with other savory preparations, but the biggest draw of the evening was the sweet treats baked by some of our area’s most talented pastry chefs – from Taberna del Alabardero and their pretty pink and white confections with tufts of freshly made cotton candy, to Baklava Couture’s individual pastries with cinnamon walnut or pistachio fillings.
Doggie treats from Olde Towne Pet Resort
In keeping with the evening’s theme, the Olde Towne Pet Resort placed doggie treats in bowls as well as champagne flutes. Some of these morsels looked so good two-legged guests were hard-pressed to keep their paws off. And while Poste Moderne Brasserie offered homemade biscuits for pets, their owners could indulge in a version of s’mores with chocolate marshmallow confections on graham cracker crusts.
Salamander Resort & Spa’s Executive Pastry Chef Jason Reeves winning cake.
Guests eagerly awaited the highlight of the evening – a cake competition featuring the amazing artistry of our local pastry chefs. The spectacular winning entry was a cake made to look like a champagne bottle beside a pug licking its chops. Created by Salamander Resort & Spa’s Executive Pastry Chef Jason Reeves and Amy Tucker, the stunning confection was made with hand-painted and sculpted devil’s food cake and fondant that looked way too good to eat. Another whimsical creation was a velvety green sofa with a naughty dog trying to hide himself under a cushion. Pastry Chef Lauren Petri of The Hamilton who designed the clever cake, added a particularly humorous and challenging touch of a partially unraveled roll of toilet paper at the foot of the couch.
The Washington Humane Society relies on fundraisers such as the “Sugar and Champagne Affair” to continue their work protecting the animals of our region. Last year WHS Field Officers responded to over 17,000 calls to help animals in need. Plan to join in the fun next year, and bring your precious pup for a howlin’ good time.
Photo credits: Cary Pollak
January 23, 2014
Special to DC Metro Theater Arts, Broadway Stars, and LocalKicks
Spain’s Ambassador Ramon Gil-Casares (right) chats with a guest
Dozens of foodies and fashionistas crammed into the former residence of the Ambassador to Spain on 16th Street Thursday night to celebrate Spanish food and wine. “TAPAS, Spanish Design for Food” runs through March 23rd in what is now a cultural center. Current Ambassador Ramon Gil-Casares was clearly having a grand time receiving all guests. The exhibit celebrates some of the most unique contemporary cooking and serving implements from Spanish product designers, including the latest innovations used in molecular gastronomy by elBulli Chef Ferran Adrià, named by Time Magazine in 2004 as one of the “Ten Most Creative Figures in the World”, and his Harvard lecturing cohort, Chef Jose Andrés whose restaurant empire remains firmly footed in the U. S.
“Working with the best ingredients is how we create an astonishing dish. But in order to create a memorable experience, the best elements of design, from the kitchen, to the table, to the plate, all must come together to tell an exciting story,” Andrés concludes.
Salmon crudo – Octopus tapas – Mussels with potato chips served in sardine cans
To that end the show is organized to display over 200 items by leading the visitor through five separate rooms and passing alongside the ornately Moorish tiled room in the home’s interior courtyard. Each area delineates the categories of kitchen, food and table with a place of distinction for the country’s treasured Iberican hams.
Iberican Hams – the pride of Spain
The exhibition includes an audio-visual presentation that reveals a selection of restaurant interiors and a wine tower showing some of the most daringly designed wine labels on over 100 bottles of wine.
A ten-foot wine bottle tower
Executive Chef Javier Romero of DC’s famed Taverna Del Alabardero worked alongside of Head Chef Rodolfo Guzman Aranda of Andrés’ Jaleo to send out delectable tapas. Alas, the besieged servers were mobbed while exiting the kitchen door with trays of mussels nestled in sardine cans and topped with potato chips from Andrés’ new product line of gourmet Spanish delicacies. Those tapas had to share the spotlight with Iberican ham wrapped around a tiny breadstick with a tutu of white cotton candy, mashed potatoes as vehicles for bits of omelet, and a luscious cherry gazpacho that hit all the right sweet-to-tart notes. Viva España!
Cherry Gazpacho – Iberican Ham in cotton candy tutus – An unusual way to serve olives
The Spanish Cultural Center is at 2801 16th Street, Washington, DC. 20009. For further information visit http://www.spainculture.us/city/washington-dc/tapas-spanish-design-for-food-in-washington/
Modern coffee mugs that create an animal face when sipped from – Nesting paella pans – Contemporary glassware shot through with 24 carat gold
Photo credit to Jordan Wright
Monday January 27, 2014
It’s Restaurant Week!! Learn about Alexandria’s magnet restaurants and what they mean to our city’s regional and national appeal.
In recent years, the reputation of Washington’s restaurant scene has soared nationally. Not coincidentally, more Alexandria restaurants are climbing the list of DC’s top dining venues. Our celebration of Alexandria’s dining scene features Chef Cathal Armstrong – one of the best-known chefs in the culinary industry, exhibiting great culinary command creativitiy, technique, presentation, and even business. He will share his vision – including why he chose Alexandria as the base for his growing gastronomic empire. Alexandria-based food writer Jordan Wright will talk about Alexandria’s rising stature in the DC dining scene and share tips on places you should know about. Claire Mouledoux of the Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association (the organization that gives us “Restaurant Week”) will explain how this dining renaissance benefits our city.
|Star Chef Cathal Armstrong
Irish chef Cathal Armstrong’s cuisine and philosophy reflect ideas planted in the atypical Dublin household of his childhood, where garlic was used fearlessly and fruits and vegetables were grown in the garden. The family’s travel business launched Armstrong into a myriad of different countries, cultures and cuisines where he began to develop an appreciation for gastronomy in the differing landscapes of Europe. As the family traveled, Armstrong was educated in the languages he now speaks fluently: English, French, Spanish, German and Irish. For those not versed in the Dubliner’s native language, the “t” in Cathal is silent.
At the age of seven, Armstrong began his annual student exchange in France with the Boudain family. His food curriculum involved visiting truffle-farms and vineyards, eating peasant-style food and picking fruits and vegetables on the farm. These early culinary experiences inspired Armstrong’s philosophy. He is committed to sourcing locally, valuing animals and respecting the land, so much so that Armstrong cites innovative farmer David Lankford of Davon Crest Farms in Maryland as one of his biggest inspirations. Armstrong is now an active member of The American Farmland Trust, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and protecting the nation’s agricultural resources.
At the age of 20, Armstrong opened a fine dining restaurant in the Dublin suburbs with two partners. After a two-year tenure atThe Baytree, Armstrong decided to move to Washington DC where for the next 11 years he moved his way through various top kitchens learning the fundamentals from mentors including Greg Mitchell of New Heightsand Jeffrey Buben of Bistro Bis. It was during his time spent at Gabriel under Gregory Hill that Armstrong met his future wife and business partner Meshelle Armstrong. Together, they dreamed of a place where they could balance a commitment to farmers with their vision of fine dining.
The Armstrongs found it in Alexandria, where in April 2004, 13 years after first arriving in DC, they opened Restaurant Eve. The modern American restaurant (with French, Spanish and Irish influences) showcased Armstrong’s playful personal style and deep-rooted commitment to purveyors. In the summer of 2006, Armstrong openedEamonn’s A Dublin Chipper and PX, or The PX, a cocktail-driven speakeasy lounge five blocks from Restaurant Eve. Both venues are named for Armstrong’s children, Eve and Eamonn. Armstrong has since been inducted into the Share Our Strength Leadership Council, a group of culinary notables from around the country who advise this non-profit dedicated to eradicating childhood hunger in the U.S. Armstrong’s self-described “pork fetish” and the Irish roots at the base of his culinary experience are showcased in decadent but playful dishes like “Bacon, Egg, and Cheese.” The dish makes full use of the versatility of pork fat with a cured and braised pork belly, seared to order, a tender crepe with ham and leeks, and a rich golden cheddar foam.
Alexandria Convention & Visitors Association
Claire is the Director of Communications for ACVA, Alexandria’s nonprofit tourism marketing organization, which contributes to the economic vitality of the city. Each year $738 million in visitor spending generates $23.7 million in tax revenue, providing needed city services and helping to support the community’s many small businesses. Claire directs the overall message and voice of the Alexandria visitor brand by managing ACVA’s communications strategies and guiding a team of professionals in media relations, social media and digital marketing. An Old Town resident with a passion for the city, she has been promoting the allure of Alexandria’s remarkable dining, shopping, arts and history for nearly four years as part of the ACVA team. Formerly the Director of Communications for the Torpedo Factory Art Center, she currently serves on the advisory board of The Art League and is an active member of the Mid-Atlantic Tourism Public Relations Alliance.VisitAlexandriaVA.com
| Jordan Wright
Whisk & Quill
|Jordan Wright is an accomplished writer on food, spirits, travel, and theatre. Her clients have included the tony Georgetowner and hip sister publication the Downtowner, the Washington Examiner and San Francisco Examiner, as well as LocalKicks.com, DC Metro Magazine, Washington Life Magazine, Washingtonian Magazine, MDTheatreGuide.com, Indian Country Today On-Line and Print Publications, The Alexandria Times, Hartkeisonline.com, and now DCMetroTheaterArts. Her articles feature restaurant openings, food and wine events, food-oriented film reviews, food trends, restaurant reviews, food memories, new food products, hotels, spas, resorts and interviews with the country’s leading chefs – from Jose Andres and Top Chef’s Carla Hall, to CakeLove’s Warren Brown and Top Chef’s Spike Mendelsohn. She has also interviewed famed chef and TV star, Anthony Bourdain, Eric Ripert, cookbook author Joan Nathan, and director Robert Kenner for an in-depth article about his film Food, Inc.
Alan Dubow, Shari Bolouri, Terri Hauser andMichael Hobbs
All programs are held at:
Holiday Inn Eisenhower Metro Center - 2460 Eisenhower Avenue CLICK HERE for directions
Reception at 6:15 p.m. (Cash Bar) Buffet Dinner at 6:45 p.m.
||SAVE BY PLANNING
||with reservations made by 5:00 pm on the Friday prior to each meeting
||for late reservations and walk-ins
Program only 7:15 p.m. (free to members/$5 non-members) - Presentations are followed by a question and answer session based on written questions from the audience. Programs end promptly at 9 P.M.
Dinner reservations strongly encouraged. Seating is not guaranteed for walk-ins. CLICK HERE TO RESERVE YOUR SPACE
Agenda:Alexandria, a non-partisan, non-profit organization which began in 1998, sponsors eight dinner meetings a year with presentations on topics of interest to Alexandrians. Membership is only $35 a year and open to anyone, whether or not you live or work in Alexandria. Topics are wide-ranging and past topics have included such issues as transportation, education, the arts, public safety, history and preservation, public health, the City budget, the waterfront, the environment and aging in Alexandria.
December 6, 2013
Cary Pollak for Whisk and Quill
Held at DC’s Walter E. Washington Convention Center, the Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show has seen an annual increase in attendance since Denise Medved first introduced the event in 2001. Featuring a vast selection of products related to both the food and entertainment industries, the show’s success has recently allowed Medved and her Tiny Kitchen, Inc. production company to expand into the Houston and Dallas markets.
Throughout the two-day run attendees enjoy face time with more than 200 local and national vendors, attend “Tasting and Entertaining” workshops, talk to cookbook authors at book signing stations, wander through countless aisles to sample tasty tidbits from some of the finest local restaurants at the “Grand Tasting Pavilion”, shop for gifts at the “Holiday Bazaar” and watch cooking demos on the “Food Lion Cooking Stage”. This year some of the country’s leading chefs gave demonstrations featuring recipes from the National Beef Cook-off Recipe Contest. All these activities were included in the day’s admission charge. Additional ticketed events showcase live culinary performances by celebrity chefs.
A colorful display of smoked seafood products from the Neopole Smokery of Baltimore, MD and Washington, DC
A local luminary who has previously demonstrated at the show is Francois Dionot whose L‘Academie de Cuisine has distinguished itself over the past thirty years as the premier training ground in our area for avocational and professional chefs. Listening to the celebrated chef’s stories about his experiences at well-known restaurants in Europe and the U.S. and about developing the distinguished cooking school, was worth the trip.
L’Academie de Cuisine founder Francois Dionot, with wife Patrice and daughter Claudine
The ever-charming Hugh Acheson, whose easy and friendly manner seemed almost incongruent with the entrepreneurial and culinary skills that have brought him to the top of his profession, was one of the chef demonstrators. Acheson is Chef/Co-owner of the former Five & Ten and The National restaurants in Athens, GA, along with Empire State South restaurant in Atlanta. He is also an occasional judge on Bravo’s Top Chef and holds the honor of being nominated six times for a James Beard Foundation Award. In the past he won “Best Chef Southeast” for his work at Five & Ten. He is the author of the James Beard Foundation Award winning cookbook, “A New Turn in The South”. At this year’s show he dazzled the audience with his version of Frogmore Stew.
Television chef and restaurant owner Hugh Acheson
Joe Yonan, Food and Travel editor at the Washington Post, was also on board. Yonan, who has led his paper’s food writers to two awards by the James Beard Foundation for the nation’s best food section, put his professional chef’s diploma from the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts and journalism degree from the University of Texas to good use by demonstrating a Kale and Mango Nicoise Salad recipe from his recent cookbook, Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook. He showed us how to massage raw kale leaves so as to soften them for a salad. He pointed out that this technique avoids other harsh methods of softening, such as drenching them in oil and acidic liquids until they wilt.
Washington Post Food and Travel editor Joe YonanWashington Post Food and Travel editor Joe Yonan
Whether you run into Chef Luigi Diotaiuti at a cooking demo or at his acclaimed DuPont Circle restaurant, Al Tiramisu, you know you will be in for good food and good fun. The affable Italian teamed up with food historian, culinary anthropologist, cookbook author and television personality, Amy Riolo, to make pistachio nut baklava. Off stage onlookers were so close they were asked to participate. We all helped to pile on layers of phyllo dough and watched as the chef drenched the dessert in lemon-infused sugar syrup.
Food Writer Cary Pollak makes baklava with Chefs Amy Riolo and Luigi Diotaiuti
Debi Mazar and Gabriele Corcos, the husband and wife team who star on the cooking show, Extra Virgin, on The Cooking Channel, were also at the show. Debi is an American actress who counts the iconic movie Goodfellas among her credits, and Gabriele is a musician from Tuscany. They are both consummate entertainers who love to cook. Together with their young daughter, Giulia, they put on a lively demonstration of Tuscan cooking, preparing seared grouper over Israeli couscous. At one point things got a bit racy when Debi admitted that they argue when they cook. Gabriele agreed that they resolve their disagreements by drinking wine … or by “making kids”. Realizing that the discussion was getting off topic, seven-year old Giulia drew laughs from the audience by asking, “You guys know I’m here, don’t you?”
Debi Mazar, Gabriele Corcos and daughter Giulia on the Celebrity Stage
The Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show is great family fun for those who enjoy learning more about food and entertaining. There are culinary delights of all types from chatting with vendors and sampling their wares, to meeting cookbook authors, to enjoying cooking demonstrations by notable American-based chefs. Plan on visiting this exciting open-to-the-public show when it returns in the fall of 2014.
Chef Diotaiuti and his partner Amy Riolo are planning a culinary tour beginning in Istanbul and continuing to Athens and the Greek Isles next October 2014. They have graciously consented to share their recipe for Pistachio Baklava with Whisk and Quill’s readers.
Baklava is enjoyed throughout much of the Mediterranean and Middle East thanks to the influence of the expansive Ottoman Empire that ruled much of the region for centuries. This version is most popular in Turkey. During our upcoming culinary cruise from Istanbul to Athens, we’ll experience hands-on phyllo making at Istanbul’s most legendary confectionary shop.
Pistachio Baklava/Fistik Baklava
Recipe by Amy Riolo and Luigi Diotaiuti.
Makes approximately 24 pieces
For the syrup:
3 cups granulated sugar
2 large strips of lemon peel
Juice of 1 small lemon
For the baklava
1 (1 pound) box phyllo dough, thawed according to package directions
1 cup clarified butter
1 pound shelled unsalted pistachios, finely ground
¼ cup granulated sugar
- Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Butter a 13×9-inch baking pan.
- Make the syrup by combining sugar, 3 cups water, peel, and juice in a medium saucepan.
- Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Discontinue stirring and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 10 minutes and set aside to cool.
- To assemble the baklava, remove phyllo dough from package. Trim it with a sharp knife to fit the pan you are using, if necessary. Wrap excess dough in plastic wrap in the refrigerator. Cover bottom of baking pan with 1 sheet of phyllo dough. Brush clarified butter evenly over the top. Stack another sheet over the top. Brush with more clarified butter. Continue stacking and brushing with butter until half of the phyllo dough is used.
- Combine pistachios with sugar in a medium bowl. Mix well to combine.
- Sprinkle ground pistachio mixture evenly across the top, reserving a few tablespoons for garnish. Continue layering remaining phyllo dough and brushing with clarified butter. Brush top layer with clarified butter.
- Position the pan as if it were a rectangle. With a long, sharp knife, cut phyllo into 6 strips vertical strips across the wide side of the pan(three-quarters of the way down).
- Cut 4 equally spaced vertical lines over the strips (three quarters of the way down) to create 24 squares. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes total, or until golden. Rotate pan every 20 minutes to ensure even browning.
- Remove from oven and drizzle with one ladleful of syrup at a time – allowing syrup to absorb in between ladlefuls. Once baklava has a glistening top and has absorbed syrup, discontinue adding more. Reserve additional syrup for a garnish if serving baklava at a later date. Syrup can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
- Once cooled, sprinkle tops of baklava pieces with a few ground pistachios. Baklava can be covered and stored at room temperature for a day, or in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Always drizzle with additional syrup before serving.
To find out more about Amy and Luigi’s upcoming tour visit – http://www.yourcruisesource.com/two_chefs_culinary_cruise_-_istanbul_to_athens_greek_isles_cruise.htm.
Photo credits: Cary Pollak
November 11, 2013
Cary Pollak for Whisk and Quill
Whether you’ve been an area resident for a while or are a newcomer, there’s a good chance that the first catering company you ever heard of was Ridgewells. Maybe you’ve been one of the fortunate ones, nabbing an invitation to an event catered by the prestigious company. Certainly you’ve caught a glimpse of the lilac-hued trucks as they tool around the Beltway or seen them parked behind a museum or private home.
Table setting in the Ridgewells tasting room
Recently this stalwart of entertaining expertise celebrated its 85th anniversary with a private dinner party in the tasting room of its Bethesda, Maryland headquarters. It was an evening of showcasing the latest dishes for the fall/winter season and heralding the company’s ambitious plans for their 85th anniversary celebration. To show its appreciation to the region that has supported it for so long, Ridgewells is embarking on a year-long program of “85 Days of Giving”. During the year eighty-five deserving entities will be the recipients of Ridgewells cuisine. It’s their way of giving thanks to community organizations for all of their charitable efforts.
The first gift Ridgewells donated was to cater the gala for Bethesda’s Imagination Stage, a theater they have supported since its inception in 1979. A few days later the company surprised the staff at Kaiser Permanente’s Gaithersburg Chemo Suite with a delivery of gourmet cookies. The company has set up a Twitter account to update its followers on their journey of giving @RIDGEWELLSDC.
Sausage stuffed quail being prepared for the dining room
While dinner guests were learning about this generous outreach program, they were treated to elegant passed hors d’oeuvres of Reuben fritters with spiced Russian dressing, spicy tuna soba noodle spring rolls, sweet pea fritters with apple mint chutney and mini meatball grinders on naan. Once guests were seated dinner began with a fabulous smoked fish fritter topped with kimchee, creme fraiche and an edible, purple sweet potato leaf. Each tidbit packed a unique and assertive flavor, and you might be hard pressed to imagine a better way to “fritter” away your time while the main dinner was being prepared.
Smoked fish fritter, one of three types of fritter appetizers served
One of the features of Ridgewells’ tasting room is a full view of the kitchen through a wall of glass where guests can watch the elegant plating of the evening’s delicacies.
Stuffed quail as presented on the plate
Our host was the ebullient Susan Lacz, co-owner of the company since 1997. She and partners, Thomas Keon and Jose Valado, are the most recent additions to a fabled line of ownership that dates back to 1928 when Charlie Ridgewell, a butler on the British Ambassador’s staff and Margueritte Ridgewell, a chef at the French Embassy founded the business. Their daughter, Fifi, and her husband took over the business after World War II, and it remained family owned until 1984, when it was purchased by the Chicago department store chain, Carson, Pirie, Scott and Company.
Ms. Lacz announced that the dinner would be served family style, sometimes known as French service, a style of serving in which servers present large platters to each guest to take whatever amount they would prefer. Dinner consisted of local quail stuffed with sausage and nestled in a lovely demiglaze; risotto studded with Brussels sprouts; slices of red beets and tangerines with a delicate ricotta; quinoa salad with Meyer lemon; and kale Caesar salad.
Quail surrounded by side dishes
Lavish tablescapes showcased an autumn theme. And no site was left unadorned. Pumpkin-studded flower arrangements fit for any dinner party centerpiece even adorned the powder rooms. Another touch of whimsy were deceptively clever desserts disguised as ice cream bars. The luscious Autumn Spiced Cakesicles were filled with cake and pumpkin mousse and served with a poached pear.
Since Ridgewells first opened its doors, dining and entertaining trends in the National Capital Area have swung from baroque to barbecue and everything in between. Despite changes in political administrations, economic upturns and downturns, and shakeups in the company’s corporate structure, Ridgewells has remained at the top of their game. This year they truly have something to celebrate. Their generous project of 85 Days of Giving is yet another indication of their good taste.
Photo credits: Cary Pollak