How to Go to the Dogs Tastefully

February 5, 2015
Cary Pollak for Whisk and Quill

This year’s Washington Humane Society’s annual Sugar & Champagne Affair was a fabulous event for dogs and dog lovers. Once again guests and their beloved canines filled the atrium of the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center with all manner of things sweet, sparkly and even savory. After all, we must have a balanced diet. For the 14th straight year many of our area’s preeminent chefs showed off their talents to benefit the Society and pay tribute to their Field Services team who last year responded to over 18,000 calls to help animals in need.

Guests gather in the atrium

Guests gather in the atrium

This delicious event that puts the “fun” back in fundraiser, was conceived by Ellen Kassoff Gray. Ellen, who serves as chairwoman of the host committee, co-hosted the posh event along with husband and uber chef Todd Gray. Together the DC power couple own Equinox Restaurant, while Todd doubles his chef duties as Culinary Director of the Salamander Resort & Spa in the tony horse country of Middleburg, VA.

As always many of the attendees were of the adorable canine sort. Pooches of all stripes, some dressed to the nines and others au naturel, strutted their stuff to the delight of the guests.

Liz Sara, Founder of Best Marketing, LLC with Crystal) // Kristine Saja’s, Quinn, adopted from the Washington Humane Society and pretty in pink

Liz Sara, Founder of Best Marketing, LLC with Crystal) // Kristine Saja’s, Quinn, adopted from the Washington Humane Society and pretty in pink

The main event was a reception in the atrium featuring scrumptious desserts. Event sponsors TCMA, Volkswagen, Equinox, Salamander Hotels & Resorts, The Sugar Association, Olde Towne Pet Resort, Social Light and Chef’s Roll were supported by media sponsors Zohar Rom’s Portfolio, The Virginia Maryland Dog, NOVADog Magazine, Travelzoo, Bisnow, Yelp and The Hill.

Tidbits and libations from dozens of restaurants, bars and bakeries came from The Source by Wolfgang PuckPoste Modern Brasserie, Plume, Baklava Couture, Shake Shack, Sticky Fingers Bakery, Society Fair, The Hamilton, Bastille, Hank’s Oyster Bar, Lilly Magilly’s Cupcakery, Occidental, Bearnaise, Co Co. Sala, The Dairy Godmother, Dolci Gelati, Brasserie Beck and a host of other well-known spots. A VIP room offered savory tastings and craft cocktails. New this year was the “Exclusive Experience” a chance for a limited number of guests to learn how to make desserts, create specialty cocktails and watch unusual demonstrations such as how to make “dip-n-dots” using liquid nitrogen.

Salamander Resort Public Relations Manager Vanessa Casas serves seared tuna and accompaniments

Salamander Resort Public Relations Manager Vanessa Casas serves seared tuna and accompaniments

 

Sweet Potato and Anise pastries from Slate Wine Bar and Bistro // Marinated shrimp from Richard Sandoval’s new Mango Tree restaurant

Sweet Potato and Anise pastries from Slate Wine Bar and Bistro // Marinated shrimp from Richard Sandoval’s new Mango Tree restaurant

One of the most memorable pastry displays was designed by the kitchen staff of the International Trade Center whose talented crew is known for creating miniature dessert masterpieces. They deserved to take a “bowwow” for their pâte à choux Animal Park that perfectly fit the evening’s theme. Using the versatile, classic French pastry dough, best known to most dessert lovers as the crusty part of the éclair, they fashioned a “Puff Poodle,” “Choux aux Kitty,” “Vanilla Pooch Puff” and lots more pup-themed treats.

Pate a Choux display // Choux aux Kitty pastries

Pate a Choux display // Choux aux Kitty pastries

Be sure to keep a slot open on your calendar for the 2016 Sugar & Champagne Affair. It’s a worthy cause and a rollicking good time for you and your four-legged friends.

Photo credit – Cary Pollak

Human Rights Campaign’s “Chefs For Equality” Evening Scores Big with DC Chefs and Their Fans

Jordan Wright
September 25, 2014
Photo credit – Jordan Wright
Special to DC Metro Theater Arts

 

Event Chair David Hagedorn in lime green tie

Event Chair David Hagedorn in lime green tie

When Washington Post food writer David Hagedorn is doing the asking, big name chefs and restaurateurs respond.  Though we didn’t see her there, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who married David and his partner, Michael Widomski, last fall, are on his speed dial.

The noted cookbook author chaired the Human Rights Campaign LGBT “Chefs For Equality” evening of food and fun Tuesday night at the Ritz-Carlton West End in one of the most delicious events of the season.  Two hundred chefs and their crews, plus some of the city’s top mixologists (if you hate that moniker, move along) prepared tastings for the guests who were dazzled by splashy drag queens, assorted pols and a ballroom filled with damned good looking men and their gal pals.

VIP Table Setting

VIP  table settings

Some of the most scrumptious bites came courtesy of Todd Gray and Chris Edwards  of Salamander Resort & Spa (the concord grape jelly made from a neighbor’s vines was to die for); Michelle and Christophe Poteaux of Bastille whose foie gras mousse was topped with pear confit and toasted hazelnuts; Tim Ma of Water & Wall and Maple Avenue who served an Asian Chicken Soup; and Brian Noyes of Red Truck Bakery whose Chocolate Moonshine Cake (a Mason jar filled with the local firewater from Belmont Distillery) was a mouthful of pillowy, boozy chocolate cake.

(Left to Right) Brian Noyes - Tim Ma - Brent Sick Del Frisco's Grille

(Left to Right) Brian Noyes of Red Truck Bakery – Tim Ma of Water & Wall – Brent Sick Del Frisco’s Grille

We also noshed on nibbles and sips from K. N. Vinod of Indique Heights, Mitch Berliner of MeatCrafters, Jamie Leeds of Hank’s Oyster Bar, Gina Chersevani of Buffalo & Bergen, Aaron McCloud of CedarRis Lacoste of RIS, Tarver King of The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm, Jeff Faile of Neighborhood Restaurant Group and David Guas of Bayou Bakery whose American Grilledshow is on the Travel Channel.

(Left to Right) Aaron McCloud of Cedar - Michael Abt of Le Diplomate - Michael Friedman of The Red Hen

(Left to Right) Aaron McCloud of Cedar – Brinn Sinnott of Le Diplomate – Michael Friedman of The Red Hen

Salt & Sundry provided swag bags for the VIPs who sat together at tables lavishly decorated by their individual hosts.  Their specialty dinners were prepared by uber-chefs Robert Wiedmaier (Marcel’s), Michel Richard (Central Michel Richard), Patrick O’Connell (The Inn at Little Washington), Frank Ruta (now baking with Mark Furstenberg at Bread Furst), Peter Chang (soon to open in Bethesda) Tony Conte (The Oval Room), Scott Drewno (The Source), Jeremiah Langhorne (formerly of McCrady’s soon to open a DC outpost), and Fabio Trabocchi (Fiola and Casa Luca).

(Left to Right) Felicia Beefeater aka A. J. Dronkers with Jordan Wright - Todd Gray and Chris Edwards with team from Salamander - Gus DiMillo and Jeff Tunks of Passion Food Hospitality

(Left to Right) Felicia Beefeater aka A. J. Dronkers with Jordan Wright – Todd Gray and Chris Edwards with team from Salamander – Gus DiMillo and Jeff Tunks of Passion Food Hospitality

But it was all one big happy family there to celebrate this year’s Gay Rights successes and to push for Marriage Equality in Virginia.  Star power came courtesy of Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe who wooed the joyful crowd with his promise of support for gay marriage in the “Virginia is for Lovers” state.

Bryan Sorrentino's cake from Charm City Cakes

Bryan Sorrentino’s cake from Charm City Cakes

Cirque de Soleil’s Amaluna Comes to National Harbor

Jordan Wright
July 7, 2014
Special to The Alexandria Times
 

In a few weeks National Harbor will host Cirque de Soleil’s Amaluna, a production loosely based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest.  Amaluna is a fusion of the words ama, which refers to “mother” in many languages, and luna, which signifies “moon” – a symbol of femininity evoking both the mother-daughter relationship and the idea of goddess and protector of the planet.  Amaluna is also the name of the mysterious island where the story unfolds.

Water Bowel CWP

Water Bowel CWP

In this groundbreaking show that celebrates the work and voice of women, the audience is transported to a mysterious island governed by Goddesses, Amazon warriors and Valkyries and guided by the cycles of the moon.  Performed by a cast of 70% female artists, the story recreates an exotic female mythology of half-human, half-animal characters expressed through original compositions, dance and extreme acrobatics.

Goddess

Goddess

Rachel Lancaster, who previously worked on Corteo, brings her savvy to the show as a trained dancer with a theatre background.  She is excited that Amaluna is her first show as Artistic Director.  “All of our shows are so different.  In Amaluna we have used newer technology for the aerial events, something we didn’t have before.  The whole big top comes alive.  The most exciting aspect of this show is the physical and emotional power of the woman.  It’s really unique and features an all-female nine-piece band. It even has the only uneven bar act in the world.  It is incredibly beautiful with a different esoteric sense from other Cirque shows.”

Teeterboard

Teeterboard

Set in an island forest it tells the story of Miranda’s coming of age, using symbols and themes from Greek mythology.  Hera, the Greek Goddess of women, is expressed by a peacock feather decoration that refers to the legend of the bird’s protective eyes in its tail. The eyes are said to watch over women in all stages of their lives.

Tony Award-winning Director, Diane Paulus (Pippin – 2013) directs the amazing cast.  Her impressive theatre background reflects her position as Artistic Director at A.R.T. at Harvard University.  This year Paulus was recognized on TIME Magazine’s annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world and Variety named her among its “2014 Trailblazing Women in Entertainment”.  “I didn’t want to build a ‘women’s agenda’ show,” she has said.  “I wanted to create a show with women at the center of it – something that had a hidden story that featured women as the heroines.”

Ama Prospera Miranda

Ama Prospera Miranda

I met with cast member Iuliia Mykhailova, a petite contortionist with muscles of steel, who plays Miranda – a leading role that requires her to be on stage throughout the show.  Discovered at a circus college in her hometown of Kiev, the twenty-nine-year old Ukrainian has performed in three other Cirque productions including Ovo, Kooza and Varekai.  In a recent interview she talked about her focus in performing her intricate and daring feats.  “We do ten shows per week so I really have to concentrate.  It’s easy to get distracted and slip…and I have.”  Dressed in one of her four costumes, a fitted cropped jacket with miniscule bloomers to match, the pony-tailed brunette described how the garments are constructed to accommodate the artists.  “If a sleeve constricts the arm movements, they make openings in the shoulders to allow more freedom of motion.”

Manipulation

Manipulation

I was fascinated to learn that Mykhailova travels with her young daughter, as do many of the artists.  While on the road, children are educated in on-site classrooms where programs are multi-level and multi-cultural to accommodate the myriad of nationalities, and languages, represented.  “There are around 30 children that travel with us.  We have teachers and school programs for them,” she remarked.

Images courtesy of Cirque de Soleil

Amaluna opens under National Harbor’s blue and yellow big top on July 31st.  For tickets and information visit www.CirquedeSoleil.com/Amaluna.

 

THE 2014 SUGAR AND CHAMPAGNE AFFAIR WAS A SPARKLING SUCCESS

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

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

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

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.

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

Original Recipe Rye Whiskey Sold Out at Mount Vernon

Jordan Wright
July 2010

Our first president tipples the good stuff at Mount Vernon - photo by Jordan Wright

Our first president tipples the good stuff at Mount Vernon - photo by Jordan Wright

George Washington is still entertaining in fine style at his Mount Vernon home with the release of his original recipe un-aged rye whiskey being sold for the first time since 1814. A limited number of the bottles, priced at $85.00, were available for the launch (only 471) last week and I was thrilled to be number 30 in the queue. There was also a commemorative boxed set containing an engraved shot glass and mini bottle of the aged variety, a tempting bracer for an brisk autumn fox hunt.

A magnificent morning greeted eager tasters who toured the distillery and gristmill along the banks of Doe Creek where the rye whiskey is being made and bottled by hand just as it was done two centuries ago and according to the original records uncovered at the estate.

The grist mill at work - photo by Jordan Wright

The grist mill at work - photo by Jordan Wright

Every part of the centuries-old process is authentic - photo by Jordan Wright

Every part of the centuries-old process is authentic - photo by Jordan Wright

The raw grain ready for processing - photo by Jordan Wright

The raw grain ready for processing - photo by Jordan Wright

VA State Senator Toddy Puller, whose efforts cannot be understated in sponsoring Virginia’s new distilled spirits tasting law allowing Mount Vernon a special designation to sell the whiskey, was presented with the first bottle by Dennis Pogue, Mount Vernon’s Associate Director for Preservation, and Dr. Peter Kressy, President of the Distilled Spirits Council (DISCUS), who proudly told of his association’s commitment in leading industry funding for the $2.1 million archeological excavation and reconstruction.

James Rees, President of the influential Mount Vernon Ladies Association spoke of Washington the innovator and entrepreneur, “This was the largest and most successful distillery in the United States, marketing to the West Indies, England and Portugal.”

The handmade process in the distillery - photo by Jordan Wright

The handmade process in the distillery - photo by Jordan Wright

Master Distiller, David Pickerell, poses in front of the distillery - photo by Jordan Wright

Master Distiller, David Pickerell, poses in front of the distillery - photo by Jordan Wright

The Master Miller (center) checks the records - photo by Jordan Wright

The Master Miller (center) checks the records - photo by Jordan Wright

Master Distiller, David Pickerell, formerly of Maker’s Mark Bourbon and now distilling his own WhistlePig Farm rye whiskey in Vermont, described the whiskey this way, “It’s nose is slightly floral, earthy and grainy, with a taste that is surprisingly sweet and mellow with a berry taste.” He added, “The whole process was exhausting. Everything was made by hand and we did it in two weeks!”

A rare first bottle of George Washington's original recipe rye whiskey - photo by Jordan Wright

A rare first bottle of George Washington's original recipe rye whiskey - photo by Jordan Wright

The estate currently has around 50 gallons laid back of the two year-old straight rye whiskey aging in oak barrels. It won’t be available till next spring. But according to Pogue, the demand for the un-aged variety has been so high they are trying to have a new batch ready at the same time.

World Champion mixologist, Todd Thrasher of Restaurant Eve and PX in Alexandria, was so inspired he created a new recipe for Whisk and Quill just for the occasion.

I Cannot Tell a Lie

1 oz. George Washington Rye Whiskey
1 oz. Bourbon
½ oz. Luxardo Maraschino Cherry Liqueur
2 oz. Cherry Vanilla Juice (recipe follows)
Dash of Fee Brothers Cherry Bitters

Cherry Vanilla Juice
Mix together 1 quart of pitted cherries and 1 scooped out vanilla bean. Pass through a food mill.
To serve:
Stir all the ingredients together and serve in a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with a Luxardo cherry.
Courtesy of Todd Thrasher

For more information about The Distillery at Mount Vernon visit www.mountvernon.org

For questions or comments on this article contact Jordan@WhiskandQuill.com. Visit us on Facebook to see more photos of our stay.