National Geographic’s Executive Chef Matthew Crudder Talks About His Plans for the Upcoming Farm-to-Table Dinner and Why He Likes to Source Locally

Jordan Wright
November 30, 2014
Special to DC Metro Theater Arts

Matthew Crudder - Executive Chef at National Geographics

Matthew Crudder – Executive Chef at National Geographics

Presiding over National Geographic’s Washington, DC kitchens for over two years, Executive Chef Matthew Crudder draws on his considerable experience.  A graduate of the New England Culinary Institute, the 45-year old chef hails from Ann Arbor Michigan, where he briefly attended the University of Michigan before finding his passion for cooking.  His resume reads like a primer for aspiring chefs – – The Four Seasons in Las Vegas and Chicago, the Ritz-Carlton in Philadelphia, the Fairmont in Washington, DC and Sodexo clients, AOL, Gannett, USA Today and Fannie Mae.  “NatGeo”, as it is fondly called, is currently served by Sodexo who launched their “Local Artisan” program at NatGeo’s headquarters.  Crudder had taken a lead role in sustainability throughout his time at Sodexo and eagerly took the lead in this innovative program described as “a locally-sourced sustainable process highlighted by a chef-driven approach to natural cooking”.

On December 4th the Society will host a local, sustainable farm-to-table dinner in its historic Hubbard Hall, the first headquarters of the National Geographic Society, located at 1145 17th St., NW Washington, DC in DC’s Golden Triangle District.

Inspired by the exhibition “FOOD: Our Global Kitchen”, the evening will feature a guided five-course meal with local wine, beer and cider parings.  During dinner Archivist Renee Braden will share the history of National Geographic and discuss its rich relationship with food.  To purchase tickets go to http://events.nationalgeographic.com/special-events/2014/12/04/farm-table-hubbard-hall/

Earlier this week Whisk and Quill took the opportunity to speak with Crudder in advance of NatGeo’s exciting event.

What are your earliest food memories?

Growing up my family kept gardens and I started my involvement at home when I’d hear, “The water is about to boil go and get the corn or go pick the string beans.” Or “If you’d like jam on your toast tomorrow, here’s a bucket.  Go collect the blackberries on down by the road.”  So my grandmother and mother were big influences in terms of really fresh all-American cooking.  I mean in the more traditional sense as opposed to the concession stand or freezer aisle.

What was your first professional experience?

I started off in an Italian kitchen and fried zucchini was my specialty for the first two days of my training.  But the first real dish I learned to prepare from start to finish was osso buco.  And it’s still a dish that I love to prepare.

I like Marcella Hazan’s recipe for osso buco.

Well, actually on many occasions when people say they want to learn to cook, the first thing I do is hand them Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking!

Before I’d even been to cooking school I remember making the first couple of recipes from her book, which gave just four ingredients – – although the results were so much more than that.

Her description of the techniques is what makes her recipes so exceptional.  It really helps you to understand how the process should be looking and smelling so you know what you’re supposed to be doing.  And then there’s that sense of risk that comes with doing the braise!  You put it in the oven and you can’t do any more. You just have to wait.

What style of cooking is your favorite?

I really like what we’re doing now with the “Local Artisan” – – the farm-to-table style program that allows simple cooking techniques and the product itself to showcase the quality of the food.  A bit of salt and pepper, olive oil and lemon juice with a properly sautéed or roasted item is maybe all you need – – not hiding things under heavy sauces and sugars and things like that.  The food is just so honest and recognizable the flavors really shine through.  And it’s healthier too – – if you’re careful with the oil!

We did a small test for the dinner we’ll be doing next Thursday and we’ve been passing it around the kitchen today to let everybody sample it.  It’s just unadorned goat’s milk ricotta.  There are only four ingredients to making it.  But before we drizzled it with olive oil or added salt and pepper, the response we got, that it was so fresh and creamy and wonderful, was so rewarding.

Can you describe the types of events typical to NatGeo that you create dinners for?

The part of what I love about working for National Geographic is that whatever they’re involved in we’re going to be doing themes based on their event schedules.  Everyday I practice and focus on our cuisine using natural products and techniques and then I get to use these adventures on our special events.

We’ve done a man-on-Mars themed dinner and a Spinosaurus themed dinner as well as different cultural menus.  For South America we focused on the Amazon and Peru for the “Peruvian Gold” exhibit.  There are a lot of opportunities to be creative.  I do research to learn about cuisines I might not know about.  For example, for a group from Durban, South Africa, I got to dig around on the Internet and source some products to make it as authentic as possible, and our guests really got into the spirit of it.

Can you tell me a bit about the plans for the upcoming dinner on December 4th?

The house made goat’s milk ricotta I mentioned will be paired with roasted and pickled beets.  Some of the other elements I want to hold in surprise.  In terms of the event it will be a farm-to-table event.  But here we are in the beginning of December in the Mid-Atlantic and many things are not growing at this time of year.  When we found out about the event we made up some tomato jam at the height of the season for heirloom tomatoes.

I’m not going to serve a local hothouse tomato that doesn’t taste like anything just because it’s local.  And I’m not going to say we can’t have tomatoes because they’re not growing in the field near here now.  That wouldn’t be what was done in a more traditional setting either.  Back then you would have to take the bounty and preserve it in as many ways as you could.  So we have a number of items sprinkled around the menu that are taken from this summer’s bounty which we have prepared and preserved – – whether it was by drying or canning or freezing or pickling – – to hold on to the peak of freshness.

We’ll be featuring key ingredients in every dish that have been locally sourced.  We have a direct relationship with farmer/owner Greg Keckler of Orchard County Produce in Gardeners, PA who comes here nine months out of the year on Tuesdays.  He supplies subscriptions for a CSA we have in the building and holds a farmers market in our courtyard.  His quinces, apples, root vegetables, Swiss chard and kale will be incorporated into the menu.

Will there be other local providers involved in the dinner? 

I work very closely with my meat and fish providers to select products that will be readily available locally.  The beef we’ll use is Certified Angus Beef but it’s differentiated from other Certified Angus Beef by the fact that the product comes from a “single stream” from a particular small group of farms in Pennsylvania, so the animals are born and raised there.  The people that raise the animals also grow the feed for the animals and they’re processed and shipped locally.  That’s different from the standard way most Angus cattle are raised.  Their entire life span, as well as what they’ve been fed, is all along the line of sight of the ranchers that handle them.  So that’s very exciting.

We also will feature some wonderful seafood from the Chesapeake region.  And we are working with J. Q. Dickinson Salt-Works from the Kanawha Valley in West Virginia using their wonderful salt.  The fact that something so basic can be a hand made product, I think is really special.

We’re not going to say, oh, that product is one county away, so we can’t use it.  What we try to share with our guests is the evolution and story of how the food supply evolves and ebbs and flows through the course of the year.

One of the things that we’ve done here is to compare food miles, something I’ve shared on National Geographic Live.  We don’t really track it, but we did compare how many miles food travels – – showing how near or far products have to travel when they are purchased from standard sources.  So if you are basing it on the availability of food, the radical difference in terms of the miles traveled by the food is a factor of, not tens, but hundreds of miles and we’re very aware of that.

Peach Brandy Debuts at George Washington’s Mount Vernon Distillery

Jordan Wright
November 25, 2014
Special to The Alexandria Times 

Peach Brandy launch - Photo credit DISCUS

Peach Brandy launch – Photo credit DISCUS

Eight hundred eagerly-anticipated bottles of George Washington’s limited edition Peach Brandy Eau de Vie (translation: “water of life”) went onto the shelves of the Mount Vernon Estate gift shop just in time for Christmas.  Produced at the restored distillery this huge undertaking dwarfed Washington’s eight gallons in sales recorded back in 1798, reflecting a more than two-century price increase from $1.00 a gallon to a considerably adjusted $150.00 per 375ml bottle.

It’s an elegant pour, meant to be sipped, and one Washington didn’t expect to be chug-a-lugged.  Not exactly a teetotaler himself, he wrote a letter to an employee, whom he both chastised and cautioned for drinking excessively.

When it first opened in 1798, the distillery was run by a canny Scotsman, James Anderson, and his son John.  James had convinced Washington to produce whiskey later introducing the eau de vie, which are made today according to the early recipes.  Producing 11,000 gallons of whiskey in its heyday, it became the largest distillery in America, providing two distinct grades of whiskey, which became available throughout the country, including in Alexandria’s many taverns.

Thanks to the efforts of archaeologists who discovered the foundations in 1997 and working off a grant from the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, the distillery was restored in March of 2007 after being destroyed by fire in 1814.  Following ten years of research and construction, the distillery now produces one hundred gallons of rye whiskey in small batches twice a year.  Brandy is made every other year.

Both are made the old-fashioned way using 18th century distilling techniques.  Workers hand-cut up to 51 cords of wood per month to stoke the direct wood fires beneath the still, and giant wooden paddles are used to stir the mash, which then is transferred to a series of hogsheads.  “Manning the paddles is like steering a cement canoe down the river,” says Mount Vernon’s Master Distiller Steven Bashore.

Mount Vernon Master Distiller Steven Bashore - Photo credit Jordan Wright

Mount Vernon Master Distiller Steven Bashore – Photo credit Jordan Wright

To achieve 300 gallons of whiskey, 8,000 pounds of rye, corn and malted barley from grains are sourced from Virginia farms.  Locally grown Virginia peaches become the base for the Peach Brandy Eau de Vie that George and Martha served at the mansion.  Ledger entries from 1798 show sales of eight gallons to the public. But by 1799 with production in full swing, the First Couple were graciously serving 60 gallons of the precious peach elixir to their many guests.

Adding the grains to the make the mash - Photo credit Jordan Wright

Adding the grains to the make the mash – Photo credit Jordan Wright

To recreate this “new” product two of America’s leading brandy distillers were brought in, Ted Huber of Starlight Distillery in Indiana who procured five 55-gallon drums of very fine peach juice, and Thomas McKenzie of Finger Lakes Distilling in New York.  Both men assisted Bashore in the production and bottling of the historic brandy, which has been described as having tasting notes of candied peaches and peach cobbler with a hint of cinnamon and which I can personally attest to.

Dedicated in 2007 by Britain’s Prince Andrew, the reconstructed distillery featuring the distilling process “from seed to still” is open to the public 365 days of the year.  Located at 5513 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, Alexandria, VA 22309, the distillery is three miles south of Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens.  For hours of operation go to www.MountVernon.org

To get you in the holiday spirit, or spirits as the case may be, here is a recipe for Martha Washington’s Rum Punch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Martha Washington’s Rum Punch

Makes 6 -10 servings

  • 3 oz. of White Rum
  • 3 oz. of Dark Rum
  • 3 oz. of Orange Curaçao
 [or Peach Brandy Eau de Vie]
  • 4 oz. of Simple Syrup
 [equal parts sugar to water, warmed till sugar is dissolved]
  • 4 oz. Lemon Juice
  • 4 oz. of Fresh Orange Juice
  • 3 Lemons quartered
  • 1 Orange quartered
  • ½ Tsp. Grated nutmeg
  • 3 Cinnamon sticks (broken)
  • 6 Cloves
  • 12 oz. Boiling water

In a container, mash the orange, lemons, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and nutmeg.  Add the syrup, lemon, and orange juices.  Pour the boiling water over the mixture in the container and let cool for a few minutes.

When cool, add the White Rum, Dark Rum, and Orange Curaçao [You may substitute for Peach Brandy].  Strain well into a pitcher or punch bowl (to remove all of the spice marinade) and serve over ice in goblets and decorate with wheels of lemon and orange.

Dust with a little nutmeg and cinnamon and enjoy a sip of American history.

A Conversation with Aglaia Kremezi – Author of Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts

Jordan Wright
November 16, 2014
Special to DC Metro Theater Arts



 Aglaia Kremezi fairly floats into the room.  Wisps of casually arranged auburn hair delicate as ripe corn silk are tempered by a pair of serious wire-rimmed frames that hint at her former life as an editor and journalist.  She is utterly composed and cheery all at once.  This well-known authority on Greek cuisine has come to the States to promote her newest cookbook, see friends and consult with Michael Costas, Executive Chef at José Andrés’ Greek-inspired restaurant Zaytinya.

After penning five cookbooks on the foods of Greece, Kremezi has of late directed her attention to vegetables, broadening the subject by including the whole of the Mediterranean.  Kremezi lives with her husband, Costas Moraitis on the small Greek isle of Kea.  For this cookbook she has put together 150 Mediterranean plant-based recipes tested in her kitchens at Kea Artisanal, where she conducts cooking vacations for students from around the world.  Many of these historically authentic vegetarian dishes are far more lavish than meat-based dishes.

Cookbook Author, Aglaia Kremezi chats with Whisk and Quill - Photo credit by Jordan Wright

Cookbook Author, Aglaia Kremezi, chats with Whisk and Quill – Photo credit by Jordan Wright

Whisk and Quill – What do you think of the current shift to a more vegetable-based diet?

Kremezi – I think that it starts for the wrong reasons, because people think they have to eat healthier, and afterwards they consider the flavors.  To me it’s the opposite.  I far prefer the flavors of vegetables to the flavors of meat, even though I’m not vegetarian.

How many of your recipes are gleaned from early culinary sources and how many are tweaking through doing?

It’s both really.  As you know, because you are a chef too, you take inspiration from this, that and the other and you add your own personal touch.  They have my personality but they are taken from various countries from all over the Mediterranean and from friends’ kitchens.

I hear you and Paula Wolfert are great friends and that you Skype regularly.  Do you ever cook together?

Oh, yes, in Sonoma and Connecticut.  I’m on my way to Sonoma now to spend time with her before I go back to Greece.

The photos in your new book are so vivid, I want to eat the pages.

Penny De Los Santos took the photographs.  She’s been to Kea for Saveur and I knew her work.  I did take a few of the pictures, but she took all the rest.  They are all taken in our house, garden and our outdoor kitchen.  In the photos she used the plates given to me from my mother and our tablecloths, cookware and pottery that we have collected over the years.

The photographs are supposed to be the ‘hooks’ to draw people into the kitchen and make them cook, because people have neglected cooking.  They rely too much on take out.  A lot of companies are very quick to bring vegetarian products to market, but you never really know what’s in them.

Can you tell me some herbs or seasonings that are your favorites?

I like both the Aegean Herb and Hot Pepper Spice Mix, and also the Lebanese Seven-Spice Mixture.  That one has cinnamon, cloves, coriander, ginger, allspice, pepper and nutmeg.  It’s very aromatic and a bit spicy.  It’s the basic spice in Lebanon and they use it in tabbouleh.  Both spice recipes are in the book.  Also I make my own preserved lemons and there is a recipe for that too in the book.

What are your favorite kitchen tools?

Wooden spatulas and spoons, my mandolin, a very good knife and scissors.  I have scissors everywhere!  I even use them when I am baking bread to score the tops of the loaves.  It works better than a razor.

Your book is going to make readers want to plant their own gardens in order to harvest the many vegetables and herbs you spotlight in your seasonally-inspired recipes.  Do you get most of your fresh ingredients from your garden?

Yes, especially herbs.  Our seasons are different than yours.  Now we are planting lettuces.  I just was in Japan and got some kun choi seeds.  And we have 10 or 12 kinds of oregano, like the Lebanese zaatar, which is a cross between oregano and thyme.  I love farmers markets too.  I was at the Dupont Circle Farmers Market on Sunday and today I’m heading over to the market in Penn Quarter to buy apples.

Tell me about your cooking classes on Kea.

It was my husband’s idea.  Because we had the garden and we live in the middle of nowhere.  We are on the more remote part of the island, the north side.  It’s not the side with all the villas like the Hamptons.  It is where we can have a garden and it’s less exposed to the harsher weather.  Also it was nice to have people from all over the world come and join us every now and then.  We love having people around our table.

We have six-day classes.  We cook and eat and taste wines and cheeses and honeys from all over Greece.   We also do hikes and make travel arrangements for guests who want to explore other islands.

Why do you think this book is so important?

The whole idea started from the interactions I had with the people in our classes.  I found that things that I didn’t even think of showing people how to cook – – things I considered self-evident – – like how to braise green beans with tomatoes and onions for example.  But they were amazed and they were asking me for the recipes.  I realized that people don’t really know how to cook vegetables at all.  In the book I have all these variations from country to country around the Mediterranean.  For example, I give recipes for two entirely different eggplant spreads, both the Arab and French Provencal versions.  Each use roasted eggplant.  It’s an example of what I’m trying to do in this book.  It’s these variations that really interest me.  I do a lot of research and call up my Turkish friends for advice and suggestions.

Kremezi will be in DC at the Sips & Suppers event on January 24th and 25th 2015 along with Alice Waters, Joan Nathan, David Chang, Mike Isabella, Spike Gjerde, Cathal Armstrong, Erik Bruner-Yang, Michael Friedman, Carla Hall, Haidar Karoum, Charles Phan, Jamie Leeds and Peter Jacobson.

Tunisian Chickpea Soup (Leblebi)


Nibbles and Sips Around Town – November 5, 2014

Jordan Wright
November 5, 2014 

Local Chef Cathal Armstrong’s Cookbook, My Irish Table – Recipes From the Homeland and Restaurant Eve, Will Warm The Cockles of Your Heart

My favorite cookbooks reveal the author’s personal connection to both the recipe and the ingredients, and this one is no different.  In Cathal Armstrong’s “My Irish Table – Recipes From the Homeland and Restaurant Eve” (Ten Speed Press, 2014), co-written with former chef and Washington Post food writer David Hagedorn, the hearth-warming book takes us on an Irish culinary journey inspired by Armstrong’s mother’s kitchen and his father’s vegetable garden, and influenced by his early French culinary training.

Cathal Armstrong

Cathal Armstrong

As chef/owner of Restaurant Eve, and owner of The Majestic, Eammon’s A Dublin Chipper, PX and Society Fair, all located in Alexandria, Virginia, Armstrong has gotten a heap of ink from some of the world’s leading magazine writers and has twice been chosen from among DC area’s finest chefs to create a year-long Irish-inspired menu for The National Gallery of Art’s Garden Café, so this long-awaited book is a treasure.

At the top of each recipe you’ll find a description of Armstrong’s fondest food memories culled from his childhood in Dublin and dishes from his highly esteemed Restaurant Eve.  All the recipes are tailored for the home cook.  Here’s one to warm the cockles of your heart on a cold winter’s night.

Nibbles and Sips Around Town – October 28, 2014

Jordan Wright
October 28, 2014
all photo credit to Jordan Wright
Special to  DC Metro Theater Arts

Something for Moms to Cheer About, Willowsford Farm Lunch, Winos Take Over the Kennedy Center, Daniel Boulud Storms the Capitol 

Hooray Puree Adds Nutrition, Covertly 

We pick our vegetables at the peak of ripeness, puree them and package them without adding preservatives, dyes or even ascorbic acid

Hooray Purees have no added preservatives, dyes or even ascorbic acid

Sneaky moms just got approval from Hooray Puree – a new pureed vegetable product that can be slipped undetected into mac n’ cheese, used to bump up the nutritional value of soups and stews, and added to smoothies.  It even replaces all baking fats and oils in cakes, brownies and pies.  All on the Q.T.  In fact there are so many ways to have it over on your finicky kids, that you’re only limited by your imagination.  Did I mention it’s convenient, organic, shelf-stable and comes in a nifty box?

Mango-Carrot Smoothie

Mango-Carrot Smoothie

I came across this pureed vegetables product through Timothy Cipriano, a chef who had worked to institute nutritional food programs for the Connecticut school system.  Several years ago I had dinner with Cipriano after his first trip to the White House where he had met First Lady Michelle Obama and toured her famous kitchen garden.

Colorful Quinoa Salad

Colorful Quinoa Salad

His efforts had been recognized by Mrs. Obama and she invited him to work with her office, Congress and the USDA in the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act that teaches kids where their food comes from.  Surprisingly many kids, whether from the suburbs or the inner city, have never been on a farm or spent time in a vegetable garden.  But by working together with the food service industry and community partners, the program Chefs Move to Schools began in earnest to change the scope of school food allowing kids to make better, more nutritious, and more informed choices about their everyday school breakfasts and lunches.

No-Bake Peanut Butter Raisin Bars

No-Bake Peanut Butter Raisin Bars

Not long ago Chef Cipriano discovered Hooray Puree and found it dovetailed nicely into his message of amping up the nutritional value and flavor of popular recipes.  He is now the Vice President of Brand Development for the company and spends his time education school children and school nutrition professionals.  You can follow him on Twitter @localfooddude.  For dozens of great recipes check out www.HoorayPuree.com.  Order online through www.AbesMarket.com.

Willowsford Farm Luncheon 

In September I toured Willowsford Farm, a 4,000-acre community in Loudoun County, Virginia that enjoys two zip codes – from the quaint town of Aldie to nearby Ashburn.  The vast property with a 300+-acre working farm that produces more than 150 varieties of fruits and vegetables, has a clutch of chickens and a herd of goats, truly celebrates the farm and all its bounty.

Preparing the weekly CSA baskets at the farm

Preparing the weekly CSA baskets at the farm

Hunt country homes line the winding lanes leading to two magnificently appointed community centers.  Outfitted with both indoor and outdoor teaching kitchens, noted chefs like Bryan Voltaggio of Range cook for homeowners at frequently arranged pop-up restaurants within the community center.

Willowsford Farm Executive Chef Bonnie Moore

Willowsford Farm Executive Chef Bonnie Moore

In addition to the kitchens, farm and a farmers market with a CSA program, the property has a Culinary Director.  Chef Bonnie Moore, formerly of the Inn at Little Washington, teaches ongoing cooking classes and provides recipes for residents.  Children can volunteer to help at the farm and this summer they had a kids’ camp that took full advantage of the seven-acre lake where families enjoy canoeing and kayaking.

Last of the season tomato salad // Harvest Apple Pie with Buttermilk Ice Cream

Last of the season tomato salad // Harvest Apple Pie with Buttermilk Ice Cream

On the day I visited Moore oversaw the end-of-summer luncheon in the grand Sycamore House, a stunning building whose receiving rooms have beautiful paneled walls milled from trees on the property. 

Mike Snow at the farm market at Willowsford

Mike Snow at the farm market at Willowsford

Led by Farm Manager Mike Snow we visited the farm stand and clambered over one of the 40-miles of trails to check out the barns, coming upon a friendly Border Collie and a few hitchhiking praying mantises.

The visionary of this unique property is Brian Cullen, who saw fit to build in all the amenities from swimming pools and formal gardens to parks and camping areas for the residents before the homes had even been finished – a rare commitment from a developer.  To learn more about the community visit www.Willowsford.com.

Winebow Performs at Kennedy Center 

From the terrace at Kennedy Center at the Winebow Vintner's Harvest event

From the terrace at Kennedy Center at the Winebow Vintner’s Harvest event

Usually when I’m at the Kennedy Center I am watching a theatrical production of some sort – ballet, play, musical, opera.  But this time I was there by invitation from major wholesaler Winebow who used the enormous dining room for its 1st Annual Vintner’s Harvest DC.  There enhanced by a spectacular view overlooking the Washington Monument, they presented their import and distribution portfolio of over 200 producers and their wines, spirits and sakes.

So many wines. So little time.

So many wines. So little time.

It was cheek-to-jowl as buyers, beverage managers, sommeliers and restaurateurs packed the vast room searching for that elusive bottle.  For some of us it was a chance to catch up with those in the biz, sample what’s new and make a few friends.  For the earnest buyers in the crush, it was a serious exercise in sampling.

I confess I was a bit overwhelmed by the magnitude of the offerings – imagine over a thousand bottles at your reach!  But it wasn’t long before an impossibly tall stranger in a cowboy hat broke through the scrum, saw my dilemma and took me by the hand to some lovely Bordeaux and a few well-aged sakes.  All in the name of research, of course… 

Daniel Boulud Storms the Capitol 

Daniel Boulud greets guests at his DBGB opening party

Daniel Boulud greets guests at his DBGB opening party

Famed chef Daniel Boulud has charged onto the DC restaurant scene with DBGB Kitchen + Bar.  And last month’s opening party was epic.  Famed chefs Carla Hall, Jose Andres and Patrick O’Connell swooned along with the rest of us including Countess Elisabeth de Kergolay, Founder of Babeth’s Feast who has worked with Boulud who has created recipes for her NYC-based frozen food line.  Boulud graciously posed for selfies with any guest that asked nicely.

The splendid charcuterie // The popular Maryland crab topped burgers at DBGB

The splendid charcuterie // The popular Maryland crab topped burgers at DBGB

The stylish spot is in the glamorous new City Center Building.  Already Boulud has felt the love from the 100+ celebrity chef signed plates used as wall décor from none other than Grant Aschatz, Alice Waters, Thomas Keller, White House chef Crista Comerford, Anthony Bourdain, and Martha Stewart?  Yes, the Domestic Goddess herself!  The list is impressive.  It’s like Sardi’s for chefs!

Best nibbles:  Coq au vin and Baked Alaska.