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REAL Food Innovator Awards Gala – The United States Healthful Food Council

Jordan Wright
March 13, 2014
Special to DC Metro Theater ArtsBroadway Stars, and LocalKicks

 "Farm Daisy"  one of Founding Farmers Group's specialty cocktails made with their new gin from Copper Fox Distillery

“Farm Daisy” one of Founding Farmers Group’s specialty cocktails made with their new gin from Copper Fox Distillery

In celebrating the country’s leaders in the promotion of healthful and sustainable foods the United States Healthful Food Council chose a lovely spring evening at Whittemore House lent an air of promise to the USHFC’s first gala.  Guests were treated to cocktails from Founding Farmers mixologist, Jon Arroyo, and healthy whole fruit and vegetable juices from Jrink Juicery.  After all the DC-based organization is all about healthy food and, by all appearances, guests were too.  During the reception we tried out the Food Database app from the non-profit Environmental Working Group.  They have identified over 80,000 products and 1,500 brands scannable with your smart phone that will tell you if they contain any additives, preservatives, chemicals or contaminants.  We tried it out on a few products (one was even labeled “organic”!) only to find it contained pesticides.  It’s still in test mode but sign up at www.EWG.org/FoodDatabase to be the first to use it.

JRinkjuicery offers fresh-pressed juices

JRinkjuicery offers fresh-pressed juices

Whittemore House is of course the Women’s Democratic Club and the beautiful old manse is filled to the rafters with books and political memorabilia and fine photographs and treasured documents.  On this night the rooms held two bars, one for cocktails – the other for wines provided by Barboursville – and a third held a long table laid out with Treeline Cheese, a delicious herb-flavored vegan cheese made from cashews and bowls of crunchy kale chips from Alive & Radiant.  Chef, restaurateur, author and philanthropist, Sam Talbot of Bravo’s Top Chef, was flown in from his home in North Carolina to prepare the food.

Treeline's Cashew Cheese

Treeline’s Cashew Cheese

Miniature crab cakes with ginger aioli, lamb picadillo in phyllo, anise and black pepper beef tenderloin with pickled green banana vinaigrette and beef tartare with Balinese long pepper and vanilla vinaigrette were among the tasty tidbits passed around before guests took their seats and a glorious dinner was served.

Here’s what Chef Talbot created to dazzle the palate.  Braised Chicken in adobo with ginger and carrot vinaigrette, Seared Dogfish – a delicate and sustainable white fish flown in from North Carolina – with celery root, blood orange and nduja vinaigrette; Pan-roasted Mushrooms with chili and pickled garlic; Parsnips La Plancha; Roasted Turnips with braised sweet potato leaves and coconut broth; Roasted Kohlrabi with pea greens, rosemary and black sesame.  Vegans and carnivores alike had a lot to celebrate.

Well represented were chefs noted for their dedication to local and sustainable food products.  Nashville chefs Jeremy Barlow, “Chefs can change the world,” he declared, and Maneet Chauhan, known for her appearances on Iron Chef and as a judge on Chopped.  Two-time James Beard Award winner and leader in the sustainable food movement, Michel Nischan; Mike Selig, Director of Food and Beverage at the Clinton Presidential Center; and renowned local chefs Ris Lacoste of Ris, and organic food pioneer and sustainability advocate, Nora Poullion of Restaurant Nora, who was instrumental in establishing the country’s organic certification standards for restaurants.  Celebrity dietician and author Ashley Koff, RD was one of the Co-Chairs.

USHFC President Lawrence Williams who handed out the REAL Food Innovator Awards (REAL is the acronym for Responsible Epicurean and Agricultural Leadership) explained, “Nothing within our control affects our health more than the food we eat, yet serving healthful foods is generally perceived as not being good for business.  Each of these individuals is helping to change that equation.”

REAL Foods Awards night guests at the reception

REAL Foods Awards night guests at the reception

These are the winners:

BeverageSeth Goldman, Co-Founder and President of Honest Tea whose motto is “Rethink what you drink”; Child NutritionKristin Richmond and Kirsten Tobey, Founders of Revolution Foods; Food AccessRobert Egger, Founder of DC Central Kitchen and L. A. Kitchen; Nutrition Awareness and Innovator of the Year – James Beard Foundation Award winning author and Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health at New York University, Dr. Marion Nestle; Non-Profit AdvocacyKen Cook, President and Co-Founder of the Environmental Working Group; Food MarketingSteve Ells and Monty Moran Co-CEOs of Chipotle; Food ProductionStephen McDonnell, CEO of Applegate Farms; Government Official – Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Upon receiving his award Goldman cautioned the crowd, “If we don’t change the direction we’re headed, we won’t know where we’re going”.  He accompanied the warning with an alarming statistic.  “The United States is the wealthiest nation in the world and has more advanced knowledge of science and medicine and any other civilization in history and yet we rank 40th on the United Nations’ average life expectancy rating.”  But of course he was preaching to the choir.

Revolution Foods founder, Kirsten Tobey, let us know, “We serve one million meals per week throughout the country.”  And Dr. Nestle accepted her award with the sage statement, “The most profitable foods are not the things people should be eating the most of.” Adding, “My goal is to train everyone I can to take action.”

Fortessa Tableware Solutions group is definitely ready to party

Fortessa Tableware Solutions group is definitely ready to party

Because the USHFC partnered with the James Beard Foundation on this event, JBF trustee, Eric Kessler, was also in attendance.  Platinum sponsor Fortessa Tableware Solutions shared the spotlight with other sponsors – Plant Based Solutions, The Farm (Founding Farmers Restaurant Group), Congressional Seafood, Match, TCHO Chocolate, Organic Valley, Barboursville Vineyards, JRINKjuicery, Emmy’s Organics, Alive & Radiant Foods, Buyer’s Best Friend, Treeline Cheese, Westin Georgetown, Frontier Natural Products Co-op, Future of Food Technology, Sourcery, Spartan Races, Google, Discovery Communications, Mountain Valley Spring Water and Elizabeth’s Gone Raw who provided the heavenly artisanal chocolates and dessert.

Fortessa’s Executive Vice President of Commercial Foodservice, Matthew Broad, told Whisk and Quill, “We respect Lawrence [Williams] and what the foundation is all about.  He is promoting healthy lifestyle, sustainable farming, local businesses, non-governmental regulation and what people try to assertively attain.  We like to associate ourselves with USHFC because we share their goals and values.”

Photo credit Jordan Wright

Reference:  The United States Healthful Food Council

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