Sips & Suppers took place this past weekend at the Newseum. It’s a two day affair: Sips, the party held on Saturday evening, features three floors of offerings provided by practically every DC restaurant of note. Patrons can sample savory small plates, tastings from local food artisans, original cocktails, and bite-sized desserts as they amble through awe-inspiring exhibits. Suppers is held the following evening at the residences of various DC locals, where celebrity chefs prepare in-home meals for attendees.
The annual charity event, first conceived by Alice Waters as a way to raise awareness about public health initiatives and healthier school lunches, is hosted by Jose Andres, Joan Nathan, and Waters herself. It benefits Martha’s Table and DC Central Kitchen, two local charity organizations dedicated to helping the District’s low income and homeless populations by providing sustainable solutions to hunger.
Undeterred by the rapidly dropping temperature and not inconsiderable wind, this year’s Sips was populated by a raucous group of media, foodie insiders, and DC denizens in search of a taste of the city.
Last year saw talented mixologists relegated to a single floor; this year’s event utilized their genius on both the first and second levels. Glasses were raised to several stand-outs: Room 11’s Dan Searing concocted the refreshing Pineapple Express, a bourbon-based drink made with mint green tea, pineapple juice, lemon juice, Demerara simple syrup, sparkling water, and Smooth Ambler Old Scout bourbon. City Tap House’s Jo Jo Valenzuela whipped up a sugary sweet citrus drink using the oft-overlooked but delicious pisco, a Peruvian liquor, along with a ginger-cinnamon syrup, grapefruit juice, lemon juice, and angostura bitters. Our string of extraordinary liquor-based experiences concluded with a perfect Manhattan made with fig-infused B&E Bourbon in aged charred oak barrels, made by the lovely Cashion’s Eat Place.
The first floor of the Newseum held the artisan’s area, which was filled with bite-sized offerings from local farms, butchers, and dairies. Favorites from this level included the Gordy’s Pickle Jar Sweet Chip pickles, which could be aptly described as pickles for people who don’t like pickles (did I mention pickles?), and the melt-in-your-mouth salmon bites on toasted brioche from L’Academie de Cuisine’s superiorly animated and charming chef, Patrice Olivon.
As for the savory small plate offerings on the second floor, Cava Mezze’s shiitake mushroom reduction over pork belly and deliciously lumpy grits drew sighs of pleasure from those of us who grew up in the south. However, the forerunner of the night came from Bourbon Steak’s John Critchley. His lambchetta – American Lamb loin wrapped around merguez sausage and dressed with dried black bean vinaigrette – flew off the table as quickly as his team could make it.
The sweet offerings on the third floor were mostly variants of macarons and cupcakes. However, the amazing gelato from Amore Gelato quickly gathered a happy, weaving line of patrons. Amore’s Popcorn Caramel flavor was subtle and not at all overbearing while their take on Nutella gelato was perfectly rich and creamy.
Snippets of well-deserved praise for Martha’s Table and DC Central Kitchen frequently filtered through the soulful sounds of the great live jazz band as patrons observed the spirit of the gala. We wish Martha’s Table and DC Central Kitchen every success.