There was tennis. There were tasty treats. There were tennis puns surrounding said tasty treats. If the giant branded “Citi” tennis balls and preppy people wearing sweaters tied around their shoulders wasn’t enough of a tip off, the Citi “Taste of Tennis” was indeed as food-y and as tennis-y as advertised. But beyond the fact that this felt a bit more like a super swanky company retreat for the folks at Citi with some tennis players some D.C. tennis fans thrown into the mix, it really was a great way to experience some of the best of what the D.C. restaurant scene is serving up (that’s the only tennis pun I SWEAR and yes, that is only because that’s pretty much all the tennis jargon I know).
In an attempt to not look like a freeloading writer crashing a $200 price tag event, I decided to make a plan of attack for what I considered the “must-try’s” from the 15 chefs and restaurants showcased at Taste of Tennis. (To be clear, they’re all must-try places I just had to be picky.) As I made my way down the line of expert chefs, the offerings went from lighter to heavier fare—almost like someone planned this or something! —so I started with an amuse-bouche of watermelon gazpacho care of Chef Jeff Buben of Woodward Table. Amuse this dish did, as it was both sweet and just the right amount of spicy and kind of reminded me of the consistency of a cold tomato soup, but not at all gross like that sounds. All this to say: YUM.
With my palate properly prepared for more goodness, I headed to Adams Morgan’s Lucky Buns for some of Chef Alex McCoy’s lamb satay with peanut sauce. It was presented like a taco with double tortillas and wow, like any good taco, it needed both tortillas to hold the mountain of lamb and a generous helping of the very spicy peanut sauce. My mouth was on fire in the best way possible, so I grabbed one of 3 Stars Brewing Co.’s Ghost White IPAs and took a break to watch the live cooking demo with Chef Edward Lee.
This is where things got bizarre. Remember how Tate of Tennis wasn’t just a restaurant thing, but there was also tennis involved? Easy to forget when there’s free food surrounding you on all sides, but Chef Lee was kind enough to remind us by inviting tennis stars Hyeon Chung and Naomi Osaka to join in a live cooking demo of a BBQ brisket play on a traditional Korean street food, Tteokbokki. Way to bring it all together for us, Chef Edward Lee! What could have been a plethora of food and/or tennis puns quickly turned awkward when the tennis players let slip that they don’t like food. Seriously. When Chef Lee made an attempt to get these players involved in the actual cooking portion of the demonstration by asking what they eat to carbo-load before a big game, they responded with PLAIN RICE and PLAIN PASTA. It saddened me, as a human who likes carbs and especially flavored carbs, to hear this news. So to drown my sorrows I did what any food-loving person would do. I went to the dessert tables.
Pie Sisters had both savory and sweet pie bites that were adorable and delicious. Cake Love brought a “healthy” cinnamon crunch Spark Bite that didn’t taste as healthy as it was (i.e. it was good) and their signature salted caramel cake in a jar. But for me what really took the cake (had to be done) was the olive oil torta with peach icing adorned with a fresh peach from Iron Gate pastry chef Paola Velez. Now THIS is why carbs exist! It was moist and not too sweet and I could have eaten it forever.
Was the event a must-go? Probably not. Was the food excellent? Of course. Do tennis players need to like food? No, but come on they should. That’s a discussion for another day. But at the end of this one, the proceeds of Taste of Tennis went to the extremely worthy cause of the Washington Tennis and Education Foundation, which empowers under-served kids. And just like this food event, there’s probably some tennis involved as well. And who doesn’t love that?