All photos: Blinkofanaye
Famed chef and food activist Alice Waters had an idea. To coincide with Barack Obama’s first inauguration, she would come to Washington herself and host a night of fundraising dinners and get a group of like-minded people together to start a conversation about healthy school lunches and other food and public health initiatives that the new president could help drive across the country.
The event was a success and has now expanded to the two-night Sips & Suppers weekend. On Saturday the Newseum is taken over for Sips, a large party featuring chefs, mixologists, and food artisans handing out offerings to the mingling crowd; Sunday is the more intimate Suppers where acclaimed chefs prepare elegant dinner parties in private homes around the city. Both events benefit DC Central Kitchen and Martha’s Table and, along with Alice Waters, are co-hosted by José Andrés and Joan Nathan.
The Sips event was rare amongst these sorts of stand-and-nibble charity galas in that it never felt over-crowded and there was almost never a line at any station. Only two noticeable lines formed anywhere all night: one at the Dolcezza Gelato cart on the upstairs pastry chef alley, and one for Range bartender Owen Thomson’s “Antique Dose” cocktail. While I skipped the gelato, I was more than happy to stand around chatting with other guests for a few minutes to get that cocktail – already my favorite off Range’s menu. Why the delay? Because Thomson was taking the time to hand carve perfect oversized ice cubes for the drink of rye whiskey, Strega, and Barolo Chinato.
Other mixologists in the cocktail area included Dan Searing of Room 11 with a vinegary apple-shrub and gin drink, Gina Chersevani of Buffalo and Bergen and Hanks Oyster Bar with her popular grape flavored cocktail and a Capitol Kombucha dark and stormy variant that made me think they might have been better off just serving their not-untasty product in its unadulterated form.
Food options were divided into three zones around the large museum space: savory, dessert, and a new-for-this-year artisans area. The artisans area featured local favorites like Gordy’s Pickle Jar and Firefly Farms Cheese, as well as numerous offerings from purveyors of sausages and butchery type products. Savory bites came from just about every DC-area restaurant you could name. Favorite offerings included a bite-sized lobster taco on a crispy little shell from Pizzeria Orso and Zaytinya’s stuffed-grape-leaf=style snack of a kale leaf filled with chestnuts, currents, and basmati rice, served with a dollop of cumin yogurt. The stand-outs in the dessert area came from Allison Reed of Ripple and Sugar Magnolia with her coconut meringues with lemon-saffron cream, a sort of macaron-like confection of summery but sophisticated flavor, and Sweet Lobby who brought a variety of petite pastries the best of which was a delightful mini-sized canelé.
Overall, the event was relaxed and fun and a great opportunity to be surrounded with passionate food people committed to the philosophy behind the event of supporting local, sustainable agriculture and social justice in food systems.