The short answer: Not good.
The long answer: Great.
Or maybe it should be the other way around? Either way, ChefsFeed Indie Week was the culinary equivalent of a Double Dare physical challenge. All it needed was the Nickelodeon’s trademark biohazard green slime and all of my nine-year-old dreams would have come true. Despite the tolls eating 12 courses of delicious (but not always healthy) food took on my body, I can’t help but look back on the experience fondly. Would I do it again? Probably not. Would I recommend you try and score tickets so you can see some of the best young chefs in the country flex their food muscles while frothy dad pop booms from the speakers? Absolutely.
If food is important to you (and it probably is if you’re wading through these words), an Indie Week dinner is like reading Spark Notes (remember those? I discovered The Pains of Being Pure At Heart on the Spark Notes staff blog, but that’s a story for another time). Each dish gives you a brief look at what’s going on in another cities food scene. If you’re the kind of person who will travel for food, events like these are the best kind of research. Turkey & the Wolf’s dish makes me want to go back to New Orleans ASAP, while PAGU’s plate changed everything I thought I knew about Boston’s food scene. Indie Week made me want to go to Boston. It’s unstoppable.
With that being said, there was also a huge show of hometown love and support. The event was hosted at American Son and featured a variety of dishes from D.C. chefs, most of which we write about on a weekly basis. We already know The Royal, Maketto, Doi Moi, China Chilcano, Momofuku and American Son make a mean meal. So let’s focus on the chefs you might not know. The ones who might change your travel plans.
But before we do that, I have to mention chef Autumn Cline, who has worked at Rose’s Luxury and Rappahannock Oyster Bar. Her dish of marinated bean salad and Middleneck clams on sourdough was our favorite hometown meal of the night and it served as a template for all of our favorite courses. The chefs that did something ‘simple’ incredibly well were always the most impressive.
Like chef Brittany Anderson from Brenner Pass in Richmond Virginia. Her pommes paillasson with a rich black romesco and delicate slices of watermelon radish and edible flowers were the loveliest, bougiest form of McDonalds hash browns. Every hash brown should be fried in duck fat and covered in radishes. After eating that block of pure fried goodness at choking hazard speeds, chef Tracy Chang’s delicate (and almost serene) Kampachi sashimi (from the aforementioned PAGU) was a breath of heaven. Dressed with Thai chilis, garlic, lime and salmon caviar, the sashimi was a constantly evolving bite. One moment you were reeling from the heat of the chilis and the next moment you were soothed by the pop of fresh caviar.
Chef Zachary Meloy, who runs Pulpit Suppers in Atlanta, (and is probably of no relation to Colin Meloy, but wouldn’t that be fun?) served up the best, weirdest and yet deceptively simple dish of the night. Made with ham grilled turnips, coconut creamed turnip greens and preserved turnips, it was the least attractive meal, but also the one I couldn’t put down. Every bite exploded with salty, funky goodness that was tamed by the delicate coconut flavors of the creamed turnip greens. It was somehow melancholy. It made me feel non-food emotions. I very literally wrote “SAD” next to this meal in my notes. I was definitely drunk, which was perfect because chef Philip Cenac (from the also aforementioned Turkey & the Wolf) was the platonic drunk food. His dish of tempura chicken toast delicately plated on a bed of liver mousse and marinated cucumbers was a drunk persons dream. It was fatty and salty in all the ways I wanted it to be.
ChefsFeed Indie Week is a lot. A lot of food. A lot of noise. A lot of glasses of wine. But it’s also a delightful way to sample food from restaurants all over the country without getting anywhere near a highway. My body might feel bad, but my mind is jam packed with travel plans.