Saturday at Appetite at Strathmore was packed with events, so many simultaneously that missing something good seemed unavoidable – however, we soldiered on into the fray, thankful for what we could experience. Which turned out to be very satisfying.
We arrived at noon (missing the earliest events, which started at 11), but on time for a Talk and Taste hosted by the Neighborhood Restaurant Group, pairing wine with charcuterie. The food sampling was very nice, and Wine Director Brent Kroll was free with his advice and opinions.
Some of them: don’t rely on the D.O.C.G. (Italian controlled origin) label for assurance of a quality wine; orange wine is ‘flawed’ on purpose – in his opinion, “not a wine to go back to;” for value, look for wine from places where the cost of living is low: Chile and Argentina, for instance.
Then, on to see the Grays (Chef Todd and Ellen Kassoff Gray, one of Washington’s premier culinary power couples) cook from their book, The New Jewish Table. While Chef Todd produced a mouthwatering dish of Fig and Port Wine Blintzes, Ellen recounted that Todd had never eaten blintzes or gefilte fish before their marriage, yet they have developed a cuisine and produced a book of lasting value.
I enjoyed the session so much I went back for their second set, in which Chef Todd made a fried green tomato sandwich as an example of Farm to Table cuisine; local, seasonal and delicious. My only criticism of these sessions is that they were held in a room too small for the overflow crowd!
During a break in sessions, we strolled the grounds and rooms inside the Mansion, which held an array of food exhibitors. Ranging from Swing’s Coffee (local since 1916), Iceland Vodka, and the ladies representing the afternoon tea program at Strathmore, there was something to sample at every turn.
And we found an old friend parked amidst the food truck roundup.
Then we ankled over to the Music Center, where one of the big, echoing rehearsal halls was set up with a demo kitchen. Robert Wiedmaier, another of Washington’s top chefs, had two demos back-to-back. We stayed for both.
There was a lot of space between the audience seating and the kitchen. This did not sit well with Chef Robert. “Come, stand close!” he implored. Many folks did.
Scallops were on the menu for the first demo. With roe, the best kind. Hard to find around here, he gets them wholesale from Maine. “Find a good fishmonger, make friends with him,” he advised.
There was much banter and interaction with Chef Robert. When the dish, Diver Scallops and Sardines with Summer Caponata, was finished, generous tastes were distributed. It was indeed delicious!
After a short break, Chef Robert and his sous-chef Matt reappeared to cook up Mussels Provencal. It was a repeat of the first session, entertaining and delicious.
And then, it was time for a Party on the Patio. Earlier in the day, we had looked down from the Music Center atrium to spot a mysterious box being lovingly tended by a couple of muchachos down behind the pavement. Guess what? There was a whole pig in there, cooking away! Scott Drewno, yet another celebrity chef, had brought a crew to roast and serve that pig with steamed dumplings at the party.
While we ate and drank, we were entertained by Victoria Vox on her ukulele and mouth trumpet. A fitting end to a delicious and entertaining event! I hope it will become an annual one.