Where can one find tastes of eighteen countries’ best dishes in one impressive light-filled atrium? At the Embassy Chef Challenge, an annual event sponsored by Events DC and Cultural Tourism DC, the folks who bring you the Embassy Open Houses every year. If you are tired of hearing me declare that there are events that could only happen in Washington, DC, then skip to the next paragraph now – because this is yet another example of the genre.
The event is always a visual feast. The Ronald Reagan Building’s atrium space was filled with colorful displays from each country, interesting people, and some appropriately international entertainment.
Of course, the food provided its own entertainment.
There were drummers, dancers, then more dancers, then more dancers.
This is the eighth annual Chef Challenge. New this year (at least to me, as I missed last year’s event), extra points were awarded for pairing drinks with the small bites. Thus, the night’s two winners both had tasty alcoholic tipples to drink with their food – the Barbados chef, winner of the Judges’ Award, even managed to infuse rum into the Barbadian Seasoned Pork to go with the Tamarind Ginger Infused Rum Sour.
The People’s Choice Award was won by the Philippines’ Chef Claude Tayag with Bringhe (seafood rice), paired with a special cocktail by Enzo Lim. And guess what? The minimal description of bringhe neglected to mention the secret ingredient – it was topped with crab fat. Dynamite.
And then there was the coincidence: one of the chefs at the Dominican Republic table looked familiar. Sure enough, the two Compres brothers, with their mother, run Los Hermanos restaurant in Columbia Heights. I had been there in April with a group of adventurous eaters, enjoying their oxtail, among other authentic Dominican delights. This place is an unpretentious hole-in-the-wall with delicious food served in generous portions. What a nice surprise to see them serving their mofongo (plaintains with garlic and meat)!
At the end of the night, all the chefs and judges posed for a group photo, and the winners of the Challenge were announced. They were presented with Golden Pineapples. The Ambassador of Barbados and his wife couldn’t have been more pleased and proud!
Everyone else was happy, too.