Urban Farm Table on the Plaza
by Kate Morin
Photos by Moshe Zusman
Local bloggers, grape growers, and wine makers alike gathered at Woodrow Wilson Plaza last week for the International Wine and Food Festival’s inaugural “Urban Farm Table on the Plaza.” While inclement weather forced guests inside to the Ronald Reagan Building’s atrium room for a pre-dinner reception, a break in the clouds allowed guests to move out to the Plaza for a spectacular four-course meal complete with wine pairings courtesy of the Washington Wine Academy.
Inventive canapés like watermelon and fried Pecorino skewers and olive oil sorbet with parmesan crisps were paired with a Blanc de Blanc from Kluge Estate and Winery in nearby Charlottesville, VA.
Outside under a large tent were three long, wide tables for communal dining. First, Ici Urban Bistro’s chef Oliver Perret delighted guests with a smooth sweet pea veloute served with grilled Carolina day boat shrimp topped with a citrus-infused olive oil foam. The accompanying Albrecht Reisling from Alsace, France was a perfect companion for the piment d’espelette used to season the shrimp and for the citrus notes of the foam. Keeping true to the local-sourcing that inspired the event, Perret says that his inspiration for the dish were the wonderful English peas he found recently at the Freshmarket by the White House.
Next, a stuffed and grilled golden river trout fillet atop a fresh summer succotash with Benton’s Tennessee ham and sweet corn vinaigrette played to all of Chef Todd Gray of Equinox Restaurant’s high points, using locally-sourced elements to create a perfectly fitting dish for the event. The unsuspecting pairing of the trout with a Pinot Noir from New Zealand added a little something extra. Alex Evans of the Washington Wine Academy explained that in this dish, they wanted to use a light red wine to counter the common notion that fish must be paired with a white.
On his home turf, chef Xavier DeShayes (of the Ronald Reagan Building) prepared a fire roasted striploin from the local Ayrshire Farm topped with Roquefort beurre, along with a morel-stuffed baby zucchini and roasted Oca Potatoes. While the sweet flavor and buttery texture of the potatoes were a surprising accompaniment to the dish, the Argentinian Malbec by Bodega Weinert was a perfect match for the the Roquefort beurre.
A perfectly summery yet complex dessert by Birch & Barkey and ChurchKey’s pastry chef Tiffany MacIssac was a perfect close to the evening. The plum sorbet (made from four different varieties) atop a slightly crunchy coconut meringue with Jasmine tea mousse and yuzu was sweet and creamy with light, refreshing citrus notes to round it out. Paired with an Italian Moscato, each bite was like a cleansing breath of air after a rich, indulgent meal. “Doing a dinner away from your own restaurant is hard so I wanted to keep it simple. I was so happy with the flavor combination, I am thinking of doing a dessert for a few weeks featuring those flavors in a different preparation,” says MacIssac.
Regardless of any challenges the chefs may have faced preparing their one-of-a-kind dishes away from their home kitchens and serving the meal under the stars, guests were kept blissfully ignorant of any issues behind the scenes, making for a seamlessly elegant evening for all in attendance.