Under the welcoming pineapple prints of James Beard’s former bedroom, which is now the dining room of the James Beard House, 65 diners toasted the Best of D.C. on August 6 in Manhattan’s West Village. The chefs of the evening were the winners of the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington Awards: Vikram Sunderam (Rasika), Justin Bittner (Bar Pilar), Logan Cox and Alison Reed (Ripple), and Claudio Pirollo (Et Viola!).
The summer evening, which was thankfully not too humid, began in the garden with cocktails by Room 11, Birch & Barley, and Virtue Feed & Grain, as well as beer pairings from the Neighborhood Restaurant Group and hors d'oeuvres from each of the chefs.
Once guests were seated inside, dinner service began with banana leaf-wrapped black bass filet in coconut, mint, and cilantro chutney by chef Sunderam, followed by braised beef cheeks with a ratatouille empanada and crispy chickpea salad by chef Bittner. Entrees included a lovely Alaskan halibut with Kriek Lambic reduction and endive cappuccino by chef Pirollo. The dish that prompted the most conversation of the evening, however, was chef Cox's lamb, which included both lamb steak and tongue in a white anchovy butter and tomato conserva—all of which made for an explosion of flavors on the palate.
Wine pairings for each dish hailed from Virginia, including a buttery 2011 Crosé Rosé from the King Family Vineyard and a dessert Veritas Othello from 2009, which perfectly paired with chef Reed’s double chocolate mousse cake with nectarine-basil crème anglaise. At the end of the evening, the chefs emerged looking exhausted but satisfied. Diners noted the deliciousness of the meal with applause, and congratulated the chefs on their camaraderie in working side-by-side in the legendary, but rather small, kitchen.