Art of Indian Cooking Reaches Delicious Heights in the New YearJanuary 11, 2012
By Judith Mazza, Chargée de Presse, Bailliage of Greater Washington, D.C.
After the tumult of the holiday season, the Bailliage of Greater Washington, D.C. wanted to shake off those winter blues with a vibrant event the second week in January. Atul Bhola, owner and manager of Masala Art in Washington, D.C. was only too happy to oblige presenting us with an exciting “off menu” culinary tour of India. Chevalier d’Honneur Emil Skodon and his wife, Dame de la Chaîne Dorothea Skodon took the lead in making the arrangements. This was to be our third “Chaîne on the Edge” event where we have events at the best ethnic restaurants. Although the dining is “fine,” it is a different type of “fine dining” than a traditional Chaîne dinner. A tasting committee consisting of Bailli Paul Haar, Xiangnan Su Haar, Vice Echanson Ellen Kirsh, Tony Clifford, Vice Chargée d’Presse Judith Mazza, Allan Kam, and Chevalier d’Honneur Emil Skodon and Dame de la Chaîne Dorothea Skodon all met in advance to taste the food, make final adjustments to the menu, and choose the libations.
The reception began with three passed hors d’oeuvres: angoori murgh tandoori (chicken), broccoli and peas kebab with drunken raisins and tandoori achari paner bhurjee in kurkuri kathori (panner filled tartlets) washed down with Jomo Lager from Starr Hill brewery. The conversation and conviviality grew during the reception and continued unabated while we were seated.
Our first plated course was mixed potli on potato chops stuffed with mustard morel, a delicious pastry served atop a potato patty. Each of the next three savory courses were accompanied by wonderful preparations of rice, assorted Indian breads, and interesting vegetables, served family style. The second course of barra murgh (chicken with black cardamom, cinnamon and cloves from Hyderabad) was accompanied by kurkuri bhindi (crisp okra chips) and khandvi (a savory snack made from gram flour and chickpea powder) from Punjab. One comment heard that evening was how delightful the okra chips were. Many confreres never had tasted okra that was sliced thin and fried to such a shatteringly crisp texture. These courses were accompanied by Northern Lights India Pale Ale from Starr Hill Brewery.
Bailli Paul Haar arose to see that guests and members were all introduced. We were particularly delighted to welcome Dame de la Chaîne Vicki Annecca and her daughter Anna to join us that evening. Vicki is a member of the Bailliage of Boca Raton, Florida. We were also pleased that two other families (Dame de la Chaîne Louise Harkavy, Jon Harkavy, Dame de la Chaîne Julie Carroll and Chevalier Patrick Carroll) brought their young gastronomes, Alex Harkavy and Holly Carroll to join us that evening. We had several other guests that evening including Liz and Tom Wolfson who were guests of the Skodons, and Tony Rodriguez who was a guest of Vice Chargée de Presse Judith Mazza. There is always a special vibrancy when old and new confreres share the pleasures of the table together.
As the introductions ended, our third course, fish kolivada (with semolina, onion seeds and red chili flakes) from Coastal India was served. It was succulent and delicious. The final savory course of lamb chop kabargah (from Kashmir) was accompanied by asparagus, corn and cherry tomato kalonji. These last courses were served with Dark Starr Stout from Starr Hill Brewery.
While we awaited our final course of a Bailey’s and chocolate chip phirni (pudding), Bailli Paul Haar arose and greeted Chef Ajay Ramola and Owner Atul Bhola. Confreres had an opportunity to ask the chef questions about the cuisine, and thanked them for an exciting culinary tour of India. Bailli Haar presented the chef and owner with a beautiful ceramic Chaîne plate, and led the confreres in a round of applause. We all thanked Chef Ramola and Atul Bhola for their creative energies, delicious food and warm hospitality. The warmth of the event made it easier to face a cold and rainy January evening as the dinner came to an end all too soon.