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How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways...February 16, 2012
By Judith Mazza, Chargée de Presse, Bailliage of Greater Washington, D.C.
The Bailliage of Greater Washington found there were many more ways to “love thee” than they thought, after they attended the Aphrodisiac Dinner held at Marcel’s Restaurant two days after Valentine’s Day. Chef Paul Stearman reached new pinnacles with a dinner flush with ingredients known for their aphrodisiacs properties. Originated by Mid-Atlantic Chambellan and Washington DC Bailliage Bailli Paul Haar, this dinner was planned to give those who had exhausted themselves on Valentine’s Day to get a “boost,” just in time for the weekend.
After receiving Chef Stearman’s draft menu, a tasting committee consisting of Vice Echanson Ellen Kirsh, Liz Clifford, Argentier David Burka, Dame de la Chaîne Rebecca Burka, Vice Chargée de Presse, Judith Mazza and Chevalier Allan Kam met a couple of weeks in advance of the dinner to pair the wine. It was a difficult but delicious job and we all did our best to rise to the challenge! As a result of the tasting dinner, the menu was adjusted and the wine choices finalized.
We began with quail eggs stuffed with trout roe and Osetra caviar, goat cheese croquettes with balsamic shallots and wild mushroom soup demitasse topped with truffle cream while enjoying Champagne Bollinger Brut “Special Cuvée NV, France-Champagne. We were particularly delighted to have a number of honored guests joining us for this event. Among those attending were the Bailli of Atlantic City, Ted Lippman and the Mid-Atlantic Gastronomique Provincial, Peter Caporilli. Chevalier Keith Edwards, of the Albany Bailliage was also in attendance as was his son, Michael Edwards, who decided to join the Chaîne as a result of the wonderful time that we all had that evening.
One might wonder about the aphrodisiac theme of the dinner and could there be many ingredients which actually have aphrodisiac properties? It turns out that there are an astounding number of such ingredients. Chef Stearman had done quite a bit of research to design his menu and said that there were three different categories of aphrodisiacs, including chemical (like alcohol, ginseng or Viagra), physical (which includes mouth feel) and mental (in which something looks sexual or makes you think of sex). For example, oysters fall into all three categories. The details of his talk have been posted on the DC Chaîne website, and make for interesting reading.
As we progressed through the meal, each course topped the previous one. We enjoyed an arugula salad with strawberries and ginseng vinaigrette, a lobster and clam fetuchelle, a breast of quail atop a fingerling potato and venison with cèpe mushrooms. The chocolate mousse dessert with cherries in port syrup and a bonbon filled with a very vanilla ice cream put the final touches on the meal, as did the wonderful mignardises. The wine pairings were superb and enhanced every course. Sommelier Moez Ben Anchour did a fine job in describing the wine and the rationale for the pairings.
We had decided to give away two bottles of wine as an aphrodisiac door prize during the course of the dinner. Prompted by Mid-Atlantic Chambellan/Bailli Paul Haar, Bailli Ted Lippman and Mid-Atlantic Gastronomique Provincial Peter Caporilli drew the tickets from the glass bowl to identify the winners. The drawing in which bottles of wine were given away, added to the sense of love which flowed throughout the room all evening.
Chef Stearman joined us at the end of the evening and shared his thoughts on the aphrodisiac qualities of the ingredients in the menu. His talk was both amusing and titillating; leaving members laughing, sometimes blushing but always in great spirits. This was the first event where members spontaneously asked the chef to both sign their menus and to have their photo taken with him. Was this a coincidence, because they had a good time, or were the aphrodisiac ingredients having an effect? We’ll leave that answer to your imagination!