Feeling the Fabulous Fall at 1789 RestaurantOctober 20, 2016
By Scoti Albrecht, Vice Chargée de Missions Honoraire, Bailliage of Greater Washington, D.C.
"My idea of heaven is eating pates de foie gras to the sound of trumpets." 1
The Washington, D.C. Bailliage embraced autumn at the renovated, refreshed and reopened 1789 Restaurant on October 20. The restaurant has a historic atmosphere, an elegant tradition, and intimate appeal. 1789 is located in a Federal period house in refined Georgetown, its confident elegance lured confrères upstairs, to the Middleburg Room for dinner. The ceiling in the Middleburg Room is barn siding from 1800s New England and integral to the hunt country room's décor.
Once ascended, gourmands were greeted by Executive Chef, Maître Rotisseur Samuel Kim, and General Manager Richard Kaufman. With Paul Haar, Juris Consult des Etats Unis, Bailli Judith Mazza, Vice Conseiller Culinaire Provincial Honoraire Francois Dionot, Officer Michael Henry and Scoti Albrecht, Vice Chargée de Missions Honoraire present, the Bailliage of Greater Washington enjoyed another sold-out event.
Celebrating the joys of love, two newlywed couples were toasted: Chevalier Allan Suchinsky and his wife, Laura Broitman and Chevalier Michael Rohrbaugh and his wife, Lucy Banks. Adding to the spirit of the evening was a vibrant cadre of Ecuyer members and their partners, fruits of the Ecuyer initiative to diversify the youthful demographic of the Bailliage. In fact, the exuberance was contagious as the evening concluded with William and Whitney Babash's spontaneous applications to join the Chaîne so they can continue to join us in other upcoming events.
Sparkling anticipation and Brut served with roving canapes, and convivial conversation began the evening before staff nimbly reconfigured room for the fall feast. Passed hors d'oeuvres included oysters; briny, oceanic gems perched on salt beds, sensual and palate-stimulating, like inhaling a sea breeze. There was a hamachi tartar wrapped in cool daikon; the firm protective radish shell, spicy and tart, encased soft, yielding yellowtail filling, vibrant and delicate. The escargot tartlet satisfied as luscious and herbaceous. An indulgent foie gras ball rolled in walnuts rounded out the offerings, the crunch of chopped walnuts contrasting with an earthy velvety mouse. To trumpet foie gras: American scholar-chef Dan Barber loves the stuff. "It's fatty, it's sweet, it's silky, it's unctuous. It makes everything else you put with it taste incredible."
Chef Kim made an appearance as each course was served to introduce that course to members. The meal began with opulent and rapturous ambition, a mélange of sensual provocation, luxurious, and sumptuous. First was an uni and crab fondue melted in a shallow bowl. It was a dinner highlight of sophisticated textures and tastes -- the lush, rich, silky fondue and the crunchy crisp nori contrasting with the mild, generous lump crab.
The dinner feast progressed to the second course of halibut served with turnips, a diminutive tasty root vegetable bite, this standout globular root was sweet and tender with the traditional bacon accompaniment punctuated by a crispy sage accent leaf. The salute to fall advanced to the third course of garganelli pasta. The house-made pasta, was prepared al dente, cooked so as to be still firm when bitten, literally, "to the tooth." The mild pasta foundation was served with full-flavored, salt cured duck confit that brightened and intrigued.
The fourth course was a rack of lamb, the restrained and perfect portion tempting and regal, impressive, and extravagant. The deeply flavorful lamb was served with lavish figs and luscious eggplant puree. This classically presented dish was accented by charred paquillo peppers.
The fifth and final course, dessert -- a smooth maple flan presented on long narrow rectangular plate was a triumph. Prepared by kitchen sans patisserie, awaiting arrival of new staff, the fabulously delicate and delightful dish was a study in contrasting tastes, temperatures and textures. It was enticing and gorgeous.
Chef Kim has a deft hand, is exquisitely intuitive and a master of culinary artistry. He keeps his diners intrigued wanting to revisit classics which have been updated with modern twists. The brave, atypical progression of courses carefully chosen to compliment chosen vintages triumphed, as a pasta followed a fish course which had been served with red wine.
Satiated epicures descended the stairs remembering special wine, perfectly paired courses, and fabulous fall spirit; thinking of the bubbles, hearing the imaginary trumpets of foie gras, and feeling triumphant as the evening ended with sweet conclusions.
1. Sydney Smith, English writer (1771-1845)