A Glorious Holiday Gala At the World Renowned Willard Inter-Continental HotelDecember 10, 2014
By Claudette Veronica Ferron, Vice Chargée de Presse, Bailliage of Greater Washington, D.C.
“Sleigh bells ring are you listening, in the lane snow is glistening, it’s a beautiful sight, we're happy tonight, walking in a winter wonderland...”
In their crowning annual culinary event, members of the Greater Washington, D.C., Bailliage, celebrated their Black Tie Holiday Gala in sartorial splendor at the historic Willard Inter-Continental Hotel. Located just steps from the White House --- magnificently decorated for the season, the Willard Hotel is one of the most beautiful venues in the nation’s capital. So with the resplendent National Christmas Tree and the dazzling "Pathway of Peace" on the Ellipse in sight, the Bailliage’s holiday celebrations took place surrounded by unrivaled winter decorations and joyous festivities.
With Executive Chef Serge Devesa, Executive Pastry Chef Jason Jimenez, General Manager, Maître de Table Restauranteur Patrick Birchall and Catering Manager Steele Stevenson, deftly handling the reins, Bailliage members and guests reveled in a holiday gourmet wonderland as they inducted new members, elevated officers, and feasted at the crowning jewel of their culinary year.
In the palatial setting of the Willard Room, with the air filled with joyous music, the jubilant holiday dinner designed by Chef Devesa was the quintessence of a very merry year-end feast. As exquisite and unique as each sparkling snowflake fluttering through the crisp air on a clear wintery morning, each plate was a beautiful jeweled ornament and each course a perfect act of seasonal pageantry.
Beginning with a fabulous reception, guests mingled in merriment as they were professionally photographed against the backdrop of a dazzling Christmas tree and delighted by tantalizing gems of butler passed hors d’oeuvres. Sumptuous, satiny house smoked salmon canapés with a bright dill cream led the wonderful epicurean holiday parade, followed by tempting teriyaki yellow fin tuna on a pillowy Chinese bun; a scrumptious onion and spinach tart; and a sensuous gratinated oyster with an exotic curry sabayon and delicately melted baby leeks. The irresistible hors d’oeuvres were artfully paired with a delightfully jubilant J. de Telmont NV (Champagne, France).
After members and guests socialized in cheer-filled meeting and greeting, and awakened their palates with Chef Devesa’s sparkling prelude, the party moved to the Peacock Lounge, where an impressive and fun-filled induction of new members and elevation of officers took place. In an atmosphere of genuine camaraderie and friendship, each inductee was warmly welcomed into the historic gastronomic fold. First, Jurisconsult des Etats-Unis Paul S. Haar (aided by Vice Conseiller Culinaire Francois Dionot, Vice Conseiller Gastronomique Thomas Walsh, III, and Vice Chargée de Missions Louise Harkavy), entertained members and guests with a brief history of La Chaine des Rotisseurs with his unique charm and levity. Then new members were inducted in turn. Inductees included: Chevalier Michael Gfoeller, Dame de la Chaine Lydia Velazquez-Horan, Maître de Table Restauranteur Adriana Lucca, (whose, induction was also witnessed by her Grandfather, Gert Rohrscheib, who had recently relocated from Venezuela, where he was a member of the Caracas Bailliage), Maître Rotisseur Traiteur William Menard, Chevalier Michael Rohrbaugh, Chevalier Corey Stewart, Chevalier Eugene Tadie, and Maître de Table Restauranteur ZeQiang (Jay) Wu. Jurisconsult des Etats-Unis Haar awarded the prestigious Brilliat Savarin award to Maître de Table Restauranteur Evangelos Mitsotakis.
Next were the elevation of Dame de la Chaine Claudette Veronica Ferron to Vice Chargée de Presse, and former Vice Chargée de Presse Judith Mazza to Bailli. However, before elevating the new Vice Chargée de Presse Claudette V. Ferron, Jurisconsult des Etats-Unis Haar revealed a few interesting facts about her. In addition to her professional accomplishments, members and guests were treated to a humorous story of how Jurisconsult des Etats-Unis Haar rescued her from nights of enforced silence at the Grande Chapitre in Venice, Italy, when she was repeatedly seated amongst individuals who spoke no languages she understood.
A surprise guest, Bailli Honoraire Len DePas made a welcomed appearance at Judith Mazza’s elevation to Bailli. And members and guests learned that Bailli Honoraire DePas was instrumental in introducing and recruiting both Bailli Mazza and Jurisconsult des Etats-Unis Haar to La Chaine. During her induction, members and guests also learned of the tremendous contribution that Bailli Mazza had already made as Vice Chargée de Presse to both the Bailliage and the National Chaine des Rotisseur, with her outstanding photos and articles on numerous Chaine events which she has attended around the world with her husband, Chevalier Allan Kam. It was also revealed that Bailli Judith Mazza’s culinary interests were first honored in 1966, when she was awarded the “Betty Crocker of the Year Award” at her high school graduation.
Finally, during the induction ceremony there was a surprise award publically bestowed upon, Jurisconsult des Etats-Unis Haar by a representative of the French Embassy, Agricultural Counselor Christophe Malvezin. To the thrill of all, Jurisconsult des Etats-Unis Haar was awarded the title “Chevalier de l'Ordre du Mérite Agricole" (officially conferred upon him on July 21, 2014 by the Ministry of Agriculture of the Republic of France).
The French government awards several distinctions in recognition of merit in various fields. Among these, Le Mérite Agricole was instituted in 1883 by then Minister for Agriculture Jules Méline in recognition of extraordinary services rendered to agriculture. Thus, Jurisconsult des Etats-Unis Haar joins such auspicious company as Louis Pasteur, Michel Serrault, Catherine Deneuve, Jacques Pepin, Paul Morand, Jacques Chirac, Roger Peyrefitte and Jean Carmet. This prestigious award is rarely bestowed by the Republic of France on individuals who are not French.
After ending the induction and elevation on a very high note, members, guests, new inductees and the Bailliage’s freshly minted Bailli and Chargée de Presse returned to the opulent Willard Room, where they continued on a their quintessential epicurean celebratory adventure.
Delving into the first course, diners were reacquainted with the culinary creativity of Chef Devesa by an extraordinary Maine lobster filled spanakopita, with a herbaceous fennel compote and a provocative Provencal fish soup reduction, expertly paired with a rich and complex 2011 Domaine Pierre Gaillard St. Joseph Blanc (Rhone Valley, France), brimming with luxuriant poached pear and plum flavors. Following swiftly in the sparkling air of the festive event was the second course: a succulent pan seared Hudson Valley foie gras, softly cuddled in a subtle Girolles mushroom risotto and an opulent Port wine sauce, accentuated by a 2009 Domaine Arnoux-Lachaux (Vogne Romanee, Burgundy, France), an earthy yet spicy and slightly jammy Burgundy with a satisfying finish.
Next diners enjoyed a refreshing respite, relishing an invigorating intermezzo of a Lemon Ginger sorbet with infused vodka, in a stunning presentation, as they witnessed the induction of Maître de Table Restauranteur Evangelos Mitsotakis, and Maître Rotisseur Traiteur William Menard, into the Société Mondiale Du Vin. In the tradition of the congenial Société, the induction was high-spirted and jovial as due homage was paid to fruit of the vine. And proudly, the new Mondiale inductees joined the ranks of the Chaine’s wine experts, committed to the collection and dissemination of information on wine and quality spirits, as well as the enjoyment, understanding and procurement of the elixir of the ages.
Throughout the sumptuous meal diners were also graced with Chef Devesa’s engaging narrative on each of his creations, bringing added depth to an already extraordinary gastronomic experience.
The third course heightened the epicurean joy of the celebratory feast as a divinely tender lamb loin wrapped in perfectly puffed pastry embodied an extravagant lamb loin Wellington, accompanied by a silken roasted red pepper flan, a tender baby turnip, and a salubrious tarragon sauce, paired a 2009 Chateau de Sales (Pomerol, Bordeaux, France), a full bodied wine with a dried cherry and dark chocolate nose, and a 2004 Vina Ardanza Reserva (Rioja, Spain), a deep earthy wine with a long savory finish.
Crescendoing toward the climatic finale of the thrilling feast, the fourth course was an adroit prelude to the pinnacle of the culinary festivity. A delicately crusted warm Vermont goat cheese,lazing languidly upon a fresh frisse salad with a fig spread and Banuyls vinaigrette, was accentuated with a vibrant and refreshing 2011 Domaine Millet Sancerre (Loire Valley, France), that exuded an orange blossom nose and citrus, passion fruit notes.
The crowning jewel of the fabulous gala was the fifth course -- a delicious Gianduja Cremeux and delectablehazelnut Dacquoise dotted with caramelized hazelnuts, with a spiced caramel sauce and pomegranate seeds,paired with Chambers Rosewood Vineyards Grand Muscat NV (Rutherglen, Australia), a wonderful deep fruity wine with a sweet acidity and a long cherry-raisin finish. The dessert along with assorted handmade chocolates and macaroons provided a magnificent finish to a year of extraordinary gastronomic adventures.
Thus, with appetites luxuriously sated and hearts warmed by shared epicurean delight and romanced by the dazzling ambience, members and guests of the Bailliage closed their culinary year and departed their gala with visions of gastronomic explorations to come dancing in their heads. And 2015 promises to be a year of exquisite culinary experiences and enlightening adventures with sojourns to gastronomic landmarks including the famed Marcel’s, Trummer’s, and Rasika. But the Bailliage will begin the year on a vibrant and youthful note with a “Pizza and Prosecco” soiree at Al Dente for Ecuyers and all the young at heart.