A Holiday Gala Soars to New HeightsDecember 16, 2010
By Judith Mazza, Chargée de Presse, Bailliage of Greater Washington, D.C.
For some months, stories had been circulating in culinary circles about the delicious and innovative cuisine created by Nicholas Stefanelli at a contemporary Italian restaurant called Bibiana. We decided to make that venue the site of our holiday gala. We were not disappointed. The dinner committee consisting of Bailli Paul Haar, Xiangnan Haar, Vice Echanson Ellen Kirsh, Vice Chargée de Mission Carol Assmann and Vice Chargée de Presse Judith Mazza gathered two weeks before the event to finalize the menu and discuss wine pairings. We were presented with many wonderful dishes which made choosing a difficult decision.
On the evening of the event, we had our first snowfall of the season. Despite the cold temperatures and the icy roads, almost every Chaîne member who had registered made it to the event. We were greeted with a delicious Nino Franco Rustico Prosecco Superiore NV doc which enhanced the delightful passed appetizers. We had a lovely tuna tartare, fried artichoke hearts with lemon, warm dates filled with cheese and a most innovative black pizza. The pizza was blackened with squid ink and topped with a spicy tomato sauce and octopus salumi.
The “long distance” awards of the evening were given to Dame de la Chaîne Erika Berner and Chevalier Bruce Dobbins, who are members of the Chaîne in Bahrain and had returned to the Washington area for the holidays; and to Chevalier d’Honneur Lizhi Su and his wife Yujie Wang who were visiting Bailli Paul Haar and his wife, Xiangnan Haar from China.
We were soon seated and prepared to enjoy a sumptuous dinner, beginning with Pugliese burrata served with beets, cocoa nibs, beet salad with mint and orange. The Pradio Gaiare Friulano Friuli 2008 was a lovely pairing. In fact, our Vice Echanson, Ellen Kirsh who has been spending extensive time in Italy to master the complex varietals of that region, did an outstanding job of pairing the courses with a delightful series of wine. We eagerly awaited the next course, Animelle which was hay smoked sweetbreads with a rutabaga puree, walnuts, black truffles and an anchovy dressing. The San Giuseppe Soave Classico Veneto 2008 delighted us all. It was followed by the spaghetti al nero di sepia in which the Louisiana jumbo lump crab and aglio olio e pepperoncino was savory and delicate. The Viano Michele Dolcetto Langhe Piemonte 2008 charmed us all.
The carnaroli risotto with parmigiano and black truffle was complimented by the Viano Michele Barbera Piemonte 2008. Those big flavors transported us all to Italy. The capesante or plancha seared diver scallops with cauliflower, pine nuts, raisins was served with the Nuschese Aglianico Campania 2008, as was the guancie di vitello or braised veal cheeks made in an osso buco style with polenta, hazelnuts and mushrooms.
Bailli Paul Haar rose several times during the dinner to see that guests were properly introduced and to present the female board members, Ellen Kirsh Vice Echanson, Carol Assmann Vice charge de Mission and Vice Chargée de Presse Judith Mazza with lovely Chaîne jeweled pendants in appreciation for their hard work during this past year. Vice Chargée de Mission Carol Assmann rose to acknowledge how “spot on” the wine committee had been with the wine pairings throughout the evening.
We awaited the final dessert courses prepared by pastry chef Douglas Hernandez. The cassata Siciliana which was a ricotta cheesecake mousse with candied fruits and chocolate pistachio crust served with marzipan powder and apricot sauce was highlighted by the slightly frizzante Caposaldo Moscato Lombardia. The torta del finanziere which was a hazelnut financier served with apple butter, roasted lemon salted caramel apples and an apple cider gelato was the perfect finish.
Chef Nicolas Stefanelli entered the room to enthusiastic applause as he introduced his very hard working staff. This was a fabulous way to end the D.C. Bailliage’s Chaine events of 2010 and prepare us for new adventures with our confreres in 2011.