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Recap: Chef’s Best Dinner & Auction

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On Tuesday evening, Cori Sue and I walked into the rather enormous Food & Friends Chef’s Best Dinner & Auction at the Washington Hilton in Dupont. But, it took us a little while to realize it was so enormous. You see, we were newbies.

The entrance hall was filled with young professionals and fabulous philanthropists, decked out in suits and cocktail dresses. People were tasting chefs’ creations from various food stations, lining up at the open bar, and mingling among the silent auction tables. This is fab, we thought, and went for nibbles at our first table of the night—that of Food & Friends itself, which was serving up a healthy and delicious wheatberry, cucumber, avocado and shrimp concoction.

We stayed in that entrance hall until it got packed to the brim, at which point we kept wandering further and further back in the room. Then, out of nowhere, there were two staircases, and people slowly making their way down.

At the bottom of those staircases, more bars serving delicious cocktails and surprisingly good wine and, inside a set of double doors, a grand ballroom filled with the sights and smells of hundreds more chefs cooking hundreds more little bites for us to try. It was like walking into a treasure chest. A totally unexpected utopia of food.

We were shocked. We didn’t think the event was this enormous. We should have known better. The party, presented by the National Association of Chain Drugstores, benefits Food & Friends, an amazing organization that prepares and delivers specialized meals and groceries in conjunction with nutrition counseling to men, women, and children living with HIV/AIDS in the D.C. area. Six days a week, Food & Friends makes sure that its 2,800 clients never miss a meal—they’ve provided more than 15 million meals to more than 21,000 individuals since 1988.

The event was also honoring CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield for its help in delivering those meals.

The celebrity chef chair for the evening was John Critchley, executive chef at Urbana Restaurant and Wine Bar. In addition to Chef John, we ran into many more of D.C.’s top chefs.

We loved the look of Chef Frederick De Pue’s (of 42 Degree Catering) coconut-braised pork belly with chestnut sabayon, pomme gaufrete and chervil. It had house-made potato chips balanced on top. But we were too afraid to chomp into the pork belly, and instead he offered us a few chips each.

We loved Art & Soul’s Chef Wes Morton’s pork rillettes with onions and fried bread. We also loved Blue Duck Tavern’s Chef Peter Brett’s vanilla bean custard with chocolate satin and apricot compote. When you broke into the custard, the chocolate was inside. So delish.

Firefly’s house-made mozzarella with heirloom tomatoes and basil oil was a light snack compared to some of the others, and we were grateful.

Matchbox’s wild Alaskan salmon crudo with fresh seasonal salad was fabulous and refreshing. I was scolded when I tried to eat it with a fork. “Eat it like a lettuce wrap!” Chef Jacob Hunter said to me, and so I did.

The Pig (which is starting their brunch service this weekend, people!) served up smoked and pulled Carolina pork with wild boar spoonbread and garlic greens. That was fabulous. We can’t wait to try their brunch options soon.

One of the most unique dishes came from Chef Christophe Poteaux of Bastille, who made a tomato panacotta with cucumber, feta, Kalamata olives and oregano garnish.

Rogue 24’s Chef RJ Cooper himself was serving up Five Bites of Rogue, various morsels of heaven including a kelly green celery foam.

At the end of the night and in typical fashion, Cori Sue spent a good bit of time by the cupcake table. Sticky Fingers, a Vegan and gluten free bakery, served up mini cupcakes and the peanut butter chocolate ones tasted far too rich to ever be considered Vegan health food.

Gosh, I could go on and on about the chefs and the food. It was never ending—we snaked our way around from table-to-table for hours on end and then rolled ourselves home. If you like eating endless delicious nibbles, meeting really cool chefs and helping great charitable causes (and we assume you do), make an appearance at Chef’s Best next year.

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