Earlier this month, I was thrilled to attend DC Magazine’s second Young Tastemakers dinner held at Capitol Hill restaurant Art & Soul. (The first, which I also attended, was held at burlesque nightclub Sax.)
I brunched at Art & Soul, located in the Liaison hotel, early in our brunching days, and it’s just plain silly I hadn’t been back since. The Southern restaurant serves up spectacular, unique cuisine from brainchild Chef Wes Morton, who is both passionate about his food and as adorable as a teddy bear.
(Chef Wes Morton, Art & Soul’s PR Manager Emmie Lancaster, GM Patrick Chiapetta)
The five-course tasting dinner was paired with champagne from Ruinart, which is essentially this Bitch’s ultimate fantasy. Upon entering the back room, waiters served adorable bite-size passed appetizers of smoked sturgeon rillettes with dill crème fraiche and caviar along with shrimp and pickled okra on a perfectly petite grits cake.
The guests mixed and mingled before being seated at dinner to sample Chef Morton’s rich, unique Southern style cuisine. The guests, designated by DC Magazine as the area’s top young influencers, included Reed Landry, owner of Late Night Shots and George, Sophie Pyle of Guest of a Guest, local philanthropist Katherine Kennedy and her venture capitalist beau Grant Allen, and Nationals baseball star Ryan Zimmerman and his lovely girlfriend Heather Downen of Venga, among others. Of course, DC Magazine’s own Lindsey Becker was there to orchestrate it all.
As we were seated, Chef Morton brought out his infamous house-made charcuterie. He explained in-depth, much to the dismay of the only vegetarian/pescetarian at the table (me), how he butchers the pigs in house and makes the array of meats—head cheese, Andouille sausage, and the like—fresh from these animals. Everyone really enjoyed every bite of the charcuterie, and it was really interesting to learn how much care Morton takes into crafting every morsel served in his restaurant.
The second course, set out on the table for guests to share, included a caramelized endive salad served with poached pears, walnuts, mache and topped with a lemon dressing. Additionally, a pumpkin tart, made with creamed leeks, woodear mushrooms, brown butter and maple had guests politely vying for the last servings. You know I love pumpkin, and it was a unique way to serve up a pumpkin appetizer beyond your typical soup.
For the third course, we were served mouth-wateringly moist smoked sturgeon, served with local beets, Rome apples, parsnips and mustard vinaigrette.
As this is Southern cuisine, and in the South they know their carbs—Art & Soul’s delicious cheddar biscuits were also on the table, and I may have fought my neighbors for the last one.
When everyone was so stuffed they couldn’t eat a single bite, they brought out two very Southern carnivorous dishes—the name of the game at Art & Soul—pig and cabbage and duck and dumplings. The pig and cabbage dish was made with cider, turnips, potatoes and marjoram. For duck and dumplings, the duck legs were braised in beer and served with Brussels sprouts and herbed dumplings.
The staff at Art & Soul was overly kind and accommodating to this pain-in-the-butt, bringing me two dishes—a delicious beet salad and a fish entrée—while everyone else enjoyed their charcuterie, duck, and pig. My entrée, a filet of hake served with oysters, braised chard, and white beans.
The four-hour dinner concluded with a dessert board laden with rich, Southern heart-attack-inducing goodness, including house-made short bread, chocolate bacon muffins, peanut butter chocolate cake, and pecan-pie topped with whipped cream and served up in a mason jar.
After I rolled home, I immediately set my mind to heading back to Art & Soul for brunch in the near future. The inventive, constantly changing menu is filled with unique, complex flavor profiles unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. It’s clear the restaurant is the work of two very passionate, creative and talented chefs.
When I head back to brunch, I’ll be bringing some Southern belles & boozehounds with me—Art & Soul now offers a “Chicken and Champagne” brunch—chicken and waffles with two champagne cocktails—for $30.