Reflecting the place that spirits have assumed at the table, and perhaps even the role of local produce in those drinks, this year's FreshFarm Markets Farmland Feast will include a separate cocktail event featuring creations from three of the city's best mixologists.
The feast also has a new head chef this year: Brian McBride, chef and partner with the RW Restaurant Group (Marcel's, Brasserie Beck, Mussel Bar), has assumed the duties from Cathal Armstrong of the Eat Good Food Group (Restaurant Eve, Eamonn's, Society Fair), who had organized the FreshFarm fundraising dinner for past six years. The dinners have raised $1.2 million since 2002, when they started.
In selecting chefs for the November feast and cocktail party, McBride says he paired cooks with experience turning out plates for large events with those who were considered "up-and-coming" on the local scene. "When I put the team together, I utilized chefs that use a little bit more of the farm-to table style," McBride adds.
Fortunately for McBride, he started his recruiting process early. Had he hesitated at all, he might have had a hard time pulling together the District's best sous chefs, let alone executive chefs. Shortly after McBride accepted the Farmland Feast gig, D.C. Central Kitchen announced that its annual Capital Food Fight, which attracts dozens of local chefs and restaurants, will be held the same night: Monday, Nov. 11.
"As soon as they asked me to do it, a couple of months ago, I got everybody on the phone and got everyone to commit," McBride says.
"That was smart," I tell McBride.
"It was lucky," he responds.
For the three-course dinner at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in the West End, McBride has put together an outstanding collection of chefs. Sebastien Archambault from Blue Duck Tavern, Harper McClure from Brabo and Frank Ruta from Palena are all tasked with preparing a family-style first course. Archambault will prepare something with seafood (likely a chilled skate terrine), while McClure will make a fall salad and Ruta will put together a poultry dish.
For the main course, Jeff Tunks from DC Coast and Cedric Maupillier from Mintwood Place will prepare Big Daddy IPA-braised short ribs with a fall vegetable napoleon (no doubt similar to the napoleon that caused Joe Yonan and Tom Sietsema to hyperventilate). For dessert, McBride has asked Duane Copeland from The Source and Susan Wallace from BlackSalt to sweeten the pot.
A handful of sommeliers will even be on hand to direct the evening's wine drinking. They include Moez Ben Achour from Marcel's, Nadine Elizabeth Brown from Charlie Palmer Steak, Jennifer Foucher from Proof, Josh Genderson from Schneider's of Capitol Hill, David Hale from Central, Omar Hishmeh from Woodward Table, Ed Jenks from Vidalia, Brent Kroll from the Neighborhood Restaurant Group, Max Kuller from Doi Moi, Julian Mayor from Bourbon Steak, Paul Ruttimann from Le Diplomate, Michael Scaffidi from Plume at the Jefferson and Sebastian Zutant from the Red Hen.
The cocktail party will be led by three of Washington's most recognized bartenders: Derek Brown from Mockingbird Hill; Adam Bernbach from 2 Birds, 1 Stone; and Gina Chersevani from Buffalo & Bergen. Mike Berry from the RW Restaurant Group will curate a selection of local craft beers, while Great Wicomico Oyster Company will provide the bivalves for the party.
Anthony Acinapura from Brasserie Beck, Devin Bozkaya from Westend Bistro, Aaron McCloud from Cedar, John Critchley from Bourbon Steak, Tarver King from the Restaurant at Patowmack Farm, Liam LaCivita from Liberty Tavern and Marjorie Meek-Bradley from Ripple will create the seasonally inspired small plates for the cocktail party.
Among the expected small plates, McBride says, will be McCloud's sage-smoked Gunpowder bison and Meek-Bradley's celery root soup with guanciale and clams. Each chef for the two events is expected to use ingredients from farmers or vendors at FreshFarm Markets.
"You try to get as much donated as you can," McBride says about the ingredients, "and you swallow the rest." Covering the cost of ingredients can be just one more way chefs make a donation to the event, he adds, a sign of their devotion to the nonprofit, FreshFarm Markets.
"They definitely play a key role in bringing more and more farmers to our fingertips, from a chef's point of view," McBride says.
And it's not just chefs. Steve Badt, senior director of meals and volunteer engagement at Miriam’s Kitchen, will be the featured speaker for the dinner. He's expected to talk about the impact donated ingredients from FreshFarm vendors have made on providing healthy meals for the homeless.
Farmland Feast will be held on Nov. 11 at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, 1150 22nd St. NW from 6 to 10 p.m., and the cocktail party will run from 6 to 8 p.m. at the same location. Tickets for the cocktail reception and the dinner are $300 each. The cocktail party-only ticket is $125. You can order tickets and make donations online.