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Le Bailliage du Greater Washington, DC Chapter

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Delicious Southern Accents Seduce at Vidalia Restaurant

May 23, 2013

By Christine Owens, Dame de la Chaîne and Judith Mazza, Vice Chargée de Presse, Bailliage of Greater Washington, D.C.

Vidalia Restaurant, named after the sweet onion from Georgia, is Chef Jeffrey Buben’s fine dining establishment in downtown Washington, D.C. Known for his interpretation of American cuisine with a southern accent, Chef Buben plays with the classics of the South producing innovative yet comforting and absolutely stunningly beautiful and delicious cuisine. The Bailliage of Greater Washington dined in Vidalia’s private dining room, appropriately named The Onion Room, to kick off the 2013 Memorial Day weekend. The evening began with a crisp and pleasing Pierre Peters, Brut, Blanc de Blancs, Champagne Grand Cru, Cuvee de Reserve N.V. and four hors d’oeuvres that guaranteed the evening would not disappoint: gougeres stuffed with pimento cheese, quail nuggets with ramp aioli, cured salmon brioche and Chesapeake crab croquettes with truffle aioli.

Our first course was a memorable Hudson Valley foie gras, and while not accompanied by trumpets it could have been.1 Seared and served atop roasted carrot cake, underscored with strawberry jam, this delight was accompanied by celery chow chow, a drizzle of lemon oil and toasted pistachio. A Dirler-Cade, Pinot Gris, Grand Cru Kessler 2010 was a perfect pairing with its lively aromas.

The second course featured cornmeal crusted scallops with a silky she-crab custard, abalone mushroom, artichoke heart, carrot puree, and honey gastrique. A Domaine Marc Collin, Saint Aubin, Premier Cru, 2010 and a Craggy Range, Te Muna Road, Sauvignon Blanc, 2011 were both served; and we benefited from the fact that at the pre-event tasting dinner, our wonderful officers could simply not decide which was the best pairing. Thank you for this treat!  My personal preference was the Sauvignon Blanc because of its acidity.

At our table the third and fourth courses were the “bell ringers.” The morel mushroom riff on a traditional pan roast evoked applause from all. Executive Chef Hamilton Johnson was worried about obtaining the morels, but the stars were in alignment that evening, and we were able to sample the bounty that nature provided for us on this very special occasion. The morel pan roast featured West Virginia ramps, English peas, a creamy herb veloute and brioche. What a combination!  It was superbly paired with a Domaine Jablot, Clos du Cellier Aux Moines, Givry, Premier Cru 2009.

The fourth course was a generous portion of spice crusted duck breast that was perfectly cooked and beautifully presented. This dish was cleverly appointed with a foie gras spoon bread puree, duck leg confit, colorful and flavorful heirloom beets, blackberry preserves and a drizzle of thyme jus. A Chateau Tetre Daugay, St. Emilion, Grand Cru 2006 was the perfect counterpoint bringing a sense of character and integrity to the dish.

Our sixth course was a magnificent whipped taleggio. What a wonderful concept for the cheese course! Served with pickled gooseberries, root beer honey, walnuts and saltines, and definitely not the kind your mother gave you when you had an upset tummy. Lending its charm to this course was Weingut Max Ferd, Richler,Mulheimer Sonnenlay, Riesling, Auslese 2008.

The finale featured a dark chocolate devil’s food gateau with a milk chocolate cheerwine mousse and cherry Bavarian. Cocoa nib ice cream provided a hint of summer. Lustau, Pedro Ximenez, San Emilio, Sherry N.V. was a nice finish, especially with the ice cream.

Chef Jeff spoke to us at the conclusion of the dinner and introduced the team. He noted that it always is challenging to achieve balance when pairing wine with food, flavors and textures. When responding to a question from one of the guests, he said that the morel pan roast was his favorite as well. He went on to note that it is important for the Chef to refrain from doing too much. Mother Nature's timing was in our favor this week, he noted, the morel pan roast was a surprise in a bowl. The delicious ingredients spoke for themselves when placed in such expert hands. Vice Conseiller Culinaire Chef Francois Dionot was effusive in his comments on the morel pan roast and the duck breast courses in particular.

Bravo to Chef Jeffrey Buben, Executive Chef Hamilton Johnson and their team. We look forward to you joining forces with other distinguished chefs at the French Embassy this fall when cooking for the Grand Chapitre 2013.

1 Sydney Smith, 1741-1845 a well-known English wit said, “My idea of heaven is eating paté de foie gras to the sound of trumpets.”

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