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La Pièce de Résistance, Dinner at the Residence of the French Ambassador Gerard Araud - The Quintessential Experience for La Chaine des Rotisseurs in the United States

May 24, 2016

By Claudette Veronica Ferron, Vice Chargée de Presse, Bailliage of Greater Washington, D.C.

On a perfect day in May, resplendent with dazzling sunshine and a balmy breeze, hidden on a bucolic estate in the historic heart of the nation’s capital, the members of Greater Washington, D.C. Bailliage were privileged dinner guests at the residence of the French Ambassador Gerard Araud. The event was the very embodiment of tout le chose La Chaine des Rotisseurs. A celebration of epicurean felicity, culinary fine art, culture, and elegance.

The extraordinary residence, which was fittingly designed by Jules Henri de Sibour in 1910, in a Tudor/Jacobean Revival style, is on the National Register of Historic Places (circa 1989). Recently reopened after a two-year, $4.5 million renovation, the completely updated mansion is now worth an estimated $30 million and has been the setting for lavish parties thrown by international luminaries. It is the much-coveted destination for every visiting Frenchman and francophone, and the favored venue of world-renowned politicians, CEOs, Hollywood celebrities, a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, publishing magnate, and the Bailliage’s own "Pope of American Cuisine" Patrick O’Connell. And as members and guests of the Bailliage arrived at the elegant residence, nestled in gardens redolent of the refinement of Versailles and the pastoral beauty of Giverny, they were transported by the palatial setting to the pinnacle of French social sophistication.

No less extraordinary than the venue was the host, Ambassador Gerard Araud. An elegant, erudite diplomat with impeccable and exquisitely modern style, the undeniably charming and distinguished statesman extraordinaire, grew up in Marseille, graduated from France’s top universities, and joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the 1980’s. During his long career in diplomacy, he served as France’s Ambassador to Israel, and more recently, as a permanent Representative to the United Nations. Ambassador Araud assumed his position in the United States in September 2014. Known as a “master strategist,” and “diplomatic Samurai," this evening, the Ambassador was the inimitable dinner host. And his role was made plus facile by his good fortune to be both benefactor and beneficiary of one of the most talented culinary artiste in the greater Washington, D.C., area, Chef Michel Bastid, l'autre maître de la soirée du épicurienne luxe joyeuse – the other master of the joyous evening of epicurean luxury.

Born in Narbonne, in the Languedoc-Roussillon-Midi-Pyrénées region, Chef Bastid was nurtured and shaped by the warmth and friendliness of sunny southern France, where meals with family and friends are respites of shared joy. Drawn to the hospitality and culinary industries at an early age, at 17, he studied under the great Michelin two-star chef Michel Portos. Next, he advanced his career serving as Chef de Partie under Michelin three-star chef Régis Marcon, for almost three years. Chef Bastid continued his auspicious culinary education serving as sous-chef to veteran Michelin three-star chef Michel Troisgros (whose name is synonymous with gourmet cuisine) for four years. Before coming to Washington, D.C. Chef Bastid rejoined Chef Marcon at his famed Bistrot La Coulemelle where, as Chef de Cuisine, he won the prestigious 2016 Gault & Millau Young Talent award. Like his mentor Chef Troisgros, Chef Bastid’s culinary style is light and delicate, revering the integrity of premium ingredients and the basics of classic French cooking. At this superb epicurean exposition, Chef Bastid reached beyond the culinary clouds and captured rapturous morceaux du paradis ~morsels of paradise.

As members and guests of the Bailliage entered the beautiful foyer of the magnificent residence, they were welcomed with glistening flutes of J. de Telmont N.V. (Champagne, France), a fresh and flirtatioussparkling nectar with aromas of the boulangeries de Paris. With aperitifs in hand, dinner guests were invited to explore the exquisitely composed, eclectic mix of art and interior design in the residence's enticing salons as the gastronomic prelude began with sublime hors d’oeuvres. Ushered out to the glorious stone terrace, dappled in the softening glow of the setting sun, elegant white-gloved waiters glided effortlessly among members and guests with gleaming silver platters conveying petits morceaux nourriture des dieux – small bites of food of the gods. Beguiling palates, Chef Bastid presented: Gnochetti d’artichaut ~ succulent baby artichoke gnocchi – unctous envelopes of diaphanous, earthy flavor; Charbon châtaigne truffe -- seductive crispy chestnut and truffle mousse truffles – voluptuous nuggets of delicious decadence; and Opéra de foie gras -- sensuous foie gras terrine -- salacious slices of gastronomic passion. In sum, the hors d’oeuvres service was a tantalizing epicurean exhibition that teased palates to hungry anticipation.

After luxuriating in the sultry sweetness of felicitous repartee, diners withdraw to the lavish dining room where Ambassador Araud and Chef Bastid staged a culinary seduction of exquisite measure.

Seated in the sumptuous dining room, Bailliage members and guests were enveloped by palatial ambiance, surrounded by deferential and expert stewards, and embraced by a gracious host, whose warm and chivalrous welcome was a refined intimation of the gastronomic favors to come. After a courtly greeting by the Ambassador, Jurisconsult des Etats Unis Paul Haar relished the privilege of extolling the virtues and extraordinary achievements of Ambassador Araud, delivering his salutation in both fluent French and English. Then, seamlessly the evening turned to the soul of the event -- food and wine extraordinaire – cuisine et vin divine.

Chef Bastid continued his epicurean romance with Barigoule d’artichants violet bouillion tiedi au basilica ~ a traditional Provencal dish of braised purple artichoke in a warm basil broth. Accompanied by a 2013 Meursault, Domaine Bouzereau (Cote-d’Or, France), a light but sophisticated white burgundy with subtle apricot notes, the salubrious offering was a diaphanous mélange of gossamer flavors. Then wooing palates to further excitement, the Chef delighted all with a Cabilland poche, nage sancerre jeune carotte et friture de poireaux ~ a poached cod basking in an ambrosial sancerre wine sauce with delectable fingerling potato, young carrots and flash fried julienned leeks. Deftly paired with a princely 2011 Gevrey-Chambertin, Nicolas Theuriet (Cote de Nuits, France), a regal pinot noir, revealing romantic aromas of strawberry and cherries with sensual leather and violet notes, the near virginal culinary betrothal was a heavenly gift to discerning palates. Next, heightening the epicurean dalliance, diners were enthralled by a filet de canette roti tians de legumes, feuillete jus reduit au xeres ~ a filet of roasted duckling with a minced vegetable puff pastry in a sherry reduction. Married to a 2013 Savigny Premier Cru, Aux Gravains (Cote d’Or, France), a vivacious and light-bodied wine with luscious raspberry notes, the dish was the quintessence of culinary mastery and a consummate gourmet creation.

During a brief interlude, Chaine members were delighted to learn that their fete was graced by Conseiller Culinaire et des Professionnels Reimund Pitz and his wife Sandy Pitz, as well as Gastronomique Honoraire and Culinaire Honoraire Rutger Ganslandt who traveled all the way from Alanya Turkey with his wife Sylvie, to attended the much coveted dinner.

Then returning to the glorious feast, Chef Bastid intensified the lavish experience, pampering members and guests with an enticing cours de formage of Saint-Nectaire fermier et Brie de Nangis ~ an exquisite Farm Saint Nectaire, a subtle and delicately aromatic, silky soft, slightly tart cheese with hints of nuts and mushrooms; and the supple Nangis Brie, a mild and buttery Brie with a creamy smooth body and mature dulcet heart. Not to be forgotten was the heavenly pain François -- French bread served with the meal, which was equal to any bread baked in the great ovens of Paris and Lyon. Also adding to the luxurious allure of the evening was unparalleled service performed flawlessly by elegant and expertly indulgent wait-staff.

Finally, bringing the feast to a climax, Chef Bastid offered his sensuous, sweet creation, Sable Breton fraise rhubarbe glace vanille ~ a beautiful and beguiling dessert with ethereal rhubarb lattice caressing sumptuous strawberries reposed on a tender crust spooned by a luscious vanilla ice cream. Amplified by a magnificent 2012 Sauternes, Les Remparts (Bordeaux, France), a celestial, complex and delicately perfumed wine, with blossom, stone-fruit and honeysuckle notes, this epicurean jewel left diners fully satiated. And as members and guests lingered to relish the favors of a consummate host and inspired culinary creator, they were cossetted one last time with superb coffee and delicious confections of the Chef's bounty, which completed the divine culinary affaire de coeur and sublime seduction.

Reluctantly bidding the evocative evening adieu, the only questioned that remained on the lips of Bailliage members was what culinary experience could possibly follow such a blissful repast and not disappoint? Only one, the Bailliage's annual pilgrimage to America's epicurean Vatican and the “Pope of American Cuisine” – the Bailliage's Bastille Day sojourn to the Inn at Little Washington, in pastoral Rappahannock County, Virginia, and the gastronomic prowess of the Bailliage's own Maitre Rotisseur, Patrick O'Connell, always a transportive rhapsody of gourmet delight.

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