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Le Bailliage du Greater Washington, DC Chapter

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The Bounty of Summer, Italian Style

August 12, 2012

By Judith Mazza, Chargée de Presse, Bailliage of Greater Washington, D.C.

As summer comes to an end and the days start to shorten, the luscious ripeness of the season is at its zenith. It was with this in mind that the Bailliage of Greater Washington decided to plan a dinner at Assaggi Restaurant in Bethesda in early September. Newly inducted Maître Rotisseur Domenico Cornacchia planned his menu to take advantage of the peak flavors available this time of year. “Assaggi” means “have a little taste” in Italian and the confreres attending this event greatly enjoyed the wonderful tastes of authentic contemporary Italian cuisine as prepared by Chef Cornacchia and his staff.

Selling out well in advance, we were able to have the entire restaurant to ourselves for the evening. As we arrived, we were warmly greeted with flutes of La Marca Prosecco NV (Veneto, Italy), along with lightly breaded and fried olives stuffed with veal and beef, sage leaves tempura style, marinated raw tuna cubes topped with perfect raspberries, savory lemon, parmesan cheese thyme “cake” rounds, and grapes with goat cheese and pistachios. The energy in the room was electric and joy and laughter infectious throughout the evening. Golnaz Feiz, General Manager, was most kind and attentive throughout, seeing that guests with special requests were well taken care of and seamlessly accommodated. In fact, two guests felt so warmly welcomed and so wanted to be sure to be included future events, that they submitted their applications for membership before the evening was over.

As we took our seats, we were soon served with a first course of watermelon, with a layer of the creamy inside of the burrata cheese (stracciatella) with baby heirloom tomatoes and crispy prosciutto accompanied by Piertro Vernaccia di San Gimignano (Tuscany, Italy) 2011. The textural contrasts were intriguing and the taste delicious. This was followed by a “cold cooked” Mediterranean cod with marinated white anchovies and a Padron pepper sauce served with Feudi di San Gregorio Falanghina (Campania, Italy) 2009.

We thoroughly enjoyed the next course, beef and veal filled tortelli pasta with Parmigiano Reggiano, sprinkled with caramelized sunflower seeds, paired with the Zenato Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore Veneto, Italy) 2009. The pasta was perfectly al dente and the sunflower seeds added just the right textural crunch and sweetness. The intriguing course of Aquerello saffron risotto with licorice dust accompanied by the De Angelis Lacrima Crissti del Vesuvio (Campania, Italy) 2009, did not disappoint, splendid in its beautiful texture and color, taste and balance.

Chambellan/Bailli Paul Haar arose to make sure that all guests and members were introduced, and discussed upcoming events; including the Gemelaggio to be held in Venice, Italy, noting which members are going to Italy to attend it. In addition to Bailliage events, he highlighted the Grand Chapitre, scheduled for October 2013, to be held in Washington, D.C. Members made it clear that they were eager to volunteer their time and creative energy to ensure its success.

The Maple Valley duck breast with orange braised endive and “chinato” sauce was unctuous with great depth of flavor. The Productgori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco 2007 was a wonderful pairing with it. We were next treated to a refreshing pre-dessert palate cleanser, “Lacrima di morro” or wine marinated local peach granite.

The meal was drawing to a close as we were served the olive oil “bombolini” with lemon crema and blueberry sauce accompanied by Il Duca Imperiale 1917 Stella Rosa NV, and an assortment of Italian mini biscotti. We also had two special events of note that evening, the birthday of Chevalier Allan Suchinsky and the anniversary of Dame de la Chaîne Leslie Binns and her husband, Chevalier Phillip Reiman.

Maître Rotisseur Cornacchia and his staff were greeted with enthusiastic applause, and Mid-Atlantic Chambellan/Bailli Paul Haar presented him with a beautiful Chaîne plate. Vice Conseiller Culinaire Chef Francois Dionot was effusive in his praise. Chef Cornacchia answered questions from the confreres, and then, in a most gracious, unassuming and charming way, thanked the Chaîne for planning this event and coming to Assaggi. The appreciation was quite mutual. We in turn thanked him for his creative energy, delicious cuisine and warm hospitality. Confreres lingered, once again not wanting a wonderful evening to end, knowing they had enjoyed the bounty of the summer season paired with warm Italian hospitality.

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