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Le Bailliage du Greater Washington, DC Chapter

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An Elegance Induction at the St. Regis

September 24, 2018

By Bill Babash, Vice Chargé de Presse, Bailliage of Greater Washington, D.C.

The opulent St. Regis Washington D.C., just three blocks from the White House, was the setting for the 2018 induction ceremony and gala dinner for the Bailliage of Greater Washington on September 24.

The evening began with members and guests gathering in the elegant lobby of the St. Regis for camaraderie, conversation, and, of course, Champagne. The evening's bubbly was the Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve, NV. This deep golden wine is composed of 40% reserve wines, some of which have been aged for ten or more years. The blend is cellared in the Crayères, a series of chalk caverns dating from the 3rd century. The result is a crisp, complex Champagne with a rich nose with hints of brioche, dried fruit, and almonds and a finish that has elements of plum, cherry, and vanilla. Passed hors d'oeuvres were equally sophisticated: a tatin of smoked duck with passionfruit caramel; a petit vol-au-vent of grilled octopus with a tomato, black olive, caper, and rosewater confit; foie gras au torchon on house-made brioche toast and accented with Gianduja chocolate; and a refreshing spoon of crushed Iranian cucumber with caramelized hazelnuts and an espresso and veal stock reduction.

The assembly then moved to the George Washington Room for the induction ceremony. Bailli Judy Mazza introduced the inducting officer, Stuart Goldberg, Chambellan Provincial de Mid-Atlantic, who shared with the bailliage's newest members a brief history of the Chaîne and the symbolism of the Chaîne seal. As Judy called each inductee forward, Vice Conseiller Culinaire Provincial Honoraire François Dionot presented each with their Chaîne ribbon. Chambellan Goldberg then placed a 19th century French sword known as a briquet on their shoulder and bestowed upon them their Chaîne title. Membership was finalized as Argentier David Burka had the newest members sign the "gold page." This year, the Bailliage welcomed eight non-professional members as Chevaliers and Dames de la Chaîne and four professional members as Professionnel du Vin, Maîtres Rôtisseurs, and Maître Restaurateur. The ceremony also honored Chef Marcus Repp with an elevation to Maître Rôtisseur.

Bailli Mazza added a new element to the traditions of the induction ceremony and introduced members transferring into the bailliage from other cities. This year she welcomed:

Bailli Mazza then presented Camillo Gutierrez with a special "Honoraire" pin noting his 10 years of service as the Vice Conseiller Gastronomique of the Boston Bailliage. She recognized Simon Antoine with a "Honoraire" pin for his service as Vice Conseiller Culinaire in Atlanta, and with the "Officier Commandeur" pin celebrating his 30 years of Chaîne membership.

Eight members of the bailliage received "Share the Chaîne" pins in recognition of their bringing a new member into the bailliage, including Bailli Mazza who received a gold pin denoting 20 new members. Bailli Mazza presented a very surprised Vice Chargé de Presse Bill Babash with the Chaîne's bronze medal of honor in recognition of his contributions to the Bailliage's communications, in particular, the printed materials for events and the forthcoming redesigned web site.

With the ceremonial portion of the evening concluded, the now hungry gathering moved to the St. Regis' dining room, an elegant venue with modern décor under a historic ceiling painted in 1926. Executive Chef and newly inducted Maître Rôtisseur Sébastien Giannini envisioned and prepared a six-course dinner rooted in classic French traditions updated with the best local ingredients and his own innovative style.

Chef Giannini is originally from Toulon, in the south of France. He began his culinary career in France at Michelin-starred restaurants, ultimately becoming the Executive Chef at Le Méridien in Nice. He came to North America as the Executive Chef at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth hotel in Montréal and, most recently, as the Executive Chef and Culinary Director at the 5-star W Montréal hotel. Chef Giannini was trained by chefs who have attained Michelin stars, including Alain Ducasse, Frank Cerutti, Phillipe Joannès, and Guy Gedda. He was a finalist of the prestigious Bocuse d'Or Culinary Competition in Lyon, France, in 2010 and had the honor of being the official coach of Team Canada in the 2015 International Final of the Bocuse d'Or.

Dinner began with an elegant mushroom course. Vin jaune-scented local chanterelles delicately cooked in butter and shallots were served with tarragon infused chicken jus poured atop at the table. Grated almonds provided a delicious texture and nuanced flavor to this earthy delight. Bollinger La Grande Année 2015 from Aÿ, France was superb Champagne to accompany the dish. The wine's blend of chardonnay and pinot noir provided citrus, vanilla, and hazelnut notes and a strong, toasty finish, making it a great match for this opening dish.

Chef Giannini wowed diners with his second offering. Richly flavored and delicately textured Maine lobster and langoustine mousseline topped with a layer of osetra caviar and a fleck of gold filled a flaky and crisp tart shell. (The chef revealed that a bit of Dijon mustard in the mousseline was the secret to the amazing flavor.) White-gloved servers presented this luxurious dish to each guest and completed the plate with lobster bisque butter poured from silver pitchers. The 2015 Lioco Estero chardonnay from the Russian River Valley of California, with its range of flavors and aromas, including citrus, honeycomb, and saffron, along with minerality from the local soil, paired perfectly. The 2015 vintage was marked by low grape yields that concentrated the flavors of the grapes and added to the complexity of this wine.

Nouveau Blancmanger of rockfish was next. The flaky, mild fish was delicious with a roasted tomato and red bell pepper jus and local vegetables poached in parsley‑scented olive oil. A medium-bodied French chardonnay complemented the composition beautifully. The 2015 Saint-Aubin Murger des Dents de Chien featured citrus and honeysuckle flavors with a hint of minerality from the limestone soil of the region. "Murger des dents de chien" translates as "wall of dogs' teeth" and refers to the use of limestone rocks to build walls on the hillsides where the vines grow.

The evening's entrée was a perfectly prepared and presented grilled filet of Wagyu beef. The beef's rich flavor was further enhanced by a phenomenal bordelaise sauce and accompanied by black olive tapenade, preserved shallots, date purée, and purple carrot. The 2007 Feudo Marccari Maharis from the Noto Valley on the southeast tip of Sicily was a robust partner to the luxurious filet. Maharis refers to the watch towers that the Arabs used to watch the sea coast. This wine is made primarily from the Nero d'Avola, the native Sicilian grapes, which give it a deep ruby red color with almond and cedar flavors that give way to dark fruit and blueberries. Its tannins have smoothed out, revealing hints of chocolate and coffee in the aroma and a spicy, almost smoky finish. Only 1,050 cases were produced, and the bailliage was fortunate to be able to pair this great wine with Chef Giannini's outstanding entrée.

Brie aux truffes was next. A mild Canadian double cream brie was accented with black truffles and a mascarpone- and cream-based vinaigrette infused with sorrel and finished with hazelnuts that added further layers of flavor to the wonderful cheese. The accompanying Domaine Hue Clos de Bourge 2017 is the "richest and most powerful" wine from one of Vouvray's best vineyards. Made from chenin blanc grapes grown in shallow, stony soil, its pear, persimmon, plum, and quince flavors were nicely balanced with intense minerality and acidity, making it a delightful pairing to the cheese.

There remained one bit of business before Chef Giannini's dessert – the Société Mondiale du Vin induction. The Société is for members of the Chaîne with a particular interest in wine, spirits, and craft beverages and this year nine members became Chevaliers or Dames de la Société. Stu Goldberg, Judy Mazza, David Burka, and François Dionot donned the traditional robes and floppy hats to conduct the fun and festive ceremony. With François wielding the traditional vine stock, Judy inducted each member and Stu led the exuberant group in a Champagne toast to the "enlightened discernment and full enjoyment of fine beverages in moderation."

Dinner finished with Baba au Kirsch, a delicious variant of the traditional Baba au Rhum. The superbly moist cake was infused with Trimbach Kirschwasser, topped with a blend of crème pâtissière and crème Chantilly, and served with fresh berries and candied orange zest. An ice-cold pour of the kirschwasser was the perfect accompaniment. Trimbach, in Alsace, France, was founded in 1626 and produces some of Alsace's best-known wines as well as intensely flavored eaux de vie from local fruits. The evening's kirsch, for example, requires some 30 pounds of cherries to produce one 750ml bottle.

As the evening concluded, Bailli Mazza congratulated Chef Giannini on a spectacular dinner and presented him with a Chaîne plate to commemorate the event. She thanked the St. Regis' Joseph Mattioli and Martin Keeney for hosting a most memorable evening of classic elegance and gracious hospitality and presented them with Chaîne silver wine coasters.

Inductions — Non-Professional
Romain Baty, Chevalier
Brian C. Hauser, Chevalier
Michelle R. Hauser, Dame de la Chaîne
Anthony Hernandez, Chevalier
Jennifer Hernandez, Dame de la Chaîne
Bruce Reynolds, Chevalier
Georgia G. Werner, Dame de la Chaîne
Nicol Yun, Dame de la Chaîne

Inductions — Professional
Christian Choi, Professionnel du Vin
Luca de Marchis, Maître Rotisseur
Sébastien Giannini, Maître Rotisseur
Mitchell Berliner, Maître Restaurateur

Marcus Repp, Maître Rôtisseur

Transferring Confrères
Chevalier Carl Arkebauer, from Chicago
Vice Conseiller Gastronomique Honoraire, Camillo Gutierrez, from Boston
Vice Conseiller Culinaire Honoraire, Simon Antoine, from Atlanta
Maître Restaurateur Martin Keeney, from New Orleans
Maître Hôtelier Joseph Mattioli, from Palm Beach
Chevalier d'Honneur Matthias Mitman, from Jeddah

Share the Chaîne Pins
Albrecht, Whitney Babash, William Babash, Martin Keeney, Raj Khubchandani, Joseph Mattioli, Judith Mazza (gold pin), Markus Platzer, Paras Sharma

Société Mondiale du Vin Inductions
Carl Arkebauer, Chevalier de la Société
Christian Choi, Chevalier de la Société
Anthony Hernandez, Chevalier de la Société
Jennifer Hernandez, Dame de la Société
Matthias Mitman, Chevalier de la Société
Marcus Repp, Chevalier de la Société
Bruce Reynolds, Chevalier de la Société
Sudha Srinivasan, Dame de la Société
Georgia G. Werner, Dame de la Société

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