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Le Bailliage du Greater Washington, DC Chapter

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Heralding the Holidays at the Historic Willard Hotel

December 11, 2013

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

When thinking about the holidays, dreams of beautiful lights, Christmas trees and festive parties come to mind. Where better to experience this but at the historic Willard Hotel just two blocks from the White House. Maître de Table Restauranteur, DC Bailliage member and General Manager of the Willard Patrick Birchall, hosted our black-tie holiday gala in fine style. Executive Chef Luc Dendievel and his team designed a menu which was sure to please. Vice Echanson Ellen Kirsh, Vice Conseiller Gastronomique Thomas Walsh, Vice Chargée de Presse Judith Mazza and Chevalier Allan Kam, had the delightful job of meeting shortly before the event at the Willard to pair the wine with the dishes.

On the evening of December 11th, the Willard Hotel was all dressed up for the holidays. Our holiday gala was being held in the Willard Room itself, one of the most beautiful venues in Washington, D.C. A beautifully decorated tree greeted us in the Willard Room, which certainly set the tone for the evening. Given the holiday season, Mid-Atlantic Chambellan/Bailli Paul Haar had arranged for all D.C. Bailliage members attending to be given a gift of a lovely shoulder bag embroidered with the Chaîne logo.

As the party got underway, we were soon met by waiters serving delicious J. de Telmont NV (Champagne, France) to accompany the lovely passed hors d’oeuvres which consisted of a delicate house smoked salmon with crème fraiche, a duo of yellow fin tuna (seared and spiced tartar on a crisp wonton), a fig and onion tart with goat cheese, and a crab salad and quail egg croustade. With 67 confreres in attendance, the room was filled with gaiety and great conversation. Mid-Atlantic Chambellan/Bailli Paul Haar and his wife Dame de la Chaîne Xiangnan Su Haar greeted everyone with warmth and grace.

Our first seated course, the Maine lobster salad timbale with passion fruit vinaigrette and baby organic mixed greens, opened our palates and was served with Domaine Marc Morey & Fils Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Referts 2006 (Burgundy, France). The next course, the pan seared jumbo diver scallop with the wild mushroom risotto, made with black truffle essence, mascarpone and shaved Parmesan was perfectly paired with the 2009 Masùt Pinot Noir (Mendocino, California). We were next served a very refreshing palate cleanser of a champagne granny smith apple sorbet. The champagne poured onto the sorbet was the same delightful champagne we had with our passed hors d’oeuvres.  Mid-Atlantic Chambellan/Bailli Paul Haar rose several times during the meal to make announcements, introduce guests and confreres and to even sing, all in the holiday spirit!

The Ridge Zinfandel 2010 (Alexander Valley, California) paired nicely with the slow roasted venison medallion. The venison was served with vegetables of the season, a velvety celeriac puree, a wine poached Forelle pear and Brussels sprouts, all of which were highlighted by the Pinot Noir chocolate sauce. Vice Echanson Ellen Kirsh, who gave commentary on the wines we were enjoying several times throughout the meal, explained that this particular Zinfandel had restraint and elegance while retaining the characteristic black fruit taste of other Zinfandels. The last savory course, a Vermont grilled goat cheese “Crottin,” was served atop country bread, and a Friseé salad with candied walnuts and sherry herb vinaigrette. The Domaine Sang des Cailloux Vacqueryas 2009 (Rhone Valley, France) was perfect in that the wine had some subtle roasted herb flavors which reflected the garrigue or the wild herbs that grow in the south of France.

The dessert was an astoundingly delicious Mandarin Crème Chibouste served with a seasonal fruit medley and Grand Marnier Butter. The Olivares Monastrell Dolce 2010 (Jumilla, Spain) was an excellent selection because the wine did not overwhelm the delicate dessert.  The wine allowed the natural flavors of the dessert to shine through. Indeed, the entire meal was one in which Chef Luc Dendievel’s deft hand in balancing flavors was evident.

As the meal came to a close, Vice Conseiller Culinaire Francois Dionot discussed the meal, drawing our attention to the fabulous flavors obtained when a chef is so obviously expert and classically trained in French technique; and thanking Echanson Ellen Kirsh for her deft wine pairings. Chef Dendievel was presented with a Chaîne plate in gratitude and received much enthusiastic applause. He introduced his team of chefs who perfectly executed this wonderful meal. As we left the Willard it was with the memory of a warm, gracious and luxurious holiday gala. What a way to close out 2013!

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