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Le Bailliage du Greater Washington, DC Chapter

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Surprises Galore in a Sumptuous Inaugural Dinner at Marcel’s

September 17, 2009

With the end of summer upon us, the Bailliage of Greater Washington, D.C. began the Chaîne season at Marcel’s, the flagship restaurant of Chef Robert Wiedmaier, awarded the 2009 Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington’s highest honor, as Chef of the Year.  A small committee consisting of Vice Echanson des Etats-Unis Tony Busalacchi, Chevalier William Assmann and Vice Chargée de Presse, Judith Mazza, met at Marcel’s a week in advance to finalize the menu and pair the wines.  Chef de Cuisine Paul Stearman, in consultation with Chef/Proprietor Robert Wiedmaier, and Maitre d’ Adnane Kebaier, presented the committee with many fabulous choices, making the final course selections a deliciously difficult process.

As guests and members arrived to the event itself, the energy and spirit in the room was joyful. Sipping Laurent Perrier Brut, conversation was animated as the staff passed crispy lamb croquettes and succulent shrimp Provençale on skewers, followed by miniature bowls of unctuous mushroom flan and a demitasse of corn soup with tiny crab cake.

Bailli Paul Haar and his wife Xiangnan Haar welcomed confreres and guests in splendid style. Several new members were in attendance including Chevaliers Anthony Ramdass and Daniel Silva. We also had two lovely Dame de la Chaîne transferring their membership to the DC Bailliage from other parts of the country; Nicole Seline Schiegg, second generation Chaîne member, and Wendolyn Holland, fourth generation Chaîne member. Longstanding DC Chaîne members, Dame de la Chaine Peggy Brooks Smith, Chevalier Harry Grubert, Argentier David Burka, and his wife Rebecca Burka, greeted Culinaire Francois Dionot and his wife Patrice, with big smiles and animated conversation.

Unbeknownst to many of those attending, however, this was a night to be filled with surprises. The delicious nature of the surprises to come, however, was met head on by one delicious course after another. The amuse bouche of Napoléon of potato blini with smoked salmon and salmon caviar was exquisite, preparing us for the Spanish octopus roulade with Nicoise olive and tomato herb yogurt sauce. The 2008 Pazo de Senorans Albarino Rias Baixas paired perfectly with it. The second course, of butter poached lobster with risotto and lobster essence, had a subtle sweetness which was accented by the Olivier Baubresse Selection Chassagne Montrachet Premier Cru “Les Chenevottes” 2000. The Intermezzo of cucumber mint granite with cucumber lime salad cleansed our palates before the next courses.
As we were enjoying our repast, and with a twinkle in his eye, Bailli Paul Haar, master of surprises, rose from his seat with aplomb, to award Bailli Honoraire Len DePas the Commandeur in recognition of his years in the Chaîne. Sometime after, Bailli Haar rose once again, and this time awarded the Bronze Star of Excellence to Vice Chargée de Presse, Judith Mazza.

There was a further surprise to accompany the third and fourth courses. Marcel’s classic boudin blanc with chanterelles and English peas with red wine essence was to be followed by the Muscovy duck breast with duck confit, blackberries and duck jus. However, two wines were poured simultaneously for these courses. These were the Domaine Fontaine-Gagnard Volnay 1er cru “Clos des Chênes” 2003 and the Domaine Jean Michel Guillon Gevrey Chambertin 2003. Vice Eschanson Ellen Kirsh, who is a wine educator, spoke for several minutes about the two wines and encouraged everyone to think and discuss which wine they felt went best with each of the two courses.

Later in the evening, we found that the surprises were far from over, for this was also a birthday celebration for Bailli Honoraire Len DePas, who was honored with a special toast of Moscato, a cake lit with candles, and many warm wishes.
The only thing left was to enjoy dessert. The menu description of mocha bar, Frangelico coulis and brown butter ice cream did not fully represent what was served. We enjoyed a deeply flavored chocolate cake, accented with slightly salty and crunchy “condiments.”  We were then poured two different NV Graham Tawny Ports, one was 10 years and the other was 20 years old, prompting further discussions and comparisons.

Chef de Cuisine Paul Stearman and Chef/Proprietor Robert Wiedmaier received a heartfelt round of applause when they appeared. The evening ended with a sense of contentment on many levels. Those who planned the many surprises felt gratified, those who were surprised felt appreciated; and all were stimulated on both a gastronomic and intellectual level by the discussions of food and wine. In fact, it took quite a while for everyone to gather their things. It seemed that this was one evening no one wanted to end.

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