by Vice-Conseiller Gastronomique (Jeddah) Susan Darwish
The setting for a bucolic en plein air Chaîne luncheon, sponsored by the Bailliage of Greater Washington, D.C. on September 3, 2021, was The Vineyards at Dodon, in the Maryland countryside near Davidsonville. The gorgeous day, with no hint of Hurricane Ida which had been so precariously close the day before, was a sublime formulation of blue skies and perfect temperature, creating an idyllic setting for tastings and a tour of the vineyard’s rolling hills and production areas.
Dr. Tom Croghan, Dodon’s owner, led a group of members, new initiates, and affiliates from other bailliages worldwide in a vertical tasting of a collection of his winery’s rosé, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, and South Slope red. He explained that the terroir of the vineyard’s fields gets its distinctive acidity from sea sediment the in the ground below. One area in particular was at one time 130 feet below sea level and is noted for over two feet of oyster shell dating back to the Mid-Mycenaean period. Dr. Croghan explained that this year over 2,500 lbs of fruit will be harvested from his 16 acres and will be processed in French oak barrels as well as barrels from local coopers. He noted that the vineyards are maintained with a biodiversity of grasses that improve the soil and reduce the need for pesticides.
The food presentations were equally spectacular, beginning with charcuterie boards that were a cornucopia of housemade patés, foie gras mousse, hand-crafted sausages, and local cheeses. The quality of the farm fresh and locally sourced selections encouraged the members to try a little of the many selections from what was aptly named “A Grazing Table” which was a work of art by “The Ugly Pig” in nearby Annapolis, Maryland
The luncheon feast prepared by Chef Foxx from “The Polished Foxx” began with bitesize Beef Wellingtons with a truffle bordelaise filling encased in buttery puff pastry. This was followed by a Virginia scallop barbecued to perfection with a bit of pork belly with a black garlic gastrique creating a delectable version of a surf-and-turf pop. Like a warm welcome, food cooked outdoors over a fire has a way to capture the smells and tastes that comfort.
Chef Foxx then prepared the first plated course, bringing his culinary American tradition together with an infusion of French classic tradition. The salad was not a simple selection of greens but a fresh, subtle, and unique mix of greens that created a sensuality in its textures. Greek Goddess dressing added an uncommon taste while balsamic pearls, that he created using molecular gastronomic techniques, accentuated the composition.
The main course showcased responsibly sourced Norwegian salmon basted with a Shoyu glaze. Wasabi scallion risotto and Szechuan style local vegetables heightened flavours and created a balanced complexity. Chef Foxx’s approach and the quality of his ingredients brought out the late-summer bounty of nature. His love of good, honest food elevated his cuisine to an art form and necessary indulgence.
The final selection of French pastries was really the cherry on top of a delightful luncheon. A selection of assorted macaroons, lemon curd tarts, cupcakes, eclairs, and charlottes were the final elegant touch that concluded a day of perfection.
After the tumultuous events of 2020, it’s good to know that harmony with nature, culinary excellence, and appreciation of fine wine can continue.