Perfection at Métier
by Bill Babash, Vice Chargé de Presse
After an outstanding Chaîne dinner at Métier in 2017, the bailliage was eager to return to experience the latest from Chef Eric Ziebold, one of Washington’s preeminent chefs. The nearly two-year wait was well worth it. Chef Ziebold and the team at Métier wowed attendees with a spectacular dinner that will long be remembered.
Chef Ziebold graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, in 1994 and in 1996 joined Thomas Keller at The French Laundry in Yountville, California, ultimately becoming Chef de Cuisine. In 2003, he moved to New York to open Per Se for Chef Keller. Chef Ziebold arrived in Washington in 2004 and opened CityZen at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, which was named best new restaurant of the year by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington. Forbes magazine named him one of the “10 most influential chefs working in America” in 2007, and in 2008 he won the James Beard award for Best Chef Mid-Atlantic.
With this most impressive background, Chef Ziebold opened Kinship in December 2015, followed by Métier in April 2016. Kinship earned a star in Michelin’s inaugural Washington guide in 2016 and Métier quickly duplicated the achievement with its own Michelin star in 2017.
Chef Ziebold created an amazing event specifically for the bailliage. Typically, a chef develops a menu and then wines are chosen to complement the food. For this dinner, Chef Ziebold began with the wines and crafted a menu inspired by them. With access to the bailliage’s 1,400 bottle cellar, and a generous donation of pinot noir from Burgundy by Chevalier Billy Thompson, Chef Ziebold curated a selection of wines that not only were individually outstanding but also came together as an integrated experience. Meanwhile, he developed a six-course tasting menu of innovative dishes that reflected his sophisticated, modern approach to flavor and technique while paying homage to classic preparations. Chef Ziebold noted that he particularly focused on the transitions between courses and wines, ensuring that the integrity of the wine selection was maintained throughout and that the menu came together as a whole.
The evening began in Métier’s elegant candle-lit outer salon, where a glass of Charles Heidsieck Champagne Brut Réserve 2015 welcomed each member and guest. Charles-Camille Heidsieck founded his Champagne house in 1851 at the age of 29. In 1852 he traveled to the United States where Champagne was still relatively unknown. He quickly entered fashionable society and became known as “Champagne Charlie” before returning to Europe. Made with 40% reserve wines, some of the highest quality wines from prior vintages, this elegant Champagne is aged in chalk cellars that date from the 3rd century. As attendees mingled and caught up with friends, a selection of delectable passed hors d’oeuvres hinted at the delights to follow: tzatziki mousse with cured salmon and olive; arepas with avocado and radish, and Darden ham mouillettes with pineapple jam. Each was a delicious bite with the wine’s delicate bubbles and notes of plum, apricot, and brioche.
The gathering then moved to Métier’s dining room, with its subdued décor and large window into the kitchen, through which guests could watch Chef Ziebold and his team focus on the dinner to come.
The first course was a celery root ribbon salad with pomegranate, ruby red grapefruit, roasted pistachios, baby mâche, coriander tuile, and clove-scented meringue. The celery root was cured with salt, sugar, and vinegar, a technique that creates a lighter and fresher texture for the ribbons and enhances the pairing with wine. Meanwhile, the pomegranate and grapefruit provided contrasting pops of acidity and sweetness, while the pistachio, tuile, and meringue added crunch and hints of spice. The 2017 Domaine Huet Vouvray Sec “Clos du Bourg” hit exactly the right notes with the symphony of flavors in the salad. Gaston Huet, son of domaine founder Victor Huet, believed the Clos du Bourg vineyard to be the greatest of all Vouvray vineyards thanks to its shallow, stony soil, which gives this 100% chenin blanc wine its minerality. The complexity of the salad revealed wonderful hints of sweetness in the wine.
A poached rouelle of Dover sole with Maine lobster polenta and sauce Américaine arrived next. Beautiful filets of Dover sole were rolled around a sole mousse, poached, and then finished with béarnaise and glaçage under the salamander. They were served on a creamy lobster polenta and a luxurious sauce Américaine, a classic preparation akin to an intensely flavored lobster bisque. This dish traces its roots to a classic French dish, lobster a l’Américaine, and Chef Ziebold’s reinvention of it with sole and polenta was brilliant. His precise cooking of the delicate sole and balance of flavors across the elements of the dish showcased his impeccable technique. The 2016 François Mikulski Meursault was a wonderful match. This 100% chardonnay comes from a variety of parcels in Meursault, in the Côte de Beaune, whose wines are produced separately and then blended. Natural yeasts are used in the fermentation, after which the wines undergo an élevage, or initial maturation, of 10 to 12 months. Winemaker François Mikulski limits the use of new oak to about 20% so that the wood does not mask the wine’s expression of the Meursault terroir. The wine and food in this course were seamlessly paired – each elevating the other.
Next was a phenomenal white quail boudin blanc with braised arrowleaf spinach, minced winter root vegetables, and a foie gras emulsion. Boudin blanc typically is a pork-based sausage, but Chef Ziebold reimagined this classic with the quail with amazing results. The boudin was rolled in deboned quail breast, and the resulting “sausage” was poached, then seared, and finally finished in the oven – a sophisticated and innovative technique that replaces a traditional sausage casing. The seasoning in the boudin was finely tuned and nuanced to amplify and enhance the quail’s natural flavor. The dish was completed with spinach lightly braised to retain its freshness and flavor, a perfect brunoise of root vegetables, and an indulgent foie gras emulsion. Absolutely delicious!
Wine for the boudin blanc – Maison Harbour Gevrey-Chambertin La Justice 2013 – was particularly noteworthy. Nicholas and Colleen Harbour, originally from Canada and the United States, respectively, first met while both were attending school in Luxembourg. They eventually decided to leave careers in the financial industry to pursue their dream of making wine in France. They studied the technical and business aspects of winemaking in Beaune and founded Maison Harbour in 2012. The 2013 is from Maison Harbour’s first year of production, which included only 1081 bottles of La Justice. The Gevrey-Chambertin appellation is known for exceptional Grand Cru and Premier Cru pinot noir grapes that reflect the site’s chalk, clay, and lime soils. The resulting wine features notes of fresh fruit, soft tannins, and a velvety texture. Chevalier Billy Thompson recognized the Harbours’ commitment to outstanding wine and has been a supporter of theirs. He and Maison Harbour generously provided this wine for the evening’s event. Beyond the great story of successful young winemakers, this impressive wine was an outstanding companion to Chef Ziebold’s remarkable boudin blanc.
Dinner continued with Kinship Beef Wellington, the chef’s refined, modern take on the classic. The beef was a slow-roasted ribeye from Martin Farms in The Plains, Virginia. Seared and finished in a hot oven, the beef was amazing – beautifully medium-rare, full of flavor, and incredibly tender. It became “Wellington” when paired with a mushroom chausson – a crispy puff pastry turnover that enrobed the traditional mushroom duxelles. Red wine and huckleberry braised beets finished the dish with a bit of acidity that was a fitting counterpoint to the richness of the beef and chausson. By deconstructing the traditional beef Wellington, Chef Ziebold was able to execute perfectly each component individually. They then came together on the plate and on the fork to reconstruct a decadent and luxurious beef Wellington. The 1998 Chateau Montrose Saint Estèphe offered robust notes of cassis, spice, and tobacco that richly complemented the Wellington. This classic Bordeaux blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, and petit verdot is aged for 12 months with 15% new oak. The evening’s bottles had aged nicely in the bailliage’s cellar and were a worthy match for Chef Ziebold’s sophisticated dish.
A wonderful cheese course preceded dessert. Aged manchego was presented with spice-roasted Medjool dates, fennel and pepper duxelles, and pumpkin fritters. Each of the accompaniments highlighted the cheese in its own way, with the fennel and pepper contrasting with the sweetness of the dates and the pumpkin fritter providing a tasty surprise. Penny’s Hill Shiraz 2002 from McLaren Vale, Australia paired nicely. Located just south of Adelaide, this region features a range of altitudes and vineyard-scale mesoclimates that enable it to produce a diversity of grape varieties, with shiraz leading the list.
Pastry Chef Anne Specker’s dessert was a most impressive culmination of an incredible meal. Her wildflower honey mousse cake was delectable, with orange blossom cream, coconut coriander granola, and passionfruit ice cream each adding their own wonderful flavors, textures, and temperatures to the elegant and refreshing composition. The restrained sweetness of the 2004 Château Coutet Barsac was a delightful pairing. Located just seven miles north of Sauternes, Château Coutet was built as a medieval fortress in the 14th century. It became a winemaking estate in 1643 – one of the first in the Sauternes appellation. While serving as Ambassador to France from 1785 to 1789, Thomas Jefferson called Château Coutet “the best Sauternes in Barsac,” This blend of sémillon and sauvignon blanc was designated a Premier Grand Cru in 1855.
As the evening concluded, Bailli Judy Mazza thanked Chef Ziebold and the entire Métier team for an evening of superb cuisine and outstanding service and presented the chef with a Chaîne wine coaster as a token of the bailliage’s appreciation. Vice Conseiller Gastronomique Michael McHenry added his congratulations and shared his insight into the impressive evening, remarking how Chef Ziebold had demonstrated respect for tradition while enthusiastically innovating and interpreting dishes in new ways as illustrated by the combination of textures in the celery root ribbon salad; the classic techniques but novel selection of ingredients and exquisite presentation of the Dover sole; and the delicacy of the quail boudin blanc, which changed the protein but kept the subtlety and nuances of the dish that inspired it. The attention to detail and precision in the kitchen were clear in the preparation of every dish and presentation of each plate. From concept to execution, the dinner was flawless. Finally Chef Ziebold shared with the group that developing the dishes took him and his team six to eight preparations and tastings to get the dish to the point where they felt that the dish was ready, with additional tastings to refine the wine pairings.
Amazing food, great wine, gracious service, and the camaraderie of the table that is a hallmark of the Chaîne all combined to create a truly memorable gastronomic event at the DC restaurant ranked #1 by Washingtonian magazine.