Summer Sojourn to Lansdowne
by Bill Babash, Vice Chargé de Presse
Bailliage of Greater Washington, DC continued its tradition of a “summer sojourn” away from the heat and humidity of the nation’s capital with a delicious, relaxing, and informative weekend at the Lansdowne Resort in Ashburn, Virginia on July 9 and 10, 2021.
The weekend began Friday evening with a Champagne reception in the resort’s Terrace Room with its expansive views of the manicured grounds leading to the Potomac River. Gathering in person for the first time since February 2020, the bailliage was thrilled to reconnect with friends and meet new members while sipping Le Mesnil Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Millésimé 2009. Distinctive among Champagnes, this wine is made from 100% chardonnay and is aged for a minimum of three years in chalk cellars. Established in 1937, Le Mesnil today owns 750 acres of vineyards in the Grand Cru village of Le Mesnil-sur-Oger in the Côtes de Blancs region of Champagne. With chalky soil conditions on sunny plains and hillsides, Le Mesnil is widely regarded as producing the finest chardonnay in region. In addition to passed hors d’oeuvres, attendees were treated to platters of artisanal charcuterie provided by George Williams, proprietor of The Ugly Pig in Annapolis, Maryland. Selections included pork liver paté and venison with ground pistachio among numerous other hand-crafted delicacies.
The gathering then moved into the dining room for an exquisite five course dinner prepared by Lansdowne’s Executive Chef, Maître Rôtisseur Marcus Repp. The chef’s amuse bouche – a seared tuna crudo with pea pods and enoki mushrooms finished with a Szechuan chili-garlic sauce and grated 1000-year-old egg – was a sophisticated start to the meal. Masumi Okuden Kantsukuri Junmai “Mirror of Truth” was an inspired pairing. This Junmai-grade sake is a pure-rice sake with flavor notes ranging from floral to dried fruit. Its rich, smooth mouthfeel and a dry finish was outstanding with the luxurious tuna.
Chicken galantine followed. The chef noted that this is a traditional dish, but from Chef Repp’s kitchen it was anything but ordinary. The chicken was sourced from Whiffletree Farms in nearby Warrenton, Virginia, and the preparation included mushrooms, garlic, and pistachios. Blueberry sauce, beet powder, and aioli each added intriguing flavor nuances and vibrant color to the dish. 2017 Cantina Terlan Terlano Terlaner Classico paired nicely. From the South Tyrol region of northern Italy, just 50 miles from the Austrian border, this wine has been produced since the Terlano winery was founded in 1893. The Terlano coöperative now includes over 140 growers working 470 acres and produces 70% white and 30% red wines. The evening’s Terlaner Classico is a blend of 60% pinot blanc, 30% chardonnay, and 10% sauvignon blanc and is slowly fermented in stainless steel and aged 80% in stainless steel and 20% in wood barrels.
Next was French gazpacho with tiger prawns, lemon, and croutons. The velvety gazpacho was bursting with bright summer flavors while the tiger prawn was tender, briny, and beautifully grilled. Ulacia Getariako Txakolina 2013 was a delightful match. Now in its third generation of winemakers, the Ulacia family has owned the estate in Getaria, near the French border in Spain’s Basque region, since the 1940s. Their Txakolina is a full-bodied, lightly sparkling wine produced with native grape varieties Hondarribi Zuri (95%) and Hondarribi Beltza (5%) and noted for its fruity aromas and well-balanced acidity.
The savory courses culminated with a medallion of beef tenderloin with lobster Thermador crust, morel reduction, vegetable marmite, and mousse de pommes. Chef Repp’s preparation of the classic “surf and turf” pair was superb – tender and flavorful beef grilled medium-rare topped with generous amounts of succulent lobster with earthy morels and asparagus completing the composition. Château Clerc Milon 1998 was a worthy partner to the dish. Located in the northeast of the Pauillac appellation in Bordeaux, the Clerc Milon estate boasts 101 acres of vines with an average age of 53 years, among the oldest in the region. The 1998 vintage is a blend of cabernet sauvignon (50%), merlot (33%), cabernet franc (14%), and petit verdot (3%). It had aged beautifully in the bailliage’s wine cellar, developing a dark garnet color and aromas of black cherry, oak, and vanilla with mature tannins that gave way to a fresh and minerally finish.
Dessert was indulgent, especially for chocolate lovers. Mousse au chocolat, crispy chocolate cake, and praline showcased a range of textures and rich chocolate flavors. Twenty year old Ferreira Porto Duque de Braganca was a great match. Founded in 1751, Ferreira is known for producing quintessentially Portuguese wines. This Tawny Port is a blend of Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Barroca, Tinto Cão, Tinta Roriz, and Tinta Amarela grapes and is aged in oak, creating a wine with aromas of plum, cherry, and spice with balanced tannins and sweetness.
As dinner concluded, Bailli Judy Mazza introduced the kitchen brigade and serving staff and thanked them for the superbly executed cuisine and outstanding service. She then presented Chef Repp and Lansdowne’s Managing Director, Maître Hotelier Kevin Carter, with the bailliage’s challenge coin, each in a display case. The coins are given exclusively to members of the Bailliage of Greater Washington. She also presented Chef Repp with a Chaîne plate in appreciation of his not only creating a memorable meal but also coordinating the entirely of bailliage’s weekend sojourn at Lansdowne.
Lansdowne then had a treat for the bailliage as servers wheeled into the dining room a trolley filled with after-dinner drinks, offering diners their choice of cordial or liqueur. As attendees were enjoying this generous finale, Kevin Carter introduced Mr. Ci Zhonghua, the owner of Lansdowne Resort since 2017. Speaking through an interpreter, the Hong Kong native welcomed attendees and offered a toast to thank the bailliage for choosing Lansdowne for its summer sojourn.
The summer sojourn continued Saturday morning with coffee, sparkling wine, and viennoiserie greeting bailliage members in Lansdowne’s golf club. Chef Repp welcomed everyone back and introduced master butcher Marc Pauvert who was eager to demonstrate the art of butchery on the 150 pound half pig that awaited him.
Marc is a native of France and began his apprenticeship in Chamonix at the age of 14. His career took him to Paris, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia before coming to the United States in 1986. Noting the prevalence of large-scale, industrial meat production, he is now focused on teaching what he calls the “lost art” of butchery.
Participants gathered around Marc’s worktable to watch the master up close. Deftly wielding his knives and a saw, Marc broke down the pig into the full range of cuts, showing how virtually every piece is useful. Tenderloin, ribs, ham, and belly were familiar cuts that emerged from the five-foot long pig half while the spider steak (a muscle at the hip joint) was among the less familiar preparations. He even showed how inedible bits can be turned into dog treats. He also shared insight into the economics of butchery, explaining, for example, that he can make four 15-serving terrines from the pig and by selling each serving for $15 he can pay for the entire pig. It was a fascinating and educational demonstration and a rare opportunity to see a true master practicing his craft. Judy Mazza expressed everyone’s admiration of Marc’s skill and thanked him as she presented him with a Chaîne wine coaster.
It was then time for lunch. Chef Repp had prepared a delicious summer menu inspired by Marc’s butchery demonstration. The first course included a selection of terrines, patés, and porchetta, accompanied by pickled vegetables and house-made bread. That was followed by a grilled seafood nage – cured pork belly, potatoes niçoise, mussels, and clams in an aromatic court bouillon with subtle Szechuan spices, served with a seared scallop and salmon fillet. The preparation, flavors, and presentation of both courses were superb. Hazelnut gelato and raspberry sorbet, served with dark chocolate sauce, were delicious conclusions the meal.
Lunch was accompanied by a flight of Virginia rosé wines, all produced near Lansdowne: Sunset Rosé from Sunset Hill Vineyard in Purcellville was light-bodied and slightly off-dry with refreshing cherry and raspberry notes from 100% chambourcin grapes. Shy Ox Rosé was a bright, dry wine with notes of grapefruit from Ox-Eye Vineyards in Staunton. Rappahannock Cellars’ Sparkling Rosé was fermented in stainless steel tanks and French oak barrels and produced in the methode champenoise. From the town of Huntly, this delightful bubbly boasted notes of tropical fruit and strawberry. This was a great opportunity to sample and appreciate the high quality of Virginia wines.
As lunch concluded, participants lingered over their wine and conversation, happy to at last be able to enjoy – in person! – the camaraderie of the table that is the hallmark of the Chaîne.