After the formal gowns had been gone back into cold storage, and the tuxedos packed away or returned to the rental, Inaugural enthusiasts had one more opportunity to celebrate: the 5th annual Sips & Suppers closed out last month with two days of partying with a sense of purpose.
This year's event benefited the DC Central Kitchen and Martha's Table, two charitable organizations that serve the most underserved communities in the District.
The event, which attracted hundreds of participants and a couple of celebrity chefs, featured one day of Sips—hand crafted cocktails served with panache by the city's best-known mixologists. The drinks were complemented by small dishes from chefs around the city who served up bite-sized noshes at stations set up throughout the state-of-the-art Newseum in dowtown D.C.
The event has grown to include nearly 100 chefs, mixologists ad food artisans, and came about as a result of President Barack Obama's first Inaugural call to service. However, it was not meant to compete with the thousands of opportunities to volunteer during the pre-Inaugural weekend, as Sips & Suppers closes out such city-wide events with style.
The annual fundraiser was hosted by celebrity Chef José Andrés, food writer Joan Nathan and Chef Alice Waters of San Francisco's Chez Panisse, who was among the first American chefs to focus on locally grown, organic produce.
For $95 a ticket, patrons noshed on everything from freshly shucked oysters at the Rappahannock Oyster Company, which has a presence in Union Market in Northeast Washington, to gourmet grits and tender spice-rubbed turkey dished up by DC Central Kitchen's own chef Rock Harper. Andrés also trains chefs at DC Central Kitchen to help prepare for the workforce.
The second day of Sips & Suppers is where the real revenue, and the generosity of the Washington community shows through. More than 20 seated dinners were served in the homes of hosts and hostesses around the metro area, having been artisanally created by restaurant chefs in their home kitchens.
David Lawrence, owner and chef at San Francisco's 1300 on Fillmore, a restaurant serving up "Soulful American cuisine accompanied by a list of the finest California wines," according to restaurant literature. The eatery opened on Fillmore Street in San Francisco's Mission district in 2007, garnering rave reviews.
"Someone who I worked with knew Joan [Nathan] who organized this, and said 'Hey Chef, do you want to go on out and be a part of this,' and I said 'Yes, I do!'," said Lawrence, a tall, slender gentleman with a heavy British accent that came from his upbringing as the child of Jamaican émigrés to London.
"Sounds like a great idea. And then Alice Waters is involved, and she is a goddess. If Alice is involved, I definitely want to be involved." He and Alice Waters go back to the 1990s, when Lawrence first came to the United States from a stellar career in The United Kingdom where he worked at five restaurants owned by Albert and Michael Roux, owners of the world-renowned La Gavroche and the Waterside Inn, both three-star Michelin restaurants.
While at Cityscape Restaurant in San Francisco, Lawrence founded the "Chefs for Kids Program," which raised thousands of dollars for the 'Tenderloin After School Program." In 1994, the City of San Francisco recognized his efforts by proclaiming March 10, 1994, "David Lawrence Day." Lawrence and Waters share a philosophy of philanthropy and fresh foods even for the most economically disadvantaged communities.
Chef Lawrence prepared a meal for 20 or so guests, who each paid more than $500 a person, at the Capitol Hill home of Suellen and Billy Lazarus.
Consisting of "mostly friends and neighbors," Lawrence served guests hors d'ouevres of shrimp hushpuppies, accompanied by Chef Rob Weland of Cork Wine Bar on the 14th Street restaurant corridor.
Coining the multi-course meal "traditional Southern fare with a French twist," diners snacked on miniature biscuits topped with ham, French baguette with sautéed wild mushrooms and as a surprise during the meal, Chef Lawrence created a tapioca mac-n-cheese topped with butter-poached lobster.
Kristen Gustafson Khanna, who was a guest at the classy, sit-down meal, also donated wines from her father's Sonoma County, California vineyard to accompany the meal—a Sauvignon Blanc and hearty Zinfandel, to accompany the meal.
Other celebrity chefs, such as Carla Hall from ABC's "The Chew," prepared gourmet dinners throughout the metro area. And other hosts like Suellen and Billy Lazarus, graciously opened their doors to dine, sip wine and share conversations with other like-minded people, in service and with a sense of purpose.