Sips & Suppers Benefits Central Kitchen, Martha's Table

2/22/2013, 11:29 a.m.

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 Jose Andres, 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. Andres 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 emigres 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.