StarChefs.Com Rising Stars Event, Washington, DC

On a humid, way-too-warm (compared to recent days) October evening, we headed up to the penthouse floor of 101 Constitution Ave NW.  We were happy to attend the StarChefs.com Rising Stars Gala.  We were guests of Highland Park Scotch, which I felt like wasn't a conflict of interest because...it's not food!  Thank you, Highland Park (and Rebecca from M Booth)!   It was such a fun night--just eating, drinking, and then rinse, repeat.

The place was culinary star-studded, including past Top Chef contestants Brian Voltaggio from Volt and Mike Isabella, formerly of Zaytinya and future at Graffiato. Our pals from Town House were there, or maybe they just feel like friends because their intimate restaurant is in the quite-intimate setting of  population 1,827, only slightly larger than our high school.

I tried almost everything, and here were the standouts: 

Nick Stefanelli, Bibiana, Hay smoked veal sweetbreads, Jerusalem artichokes, and black truffle-anchovy dressing.  I dare you to find me sweetbreads I won't like. Also, we went to Bibiana a few months ago and it was outstanding.

Benjamin Lambert, Restaurant Nora, Hawaiian hearts of palm salad, Thai basil, cucumber, mango, coriander berries, basil seeds, heirloom tomato water, and hearts of palm sorbet:  OK, so usually we aren't the savory sorbet type (or even the sorbet-type to begin with).  This dish just worked, it was awesome.  It was cool, crunchy, and, pardon my Top Chef judgeness, it had the right amount of acid to keep it interesting (and from being dessert).  
Rubén García, minibar by josé andrés and ThinkFoodGroup, cotton candy eel:  I've never been to minibar--tear--so this is as close as I've come.

Jason Alley, Comfort, Braised Australian Beef Cheeks, Juniper, Ginger Beer, Stone Ground Grits, and Arugula: To me, the beef cheeks weren't amazingly flavorful, but the grits were outstanding.  So the one bite together really sung.

Best dishes of the night in my humble opinion:  ::drumroll::

Dean Maupin, Keswick Hall, Duck confit and ricotta gnocchi with butternut squash, arugula, Cracklin's, and grated Wisconsin SarVecchio Parmesan: I mean. Do I have to explain why? Totally stay at the hotel when you do dinner!  It's only $500/night in the cheapest room!  Can you say bargain?   [sarcasm]  But really, go to the restaurant.  Priceline Negotiate yourself something reasonable a few miles away.

Tiffany MacIsaac, Birch & Barley (Washington, DC), Chocolate peanut butter tart, malted milk sorbet, and whiskey vanilla shake: The PB tart was unbelievable.  It wasn't super sweet, it was rich and perfect.  The peanut butter tasted like peanuts, smashed up, not candy.

Click to see what EatMore DrinkMore had to say on the matter (and in a much more timely fashion, I might add).

Definitely check out the restaurants and look for a spin of the winning dishes.  


  1. Sounds FABULOUS! I'm so jealous. :)

  2. Man, i hate hearts of palm, but that dish from restaurant nora sounds great. I went there once for a birthday, it was soo good