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Alice Waters, Carla Hall & More at Sips Event

[Photos: Paul Kim Photography and Ken Cedeno]

It was a weekend of eating, drinking, and fundraising for some of DC's better-known chefs and food lovers. Sips & Suppers, a food and hunger benefit, has raised more than $1 million since it began five years ago. The proceeds are split between two local nonprofits, Martha's Table and DC Central Kitchen, and the weekend of events kicked off at the Newseum on Saturday.

The Sips opening reception included more than 800 guests, dozens of chefs and mixologists, and three elevator bars that ferried attendees between floors of the Newseum. It also had all the makings of a good hangover, especially for those who spent more than just a few minutes moving in one of those glass-enclosed elevators.

Eater was there to cover it all, from celebrity book signings to the food and wine tastings. Read on to learn where chef and author Alice Waters eats when she's in town, the latest intelligence on DC bars and restaurants to come, and more.

1. Where's José? José Andrés has been a supporter of Sips & Suppers for years, but he missed Saturday's reception because he was traveling to Spain for the 2014 Madrid Fusion food festival. This is the fifth year that Sips & Suppers has been held, and almost from the start José has played a role, says Michael Curtin, CEO of DC Central Kitchen. "José came to DC Central Kitchen almost 15 years ago, and he really has never left. As his fame and empire has grown, so too has his commitment to the kitchen," Curtin says. But, a big part of the José Andrés team was working this weekend weekend. Chefs from Oyamel and Jaleo were at Saturday's reception, and Zaytinya chef Michael Costa participated in the Sunday supper series.

2. So what's the Suppers part? The eating and drinking continued into Sunday, with more than 30 privately-held dinners. Top chefs were invited into their homes of DC's elite to cook for dinner parties. Chefs included Spike Gjerde of Woodberry Kitchen (Baltimore), Alice Waters of Chez Panisse (Berkeley, Calif.), and Paul Qui of Qui and East Side King (Austin). Local chefs, like Blue Duck Tavern's Sebastien Archambault, Table's Fredrik de Pue, and Daikaya's Katsuya Fukushima, also participated in the Sunday suppers.

3. Book signings and celebrity chef sightings: Before the Newseum party, about 100 guests received early access to a book signing with Alice Waters (chef and author of The Art of Simple Food), Joan Nathan (author of Jewish Cooking in America), and Eric Asmiov (New York Times wine critic and author of How to Love Wine: A Memoir and Manifesto).

4. Carla Talks Comfort Food: Also, on hand during Sips & Suppers was "The Chew's" Carla Hall. She's getting ready to release her second cookbook in April. The book focuses on comfort food from around the globe.

"If I say comfort food you think southern dishes, like mac and cheese, collard greens, and fried chicken, but this book is about cooking from around the world, like Indian, Thai, and Italian food. This book is different because it's a celebration of people, culture, and their foods," Hall says.

5. The restaurant of choice for Alice Waters: Almost every time she's in town, you can find Waters at Buck's Fishing & Camping in Northwest, DC. She loves the staff there and the food concept is similar to her own style of cooking, she says. Another recent favorite for her has been The Red Hen in Bloomingdale.

6. What was Eric Asimov drinking? "A fragrant, easygoing wine" as he described it. The wine was one of the Early Mountain Vineyard samples being served on Saturday. It comes from the Madison, Va. vineyard of Steve and Jean Case, the former AOL executives.

For Sunday's supper, Asimov was pulling together a wine pairing for the R.J. Cooper/Katsuya Fukushima dinner at Rogue 24. The wines come from the Gustafson Family Vineyard in the Dry Creek Valley region of California.

7. Let's talk food and drink. The Vietnamese pork buns from Zentan chef Jennifer Nguyen, a bag of olive oil potato chips from José Andrés Foods, the tuna ceviche from Oyamel, and Jeff Faile cocktails, with a mix of grapefruit, green tea, and Beefeater gin, were among some of the items served. Faile is one of the newest additions to the Neighborhood Restaurant Group and is heading the bar at Dupont Circle's Iron Gate.

8. What was on the menu for Erik Bruner-Yang and Paul Qui supper? One of the most talked about dinners on Sunday was a collaboration between Toki Underground's Erik Bruner-Yang and Paul Qui. Qui is a James Beard award recipient and season nine winner on Top Chef. The menu Sunday was a mix of Asian dishes, like Filipino ceviche, family style shabu shabu, and Taiwanese-style oyster pancakes. While he was in town, Qui's East Side King team also hosted a pop-up event at Toki Underground Friday — at one time during the evening, the host was predicting six hour waits for the seating.

9. The ups and downs of the elevator bars. Celebrity Cruises converted the Newseum's glass elevators into vertical craft cocktail bars. They ran all night, and guests could linger inside to sample Italian, American and Caribbean-themed drinks. The ups: a scotch lemon-flavored drink from Jesse Raines at Farmers Fishers Bakers. The downs: drinking inside a moving bar can make for a disorienting ride.

10. Barrel coming soon to Capitol Hill. Expect bourbon, whiskey, and craft beer on Capitol Hill by early-March. Nick Crutchfield, who hails from tidewater Virginia, and most recently worked as the lead bar man at Commonwealth Restaurant and Skybar in Charlottesville, Va., will soon head-up drink operations at Barrel, a southern-themed bar replacing 18th Amendment.

Crutchfield, offered a taste of what's to come with his take on a Negroni. "This is not a vegetarian friendly drink," he says. That's because the cocktail is topped with beef jerky from Red Apron Butchery. The drink also uses royal dock gin, orange bitters, and Zucca, an Italian aperitif.

11. More on the Charles Steak & Ice closure: Taylor Gourmet owners David Mazza and Casey Patton were busy at work dressing up sausage and gorgonzola cheese crostinis. The small bite was topped with a walnut and honey vinaigrette.

When asked about the future of Charles Steak & Ice, the guys remained pretty tight lipped. "We are closed for renovations right now," Patten says. But, expect to see the space open again soon and with some additional menu items, he says.

12. Local wines: Many of the wines featured on Saturday came from Virginia wineries. Jarad Slipp, formerly the restaurant director at CityZen, was on-hand pouring RdV Vineyard's Bordeaux blend. Last fall, he moved from DC to Delaplane, Va. to take over as RdV's estate director. What makes this vineyard unique, he says, is the sloped land and granite soil bed, which yield for some ripe grapes.

13. Clementines for dessert: One of the dessert favorites came from 2941 Restaurant pastry chef Caitlin Dysart. The Springfield, Va. native served an orange sorbet with sesame flavored blondie bars. To finish it off, she halved and hollowed out clementines, turning the orange rinds into miniature bowls.

14. "Date night" for Firefly's Jon Harris. Firefly's bar manager Jon Harris was busy at work, and he had a little help from his girlfriend, Stephanie Truax. She was prepping glasses for Harris's drink concoction called "The 1910 Hong Kong Country Club Special." It's a vodka infused drink with Earl Grey tea and five spice powder. "It's the kind of drink an old Englishman would order in Hong Kong," Harris says. The drink is topped with housemade lime cordial, port wine, and a sprig of thyme. How exactly did Harris trick his girlfriend into assisting him behind the bar? He told her it was date night, Traux says.
—Tim Ebner
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