Chefs for Equality, now in its third year, has been evolving into one of the premiere events for Washington's food industry. The fundraiser for the Human Rights Campaign's marriage equality efforts draws big-name chefs, big-dollar auction bids and big crowds. Read on for Hangover Observations from this year's fete, which was held at the Ritz-Carlton in the West End.
1) Epic Tables: One of the main draws for Chefs for Equality each year (for the high roller crowd, anyway) are the private tables pairing up high-profile chefs. For $5,000 a pop, diners can get a multi-course meal prepared by such combinations as Peter Chang and Scott Drewno, or Spike Gjerde and Jeremiah Langhorne. A particular impressive combo this year: Fabio Trabocchi, Eric Ziebold, Frank Ruta, Patrick O'Connell and Michel Richard. Together, they whipped up such courses as End of Summer Pot Au Fu and Maine Lobster Cassoulet.
2) Classy half-smokes and killer pasta: Guests didn't need a fancy table slot to enjoy some impressive dishes, though. Some of the highlights: a braised rabbit pasta from Alba Osteria, hamachi from BLT Steak, Burmese chicken noodle soup from Water & Wall and pickled half smokes from Red Apron, brined in Gordy's pickle juice and speared with a pickle.
3) And yet, some people just wanted a burger: Overheard from multiple food industry folks: "I hear Shake Shack is here. Have you seen them?" They were, in fact, present, but making salted caramel custard rather than burgers.
4) Foie-sure: Luxury ingredients were frequently highlighted at the event. At least three restaurants were serving foie-gras dishes, including Le Diplomate and Red Hen, while oysters were also prominently featured (chefs told Eater they were discouraged from offering a knee-jerk soup dish, which can be a go-to item for cooks having to prepare for a crowd).
5) A special anniversary: It was a big week for food critic and cookbook author David Hagedorn, the event's organizer. The day before, he'd celebrated his first wedding anniversary (the couple was married by Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last year) the previous evening at Fiola, where they were married. "We're still accepting gifts," Hagedorn quipped to the crowd.
6) Wardrobe notes: Though the typical Washington cocktail wardrobe of black dress, black heels was duly represented, there were still some fashion risks. Sequins, neon pink ties and even a train were all worn by attendees. Particularly striking: a drag queen in a comic-print dress, with a design resembling Marilyn Monroe.
7) It wasn't a toga party but: you still could get a jello shot. Owen Thomson was serving up a tequila sangria drink that was served with a Chartreuse jello shot on top. Not for the faint of heart.
8) Star Watch: No Tim Gunn this year, but Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe gave a brief speech outlying his support for gay marriage in the state. Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, who worked to overturn Proposition 8 in California, were also there.
9) Which food writer to bid on? Both Tom Sietsema of The Washington Post and Jessica Sidman of the Washington City Paper offered up themselves as a dinner date as an auction item. On Twitter, @FoodCurmudgeon said, "Curious why dinner w/ @jsidman is valued less than dinner with @tomsietsema but this is HIGHLY odd." Eater didn't stick around to hear which dinner date snagged the higher total. Update: A rep says the Sietsema item went for $651 and the Sidman one went for $150.
10): Best. Goodie bags. Ever.: Attendees got to take home high-end balsamic vinegar, whoopie pies, Poste's pomegranate tonic, pork-corn from Bayou Bakery, jam from Mason-Dixie, pop tarts from Ted's Bulletin, a $25 Total Wine gift certificate and more, all in a cute Salt & Sundry tote.