Last night, the W+F fest took over restaurants around town for the Dine Arounds, the highlight of the festival, when guest chefs join the local talent in the kitchen, and featured winemakers pair their wines with each course. It's usually a great, convivial kind of experience.
The Dine Arounds sell out quick, so I was sure to buy my tickets back in August when they went on sale. At the time, I chose Ken Vedrinski and Introdacqua, his new restaurant that was planned to open in the Cigar Factory. Unfortunately, that didn't happen after the Cigar Factory development ran into some trouble. And then Michael White, the guest chef from Marea, pulled out. But I wasn't too worried since Vedrinski can make a stellar meal all by himself.
Despite White and the Cigar Factory flaking on him, Vedrinski moved the party to Trattoria Lucca, his very small dning room on Bogard Street, and invited Nicholas Steffenelli from Bibiana in Washington DC and Jeff Michaud from Osteria in Philadelphia to join him in the kitchen, and the three of them prepared an amazing five-course meal.
We sat at the "fun table" with the winemaker Gianluca Garofoli, Matt from Grassroots Wine. Nicholas Steffenelli's wife Romy, and some rowdy friends of Jeff Michaud.
The dinner started with some of Vedrinski's super fresh crudo with bright citrus flavors and slices of fresh radish. Winemaker Gianluca Garofoli paired it with a beautiful Verdicchio from his vineyard in the Marches region of Italy.
Next up was a richly-flavored beet and goat cheese agnolotti, which Chef Michaud had rolled out on Vedrinski's marble-topped bar earlier in the day. That was also paired with a Verdicchio, a white wine that became popular in the 60s and made an appearance in the Godfather movies.
The next course once again showed Vedrinski's passion for seafood. Tiny local clams and a hefty slice of grilled Columbian River sturgeon came swimming in an orange-flavored broth with little tiny pearls of fresh pasta (fregola sarda). The dish was expertly matched with a light-bodied red wine "Ambro" Rosso Piceno. Very nice.
Nicholas Steffenelli sent out the heartiest dish of the night with his slow-braised veal cheeks and wild mushrooms with creamy polenta.
The dessert course by Michaud also used polenta, and turned it into a sweet and creamy revelation, topping it with gianduja mousse and candied hazelnuts. Beautiful.