It probably wasn't smart to dine out in Washington last night. All the big-name chefs were packed inside the Ronald Reagan Building for Capitol Food Fight, the annual Iron Chef-ish battle between six local chef competitors, along with two floors full of 40-plus restaurant sampling-menu favorites. Highlights included thehyper-usage of butternut squash and tuna tartare (just about every restaurant seemed to highlight one of the two) and emcee Anthony Bourdain looking pretty svelte on stage in his skin-tight jeans. All the money raised from the $125 tickets benefited D.C. Central Kitchen, a nonprofit culinary school of sorts for homeless looking to build careers in the kitchen.
Bourdain and his co-emcee, the tapas restaurant mogul Jose Andres, narrated the battle on stage as attendees scarfed down spicy lobster rolls and bite-sized short ribs. In the final round, rising pretty boy chef Barton Seaver took the throne from Italian chef Roberto Donna, last year's winner, and his teammate Tony Chittum, recently reviewed in the New York Times. The secret ingredient? Red orach, a spinachlike green that's actually red and is unfamiliar to even "food people." Since this battle isn't as intense as the bona fide Iron Chef, competitors knew the secret ingredient options pretty far in advance. They included goat cheese; dried, pressed mullet roe, called botargo; foie gras; and red orach. Wegmans grocery store—now my favorite grocery store that I've never actually been to—provided the pantry full of other usable ingredients.
Seaver is known in D.C. for his sustainable seafood mission. His restaurant, Hook, which opened in May, flaunts a menu of fresh-caught tuna, Arctic char, and wahoo, and has been buzzing since it opened. Salmon and trout everywhere must have been smiling last night as their cheerleader brought home the gold. Not bad for a 28-year-old chef to beat an Italian chef personality almost twice his age. Way to go, Barton.
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