Jose Andres and Other Toques of the Town Honor Alice Waters

What do you cook for famed chef Alice Waters? Washington’s culinary celebrities faced this challenge at the unveiling of her portrait at the Smithsonian

Adam Bernbach making drinks with organic local gin.
Adam Bernbach making drinks with organic local gin. Feedloader (Clickability)

From guest blogger Jeanne Maglaty

Earlier this month, Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery unveiled a new portrait of Alice Waters, the legendary owner of Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, California, and pioneer of the farm-to-table movement.

In the photographic portrait, a mulberry tree looms over Waters, looking chic in black in the Edible Schoolyard, her organic teaching garden and kitchen project in Berkeley that connects kids to “real” food and encourages healthy eating.

“The thing that I love most is that I’m very small and nature is very big,” said Waters as she stood beside the portrait, teary-eyed.

Waters’ acolytes gathered around her as she spoke in the museum’s Kogod Courtyard, some as teary-eyed as she. But hundreds of other hungry guests dared not move closer and risk losing their place in line for the food at the event.

Washington, D.C, culinary celebrities had prepared edible innovations for a glittery reception. Here’s who and what you missed if you weren’t there:

Chef Cathal Armstrong of Restaurant Eve: Rappahannock River oysters with coriander migonette and green goddess vinaigrette

Chef Haidar Karoum of Proof and Estadio: Roasted winter vegetables with wheat berries and garlic and anchovy dressing

Adam Bernbach making drinks with organic local gin.
Adam Bernbach making drinks with organic local gin. Adam Bernbach

Chef-owner José Andrés of ThinkFoodGroup: Jamón Ibérico de Bellota Fermin—Acorn-fed, free-range Ibérico ham; Selecciónes de Embutidos Fermin—Selection of cured Spanish sausages

Chef-owner Mike Isabella of Graffiato: Crudo of wild striped bass with kumquats, cranberries and arugula

Chef-owner Nora Pouillon, Restaurant Nora: Winter root vegetable & Mushroom gratin with Ecopia Farms microlettuces

Chef-founder Todd Gray of Equinox Restaurant: Lightly smoked duck breast with savory fig chutney and French baguette crostinis

Owners Sue Conley and Peggy Smith of Cowgirl Creamery: Mount Tam cheese—bloomy, rinded triple crème, mushroomy, buttery; Red Hawk cheese—washed rind, triple crème, unctuous, aromatic; Wagon Wheel cheese—pressed and aged cow’s milk cheese, medium strength, semi-firm

Bar manager Adam Bernbach of Proof and Estadio: Catoctin Creek Gin with Tarragon-Pear Soda

Who could resist a single morsel? My daughter and I went back for seconds.

Waters has espoused her culinary philosophy based on using fresh, local products for 40 years. I asked cheesemonger Adam Smith of Cowgirl Creamery if it was difficult to decide what to serve at a reception for such a prominent person in his field.

Not at all, he answered. He selected three cheeses that the Petaluma, California, creamery made from organic milk purchased from a neighboring dairy.

Nearby, Bernbach mixed cocktails using gin that was distilled (from organic rye grain) only 50 miles away from the nation’s capital in Purcellville, Virginia.

Dave Woody’s selection as the portrait’s artist came with his first-prize win in the gallery’s Outwin Boochever competition in 2009. You can see the new portrait of Waters on the museum’s first floor near the G Street NW entrance.

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