The Best of Washington is always one of the biggest parties of the year for the restaurant industry, bringing more than 70 top-tier restaurants and big-name chefs to the National Building Museum. Wednesday night’s sold-out bash boasted some of the best food and drinks we’ve seen yet (and it seemed like the party people agreed, based on all the fabulous tweets and photos from the event). Like our Best of Washington feature, the party is a reminder of how vibrant and full of talent our city and its food scene have become. Whether you’re already plotting an approach for next year or looking to head out to dinner this weekend, here are some of our favorite dishes and drinks from last night.
Best (of many) gazpachos
The party’s theme revolved around vintage travel—think hosts dressed as flight attendants and a steamer trunk centerpiece—and while there were no guidelines for food, one dish was replicated by many: gazpacho. Chefs dished up many renditions on the cold soup, from watermelon-flavored riffs at Boqueria to a creamy, semi-sweet coconut take by Graffiato. Our two favorites leaned more classic: BlackSalt’s tomato gazpacho topped with panzanella salad, and a smooth, silky version drizzled with olive oil from Estadio.
Best (of many) crudo dishes
Raw and lightly cured fish popped up almost as much as gazpacho. We loved light and refreshing bites, such as simple tuna sashimi with soy-yuzu vinaigrette by Majestic, Pearl Dive’s briny, freshly shucked oysters (and the crab-shrimp salsa scooped onto corn chips), and Westend Bistro’s bright scallop and bass ceviche with yuzu sorbet. Also of note in the raw meat category: a boldly flavored lamb tartare with smoked egg yolk by Ripple.
It looked like CityZen’s Eric Ziebold was presiding over a table of pâté, but what we found was a divinely rich meatless version: wild mushroom torchon on toasted brioche over onion mostarda. (The chef is known to put together one of the best vegetarian tasting menus around.) Over at Rasika’s table, makki samosa with pineapple chutney made for another tasty bite.
Best innovative twists
Feeding hundreds of hungry people didn’t deter chefs from breaking out their playful talents. Rogue 24’s RJ Cooper proved whimsical as always with corn espuma topped with a smoky bacon cracker. Over at Lincoln, a surprising riff on the cured-salmon theme was a salmon toast with celery salad and cream cheese ice cream. Certain restaurants also got creative with their serving accessories, including mini clothespins to hold together shrimp and watermelon radish tacos at Central and handy food and beverage tray holders by California Tortilla.
Best comfort food
Sure, it’s nice to sip and snack, but eventually those Patrón margaritas start catching up and you want something heartier. We could have made a meal from Ardeo & Bardeo’s bacon-jam-topped deviled eggs, clam chowder at Ris, Anthony Lombardo’s corned beef on rye at 1789, and standout bánh mì hot dogs from Haute Dogs and Fries on perfectly griddled buns (a tough feat for reception-style service). For dessert: Georgetown Cupcake’s lava fudge variety. Perhaps the best bite of the night also falls in this category: DGS Delicatessen’s simple yet delicious GLT made with “Jewish bacon”—a perfectly crunchy piece of fried chicken skin. New menu item, please!
We took a (reluctant) break from the Patrón to sample specialty drinks such as Boqueria’s deliciously reviving peach sangria, and dangerously addictive pisco sours from master mixologist Todd Thrasher.
Have another favorite from the evening? Let us know in the comments!