Thanks to Lisa at Dining in DC, I lucked out and won tickets to Toast of the Town DC, a shindig thrown by Wine Enthusiast magazine.
Steve and I love love love wine (and love love love food), so we were both really excited to be able to go to the event. It was held at the National Building Museum, a gorgeous building near Chinatown. Steve and I joked that it would have been a great wedding or reception venue (take a look, any brides-to-be!). My BlackBerry photos hardly do it justice - it's just beautiful.
There were tons of people there already when we got there at 6:45 or so. We arbitrarily turned left at the doorway and made our first stop at the Aveniu tables - right by Sonoma's table.
Note: Since we tasted so many wines, there's no way I could document all of them. Plus I forgot a pen (stupidly) so I couldn't write them down (or juggle a BlackBerry and a wine glass). My favorite wines/tables are at the end - after all the food. :)
So. Sonoma. Their offering was a great taste of their housemade ham salad on a dill biscuit. The only down side was that the little sandwiches were TINY - barely bigger around than a quarter. They were still very delicious - creamy ham salad with just enough of the biscuit. I didn't see the salad on the restaurant's menu, so I'm glad we got a taste of it Friday night.
We moved on (tasting several wines in between) to Punk's Backyard Grill.
I actually saw someone walking away from their table with a plate and immediately made a beeline for it. And was SO happy I did - I was rewarded with a lovely little plate of duck confit salad - mixed greens, delicious duck confit, pickled grapes, manchego and a lemon vinaigrette and pinot noir reduction. I thought the manchego added a little too much salt (or maybe it was the lemony tang), but Steve argued the other way - that the pinot reduction made it too sweet. Either way - we both enjoyed the dish.
More wine (LOTS more wine). The people staffing the tables (both from the wineries or the distributors/importers) were pouring extra-large tasting pours. Really, they were glasses. I usually don't pour wine out while tasting (seems almost insulting to waste it), but I had to start doing it about an hour into the event. I just couldn't drink all of it!
Our next stop was the Ruth's Chris table. When we first walked up to the table, Steve wasn't that interested in it. I believe his exact words were, "It's a steakhouse. If it's not steak, I'm not eating it." Hah. They didn't have steak, but they did have a tasty, light crabtini - chunks of rich crab tossed in a vinaigrette and some remoulade. It was the perfect dish to pair with the New Zealand wines (especially the sauvignon blancs) at the next table. Steve eventually got his own little mini martini glass of crab - and liked it!
Our next stop was at Capital Grille's table and it was a definite favorite.
Sliced filet with cipollinis and roasted mushrooms. I mean, there's really no better combination than steak, mushrooms and onions, but this was absolutely delicious. The onions and mushrooms were so tender and juicy - the perfect complement to the filet, which was nice and medium rare. The only thing I would have appreciated was a knife - I ended up using Steve's fork (after he devoured his taste of the filet) to pull my slices apart into bites. I haven't been out to Tyson's to go to Capital Grille, but it's definitely on my summer list now.
After Capital Grille, we ventured to the other side of the room (because yes, we had only gone through half of the room). We didn't make it very far, though - we stopped at the first tasting table and ended up having a long conversation with one of the pourers. We started chatting about the wine (which was fabulous) but ended up talking about all kinds of stuff. He had some great stories about his younger days as a sommelier.
So after that detour, we headed over to the Morton's table.
Yumyumyumyumyum. Just looking at this picture makes me want to go back in time and grab another plate from their table. They were offering up filet mignon with a dollop of horseradish cream sauce and it. was. delicious. The filet (as you can see above) was cooked perfectly. Not too rare, not too well done. And the horseradish cream sauce was so tangy and spicy - went perfectly with the filet.
What goes better with good steak than a good dessert? Morton's also offered up a lovely little bite-size chocolate cake with a raspberry on top. It was perfect.
Hands down the best table of the evening.
Although...SEI's offerings were pretty awesome too. Not only did they serve up a delicious pseudo-ceviche with tuna, but they also had a wasabi cocktail.
It was almost the end of the night, so I don't remember all the components to the tuna, but it was fantastic. And it paired well with the wasabi cocktail - which, incidentally, didn't have any wasabi in it. It was made from ginger and habanero peppers. Tasted JUST like wasabi though.
I knew it was getting late when a woman leaned over and yelled, "Where'd you get that shot?" when I was tasting the cocktail. I don't know how long she lasted in her stilettos - they were reeeally tall and she was starting to wobble a bit. Then again...so was the rest of the crowd. Lots of wine + lots of people = tipsyness. There was a very loud crowd exiting the museum right as Steve and I were, and I think they had taken advantage of the tastings more than Steve and I had.
Our last stop was at Tonic Restaurant at Quigley's Pharmacy (a new-to-me restaurant). They had mini pulled pork sandwiches that, while not the best of the evening, were tasty and heavier - just what we needed at the end of the night. The pork almost had a smoky taste to it - reminded me of a barbecue place back in Texas!
We missed out on a few other places I would have liked to try, but it seemed like a fair amount of the food vendors closed up shop early...
Since I couldn't possibly post without mentioning our favorite wine tables, here goes:
Aveniu - Great sauvignon blanc and GREAT reserva pinot noir.
Carolina Wine Brands - The 2007 Reserva de Familia Carmenere was the favorite.
Beaulieu Vineyard and Sterling Vineyards - the BV Rutherford Cabernet was a knockout.
Moet Hennessy USA - the Newton 2007 Claret was truly amazing. A mix of Bordeaux varietals - my heaven. I would happily buy a case right now.
There were many many many more delicious wines, but documenting them all would have been impossible. The event was a blast and Steve and I both had a great time - can't wait for next year! I'd say we'll definitely be buying tickets, and I'd recommend to anyone who enjoys good wine, good food and good company to do the same!
Thanks again to Lisa and Dining in DC for the tickets!