Thursday, June 14, 2012

Sugar Highs On The Rooftop

by contributor Donna Shor
Photo credit: Neshan H. Naltchayan

Anyone wanting to get a sugar high had plenty of opportunity Tuesday night at the Share Our Strength/No Kid Hungry “Cocktails and Confections” benefit.

More than a dozen chefs served delicate and delicious desserts on the rooftop at 101 Constitution Avenue. Guests lounged on sofas as they sampled the sweets and compared the offerings at the brewers’ bars as well as the creations of celebrity bartenders.

Two of the town’s leading bartenders, award-winners both, were women; each served very different quaffs.

Voluble Gina Chersavani of Hank’s Oyster Bar, delights in choosing unexpected ingredients for her creations. She served a spicy concoction with many overlayers of flavor and a fine mix of alcohols.

Chantal Tseng is a Certified Sommelier who presides at the District’s treasured Tabard Inn. 

She built a rickey-type tall bourbon-based drink with lots of fresh lime juice, topped by a thin spiral of crisp fresh coconut.
Chefs who provided printed recipes included Santosh Tiptur of Coco Sala, the restaurant and chocolate boutique on F Street, who offered a White Chocolate Carrot Halva and Matthew Petersen of CityZen at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel whose cherry pie was not at all like cherry pie your mother used to make, but a “re-arranged” combo of mousse, cherry compote, puff paste and cherry pâte. 

Michael Laiskonis specialty was a complex. creamy strawberry shortcake involving puff paste filled with elderflower mousseline,  strawberries, butter cream and pastry cream based on a crunchy sablée  “cookie.” 

Milk Bar chef  Christina Tosi provided a Strawberry Sorbet with a depth of several flavors, including lovage, that seldom-used herb, to flavor the macerated strawberries, then a surprising ganache of celery root plus a sugar-crisped Ritz crumbs garnish to create a delicious dish.

Debbie Shore, the dynamic co-founder 27 years ago of Share Our Strength, introduced San Francisco chef Lincoln Carson who said that volunteer chefs had come from top restaurants not only from  Washington, but from Baltimore, New York, and as far away as
Absinthe Brasserie in San Francisco. The pastry maestro spoke of the enthusiasm of his fellow chefs in arranging and participating in this fundraiser to benefit hungry children.


Debbie Shore was compelling as she said “Sixteen million American children go hungry every day, in spite of the abundance of food in our country. That is one out of every six children. The No Kid Hungry campaign is working to end child hunger in America by 2015 and your support, by being here tonight, is one of the ways we can reach that goal.”

“If we pair access to food with education about food, we will succeed.”

She said that the meals served in some schools are often the only full meal a child will get for the day, emphasizing the importance of raising funds for the summer meal program, when school-day lunches are not available.

Share our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign has built partnerships with private and public groups in 18 cities and states, educating parents in stretching the food dollar with nutritious foods available through community organizations, and awarding grants to fund groups fighting hunger.

The organization’s efforts have increased public awareness through documentaries, public service announcements and through celebrity spokespersons like Jeff Bridges. The Oscar winner has said “Working to end child hunger is the most important thing I have ever done.”

Over 200,000 Americans have taken the pledge to end child hunger in America, moved by learning such statistics as that in a state often thought of as prosperous such as Texas, as many as 27% of  the children  are at risk of hunger, according to the Houston Chronicle

“Taste of a Nation” and the Great American Bake Sale” are important fundraisers, and sometimes inspire individuals to heroic efforts. One of the evening’s supporters, Daniel Feldman, a 23 year-old from New Jersey who is a medical student at George Washington University, with the example of his equally concerned sister Amanda’s group Peer Partners to guide him, began bake sales for the cause. He has raised over $100,000 in the last three years: one person, a busy student, who has seen a need and is helping to meet it.

This is a grass roots effort, and with enough dedicated citizens as Daniel Feldman, that target date of 2015 is looking very possible.