Wednesday night, I headed off to the Capella Hotel in Georgetown to celebrate its new chef Frank Ruta, and the new menu he designed for its restaurant The Grill Room. I must confess, I never ate at Palena, the Cleveland Park establishment Chef Ruta headed before it closed last year. I also never attended one of his famed Bread Feast supper club dinner at Mark Furstenberg’s Bread Furst . And yet, I have an awesome memory of Chef Ruta, one that doesn’t involve his food directly. Instead, it involves a panel on which he sat at the National Archives a few years back. A panel of former White House chefs. The soft spoken Chef Ruta sat between former White House Executive Chef Pierre Chambrin and (very outspoken) former White House Executive Pastry Chef Roland Mesnier, the lone American sandwiched by two French chefs, with their heavy accents, talking about what goes on in one of America’s most famous kitchen. C-SPAN has a recording of the conversation if you want to watch it, hearing the two Frenchies talk about cooking Thanksgiving meals is quite entertaining!
Like he was on the panel, Chef Ruta was also rather discreet at the party thrown in his honor, letting his food do most of the talking for him. The pumpkin and squash soup made me want to skip spring and summer and head straight into fall while the sampling of the new charcuterie plate and oysters made me long to try the whole thing, perhaps during a spring-time lunch at one of the restaurant’s tables overlooking the C&O Canal.
What I was really excited to try at Wednesday’s celebration were the new desserts from pastry chef Aggie Chin. If I never had dinner at Palena, I did buy macarons from their market (and I have Nevin Martell to thank for that recommendation!) They were very good. So I was excited to try her latest creations for The Grill Room and Rye Bar. Unfortunately, we didn’t actually get to try items from the new dessert menu. I guess that’s how they tease us to come back… It was alright though, we were treated to an elegant buffet of bite sized treats, the highlights of which was a perfect canelé.
There was also some stunning chocolate macarons dipped in dark cocoa, though sadly, I couldn’t eat those 😦
Chef Aggie Chin credits food blogs like Clotilde Dusoulier’s Chocolate & Zucchini for inspiring her to get into the kitchen instead of the courtroom after she studied law at UVA. She’s crafted an ambitious menu for The Grill Room, one she says “reflects the bustling diverse metropolis of D.C.” Many of the dishes mix seasonal vegetables or fruits with spices. The “Root for It” for example pairs parsnip cake, ginger ice cream and a squash and brown sugar mousse. The “Just Say Ah” mixes green apple and fennel sorbet with gingered apple, golden raisins and coconut curry meringues. Again, it’s really unfortunate that none of these desserts were available to sample at the party introducing the two chefs, but I guess that just made me want to come back and try them even more, especially if some desserts are going to be available at The Rye Bar and paired with cocktails!