More to Chew On -- and This Idea Sounds Deliciously Effective

From: , retrieved 9/15/12

The State Department’s Diplomatic Culinary Partnership: peace through deliciousness, and not a moment too soon

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White House executive chef Cris Comerford (left) and Blair House executive sous chef Kiesha Sellers at the State Department reception (Leslie Brenner)
This time last week, I was in Washington, D.C. for the Association of Food Journalists’ annual conference — a first for me, and it was stupendous. This is the first of what I hope will be several blog posts about events surrounding the conference.
Most notably from a news point of view, as a group we were invited to a reception at the State Department for the launch of its new Diplomatic Culinary Partnership Initiative. The initiative strives to “elevate the role of culinary engagement in America’s formal and public diplomacy efforts.” (If only we could use culinary diplomacy real quick to cool things down in the Middle East….)  Washington Post restaurant critic and AFJ member Tom Sietsema wrote a fine preview story about it.  All part of the American Chef Corps, an impressive retinue of chefs, was in attendance, including White House Executive Chef Cris Comerford, José Andres, Rick Bayless, Mary Sue Milliken and many more. The program aims to “foster cross-cultural exchange” by having the chefs participate in public diplomacy programs and “enhance formal diplomacy” through food and cooking to engage foreign leaders at Department of State functions. “This is a really important moment for chefs,” said Sam Kass, assistant chef and senior policy advisor for healthy food initiatives at the White House. “Besides chefs,” he added, “grandmothers are the only ones with real food knowledge in this country.” (Well, some of the members of the Association of Food Journalists might argue with that…)
The food and drink were pretty fabulous, including a wine bar that focused on vintages from  Michigan, Virginia, Maryland, Idaho, Oregon, Arizona, New York and, yes, Texas! (McPherson Cellars “Tre-Colore”), and an impressive spread of American charcuterie and cheeses. Some of the chefs were set up in stations making plates — I loved Mary Sue Milliken’s heirloom bean, avocado and bacon tostada, anchored by a wonderful, tangy version of an old-fashioned three-bean salad. Art Smith and Wes Morton’s roasted farro salad with smoked Carolina swordfish was terrific, too.
Pigs in blankets and tobiko blankets on smoked salmon pigs (Leslie Brenner)
And the passed hors d’ouevres were adorable, like spaghetti and meatballs (a forkful of spaghetti atop each small meatball with a dollop of marinara); tiny pizzas (each in its own Diplomatic Culinary Partnership pizza box); and a verdant pasture of pigs in blankets (the old-fashioned kind) and pig-shaped smoked salmon canapes, each wearing a blanket of tobiko — cute! Also of note: an excellent 10-year old rye whiskey from Vermont called Whistlepig and a cocktail called a George Washington Rye Rickey.
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