A celebration around food for those who don’t have enough: this is what Sips & Suppers is all about. Founded in 2009 by Alice Waters and co-hosted with local culinary star José Andrés and Jewish cooking maven Joan Nathan since then, this weekend-long event raises money and attention to fight hunger and homelessness in the DC area. Since its inception, more than $1 million has been donated to benefit the programs of two of the DMV’s most important organizations working on these issues: DC Central Kitchen and Martha’s Table.
The weekend is split into two parts. The first, Sips, is billed as a cocktail reception, but truly so much more. This past January 24, top restaurants, bars and chefs from around the area transformed the Newseum into a festive, food-focused party. Andrés, Nathan and Waters spoke passionately about the event and its contribution to good causes; a live jazz band loosened up the crowd as guests waited for craft cocktails, delicately plated small bites, artisanal gelato, charcuterie, plenty of vegetarian options and other delights.
The second half, Suppers, takes place the following evening and is where things get really interesting. Celebrated chefs hunker down in home kitchens across the DMV to prepare meals for the intimate gatherings. All of the labor and ingredients are donated, meaning that the entire ticket price goes directly to the organizations.
Each of these Suppers is distinct, and for the second year in a row, a kosher Supper took place. This time, it was hosted by Jeremy Steindecker, who recalls meeting Joan Nathan and her enthusiasm about the event. She asked him to take part, and it’s been nothing but success ever since. The two chefs who served this dinner, Michael Solomonov and Adam Sobel, are celebrated experts in their respective cities of Philadelphia and San Francisco, but neither works at kosher restaurants. “This was an incredible occasion to have great chefs cook kosher, and for our kosher friends to finally take part in the event,” Steindecker shared. “It’s been a pleasure being able to bring together both worlds.”
With a staff of a dozen and a residential kitchen, these two paired up to serve a nonpareil meal for a huge, sold-out group of 40. In fact, this dinner was the second-highest grossing Supper this year. As for the food itself, the first course was a beet-cured hamachi, and the second duck confit over a squash latke kissed by pomegranate vinaigrette. The main course was short ribs with tahini sauce, followed by decadent white chocolate panna cotta for dessert.
In between courses, Sobel and Solomonov chatted about cooking, kitchens and (matzah) cupcakes.
Sobel: I grew up in New York, and around the house I was always attracted to the kitchen, especially with both of my grandmas. My father was a Russian Jew, and my mother was Catholic. This gave me a ton of culture and diversity at home. My favorite kind of food growing up had to be pizza, but at home, I loved my Jewish grandma’s traditional stuffed cabbage and, get this, a matzah cupcake; on the other side, it was all meatballs and fennel.
Solomonov: I was born in Israel and raised in Pittsburgh, meaning my upbringing was part tahini, part mac and cheese. Oddly enough, I was a picky eater, but still managed to love my Sephardic grandma’s borekas. I was a little undecided about what I wanted to do with my life, and moved back to Israel. There, I started cooking because it was something I was good at. This was an incredible dual opportunity for me: I reconnected with my past and culture and started to really appreciate food. I moved back to Philly to work in some upscale restaurants, but always maintained my love for cooking with Israeli ingredients.
On Cooking Kosher
Sobel: Certainly a challenge! I actually appreciate the guidelines that it gives me as an opportunity to create great food within the laws.
Solomonov: I have a bit more experience here, and I love cooking Jewish cuisine. Again, it’s a challenge, but it’s truly fun. I’ve helped out at glatt kosher events. Kosher food no longer needs to be unappetizing, and I’ve seen an evolution and development in the palate of those keeping kosher.
On the Event
Sobel: This is one of the highlights of my year. As a chef, I never want anyone to be hungry, of course. Joy for me comes from eating well. I naturally gravitate to a hunger-related charity. I truly believe in Joan’s cause. In fact, her passion reminds me of my grandma. To be in the company of elite chefs like her is an honor.
Solomonov: Cooking with Adam is great fun, and doing this two years in a row is an honor. As I mentioned, I find it quite rewarding to elevate what kosher food means, like serving a 30-day aged ribeye.
The Jewish Food Experience in Your Hometown
Sobel: I think Jews necessarily flock to Jewish chefs and food, and I appreciate what San Francisco has to offer and what it’s given me, even though I haven’t been too deep in the scene. But I do know that it’s so rewarding to be seen as part of that and as someone who is respected for creating celebrated food of our culture.
Solomonov: I’ve been really fortunate to become a big part of the Jewish food scene in Philly, which I love for its delis and spirit. At my Israeli restaurant, everyone comes in and everyone is welcome. Israeli cooking can tell a whole story with spices, and in the end, food transcends politics. It really gives me pleasure contributing to people coming together and to being part of the community.
Top photo: Plating the main course at the Steindecker Supper.