FOOD: Getting to Know 2941
It was a gorgeous spring morning and Chef Bertrand Chemel was answering the question he would be answering all morning: “What is pimento de la verra?” It is Spanish Paprika which is more smoky than regular paprika and adds just the right amount of spice to a dish without over powering it. This was the theme for the morning: understanding the delicate nuances of Chef Bertrand’s cooking style.
This was chef’s third time as part of the Falls Church Farmers Market program and there was a definite difference between this time and previous times. Chef Bertrand has always created innovative dishes using local ingredients such as his Butternut Squash Ravioli with Smoked Savoy Cabbage or Roasted Beet Salad with Quince Confit topped with foure d’Ambert marshmallow, but this morning’s dish and chef’s demonstration of it were indicative of the new restaurant: approachable, enjoyable and delicious.
Over the morning more 700 tastings of Honey Glazed Eggplant and Roasted Peppers Basquaise were served to many delighted patrons – adults and kids alike. One would think that most would shy away or turn up their nose at eggplant, but just the opposite was true. “It’s eggplant? I love eggplant!” Others were willing to try it and blown away with the savory and sweet combination of the honey with the rosemary and pimento de la verra. The crowd appreciated of creative vegetarian dish that features ingredients that will come into season soon and a recipe to prepare eggplant and peppers. This is further indicative of the cuisine of Chef Bertrand Chemel bringing the subtleties of his French cooking to our local community. The dish was from the Basque region of France which features grilled meats and fish frequently seasoned with paprika. Basquaise is a type of dish prepared in the style of Basque cuisine that often includes tomatoes and sweet or hot red peppers.
It was hard staying away from demonstration because of the aromas of roasting spices which were then caramelized with local honey (Howie’s Honey) and deglazed with dry sherry. Chef shared that you wanted to deglaze the eggplant with dry sherry rather than white wine because the white wine would be too acidic for the eggplant and turn your dish bitter. Throughout the morning, chef grabbed from local sprigs of herb – sage, thyme and rosemary provided by Homestead Farms to show that the dish could be customized the dish throughout the season to accommodate what was fresh. It was great hearing how Bertrand incorporated the honey into the dish to bring a slight sweetness to it as he has teaching his kids about different food and sometimes has found a little honey makes all the difference.
Chef Bertrand Chemel did not stop talking for 2.5 hours explaining the process of “burning” the eggplant, how to roast peppers, sharing the intricacies of the different spices and answering many questions about the restaurant – both in French and English. Many had been to 2941 a long time ago for a special event, but had heard it had changed. Chef shared that they were putting in their garden at 2941 this weekend and invited everyone down to the restaurant for a glass of wine in the garden next to the lake. This is the new 2941; a friend’s retreat to enjoy local foods with creative French flourishes.
This is what I found when friends and I dined at 2941 a few weeks ago. I should clarify these “friends” – they are fellow contributors to the Falls Church Times – Christianna Sargent who provides the wine, and wine pairing articles for us and Ra Chan who makes sure that we don’t miss any tasty places in the area.
It was a real treat to have both these ladies join me as each provides a unique perspective on a meal. Christianna being a Certified Sommelier made sure that our wines matched our desired tastes and what would complement our dishes. Ra being so connected in the local restaurant community provided the delightful conversation tidbits to keep us entertained all evening.
The menu has changed to include smaller dishes and a different way to look at the menu. Depending on your appetite for the meal, you can sample of variety of smaller dishes or pull together a standard meal of three courses. Your choice, which is nice, especially when dining with a group and some folks are hungrier than others. We three ladies made sure we were good and hungry by the time we joined up, so we sampled the Nosh offerings, Next, Noodles, Needs and finally the Never Say Never.
We started off with a glass of champagne Charles Orban, Brut, Champagne, France (N.V.) which complemented my Hudson Vally Foie Gras with brioche, huckleberry jus and spinach beautifully. For Noodles, the Ricotta Gnocchetti with English peas, mint and Arbequina olive oil was framed beautifully by a glass of Rioja Tempranillo: Lopez de Heredia, Vina Cubillo, Rioja Crianza, Spain (2005). Taking advantage of the new grill installed in the kitchen we feasted on a Beef Duo with short rib confit, grilled strip loan served with cranberry bean and ramp gribiche sauce, and the Veal tenderloin with Vidalia onion, Oregon morels and fiddlehead ferns. As we savored this course onger than expected, a second glass of wine was needed and we splurged on splitting glass of Chateaunfu du Pape.
While the desserts were all tantalizing, we all settled on the Lemon Olive Oil cake with fromage blanc and rhubarb two ways- as a compote and a sauce. We paired this with a hearty but subtle Madeira.
Chef Bertrand Chemel has been in our area since 2008. While many considered his restaurant and cooking style only for special occasions, his recent chef demonstration and the “new” restaurant shows that he is a welcome addition to our local community and a friend to visit anytime.2941 2941 Fairview Park Drive, Falls Church, VA 22042 www.2941.com
Monday – Friday
11:30 AM to 2:00 PM
5:00 PM to 9:30 PM
Saturday 5:00 PM to 10:00 PM
Sunday Private events only
By Kathleen Nixon
May 25, 2012