By Josette Keelor
Thursday evening in Winchester, guests to the Chefs Collaborative Dinner will experience something never attempted before in Winchester. Chefs from six area restaurants will combine talents to prepare six courses, and the proceeds will go to the Free Medical Clinic of the Northern Shenandoah Valley.
Chef Daniel Kalber of Village Market & Bistro said he came up with the idea for the evening after considering what fun it would be to bring together a group of friends to cook a dinner.
He said he wants the meal to benefit the free clinic because its network of doctors has helped many of his friends and coworkers.
"The restaurant industry in general doesn't offer a lot of health care plans," he said. "There aren't a lot of people who are insured." With the medical industry the largest provider of jobs in Winchester and the food industry the second largest, he said teaming up made sense to him.
The idea has been on his mind for a couple years, but once he started talking with Dee Dee Barbour, development director at the Free Medical Clinic, the pieces fit into place.
Tickets to the dinner are $150, and Kalber said, "Each chef is doing their own individual course, and each dish will be indicative of that chef."
The first course, hors d'oeuvres with cocktails, will be prepared by John Calder of Winchester Country Club. He plans savory Macintosh Fruit Farm's strawberries pureed with blood orange and a hint of jalapeno soup.
Course two, by Dan Cornish, chef at Winchester Medical Center, will be bacon and parmesan crusted sea scallop, stone ground grits and sauteed baby spinach with Smoked tomato butter sauce and lemon oil.
Brian Whitson of The Battletown Inn in Berryville is planning a third course of Potomac blue catfish.
Kalber will provide the intermezzo of yellow beet sorbet with rosemary drizzle -- a palette cleanser before the fifth course.
He said he chose the simple course because of the larger role he's playing in organizing the dinner.
Next, hand-rolled lasagnette with Briars Farmstead sausage and cheese from Hedgebrook Farm will showcase the work of Chef Patrick Evans of The Dancing Goat Restaurant and Half Note Lounge at The George Washington Hotel.
Finishing off the evening, Kelsey Walkowiak, pastry chef at the Village Square Restaurant and V2 Lounge, will prepare fair trade chocolate tart with a cappuccino and pink peppercorn ice cream, coffee bean brittle and a raspberry coulis.
"It's tough when you get that many chefs in a room together," Kalber said, "unless you're playing cards because then somebody wins."
When the six of them met to taste wines from Notaviva Vineyards in Purcellville, they did the opposite of what chefs normally do.
"We all decided that we wanted to choose the wines first and then pair the food with the wines," Kalber said. Working with seasonal food, he said, choosing the wine first helps better determine which of the ingredients available to them this week will match best.
"We were using more day to day stuff," he said. "We had to choose the wines first and then be more thoughtful [of food]."
"I was the only one who had a pastry chef, so of course by default, Village Square got the dessert course," he said.
But Walkowiak, who's worked for Kalber for two years -- the last nine months as pastry chef -- is well up to the challenge.
Diners remember the last thing they eat, Kalber said, which in many cases is dessert. At Village Square, desserts are memorable because they're a one-time only event.
"We don't repeat desserts," he said.
In preparation for Thursday's dinner, "I gave her the ingredients that I thought would go well with the wine," he said. And she took it from there.
The chocolate tart she'll serve will be paired with Gitano blackberry-infused wine.
"Get it while you can," Kalber said. "I've always done it that way."
Kalber said he intends the Chefs Collaborative Dinner to be an annual fundraiser for the Free Medical Clinic.
The clinic's other main fundraiser for the past 17 years has been the Taste of the Town Competition each September at the Shenandoah Valley Golf Club, inviting the area's restaurants to submit their best dishes.
Whitson has won the Taster's Choice award the last two years, which was enough to earn him Thursday evening's third and most difficult course.
"We kind of chose the hardest ingredient to work with, which is the fish, and gave it to him," Kalber said.
"[Whitson] kind of has the same feeling of the free medical clinic as myself."
"I'll definitely be back next year," Kalber said. "I live here, I'm going to raise my kids here. I love this town."
As for the others, Kalber said the Winchester chefs' community is tight, always there for each other -- just call, and the others will be there.
"We always help each other," he said, "so we're used to helping."
The Chefs Collaborative Dinner will begin at 6 p.m. Thursday, at 1300 Senseny Road, Winchester. Tickets are $150 per person, with wine pairings included. Seating is limited, and prepaid reservations are required. Reserve online at www.fmcwinchester.org/chefs or call the Free Medical Clinic at 540-536-1682.
Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or firstname.lastname@example.org