Chefs and foodies came together at Founders Inn and Spa in Virginia Beach on Sunday, Oct. 30 for the annual March of Dimes Signature Chefs Auction to support a wonderful cause—to end premature birth and other problems that threaten babies. Every year more than 15 million babies are born prematurely; a million will die before their first birthday as a result. Supporters at the Signature Chefs Auction help by funding the research, education and support to ensure more babies celebrate their birthday.

The theme of this year’s event was Purple Masquerade. Attendees dressed the part, showing off their finest purple gowns and bowties and some even sporting beautifully decorated masks to fit the occasion. Both a silent and live auction was held, with spectacular prizes and chef celebration packages, all to support the March of Dimes.

In addition to making a difference in the lives of babies, guests at the event had the opportunity to sample incredible fare from some of Coastal Virginia’s most lauded restaurants. After eating their way around the room, attendees voted on their favorite dish in the People’s Choice Awards, as well as the Best Decorated Booth. Meanwhile, a team of judges rallied together to determine the most outstanding dishes in a number of categories, from outstanding presentation to best use of sustainable, organic and local ingredients to the best tasting dish, outstanding dessert and the highly esteemed Dish of Coastal Virginia award. Here are the results from this year’s event:

Dish of Coastal Virginia: A dish that captures the unique regional flavor of Coastal Virginia through ingredients, preparation and/or imagination. 1608 Crafthouse won this award, as well as the People’s Choice Award, with a Butter Basted Scallop: Stone ground Appalachian cheese grits, a poached James River oyster and crispy Surryano Ham. Read more on the dish that wowed judges and guests, as well as Chef/Owner Kevin Sharkey’s inspiration for creating the dish, in the January/February food issue of Coastal Virginia Magazine.

dish of coastal virginia 1608 crafthouse

S.O.L. Food Award: Sustainable, Organic, Local. The best tasting dish which is sensitive to the environment by emphasizing organic ingredients and sustainable foods in its composition was awarded to Leaping Lizard Café for Chef Peter Stine’s Tidal Virginia Autumn Catch: Chesapeake Bay mullet filled with Rappahannock oyster and house-made chicken sausage stuffing completed with tomato jam and sweet potato biscuit cap. This dish also received the Chefs Choice Award (judged on by participating Signature Chefs), which represents a dish whose technique and artistry are truly appreciated by other culinary professionals.

leaping lizard cafe mullet filled with rappahannock oyster house made chicken sausage with sweet potato biscuit

Most Outstanding Presentation: A visual—and edible—work of art, judged solely on its appearance on a dinner-sized demonstration plate (or decorative plate of the chef’s choosing) went to Croc’s 19th Street Bistro for Chef Matt Knack’s Tuna Tartare with kale and radish slaw and a fried wonton.

tuna tartare from croc's 19th street bistro virginia beach

Most Outstanding Dessert: A special category for desserts and sweets only and judged on presentation, creativity and taste was awarded to The Art Institute of Virginia Beach for their Traditional Petit Four of vanilla sponge cake, cassis gelee and dark chocolate cremeux. The Art Institute also won the award for Best Decorated Booth, determined by event attendees. 

art institute of virginia beach traditional petit four with flower

Best Tasting Dish: Not that this category needs an explanation, but it’s a dish that’s judged on taste alone. This award went to Rajput Indian Cuisine for their delectable Tandoori Sea Bass over coconut rice and tikka masala sauce.

rajput tandoori sea bass

Here are some other noteworthy dishes prepared by participating restaurants:

Along with a winning dessert, The Art Institute also brought Jack Daniel's Chicken and Waffle with Bull's Blood Micro Greens.

art institute chicken and waffles

Blarney Stone brought The King Irishman: handmade jumbo cheese tortellini and king crab meat with sundried tomato garlic cream sauce.

blarney stone handmade tortellini with crab

The Catering Place prepared a Tea Smoked Venison Tenderloin, pecan smoked, tea marinated venison tenderloin with micro herb salad, lavender, honey, peppered molasses, smoked sea salt and rose petal crystals.

tea smoked venison tenderloin from the catering place

East Coast Taco Co. made Spanish Tuscan Chicken served with creamy mushroom bacon thyme sauce over chunky hominy and cherry tomato grits.

east coast taco co spanish tuscan chicken

The Founders Inn and Spa went all out with their dish titled Huntsman Query: Petit chateau medallions with vanilla rum au poivre sauce, roasted duck breast medallions with brandied figs, rockfish medallions with a ginger yuzu glaze accompanied by petit crudite rooted vegetables and potato-stuffed pastry parcel

Huntsman Query Founders Inn and Spa

Fusion created a Citrus Marinated Jerk Chicken with smoked tomato grits and a char corn cream sauce.

fusion citrus marinated jerk chicken

Masala Bites made Fisherman Prawns over a lentil and rice cake.

masala bites fisherman prawns

Passion the Restaurant created Vietnamese Backyard BBQ: "Not" sushi with a cucumber and apple slaw and scallion-ginger sauce.

vietnamese backyard bbq from passion the restaurant

Smithfield Inn brought Maple Bacon Glaze Pork Chop Crostini: diced Smithfield peppered bacon, cube pork loin and heirloom tomatoes topped with cilantro on a toasted French bread medallion. For dessert, they prepared Autumn Fritters: crushed, candied pecans, dried cranberries, diced sweet potatoes, Arborio rice and cream cheese deep fried and served with icing dip.

smithfield inn pork chops smithfield inn autumn fritters

Tradewinds served a Fall Pot Roast with butternut squash puree, roasted beets and Job's tears topped with pumpkin seed butter.

tradewinds fall pot roast

+ post and articles by this author