On Nov. 1, the March of Dimes Signature Chefs Auction returned to Williamsburg for an evening of culinary mastery and friendly bidding in support of the organization’s fight to end premature births. This year’s auction featured new chefs, new sponsors as well as a new venue, the esteemed Williamsburg Lodge located in the city’s colonial district.
Premature births affect 15 million babies worldwide and have become increasingly prevalent in the United States since 2016. November's event raised upwards of $68,000 to benefit research, education and support. To show supporters just how impactful their donations are, March of Dimes released a statement in June 2018 that revealed the success of a groundbreaking study funded by the organization. Researchers discovered biomarkers in maternal blood that accurately identify pregnant women who will go on to deliver their babies up to two months prematurely. The research also revealed that the biomarkers can estimate gestational age and delivery dates with comparable accuracy to an ultrasound at a potentially lower cost.
The tremendous progress in achieving March of Dimes’ mission and more were celebrated at the auction where guests bid on multi-course pairing dinners, Washington Redskins tickets, brewery tours and extended vacations at tropical getaways like Barbados and Saint Lucia. Auction attendees also cast their vote for the People’s Choice Award for best dish. The People’s Choice Award was accompanied by the awards for Best Taste, Most Outstanding Presentation, Most Outstanding Dessert and Judge’s Choice selected by a professional panel of judges during a blind tasting hosted prior to the event.
Best Taste: Chef Troy Buckley of Williamsburg’s new Amber Ox Public House won this award for the restaurant’s superbly tender braised short rib. The juicy beef was complemented by Moroccan-spiced cauliflower, green and purple sprouts and a sprinkling of chopped nuts.
Most Outstanding Presentation: Chef Richard Carr is a longstanding supporter of March of Dimes and a seasoned Williamsburg chef. His seafood nacho represented the distinguished craftsmanship of Berret’s Seafood Restaurant and Taphouse Grill in Colonial Williamsburg. The dish was colorful and multi-textured, showcasing hues of pink from the ahi tuna, bright red onion, fresh greens and fried golden chips topped with a creamy white sauce.
Most Outstanding Dessert: The Williamsburg Lodge’s very own Sweet Tea & Barley was recognized for its decadent dessert, The Mason Dixon, prepared by Chef Michael Ellis. As the name denotes, The Mason Dixon presented a unique blend of North and South, incorporating tastes of New York-style cheesecake, southern spice cake and candied pecans topped with a hearty dollop of cream cheese frosting.
Judge’s Choice Award: Chef Tony Brooks of Revolution Golf and Grille wowed the judges with his surf and turf burger. Stuffed between two sturdy buns was a juicy veal and prime rib patty topped with a heaping scoop of crab meat and shrimp dosed in a slightly spicy dressing. Accompanying the towering creation of merroir and terroir were house-cut fries and a made-from-scratch dipping sauce.
People’s Choice: Like the judges, auction guests were particularly pleased with Amber Ox’s braised short rib. Also prepared by Chef Buckley was a creamy banana tart topped with a fluffy tasted meringue and coconut flakes.
Other participating restaurants included Cyprus Grille, Honey Butter’s Kitchen, The Hound’s Tale and The Williamsburg Inn. Each chef prepared a spattering of equally exquisite dishes such as cocoa-crusted lamb chops, a sweet potato pot de crème, hard bourbon bread pudding and savory grilled cheese and tomato bisque combo paired with smoked bacon and parmesan crisps.