St. Jude Gourmet Gala

Note: these photos are terrible. The event was not! See St. Jude’s official website for professional photos that were not taken on an iPhone.

Washingtonians ascended upon the stately National Building Museum to celebrate and honor St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital at the Gourmet Gala. The evening was emceed and opened by Richard C. Shadyac Jr., ALSAC CEO, beginning with the story surrounding the founding of the hospital:

“Show Me My Way”

These words were prayed to St. Jude Thaddeus, the patron-saint of hopeless causes, by Danny Thomas, a cash-strapped young entertainer with a pregnant wife. Thomas pledged that if he could make it through this difficult time, he would build a shrine to honor the saint.

Thomas later went on to be a nationally-known entertainer, and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is the fulfillment of his vow. The Gourmet Gala, now in its 15th year, has raise $3 million toward the hospital, which provides care to children with cancer and other ailments free of charge, and is celebrating 50 years of research and treatment. St. Jude relies primarily on the public’s generosity to support its lifesaving mission, with more than 75 percent of funding coming from fundraising events like the Gourmet Gala. Families never pay St. Jude for anything, including the cost of treatment, travel, lodging and food for each patient and a family member. And in keeping with its mission to save every child battling cancer and other deadly diseases, St. Jude openly shares research discoveries directly with doctors and scientists across the world.

The Gourmet Gala is rightfully festive, serving as one of the largest fundraisers for the hospital at $350/ticket. Guests are greeted with a cocktail reception with passed hors d’oeuvres, as well as a lively brass band playing New Orleans faves. The standard bar libations like wine and beer are available, but mixologists were also on hand to create specialty cocktails that make Gourmet Gala a standout event for foodies every where. Our faves were the Amari Trio Punch from Vinoteca, which was a mellow, drinkable not-to-sweet, not-too-boozy, cocktail served in highballers with a sprig of thyme that opened up perfectly as you took your first sip, as well as a delectable, much boozier winter-perfect cocktail from Lima and Barcode, which featured sloe gin, squash tonic, and a garnish of winter squash.

Following the reception came remarks and a heart-warming video about the mission of St. Jude. The live auction was hosted by Celebrity Apprentice contestant and Sam Solovey, known for his quirky, punchy commentary and rather eccentric tendencies. In other words, the ideal auctioneer.

Then came the tastings. The National Building Museum is one of Washington’s largest event spaces, and it’s a good thing–check out the complete list of restaurants that were at the event. Our favorite, which turned out to also be the general crowd’s favorite, was Bourbon Steak‘s incredible pastrami sandwich with mustard and a pickle. This won Chef Adam Sobel, who also happened to be the Honorary Chef Chair of the gala this year, not only bragging rights, but also a beautiful Breitling watch, the purse of this year’s challenge. Guests voted on their favorite dish by dispensing jewels, keeping in theme with Mardi Gras, which were given out during registration.

Other standouts? We loved Wolfgang Puck’s The Source‘s spicy ahi cones (and we can’t believe the chefs weren’t hungover from the amazing champagne and dumpling event the night before!) and pig head carpaccio with leeks and truffle mustard (we’re adventurous!) from Blue Duck Tavern. Guests took home Georgetown Cupcakes as their swag, and it was the perfect evening to celebrate Mardi Gras, children’s health, and the hard work and vision of the people at St. Jude.

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