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The Washington Diplomat

P.O. Box 1345
Silver Spring, MD 20915

Miriam’s Kitchen Fine-Tunes Menu
For ‘100 Bowls of Compassion 2013’

by Audrey Hoffer

One cold Saturday night in December, in the dining room of chef Steve Badt’s home in Silver Spring, Md., two dozen people sat snugly around a square white table with red tulips draping a vase at the center.

Except for lip smacking, gentle inhaling, slow-motion chewing, and oohs and aahs, it was silent.

Photos: Ron Hoffer
Miriam’s Kitchen in-residence chef John Murphy puts the finishing touches on Nordic-themed menu items to be consumed and critiqued by a group of guests at the home of fellow Miriam’s chef Steve Badt. The December tasting fine-tuned the menu for Miriam’s Kitchen’s May 2 fundraiser “100 Bowls of Compassion 2013.”

Here was the Miriam’s Kitchen volunteer team eating and critiquing the 15-plus menu items for their upcoming Nordic-themed dinner “100 Bowls of Compassion 2013.”

The annual fundraiser, which will be held at the National Building Museum on May 2, supports programs at Miriam’s Kitchen, a D.C.-based charity. In addition to providing healthy meals to homeless people, Miriam’s Kitchen offers various services to address homelessness, from employment and housing assistance to medical care.

The meals at Miriam’s Kitchen are overseen by two professionally trained, in-residence chefs, Badt and John Murphy, both of whom were joined by Mikko Kosonen, executive chef at the Embassy of Finland, at the December tasting dinner. There, a group of lucky participants sampled and debated a variety of Nordic dishes to devise the perfect menu for the 750 guests expected to attend “100 Bowls of Compassion” — a menu that uses only volunteers, donated ingredients and minimal kitchen space.

Each tasting volunteer was assigned a dish and brought it ready-made to Badt’s house — with just an oven warming required.

“On one hand there’s so much going into making dishes tasty and unique, but volunteers take a lot of ownership in what they’re cooking,” Badt said. “A lot of thought goes into both our daily meal planning and this big event.”

“I like the texture of yours but am partial to the walnuts in the other,” remarked one guest.

“It’s so light and refreshing, it’ll make a perfect spring soup,” said another of the potato and spring vegetable soup with scallion pistau. “We’ll roast the vegetables the week before and assemble at the event.”

“The vegetables are too spicy,” Badt observed of the roasted cauliflower and broccoli vegan dish with almonds and white wine dressing. “The cauliflower is a little strong,” added Kosonen of the Finnish Embassy, the event’s culinary advisor. “OK, we’ll tone it down a bit,” responded Badt.

One woman remarked that the asparagus quiche with Vasterbotten cheese and micro greens was a little soft. “If you use fewer eggs, it’ll be firmer and easier to pick up,” suggested Kosonen.

Sitting around the dining room table are three Miriam’s Kitchen volunteers who contributed to the evening’s culinary delights — from left, Tali Bar Shalom, Brittany Pemberton and Noelle Melton, as well as writer Audrey Hoffer.

“100 Bowls of Compassion” is a collection of gourmet dishes served as small-plate portions from multiple stations.

“The Vodka Cointreau and Lingonberry Cordial with lime juice is fabulous,” said one visitor who asked for a second, a third and then a fourth glass.

Other popular dishes included the gravlax-cured Atlantic char served on a blini with dill, Juniper berry crème fraîche, as well as the Swedish Meatball Slider in two forms — one on a mini bun, the other sitting atop carrot puree and adorned with two Juniper berries and a dollop of sour cream.

One sample of the pepper-cured, smoked local striped bass served with pickled cucumber and caraway bread was deemed more subtle, while another sampling more aggressive. “It’s soooo good,” said a participant, “but I’d love it more if it’d be a drop less salty.”

Meanwhile, the egg salad with salmon caviar served on a profiterole was judged to need a more savory edge, but the accompanying homemade sourdough rye “was great.”

Miriam’s Kitchen is located in Foggy Bottom and never closes. Sara Gibson, director of development, said the hundreds of homeless individuals served there daily, which she called guests, “are the most vulnerable population. They are forgotten people.”

Miriam’s serves healthy, balanced and plentiful breakfasts, lunches and dinners. “We try to run our operation as a restaurant and serve high-end meals. Our people are so health-compromised,” said Gibson.

The organization strives to entice people into the dining room for a delicious and nutritious meal. Case managers then offer social services targeted to each individual’s specific needs, which typically include mental illness, medical problems and substance abuse.

Miriam’s Kitchen chef Steve Badt and his wife and volunteer, Alice Weiss, proudly display their culinary creations at a tasting dinner for friends and volunteer colleagues at the couple’s Silver Spring home.

Miriam’s believes that “permanent supportive housing” — which provides a permanent home together with social services to ensure that the individual can keep the home and maintain a stable life — is the optimal solution to ending chronic homelessness.

“We’re looking for our government to do more,” said Gibson, but added that in the meantime, Miriam’s offers abundant short-term services.

When Miriam’s teamed up with Finnish chef Kosonen, they were delightfully surprised to learn that many Nordic nations also advocate permanent supportive housing for the chronically homeless. The result is a perfect blending of philosophy, a belief in the value of high-quality food and roll-up-your-sleeves cooking in the kitchen.

Last year, $531,000 was raised at the annual “Compassion” dinner, with only 12 percent going to overhead. A Menu Donations Committee aggressively looks for food donations to use in the annual fundraiser.

“We run a tight volunteer effort and are relentless in our efforts to keep costs down and use all our income for the benefit of the homeless,” said Gibson.

By 11 p.m., the tasting was over and chef Badt concluded: “This was a perfect dinner and now we have the next couple of months to work out tweaks and kinks.”

“100 Bowls of Compassion 2013” will be held May 2 at the National Building Museum. Tickets are $250. For more information, visit

About the Author

Audrey Hoffer is a freelance writer for The Washington Diplomat.



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