Great expectations surround the Marriott Marquis Washington, D.C., a $520 million project poised to open in the first week of May. This newest outpost of the hospitality empire will serve as the hotel headquarters of the Washington Convention Center but may also, perhaps more importantly, become a landmark for the revitalization of the adjacent Shaw neighborhood. “We want the new Marriott Marquis D.C. to do in Shaw what the New York Marquis did in Times Square. We want it to be a significant chapter in the neighborhood’s history,” says Joseph Danza, food and beverage manager of the Marquis Washington, D.C. These high expectations project heavily onto the new hotel’s Americana-inspired dining venues, among which Anthem will stand out as the flagship restaurant.
The opening of the new location will occur in tandem with the hotel’s newest international initiative, named “Travel Brilliantly.” As part of this program, guests are encouraged to share their ideas about what they would like to see during their stay at a Marriott location, and the Marriot team will take these into consideration and may even implement them. To showcase this concept, the culinary team at Corporate Headquarters Marriott International in D.C. suburb Bethesda, Maryland, recently opened its test kitchen to a small group of food writers for a menu development event. Journalists worked together with Vice President Culinary and Corporate Chef Brad Nelson and newly appointed Marriott Marquis Washington, D.C. Executive Chef Matthew Morrison to develop the Anthem restaurant menu by evaluating potential menu items and offering their professional opinions about individual dishes.
But it wasn’t all about slappin’ rockfish on the grill and garnishing plates with micro-greens. While the practical portion of the event offered hands-on, chef-side experience in the kitchen, attendees also delved into the conceptual side of menu development. Will the cuisine at Anthem be tailored to local, national or international tastes? Will the kitchen source locally or will it boast rare imported items? Will the menu embrace recent culinary trends or defy them? Each writer was paired up with a chef to work on a single dish and each dish seemed to exemplify one such conceptual issue.
The kitchen acknowledged a new culinary trend by incorporating kale chips into the mix. The kitchen experimented with three flavors of the crunchy-yet-healthy snack that has been popping up on menus all over the country and played with the idea of serving these as a sampler trio. The flavors included a Caesar and an Asian-inspired seasoning (possibly a nod to the dish’s Asian cousin, the nori or seaweed chip).