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ZooFari, a Culinary Safari 

Thursday, May 14 at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo
6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Gourmet Food, Fine Wine and Live Entertainment on the Menu

by Donna Christenson

Mark your calendars!!!  Our favorite event of the year is coming soon!!!   ZooFari offers the opportunity to sample gourmet fare from more than 100 of the D.C. area’s finest restaurants. Top chefs like Todd Gray, Bart Vandaele, and Haidar Karoum will be featured in the festivities throughout the night.  For example, last year, Ritz-Carlton Chef Phill Sherman showcased delectable desserts. (photo left). More than a dozen vintners will offer complimentary wine from local and international vineyards.. In addition, three mega-bars located around the grounds will provide guests a selection of complimentary beer, soft drinks and water.  

To say that you are "sampling" the food really is misleading.  Many of the restaurants are serving portion sizes that are similar to "small plates" or tapas-sized servings, and there are over 100 restaurants you'll need to try to pace yourself!  All you can manage to eat and drink is included in the ticket price, with proceeds benefiting Zoo programs.  

A new feature this year will be the Battle of the Bartenders.  Local mixologists will compete to create the best tasting original signature cocktail using a mystery ingredient from the Zoo's Animal Kitchen. Tommy McFly from 94.7 Fresh FM  will serve as official emcee. There will be two rounds of competition at 7:30 pm and 8:30 pm. 

Battle of the Bartenders competitors include: Mary Kelly - Del Campo;  Max Pike-Ludwig - Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab; Giancarlo Cruz – Ocopa; Trevor Frye - Jack Rose Dining Saloon; Noah Broddaus – Bar Pilar & Café Saint-Ex; Jack Caminos – Compass Rose Bar and Kitchen; Christopher Franklin – Ardeo+Bardeo; and Christine Kim - Tico.

The fun won’t stop at the food. Guests can also bid on exclusive items such as behind-the-scenes tours of the Zoo at the ZooFari silent auction from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. For those who can’t wait until the evening of the event, there is also a ZooFari online auction, which includes items such as artwork created by the Zoo’s giant pandas and exclusive dining opportunities. Strolling musicians will offer live musical performances, and National Zoo curators and keepers provide live animal demonstrations.
 Tickets for ZooFari are available  through the National Zoo’s website 
The impressive list of restaurants offering complimentary tastings this year includes:

Pre-party Reception
District Commons
Equinox Restaurant

Main Event
1789 Restaurant
Anthem Restaurant
Armand's Pizzeria
Art and Soul
Asia Nine Bar and Lounge
B Too
Belga Cafe
Bistrot Royal
Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream
BRABO by Robert Wiedmaier
Café Deluxe
Café Saint-Ex
Calvert Woodley Fine Wines
  & Spirits
Cava Mezze
Cava Grill
Cedar Restaurant
Chaplin's Restaurant
Charlie Palmer Steak
Chef Geoff's
Circle Bistro
Compass Rose Bar and Kitchen
Congressional Seafood Co.
Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar
Cure Bar & Bistro
Del Campo
Delia's Restaurants
District Doughnut
Dolcezza Gelato
Doi Moi
El Centro D.F. 
Fourth Estate at the National
  Press Club
Georgetown Cupcake
The Grille at Morrison House
Hank's Oyster Bar
Hard Times Cafe
Hello Cupcake
Hill Country Barbecue Market
Jack Rose Dining Saloon
Jackson 20
Jardenea at Melrose
Georgetown Hotel
 Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak &
  Stone Crab
The Lafayette
LINCOLN Restaurant
Maggiano's Chevy Chase
Masa 14
Mason Social
Ted's Bulletin
Max Brenner
Mitsitam Café
Mon Ami Gabi
Morton's The Steakhouse
Nicecream Factory
Notti Bianche
Oceanaire Seafood Room
Old Ebbitt Grill
Old Glory BBQ
Open Road Grill & Icehouse
Ovvio Pizzeria & Wine Bar
The Palm Restaurant
Paolo's Ristorante
Ping Pong Dim Sum
Plan B Burger Bar
The Queen Vic
The Ritz Carleton Tysons Corner
River Bend Bistro & Wine Bar
Rocklands Barbeque and
  Grilling Company
Ruth's Chris Steak House
Santa Lucia Estate Coffee
Sonoma Restaurant and Wine Bar
Stanton and Greene
Sugar& Ice
Sugo Osteria
SweetPots Mason Jar'd Desserts
Taco Bamba
Teddy & The Bully Bar
Tonic at Quigleys
Toro Toro
TRIO Grill
Washington Court Hotel–Bistro 525

 or in any Zoo gift shop.  Tickets are  $160 for FONZ members and $200 for non-members

ZooFari benefits many Zoo initiatives, from new and improved exhibits, such as American Trail, to conservation and  research programs dedicated to the survival of species such as the Asian elephant, tiger, and cheetah. 
For updates on ZooFari and other events at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo follow Friends of the National Zoo on Twitter and Facebook. 

Photos by DCdigest 'Donna Christenson at ZooFari  2012, 2013 and 2014