I was in Washington, DC this week for a conference for work. I kind of have a love-hate relationship with my fairly frequent work trips to DC. My parents and my best friend do live in adjacent Maryland, so it’s nice to visit without having to pay the airfare, and DC is a great city, with lots more yummy food and culture options than we have in Boise. DC restaurants are always a highlight, and usually I try to hit up one of my favorite Ethiopian, Thai, or French places.
This time though, my city-savvy friend Corita pointed out that my conference was right near Founding Farmers Restaurant, a farmer-focused restaurant in a busy commercial area on Pennsylvania Ave. We met up for lunch, and though the wait for a table on a busy Wednesday lunch hour was 20-30 minutes, both of us were able to sit at the bar right away.
So, the weirdest thing about the place was the way that it looked from the outside…..like some kind of founding farmer corporate offices, or a bank. It’s in the bottom of a big glass office building. Way more corporate DC than farmer, and I might not even had noticed it if I weren’t looking for it. But then, their usual customers are not me, but these guys:
Corporate guys in suits that is, lunching behind giant canned jars of carrots and other goodies, is what you see as you walk in the door. (That, and hungry diners waiting for tables, a sure sign it must be good.) In Idaho hardly anyone ever wears a suit, and these guys seemed so far removed from farms that it made me smile. Are they concerned with supporting farmers, or is the food just really good? Also I’ve never heard of canning carrots, will have to try that some time, and I’m not sure whether the restaurant will be serving these up at some point, or if they’re just for decoration.
So, according to their menu and website, Founding Farmers strives to purchase their ingredients directly from “American Family Farms…who value sustainable practices and methods.” Their menu listed a few of these, both local farms in Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania (states are a lot smaller in the east, so all 3 of these might be considered “local”), and farther away farms, in Minnesota, Wisconsin and even California. I imagine that the farms in question are probably larger in scale than either Marty’s farm or my refugee farming operation, but I did wonder about the logistics of how these family farms are managing to deliver produce to Washington, DC…..do they have to take care of the shipping, then, if it’s a direct marketing relationship, or is there a distributor involved who somehow manages to allow orders from specific farms? Interesting.
Corita and I ordered the La Quercia Proscuitto, Fig, and Mascarpone Flatbread ($8), (Some of my favorite ingredients on that one), and the Sheet Music Salad ($12). Here is what we got:
Both were so very delicious. The “flatbread” was what Farmer Marty likes to call a “Poor Boy,” basically an open-faced sandwich. They had about 8 different flatbreads on the menu. The combination of ingredients was very tasty. It was drizzled with some kind of balsamic dressing that made it look pretty, but if I made this at home I might put both the dressing and the figs underneath the proscuitto, just to make it less messy to eat 🙂
The “Sheet Music Salad” included “mixed greens, peas, radishes, corn, golden beets, candied pecans, house vinaigrette, and herbed crisp.” I kind of ordered it so that I could try as many fresh farm products on one plate as possible. It was a truly amazing salad. The salad greens were delicious, with lettuce leaves about the size of my thumb, which made me think that we really need to seed lettuce more frequently and harvest it smaller, because it really does make a superior salad that way. The golden beets were cooked and cut in little cubes so that they didn’t look very beetlike at all, and didn’t overwhelm the salad the way a red beet might. I really like both golden beets and chiogga beets for this reason, they don’t bleed all over the place and turn all of your food red. On our farm we’ve found the golden ones a little trickier to germinate consistently than the red varieties though. The “herbed crisp” was another awesome thing about this salad. The whole thing was basically served on top of a thin, crunchy piece of bread, that we broke off and ate with our salad for a satisfying crunchy mix of lettuce crunch and crackery bread crunch. Yum.
So, overall, loved it, wish there was one in Boise. Sigh. I encourage my faithful DC readers to try it out. Maybe I’ll order something with canned carrots in it next time.
All the details are on their website: http://www.wearefoundingfarmers.com/