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Founding Farmers Opens As An Eco-Friendly Watering Hole

The locally sourced food bandwagon has chef converts then and now. But at

The locally sourced food bandwagon has chef converts then and now. But at

By Jordan Wright

There was a long line for a table outside Founding Farmers on a recent Thursday evening. 
It seems the in-and-out economy hasn’t afflicted the success of this eco-friendly watering hole. A restaurant so green they recently received the first DC restaurant-recognized LEED Gold Certification in a ceremony attended by no less prominent a group than Mayor Fenty, the US Business Council, their next-door neighbors, the IMF, and White House representatives from the Office of Green Initiatives.

A policy of recycling, sustainable and reclaimed materials, and energy-conscious practices has drawn kudos from the environmentally minded and sourcing food from more than 40,000 farmers, with whom they have a direct relationship has brought the best food to the table. Charging a little bit more than the average dinner tab hasn’t deterred diners.

The locally sourced food bandwagon has chef converts then and now. But at Founding Farmers they don’t just talk the talk they walk the walk. Against a backdrop of fluffy cloud sculptures and flocks of birds, shelves hold rows of pickled vegetables. 

Customers sit at walnut-slab farm-style tables and you can feel a force of nature and newness at work here, from the staff to the chef to the bar. The enthusiasm is palpable and persuasive. Heard from our table were diners awed by dishes like the 17 Vegetable Salad. Sharing appears to be the order of the day.


The enthusiasm here is palpable and persuasive.

Back in the 70’s I cut my culinary teeth on the organic movement in Berkeley while at university. Then the pantheon of nutritionist/activists included Frances Moore Lappe, author of “Diet for a Small Planet”, Carleton Fredericks, Gayelord Hauser and Adele Davis. They warned of the dangers of processed foods, depleted soil and food additives, and they advocated organically grown, natural foods and vitamin supplements.

To read old TIME Magazine and mainstream media articles from the 70’s, many written by big industry lobbyists or those under their influence, is to remember how viciously these American pioneers’ theories were vilified. Agri-business controlled the product on the kitchen table and the message to the consumer.

Those practicing good nutrition and its philosophies were called “health nuts” or worse “heath food addicts”. Fruits, vegetables and salads were called “rabbit food” and the standard pejorative quip was “Californians were like a bowl of granola…full of fruits and nuts”. 

Fast forward to mega-markets like Whole Foods, CSA’s and farmer’s markets and witness the quantum leap in attitudes the food world has adopted. We are now ready to praise the farmers who are working within a narrow financial margin to bring chemical-free, humanely-raised, hormone and antibiotic-free food to our tables. That Giant and Safeway and Wal-Mart have their own organic lines is something I never thought I’d see in my lifetime.

This backstory serves to prepare you for the forward-thinking Founding Farmers restaurant and their North Dakota Farmers’ Union cooperative concept of beautiful food, naturally-raised, farm-grown and, in the case of seafood, sustainably harvested.
Cocktails, which are entirely handcrafted, including the ice, fresh-squeezed fruit juices, in-house made ginger beer, agave syrup and other luscious ingredients are not to be missed. 

We enjoyed a “Dark and Stormy”, “Blackberry Julep” and my favorite, “The Constitution”, made with Plymouth gin, infused with chamomile tea and blueberries, mixed with Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, fresh lemon juice and siphoned soda water. Wine selections are entirely biodynamic, sustainable or organic. Ditto for beers that can be ordered in flights…three 4 oz. draughts to sample and plenty of interesting choices.

There were Slow-Braised Beef Ribs, burgers and Seasonal Fish

There were Slow-Braised Beef Ribs, burgers and Seasonal Fish

Refreshing non-spirited beverages like Sarsaparilla, and the in-house made Ginger Ale, Cranberry Cucumber Cooler, Mint Limeade and the like are made to order.

Start with the Skillet Corn Bread. This version has a texture like spoonbread, light and fluffy with bits of corn niblets, or Ramos House Fried Green Tomatoes, a bit early in the season to capture the lemony zing. 

They are nevertheless perfectly batter-dipped and accompanied by creamy goat cheese and homemade green goddess dressing. Dense and smoky Bacon-wrapped Dates with a Balsamic Glaze, with their contents of tangy bleu cheese, are rich enough to be shared.

Another standout appetizer of Devilish Eggs can be ordered with classic, crab, lobster and smoked salmon fillings. We could hardly get enough of these simple but amped up eggs.

Done-to-death dishes like Southern Skillet-Fried Chicken with Cream Gravy on waffles become reborn with the use of high-quality chicken and sides of mac’ n’ cheese and fresh seasonal veggies. In a lavish re-interpretation try the mac’ n’ cheese served with Lobster in a creamy Gouda-Cheddar sauce.

With a Spicy Ahi Poke Salad I was as happy as the proverbial dog with a bone. Anyone wanting to share it was out of luck. I loved the bright, clear “cat’s cradle” of interlocking flavors…the silken tuna, cabbage crunch and sesame vinaigrette.

There were Slow-Braised Beef Ribs and Seasonal Fish selections prepared in a number of ways…with Roasted Hazelnut Butter, Meuniere style or Napa Provencale. 

I never did get to sample dessert after all that fabulous food…the servings were large and most diners left with eco-friendly cartons of their leftovers. After all, who could leave these delights behind?

But for the record and just to whet your appetite, there is Carrot Cake, Red Velvet Cake, Campfire S’mores Pudding, Apple Turnovers, Vanilla Bean Cheesecake with Seasonal Fruit and something called a Vertical Banana Split. I guess that means you don’t eat it lying down.

As I was leaving one of the servers showed me a few of the nifty features…a wooden beam leftover from Hurricane Katrina’s wrath and re-purposed, green-sourced wind energy power and steel curtains that automatically lower to cover the floor-to-ceiling windows in case of…well, I wasn’t sure. 

If You’re Going…
Founding Farmers
1924 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20006
(202) 822-8783

A Recipe for Fried Green Tomatoes 

8oz. green tomatoes
1tbl secret seasoning salt prep
2 tablespoons General, Chicken flour/seasoned flour prep
1 egg
2 tablespoons superfine cornmeal
2 tablespoons japanese-panko
1 tbl fresh thyme, chopped fine
1 tablespoon kosher salt

Core green tomatoes, sliced 1/2 inch think

Season tomatoes with big&beefy seasoning salt and dust with chicken flour
Combine cornmeal, panko, and thyme, mix well

Follow standard breading procedures with pancake batter.

Fry until golden brown and salt immediately.

Serve with Green Goddess and Goat Cheese Spread.

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