Sunday, March 15, 2009

Founding Farmers: Bringing local food to the DC restaurant scene

Having only been open for the past four months, Founding Farmers is already getting a lot of attention from DC diners. I read and heard a lot about Founding Farmers, which boasts its connection to the farmers that harvest the restaurant’s food as well as being a LEED Certified Green Restaurant. When I first learned about Founding Farmers, I knew I wanted to check it out and learn more about their goals as well as sample their potentially celiac-friendly food.

I love the idea of knowing where my food comes from and how an entrĂ©e literally gets ‘from farm to table.’ I’m definitely one of those suckers for books like Omnivore’s Dilemma (Michael Pollan) and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (Barbara Kingsolver) and my dream is to start a restaurant/gluten free bakery in Charlottesville or Linden, VA that only uses local produce and meat. So Founding Farmers is the fancy-urbanite version of my dream life.

My love for things natural and local definitely became much more pronounced after my celiac diagnosis because I immediately began to think more about:

1. What was in my food
2. Where my food came from
3. The flavors of the food I could eat

Upon learning about Founding Farmers, my hope was that they would be able and willing to accommodate my gluten free diet. I figured anyone who cares so much about ingredients and farms should be willing to make adjustments for those with allergies and be knowledgeable about the ingredients in their dishes. Fortunately, my assumption was correct!

David called early in the week to make reservations for Friday night. They only offered 5:30 and 9:00 reservations so we decided just to go without reservations and we were seated in under 30 minutes. We had a drink at the bar while we waited and it was very crowded and a bit difficult to get a drink, but not obnoxiously crowded and everyone was friendly so I didn’t mind too much. All of FF’s wines are organic and they have a lot of fun drinks. They even serve absinthe…I didn’t know if that was gluten free or not. An added bonus about Founding Farmers is that it was easy to find street parking, which is not always the case when going to DC restaurants.

Despite it being a busy Friday night, the wait staff was extremely friendly and chatty. I definitely felt good about their knowledge of gluten as well as their understanding of what was in the food. For example, the waiter immediately knew that I could not have the tomato soup. Our waiter(s) encouraged me to choose what I wanted and they would work hard to make changes to it so that it could be gluten free. I always love that response!

For a fancy restaurant, the menu is quite large and there are overwhelmingly, many options from which to choose. The menu also changes frequently so you’ll just have to communicate with the waiter about your options, but I can guarantee you there will be plenty of choices for entrees. (Appetizers were a bit more limited.) I selected the lemon meuniere diver scallops with pumpkin risotto for my dinner and I was not disappointed. The only change the chef had to make was not to use flour when searing the scallops. The sauce was naturally GF as was the risotto! The sauce was full of flavor and it mixed perfectly with the risotto. I ate every bite of my dish but did not feel too full when I finished.

I strongly recommend Founding Farmers as the staff was extremely friendly and willing to provide me with the food I wanted to eat. We had multiple waiters over the course of the evening but they all knew my dietary needs and didn’t seem to mind, despite it being a busy night. Some people have criticized the menu being too big, but I think a lengthy menu is a good thing for gluten free diners because it gives us more options!

And of course the "wanna be, organic farmer/baker" in me loves the idea of natural and simple foods that haven’t traveled across the globe to get to my plate.
Enjoy Founding Farmers for breakfast, lunch or dinner!

Founding Farmers:

1924 Pennsylvania Ave, NW (IMF HQ2)
Washington DC 20006
202.822.TRUE (8783)


Thomas Hall said...

Love it. Great review. Can't wait to try the place out.

Christian Holmes said...

Hello Betsy,

Thank you so much for recognizing the efforts that Founding Farmers makes on behalf of guests, and for your honest and helpful comments on your visit.

I did want to make clarity of the LEED / Certified Green Restaurant comment because these are actually two different designations that Founding Farmers has achieved to claim the title of "Greenest Restaurant in DC".

First, Founding Farmers is a Certified Green Restaurant, as designated by the Green Restaurant Association, a national non-profit standards association which recognizes establishments for their earth-friendly operational practices. These include: in-house purified water (no bottled water); use of recycled paper products; use of eco-safe cleaning products in the front and back of the house; recycling of all waste products, including composting of food waste and conversion of used cooking oils into bio-fuel, and no paper towels in the restrooms - but modern, sanitary and effective air blade hand dryers - among others.

Secondly, if not more significant, just last week Founding Farmers achieved LEED Gold status as designated by the US Green Building Council, the first for a restaurant in the District of Columbia. We also believe that Founding Farmers is the first a full-service, upscale-casual restaurant of this type in the entire US! It is a very big deal, and we're very proud.

On behalf of the restaurant, I really appreciate your support and helping us to spread the true food word...

Christian Holmes, General Manager

Kathleen said...

This review has been so helpful to me - I'm eating there tonight. Thanks, Betsy!

Anonymous said...

I am dining there this weekend - to the general manager: it would be AMAZING if you could note with stars on the menu or online what items are gluten free, as it becomes more common to have inquiring diners. THANKS!