As you probably know, sustainable food and "farm fresh" is all the rage right now. The fairly new Founding Farmers (yes, a twist on "Founding Fathers" -- we are in DC after all) follows along with this trend -- as our waiter explained, Founding Farmers is owned by a collective of 40something thousand farmers who provide the restaurant with fresh produce, meats, and seafood. I thought that this fact may have explained why the restaurant was out of many ingredients the first time I visited Founding Farmers. A group of six of us were dining that night and each one of us, in turn, managed to order something that turned out not to be available due to one or another lacking ingredients.
On the invitation of two friends, I decided to try Founding Farmers again. The restaurant had garnered pretty fantastic reviews from local critics, it was a new restaurant so probably still working out the kinks, and at the very least, I hadn't seen these two friends in quite some time so I wanted to spend time with them! And, I was happy that I did go back again. This experience was much better than my first one -- the hostesses were very friendly and accommodating (while we waited 30 minutes for our table despite a reservation), our waiter was more knowledgeable and served us promptly (unlike my first experience there), and, best yet, all the dishes we ordered were available!
The restaurant was practically bursting at the seams. Despite it being a Tuesday and being 8 pm, the restaurant was completely packed with diners, drink-enjoyers, and people waiting for their tables. While we waited for our own table, my friends and I had some drinks at the bar -- Founding Farmers' drink menu contains some interesting and delicious sounding concoctions. I ordered the blackberry julep, which was unavailable at my last visit, and my friend had the "Organic Cucumber Delight." I much preferred my friend's organic cucumber delight -- it tasted almost like a lemonade with a hint of cucumber -- very fresh tasting and reminded us of summer days. It actually contained all-organic vodka, cucumbers, and cantaloupe.
We were seated at a booth near the bar. The whole feel of the restaurant, booths included, was a large communal restaurant where the focus was on a "green" atmosphere. The restaurant is LEED-certified and uses many recycled products (such as reclaimed woods for the table tops) throughout.
The first time I came to the restaurant, we ordered the "bacon lollis" (bacon candied with cinnamon and maple sugar glaze) -- the friends that I had went with that time raved about them and thought they were a must have. They are quite delicious, but I would only recommend them if you are a bacon fan. This time around, for three of us, we decided to share three different "small plates." My favorite of the three was the prosciutto, fig, mascarpone, & balsamic vinegar flatbread -- served up on three pieces of flatbread, these just packed a punch of flavor and delicious ingredients. Founding Farmers actually offers quite an array of small plates -- and as usual, I would love to just make a whole meal out of them, almost as if at a tapas/mezze/dim sum restaurant. The other small plates we ordered were the fried green tomatoes (usually a winner for me at a restaurant, but I find these just too heavy, with more breading than tomatoes -- and I've had them twice now!) and the heirloom cheese puffs (filled with spicy pimento cheese dip... very tasty, but perhaps would try something else next time).
We did end up ordering entrees as well. The Founding Farmers menu in general is just mammoth and filled with loads of options. This time around, I ordered the skirt steak served with chimichurri sauce and served with mac & cheese (I substituted the potatoes with mac & cheese) and corn on the cob -- I had spied someone at the bar having this earlier. The grilled corn on the cob was covered in what I think was parmesan cheese and paprika - delicious. I also quite loved the mac & cheese - large macaronis (almost like rigatoni noodles but with a slight bend to them) covered in a rich and creamy cheese sauce. The steak was also tasty, but nothing unusual from other skirt steaks. My friends in turn ordered the "steak and enchilada" (his side of mac & cheese earned more excited remarks than the actual steak and enchilada) and the "lemon meuniere diver scallops" served with pumpkin risotto (delicious, and a great lighter option).
This trip to Founding Farmers was much more successful than the first round. I love the concept of Founding Farmers and the menu itself appeals to me greatly. I plan to come back again, but may wait for a few months once the hype dies down and once more of the kinks have been worked out. The other flatbreads piqued my interest (creamy brie, onion jam, and slice organic apples...yum), as well as some of the sandwiches (the crab roll perhaps? or the always reliable "grilled artisnal cheese and tomato soup") and the pasta (butternut squash ravioli...straw and hay pasta...lobster mac & cheese). Now I only wish that this restaurant had opened when I used to live closer to it!
1924 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20006