Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Farm-Fresh Dining in DC

On a business trip to Washington DC last week, I had the pleasure of sampling some of DC's top restaurants featuring farm-fresh food (a welcome new trend). My first night, my friends Don and Harv took me out to the Blue Duck Tavern, a recent arrival in the Hyatt on M and 24th St NW. The menu demonstrates their commitment to fresh ingredients, changing daily, and with the provenance of each item listed, typically from farms in nearby states. My entire meal was delicious, from the delicate artichoke soup, thru the tender and juicy pork chops (from pastured Pennsylvania pigs) in a bourbon peach glaze, accompanied by a sweet winter squash puree, to an impeccably fresh cheesecake with sour cherry compote. Bites exchanged with my companions proved their dinners equally superb preparations of the freshest ingredients. All this was complimented by a marvelous Chateau Souverain cabernet selected by Don. The only detraction was a rather uninspired selection of whisky and several fumbles getting the bar order right. But it was a top-notch meal, and I would certainly be happy to return.

Another evening, I took my colleagues to Restaurant Nora near Dupont Circle, one of the first restaurants committed to organic food. I had enjoyed a meal there years before, and my return did not disappoint. Here too great care is taken in finding the freshest, wholesome organic ingredients sourced mostly from small local farms. Muscovy duck, raised on pond and pasture by an Amish farmer in Pennsylvania, made a double appearance in my meal, first in a duck liver pâté studded with pistachios and intriguingly complimented with apricot chutney and watercress, and then in a roasted duck breast, fanned out over a cornucopia of fresh vegetables cooked just enough to be bright, crisp, and flavorful. A savory cream of broccoli and ginger soup kicked off the affair, and a nice selection of hand-crafted cheeses wrapped things up in style. (Our otherwise competent server was not quite as knowledgeable about the cheeses as she should have been, but then I'm spoiled after Patina with its maître frommagier.) Not only does Nora take great care in sourcing her meats and vegetables, but she applies equal discernment in putting together an extraordinary whisky selection, offering a variety of thoughtfully chosen malts representing a variety of regions and styles, sourced from small distilleries. She sure knows how to make a good impression on the likes of me!

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