A Recap: Waffles & Wellness

By AJ Dronkers and photos by Rachel Maucieri

At Edible DC, we love hosting events but more frequently, we're invited guests to more events that we can count. (It's a tough job, right?) We are always on the prowl for new ideas that delight guests which is why Greenheart Juice and Heirloom Catering's Waffles & Wellness event, designed to be a local artisan maker sit down brunch left us spinning with design inspiration. We wanted to share a recap of how they transformed an empty retail space. 

Overall catering, styling and design by HeirloomDC  @heirloomdc -- love the hanging glass bottles with flowers as a chandelier centerpiece. 

Overall catering, styling and design by HeirloomDC  @heirloomdc -- love the hanging glass bottles with flowers as a chandelier centerpiece. 

The mixture of lush and rustic works really well here -- in particular digging the menus done by @papercranecalligraphy.

The mixture of lush and rustic works really well here -- in particular digging the menus done by @papercranecalligraphy.

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Love their use of edible flowers throughout the meal. They got these from urban farm @littlewildthingsfarm -- you can buy their sprouts at Glen's Garden Market or the Bloomingdale Farmers Market.

Flowers by Darling & Daughters @darlinganddaughters

Flowers by Darling & Daughters @darlinganddaughters

Furniture & Tabletop Pieces by Something Vintage Rentals @smthingvintage

Produce from Washington Green Grocer @greengrocerdc

(The event was hosted in the previous Kit & Ace Georgetown retail space. @kitandace.)


 

DC’s Fast Casual Eateries and the Sustainable Supply Chain

What Does It Take to Make a Commitment to Sourcing Local or Organic?

By AJ Dronkers & Susan Able -- Illustrations by Gavin Roarke

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They have likely become part of your regular dining repertoire. Located seemingly everywhere, you walk by them, you crave them, and yes there are apps for that. Fast-casual eateries are on the rise across the region, and the DMV has been the birthplace for many shooting stars of the genre. Some that have seen national success include Sweetgreen, CAVA, Elevation Burger and &Pizza. Takorean, Beefsteak and Taylor Gourmet are seeing tremendous success and growing locally.

The rise of DC’s fast-casual segment mirrors what is happening nationally amid a shrinkage in all other restaurant categories, including full-service and fine-dining restaurants.

Part of the growth is attributed to popularity among millennials—a population that DC has attracted en masse. Demographic research suggests that the professional millennial cohort have demanding jobs, working more and therefore cooking a little less. They also appear to be the driver for demanding healthier, sustainable and/or organic food at an approachable price point.

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Many of these brands emphasize sourcing locally and sustainably, and they are expanding rapidly. So how do they manage their supply chain to fulfill their initial mission, the one that helped them build a core of followers?

Sourcing local, sustainable and ethical food isn’t always easy. And we take for granted getting quality fast-casual food for around $10. How are companies able to deliver that when they have a mission to invest in better food sourcing? We decided to find out more about how local fast casuals were dealing with supply chain issues and we talked with the founders of two local food start-ups. After our conversations, it’s clear a lot of passion and dedication goes into creating fast-casual concepts that care. Their investment in small farmers, processors and even the transportation system means lower profits, but a long-term gain of better food, a healthier environment, eager new markets and a stronger community of loyal customers.

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CAVA grill started here in DC in 2006 and has grown to over 21 locations across Maryland, Virginia, New York and now California. Their healthy fast-casual Mediterranean concept has helped make harissa and “crazy feta” popular at grocers like Whole Foods Market, which sells CAVA spreads in over 160 stores. CAVA’s expansion has been driven by substantive venture capital (VC) funding.

EDIBLE DC: Restaurant concepts are often a risk. Why do these VC firms see investing in fast-casual as a smart investment?

Brett Schulman CAVA COO

Brett Schulman CAVA COO

Brett Schulman (CAVA chief operating officer): They love that we are a mission-based, healthy-lifestyle brand, making a positive impact throughout our supply chain. All investors are seeing disruption in the world of food. Similar to when Whole Foods disrupted the grocery market, we have disrupted fast-food.

In 2016, CAVA announced a partnership with a local lamb farm called Border Springs out of Southwest Virginia. But that partnership really took work to figure out. We met and talked with Border Springs owner Craig Rogers, and we knew we wanted to work with this man who had so much passion, but it took two years to bring it to fruition.

EDC: How did sourcing local, grass-fed, antibiotic-free lamb come into reality?


Brett: What gets me so excited—we had two partners who were relentless in the pursuit of figuring it out: Craig Rogers and us. We had looked at a lot of different prices. Can we get it at a price that supports the farmer but also works for our customers? It took a lot of grit and passion to find the balance.

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EDC: What were some of the obstacles after you identified Border Springs as a good fit?

Brett: The local meat processing side is a challenge. Small and medium meat processors have either closed or have been gobbled up. So even though the “buy local” meat movement has grown, there isn’t as much infrastructure to support the process. Another challenge was distribution. Distribution and transportation are some of the highest costs associated with goods. After two years, we found a processor that could process the lamb effectively at the volume we needed, keep humane standards, adhere to our standards and scale with the growth.

EDC: So with all of this “grit and passion” to make it reality, how do you stay profitable?

Brett: We have to sacrifice margin on some of our end, obviously. But our assembly-line service and other aspects of business where we save money means we can invest that savings into other parts like sourcing local.

Elevation Burger, a 100% organic grass-fed beef fast-casual, started here in Northern Virginia and has expanded to 60+ units including locations across the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Quatar. They are one of the largest fast-casual sellers of grass-fed beef in the country. AJ Dronkers sat down with co-founder and VP of Supply Chain Michael Berger.

EDC: Why was going with grass-fed beef so important to you?

Elevation Burger 

Elevation Burger 

Michael Berger (Elevation vice president): We set out to change the industrial complex of beef agriculture. We do advocacy, recently testifying in Maryland in support of stricter livestock regulation around vaccine and antibiotic use that is resulting in resistant bacteria. Hans Hess, our founder, was working on Capitol Hill in late 1990s doing research on antibiotic use in livestock and the resulting human sickness from these superbugs. While there may not be a Whole Foods Market in rural parts of the U.S., we knew that there could be an Elevation Burger to provide people a good healthy product at the right price point. And ultimately, if we create enough market for organic beef, we could create change in our food system.

EDC: How do you source 100% organic grass-fed beef for so many locations?

Michael: We have a multi-country sourcing strategy. It was hard to find just one place that could handle our volume. We’ve had to help farmers get certified, and help educate producers on going organic in exchange for priority on product. We are buying from over 100 small beef farmers.

EDC: How does the sustainability and health consciousness of your brand resonate with consumers? Does it make a difference?

Michael: When we look at our data—how people make decisions on where they eat, it isn’t necessarily about the quality. Proximity, costs and taste play a large role. About a ⅓ of our guests are really responding to product attributes such as non-GMO, no hormones, organic, grass-fed, etc.

EDC: Tell me how these values play out in a franchise model. How do you guarantee the ethos of your mission, brand and values with new owners all over the world?

Michael: All our franchisees believe in what we are doing. For example, we have Muslim franchises and they are proud of our halal meat. Our expansions in markets where they don’t have access to clean meat attracts other investors. Or parents who said they opened their eyes to organic when they had kids. There are a lot of different burger franchises that you can buy out there—so we tend to attract people who really care about organic.

Beefsteak is the new veggie-centric fast-casual concept from Chef José Andrés’ ThinkFoodGroup. With five outlets so far, the concept at Beefsteak is similar to other multi-ingredient bowl fast-casual programs, where customers can design their own meal chosing from grains, to greens, to veggies and sauces. And while Beefsteak puts veggies “center stage,” it is not vegetarian with toppings in the form of cheese, chicken, eggs and salmon. Susan Able spoke to a man with one of DC’s great job titles, chief of produce, former farmer Bennett Haynes, about the challenge of keeping it fresh and local.

EDC: When a restaurant focuses on veggies as the main ingredient, what kind of pressure is on you to find the top-quality produce?

Beefsteak 

Beefsteak 

Bennett Hayes (chief of produce, Beefsteak): I was a farmer in New Jersey myself before I came to Beefsteak, so I love farming and growing things, and I used to grow for restaurants and work in kitchens during the winters, so I understood how restaurants work with menu development to make things profitable. My first goal was to understand Beefsteak’s food costs and supply needs. We definitely buy commodity produce, I’m not going to greenwash that—we go through 600 pounds of broccoli a week and the reality is that a lot of it is coming from California.

EDC: What bar have you set for buying local—what kind of importance does that have for you?

Bennett: So our local focus is buying stuff in season. We work with our broker to develop those relationships and I go to farm markets and bring in vendors to promote—like Toigo Orchards, who has great apples and also produces high-quality tomatoes.

Tomatoes are a good example of what we do with local produce. In season, from July to early October, we can source our tomatoes locally. Our goal is to access as much local produce as possible: fruit crops, apples, squash, butternut squash. Local sourcing hasn’t been part of our marketing—we’ve been more focused on promoting quality. But our brand is a work in progress and we’re still defining our purchasing program.

EDC: Can local farmers grow enough produce for Beefsteak?

Bennett: Yes, vegetable by vegetable. Opportunities are there for local growers who want to specialize. A farmer with a 50- to 100-acre farm can go big on something and see if that pays off. At the end of the day, the farmer needs to grow and grow revenue, so the question is, ‘What could work for wholesale?’ At the same time, restaurants beyond Beefsteak have to be open to what wholesale really means and need to accommodate what is in season. For example, we need to see turnips as sexy—they are available all winter long, they are not expensive and can be used in a lot of different ways. A brand like ThinkFoodGroup, our parent, can develop different ways to use these sustainable vegetables to make them interesting and fun menu items.

EDC: What kinds of things keep the chief of produce up at night?

Bennett: I have very big concerns about the future of agriculture; our model based on surplus is pretty flawed and we should get back to local, regional agriculture. Our goal? A 500-mile foodshed is something we are working toward. Highlighting the focus on our region’s top produce from Eastern Shore kale, to Carolina sweet potatoes, to Georgia stone fruit. The intention with creating a “chief of produce” role was to help drive these decisions about seasonality and promote great vegetables. 

A Summer Tryout: Friends Gather to Taste a New Menu for Calico

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Chef Nate Beauchamp Brings a Party to an Urban Oasis

By Nathan Beauchamp | Photography by Ashley Hafstead | Styling by Tinsel Events

People often ask how we develop the concept for a new restaurant from the menu to the design. It really starts with a tiny idea that just grows until it becomes reality. And truly it is one of the most collaborative processes you can imagine.

One of the great inspirations for a new restaurant is travel. Whether a European café or Asian airport is our muse, e distill those experiences down to what we loved most and what the most important elements that need to be replicated to capture our concept. The vibe and character of the place are what we hold on to and try to recreate, even the colors and the smells. It also helps to work with very creative designers who can express our vision through the restaurant’s design. A good example of this idea-to-concept process is Tiger Fork, our new place in Blagden Alley where the design and feel are as important as the food, because we want to share what we loved with our guests about our travels in Asia and give them the best of what we experienced.

The other inspiration is good memories. My business partners all spent time on the Jersey shore, and we decided that we needed to develop a casual restaurant where we could serve up the food that we craved from the summers of our childhoods. Space was available in Blagden Alley where we felt could recreate the backyard vibe of our memories, with patio lights, trees and flowers. We built the menu around the Eastern seaboard summer picnic and the food we ate as kids. We tested some concepts with a picnic series at The Fainting Goat last year and we’ve continued to try things like we did in this meal. Simple food that is fun to share with a lot of flavor. I liked the idea of Jersey tomato pie, some delicious sides, and the hickory smoked brisket—keep it simple.

So stay tuned, we plan to open in September with a casual menu focused BBQ, crab feasts, steamed shrimp, local beers and cocktails on tap and special punches. The name? You can come find us at Calico at 50 South Blagden Alley this fall.

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Watermelon Salad

  • 1 medium, very ripe, round watermelon
  • 10 ounces ricotta salata
  • Saba or vin cotto*
  • Mint leaves, roughly chopped

Slice watermelon in half width-wise, then make thin slices down toward the end, making sure that you don’t go completely through. Pull the chunks apart, creating a loose middle. Add cheese, sprinkle saba and cut mint and place on watermelon. Use forks and dive in!

* Saba—also known as sapa, vin cotto or mosco cotto—is an Italian syrup made from cooking down grape must.

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Zesty Cucumber Salad

  • ½ cup crème fraiche
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons dill
  • 1 small red onion
  • 6 cucumbers
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Peel cucumbers and slice thinly. Thinly slice the red onion. Combine all the other ingredients and toss with cucumber and red onions.

Nate’s Grilled Corn on the Cob

  • 6 ears shucked sweet corn
  • 5 ounces beef jerky
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Zest and juice of 1 lime
  • ½ pound chilled butter
  • 2 tablespoons chopped basil
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons espelette* or paprika

Combine the beef jerky, garlic, lime zest and basil and pulse in the bowl of a food processor. Add the butter until fully incorporated. Grill the corn for 5–7 minutes, until blistered. Brush with jerky butter. Toss with the espelette and serve.

* A Basque red pepper; paprika can substitute.

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True Blue Maryland Crab Dip

  • 1 pound Maryland lump crab*
  • 1 cup Kewpie mayo**
  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard
  • 1 cup Gouda, grated
  • 2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 cup panko-style breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter

Mix together all the ingredients but the breadcrumbs, and place in a shallow pan. Melt the butter and mix the breadcrumbs in, then place the buttered breadcrumbs on top of the crab mixture and bake for 30 minutes.

* True Blue is a labeling initiative for identifying real Maryland crab meat.

** Kewpie mayo is addictively umami and can be found at Japanese food stores.

 


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Eastern Shore native and RAMMY Award–winning Rising Star Chef Nathan Beauchamp, who won props for his work at Georgetown’s 1789, returned to Washington, DC, in 2014 after a stint in Minnesota to take on the executive chef position at U Street favorite The Fainting Goat. Since then, Beauchamp and his business partner, Greg Algie, have expanded to Shaw’s Blagden Alley with Tiger Fork, a restaurant that combines Hong Kong cool and global influences.

A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, NY, Beauchamp has also worked in acclaimed kitchens such as Park Avenue Café in NYC with David Burke, and in the DC area at Restaurant Eve, Vidalia and Bistro Bis. 

News from DMV Farmer Market News

By Arielle Weg

It’s finally the time of year where you can pick up sweet-as-candy tomatoes and juicy peaches at your local farm market. What’s new this season?

Bloomingdale Farm Market and 14 & U Street farm market welcome new weekly vendor Little Wild Things, an urban farm specializing in microgreens, salad greens and edible flowers.

The 14 & U Street Farm Market vendor Pecan Meadow is now growing and selling oyster and lion’s mane mushrooms.

FRESHFARM Capitol Riverfront Market makes its debut this season! Operated in partnership with the Capitol Riverfront Business Improvement District (BID) and located in Canal Park, steps from the Yards and Nationals Park. Locally grown produce, baked goods, pasture-raised meat, charcuterie, fresh pasta, crab cakes and oysters, fermented foods and pickles, coffee, cold-pressed juice, boba tea, popcorn, a beer garden and more. Be sure to stop by before Sunday-afternoon Nats games this summer!

FRESHFARM Mount Vernon Triangle Market has relocated to the corner of 5th and I Streets NW and expanded to a full-fledged farmers market, after operating for several years as a farm stand. 

FRESHFARM Penn Quarter Market has a new location on F Street NW, in front of the National Portrait Gallery. New to the market this year are Bun’d Up, serving savory bao buns; Ruby Scoops Ice Cream & Sweets, with seasonally inspired ice creams and baked goods; and Red Zebra, baking wood-fired pizzas.

FRESHFARM Rosslyn Market is a new market in the FRESHFARM network, located on the newly developed Central Place Plaza near the Rosslyn Metro station. Products available include fruits and vegetables, meats, baked goods, ice cream, and smoothies.

The Bethesda Central Farm Market has four new vendors joining them this season. Purchase premium kosher beef and lamb from Amish farms, including many cuts of meat not often available in the U.S. at Atara Foods. Taste Banner Bee Company’s delicious raw honey, raw comb honey, bee pollen granules and propolis chunks and tinctures. Or pick up a pure beeswax candle or honey- and beeswax-based bath and body products. Purchase green leaf sprouts at Potomac Sprout Company or fresh-shelled beans and peas from Thomas McCarthy Farm.

The Pike Central Farm Market will now offer fresh cheeses and yogurts from Blue Ridge Dairy, including fresh mozzarella, applewood-smoked mozzarella, burrata, fresh ricotta and aged feta. You can also sip on organic cold-pressed juices from the new Juice Fresh.

Mosaic Central Farm Market welcomes Conklin Farms, selling year-round vegetables, pasture-raised chickens, eggs, turkey, beef and more. Mosaic market has partnered with Frontier Kitchen, an incubator kitchen that provides and outlet and real-world sales experience to students. Vendors will rotate weekly from the kitchen, and permanent space has been given to Muggarz BBQ, selling handcrafted slow-smoked barbecued meats, and Sweet on the Bubbly selling specialty jams and marmalades. Other new vendors include Savagely Good, selling handmade pies.

The Olney Farm Market will welcome Maryland Cheesecake, selling homemade cheesecakes, including to-go cupcake sizes. They’ve also added Milkhouse Brewery at Stillpoint Farm in Mount Airy, MD, and new farmer Chef Russ, selling organic produce and prepared dinners. Russ Testa, owner of Your Chef’s Table, is the newest farmer to join the market, and he will be selling organic meal kits from his Brookeville farm.

The Takoma Park Farm Market will now feature market lunch options from Cabin Creek Heritage Farm plus pop-ups by local breweries Wardeca Brewing Company and Milkhouse Brewery.

 

Back-to-School: Farmer Edition

By Whitney Pipkin

Our farmer workforce is shrinking as farmers are getting older—according to the census, the average age of a farmer was 58.3 years and a third of farmers were older than 65 in 2012. In our region, 20% of farmers are approaching retirement. New farmer training that focuses on financial, environmental and community sustainability is essential to raise the next crop of farmers and ensure our region’s future food security.—Sarah Sohn, Future Harvest CASA

Laura Beth Resnick and Jascha Owens at Butterbee Farm. (Photo by Stacy Bauer)

Laura Beth Resnick and Jascha Owens at Butterbee Farm. (Photo by Stacy Bauer)

For Vincent Matanoski, raising sheep and goats alongside vegetables and cut flowers was a significant departure from his most recent gig as a Naval reservist deployed for nearly two years to Africa. He worked as an attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice before that so, when he and his wife, Carin Celebuski, decided to buy land in Monkton, Maryland, and become farmers, “I felt like a total neophyte,” he says.

So, at 57, he went back to school.

The Beginning Farmer Training Program, offered by the Future Harvest Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture (CASA), is where many local greenhorns like Matanoski begin becoming farmers, says the program’s director, Sarah Sohn.

The 9-year-old program has churned out more than 100 graduates so far, and this year, expanded to offer three tiers of courses for farmers at various stages of their budding careers. Many of these farmers go on to sell their produce or animal products locally, growing and raising them with their environmental impact in mind.

Sohn says the program added additional tiers for farmers who have been at it for three to five years, recognizing that they are still learning the ropes as they go.

“Even though these people are all categorized as ‘beginning farmers,’ their needs are very different,” she says.

After nearly a decade of training farmers in the area, the chances of running into a graduate or farmer-mentor at a local farmers market “are pretty good,” says Sohn. “It takes a village to do this type of farming.”

Gary Palmer

Holiday Memories Farm

Anne Arundel County, Maryland

Former firefighter, Gary Palmer, rides his vintage tractor at Holiday memories Farm. (Photo by Susan Able)

Former firefighter, Gary Palmer, rides his vintage tractor at Holiday memories Farm. (Photo by Susan Able)

Gary Palmer jokes that he’s the beginning farmer program’s token senior citizen. But, at 57, he’s far from the only one finding a second career in the field.

After retiring from nearly 30 years as a DC firefighter, Palmer began a year-long search for the right piece of farmland, “kissing a lot of toads” and eventually landing on almost 23 acres in Maryland’s Anne Arundel County. The land seemed to lend itself to Christmas trees, which is how Palmer got started and how the business got its name: Holiday Memories Farm.

Palmer, who also owns a picture-framing business in Annapolis, has since added vegetables, free-range laying chickens, flowers and high tunnels for extended growing seasons to the farm operation. And he credits the beginning farmer program, as a third-year participant, with showing him the ropes.

“Not only was I learning how to farm, but I got exposure to a lot of vegetables and things that, to be perfectly frank, had never crossed my plate before,” he says.

His son-in-law, Zeke Pearson, a disabled veteran, works on the farm, and Palmer’s grandkids are often on site as well. The produce is sold at a farm stand along a major artery, and Palmer’s gone out of his way to get the attention of passersby. He painted an American flag on the top of the barn for the Fourth of July and added a Maryland flag across the front this past year.

“People pretty much know when they drive up and down that we’re the farm with the flag,” Palmer says.

But, just in case, he planted 6,000 sunflowers across the farm’s façade this past season “to attract both bees and customers.”

Laura Beth Resnick & Jascha Owens

Butterbee Farm

Baltimore County, Maryland

Laura Beth Resnick was going to school in New York City and hating it when her roommate went to work on a farm—and met a boy.

“I was, like, ‘I want to meet a boy,’” Resnick chortles. “So I went to work on a farm but did not meet any boys. That summer, I fell in love with farming.”

For Resnick, 28, the love part would come later, when she met her now-husband Jascha Owens, 31, who was an artist at the time, and turned him into a farmer, too.

When Resnick started the Beginning Farmer Training Program, she was interested in growing vegetables but quickly saw that the market near Baltimore was becoming saturated. After helping with her sister’s wedding (and still dreaming of her own), “I decided I should grow flowers.”

Now, she says, “I really think I would not have been as happy doing vegetables. I love the collaborations I get to do with florists, with these people who appreciate beauty.”

Resnick was 23 and just setting up her farm business when she was connected to mentors Jack and Beckie Gurley of Calvert’s Gift Farm through the program. If she was hunting for a particular piece of farm equipment or curious about growing in hoop houses, she now had someone to ask. Resnick already had a few farm internships under her belt by then, but the training program was particularly helpful to her husband, who participated the same year they got married, in 2016.

“For Jascha, just having an overview of what a farming season is like was crucial,” for both business and marriage, says Resnick. “It was nice that I didn’t have to teach him to farm but that he got his own education in farming somewhere else first.”

Carin Celebuski & Vince Matanoski

Ladybrook Farm

Monkton, Maryland

Farmers Vince Matanoski and Carin Celebuski at Ladybrook Farm. (Photo by Stacy Bauer.)

Farmers Vince Matanoski and Carin Celebuski at Ladybrook Farm. (Photo by Stacy Bauer.)

Carin Celebuski had already been back to school at the University of Maryland for a degree in horticulture when she signed up for the beginning farmer program in 2016. She and her husband, Vince Matanoski, had recently bought an 80-acre farm in Monkton, Maryland, and, the couple says, they needed all the help they could get launching a diversified business.

The program, Celebuski adds, “gives you a place to think about your business and demands that you think these things: What’s your business plan? How are you going to pay for things? What’s your farm philosophy?”

That’s why Celebuski, 58, insisted her husband do the program as well. Her interest in horticulture has segued into a budding career growing cut flowers, raising chickens for eggs and keeping bees for honey, and she knew her husband would need to carve out his own niche.

Matanoski, 57, had just gotten back from almost a year-long deployment in Africa when he hit the ground running at the farm, working to fence in pastures, plant trees and build barns to accommodate animal husbandry as part of the business. He’s learned the most from his mentor through the program, a former extension agent who raises sheep in Baltimore County.

As a former lawyer, “the interesting thing about farmers is they are extremely willing to share their knowledge and experience with all comers,” says Matanoski, who’s currently in the training program. “You have this shared passion and there’s an immediate bond.”

For more information on the Future Harvest CASA Beginning Farmer Training Program, or to apply for next year’s training classes, go to futureharvestcasa.org.

Brunch is a Serious Work of Art at the National Gallery

Bottomless and Buffet-Style, The Garden Café Wins on the Weekend

Charcuterie and cheese at the National Gallery of Art Garden Cafe brunch. (Photo compliments the National Gallery of Art)

Charcuterie and cheese at the National Gallery of Art Garden Cafe brunch. (Photo compliments the National Gallery of Art)

By AJ Dronkers, EdibleDC

Weekend brunch is serious sport in Washington, D.C. Most restaurants, including those that feature our top local chefs, offer insane brunch specials to include the ubiquitous bottomless brunch. While you were fighting for a reservation on 14th street, the National Gallery of Art just launched what might be the best bottomless brunch experience, category: Buffet Edition.

No surprises here. Team EdibleDC loves brunch and has sampled our way through a fair share of DC's brunch options. As a rule of thumb, buffet-style anything is oft avoided, but we recently made an exception to try the new brunch at the Garden Café inside the National Gallery of Art. Surrounded by awe-inspiring art as you walk through the marbled gallery, we snagged a table next to a fountain centered with a female statue that in my imagination is saying, “Oh yasssss.” What the Garden Café might lack in a party vibe, it more than makes up for in ambiance and people watching.

The Garden Cafe at the National Gallery of Art West Building. (Photo compliments the National Gallery of Art)

The Garden Cafe at the National Gallery of Art West Building. (Photo compliments the National Gallery of Art)

Buffet brunch at the Garden Cafe. (Photo compliments of the National Gallery of Art)

Buffet brunch at the Garden Cafe. (Photo compliments of the National Gallery of Art)

For $30, you get an all-access ticket to the brunch buffet which includes traditional items like buttermilk pancakes, baked frittata, pork sausage and seasonal fruit. We opted to start with a heaping tray of imported charcuterie and cheese because, well, shouldn't everything in life start with cheese and champagne? Our group quickly decided to add on the $10 bottomless feature.

As we sipped on our second mimosa, we discovered roasted butternut squash, baby kale, and a Greek couscous salad. A pleasant addition, as we people watched gallery goers. 

Just as I began to realize how tipsy I’ll be for Game of Thrones, our waitress reminded us to try the roasted free range chicken and the short ribs. Seriously, cancel all your plans and get yourself to the National Gallery for brunch available now through September. You’ll thank us later.

The National Gallery of Art. (Photo compliments of the National Gallery of Art)

The National Gallery of Art. (Photo compliments of the National Gallery of Art)


Full menu available here.    

National Gallery of Art

West Building 

6th & Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC 20565


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AJ Dronkers is the Associate Publisher and Digital Editor for EdibleDC Magazine. When he's not eating and drinking he's usually making up for it at spin. @aj_dc