Philly’s HipCity Veg: More Plants Coming to the People of DC

KatieBorrazzo_HipCityVeg-7The Passion and Vision of Founder Nicole Marquis

By Susan Able. Photos by Katie Borrazzo.

Opening June 8th by the Verizon Center, Washingtonians can now get behind what has captured the hearts of Philly vegetarians and carnivores alike—a 100% plant-based menu of burgers, fries, smoothies and shakes.

We chatted with CEO Nicole Marquis, 34, this morning as the HipCity Veg team readies their stylish new space and team for opening day.

Edible DC: You launched in 2012 with your first fast-casual restaurant in Philly’s Rittenhouse Square—how did you choose DC as your first “out of town” expansion?

Nicole Marquis: I looked at a lot of other cities—Manhattan, Chicago, Miami are just a few. But DC felt like the best place to go HipCity Veg 2.0. It’s a city that has real neighborhoods and when I came down to scout locations, people were so friendly and welcoming, it just felt like it was where we needed to be.

EDC: Will there be any differences in the DC location from what you’ve done in Philly?

NM: No, we wanted the same friendly, accessible vibe and I think we’ve created that here. The menu will have all the same super star items that we’ve become known for, our Groothie (a green smoothie), our Crispy HipCity Ranch sandwich which is our vegan version of a fried chicken sandwich. We’ve developed a following for our menu, so we’re keeping it intact and bringing it here! My core philosophy is that while what we do is good for the planet and for people—we have to compete on taste and we focus on flavor. That’s how we win over the carnivores and we’ll do that here.


EDC: What about local sourcing?

NM: We’re commited to using the best produce available, and we’re talking with Keany Produce about what local farms we can use when we can. It’s important to me to use organic when we can and where it makes sense, for example strawberries and plants that are heavily sprayed, but also to use local as much as we can too.

EDC: And sustainable practices?

NM: Well naturally, a 100% plant-based restaurant is already planet-friendly, but we also use composting and compostable packaging and serving items. It’s important to be green when you are serving 100% plants.

EDC: You’ve grown from one location in 2012, and now you will be in four locations with over 100 employees. And you’re 34. What was the passion that drove you, not only to do vegan, plant-based, but as a business woman and entrepreneur?

NM: I just have it in my blood. When I was in high school, I started an entertainment company and planned birthdays and events. And I actually grew that business for a year and turned a profit. So I knew I could do it.

But I graduated, going to college and then grad school (Marquis trained as a Shakespearean actor), but after grad school I kept asking myself what I was passionate about. Meanwhile, while I was figuring that out, I worked in restaurants from every position from busser to manager, so I learned the food business.

The game changer for me was reading The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, PhD and Thomas Campell, MD and seeing the connection between plant-based diets and improved health. And I thought, this must be right. I became a vegan eight years ago and noticed a tremendous change in my energy and how I felt. But I convinced my father, who was in his 50’s and struggling with his weight and a new diagnosis of diabetes, to try it. He is a nurse and was skeptical, but agreed to try eating a plant-based diet. After several months, he had lost over 20 pounds and was able to go off insulin because he had stabilized his blood sugar. So clearly eating a plant-based diet would help.

I also was inspired by Vedge, the famous Philadephia fine dining vegetable restaurant, with Chefs Richard Landau and Kate Jacoby. Chef Richard was my inspiration for bringing plants to people in a fast casual way.

EDC: How did you develop the concept and menu?

NM: I mapped out what I what my menu to be and the concept of the restaurant. Because I wanted it to be accessible, I wanted it to mirror traditional fast casual in price point and more than that, in flavor. When I had my ideas, Chef Richard helped me create my recipes. He is amazing and still an inspiration to me.

EDC: My husband is a very committed carnivore. How would you win him over?

NM: Again, it is all about amazing flavor and not missing out by not eating meat. One Crispy HipCity Ranch wins most meat eaters over!

EDC: Congrats on the launch.

NM: Thank you, and we can’t wait to have you bring your husband in for our Crispy HipCity Ranch.

Nicole Marquis is CEO and founder of Marquis & Com. In addition to HipCity Veg, she also launched Bar Bombón which brings flavors from her Puerto Rican heritage to Philadephia’s Rittenhouse neighborhood with an all plant-based menu of tacos and other Latin menu items. @hipcityveg

Put On Your Favorite Canadian Tuxedo… You Have Some Tasting To Do!

By Kirsten Bourne, Capital Area Food Bank for Edible DC BJB (265)

Where else can you eat like the First Family, try dishes from two recently named James Beard Award finalists, savor samples from many of  Washingtonian's top 100 restaurants and be treated to one of the best ice creameries in the country…all in one place?

The Capital Area Food Bank—the largest hunger and nutrition nonprofit serving the Washington metro area—has pulled together these and others in their biggest fundraiser of the year, the Blue Jeans Ball.

If you nab your ticket now, on Sunday March 13th your taste buds will be guaranteed a journey through the Washington area with bites from 40 local restaurants, from Logan Circle’s Ghibellina to Chevy Chase’s Range, from Dupont’s DGS Delicatessen to Arlington’s Restaurant Eve! Wondering how you’re going to wash the unlimited food down? Christopher McNeal of Bar Dupont, and his mixologist friends from Sotto, Kapnos and Rebellion have you covered with unlimited cocktails.

If you’re already planning on coming, make a note to stop by the silent auction to win delicious gifts donated by Momofuku Milk Bar’s chef Christina Tosi and How to Cook Everything author Mark Bittman (plus trips to Brazil and the French Riviera)! And stay for the live auction, where you’ll have a chance to bid on a private dinner for 10 and taco-making 101 with the founder of Chaia, the new “farm-to-taco” restaurant that all you Edible DC readers have been talking about!

Tickets are $200 each and each ticket sold raises enough money for the Capital Area Food Bank to feed a family of four for two weeks. Ticket and sponsorship details available at

BJB (281)

The details?

When: Sunday, March 13th 5 pm VIP reception; 6 pm tastings, cocktails and silent auction; 8 pm: program & live auction.

Where: Marriott Marquis Hotel, 901 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20001

Why:  The Capital Area Food Bank is the largest organization in the Washington metro area working to solve hunger and its companion problems: chronic undernutrition, heart disease and obesity. By partnering with nearly 450 community organizations in DC, Maryland and Virginia, as well as delivering food directly in hard to reach areas, the CAFB is helping 540,000 people each year get access to good, healthy food. That’s 12 percent of our region’s mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, and grandparents.

Visit:, or find the CAFB at, and Twitter at @foodbankmetrodc.

BJB (30)

Purple Sweet Potato Buttermilk Biscuits

Words and photos by Amber Breitenberg, special to EdibleDC DSC_3535

I'm from Norfolk, Virginia, where, though we sometimes forget it, our roots run deeply Southern. I grew up quite familiar with the sweet potato biscuit, a classic southern side that goes perfectly with a thick slab of Virginia ham. This time of year sweet potatoes are quite ubiquitous in my CSA share and I had been planning to make a batch to go with some maple rashers we were saving from The Rock Barn.

I happened to end up with a couple purple sweet potatoes and thought how cool it would be to make the classic sweet potato biscuit with a purple hue. I never would have guessed how vibrant and beautiful they would turn out, and obviously delicious. I love simple recipes that will make your guests say "that must have been so hard to make!" and then of course I get to explain that in fact it was quite easy--even bettter-- most of the ingredients came from our local farmers.


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (I use a Gluten Free substitute like Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free 1 to 1 Baking Flour)
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 5 Tbs unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup baked sweet potato
  • 3 Tbs honey


Preheat over to 400°F. Poke holes into sweet potato using a fork. Place sweet potato on baking sheet covered in aluminum foil in center of oven. Bake for 1 hour or until a fork can be easily inserted into the center of the sweet potato. Once cooked, scoop out the insides of the sweet potato and discard the skin. Place in refrigerator to chill.

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.

Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or a fork until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Place in refrigerator to chill.

In a small bowl, combine the buttermilk and honey, stirring with a whisk until well blended. Add the sweet potato and continue whisking (I prefer to use a hand mixer or you can throw everything into a food processor to make sure everything is well mixed)

Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and stir gently until moist (you may need to add one or two additional tsp of buttermilk if the dough seems too dry).


Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll out to about 1/2 inch thickness. Lightly dust the top of the dough with flour.

Fold the dough in half twice and reroll to about 3/4 inch thickness. Cut dough into rounds with a biscuit cutter. Combine edges and reroll dough until all of the dough has been used.

Processed with VSCOcam with a5 preset

Place dough rounds on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper about 1 inch apart.

Bake for 12-14 minutes or until you can see the dough beginning to flake.

Remove biscuits and let cool for several minutes before eating.

*These are best served right out of the oven and in my opinion do not store very well. So when you make them plan to have friends over to enjoy them with you or be prepared to bring a few to your neighbors.

Amber Breitenberg-Finished-0024Amber Breitenberg is a food and lifestyle photographer living in Washington, DC. Through her blog, A Little Terroir, she shares the stories of our local farmers and producers and offers some lessons she has learned along the way about living and eating with a sense of place. @alittleterroir

Will You Have Food for Tomorrow?

IMG_2848 By Mike Koch, special to EdibleDC

A few weeks ago I was among the attendees at the New York Times “Food for Tomorrow” conference at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Tarrytown, NY. It was the second annual event of its kind, bringing together food writers, food and agri-business entrepreneurs, academics, politicians, nonprofit leaders and, yes, a handful of farmers. I was honored to be among them and found the content both challenging and stimulating.

Four ideas persist as rattling presences in my mind:

One: We would do well to eat less meat—better said, we should only eat meats we procure from known, sustainable producers. The horrors and environmental impact of animals raised in “concentrated animal feeding operations,” also know as CAFOs, are well documented.

Two: We should eat seasonally and mindfully. Technology and innovative growing practices are extending the boundaries of our traditional regional growing season. But again, know from where your food is coming and vote with your food dollars to support the growers in your own community.

Three: Ask questions about growing and production practices. Buying from a local farmer or producer is good; but is not a guarantee of sustainable practices. Ask the farmer or producers about their practices and expect transparency.

Four: Don’t waste food. Our food system is already wasteful and inefficient enough. Whether food is tossed because it is “ugly” and not considered retail worthy or it is tossed because it is considered unusable, we must hold ourselves accountable to better use of our own food in a world increasingly suffering from starvation and scarcity.

As important as these first-world ideas might be to Mid-Atlantic inside-the-beltway readers, the ideas that have stopped rattling and decidedly stuck are these:

Having “food for tomorrow” is not a guarantee or an American entitlement like Social Security. In much of the world, “food for tomorrow” is not the statement of a long-term goal or a policy aspiration, it is a question. It is a daily and hourly challenge. We need to carefully examine our uniquely American assumption that cheap and abundant food is our right.


And to add to the issue, all food is not equal. In fact, a lot of what Americans eat is not even considered food. It is a great irony that Americans for whom food for tomorrow is a question not only struggle to get food, but are often harmed by the foods they can get in their neighborhoods. Left with no choice, these poor citizens eat the over-processed, over-subsidized, over-fertilized, over-marketed, over-sweetened foods that we New York Times conference delegates no longer deign to call food.

Will you have food for tomorrow?

Weeks before the Stone Barns event, I had been invited to a smaller roundtable discussion hosted by The Atlantic magazine. A smaller but no less credentialed group had been convened to discuss achieving “food and health equity” for Americans—rural and urban—who find themselves residents of “food deserts.”

Ironic in its own twist, a food desert is a place where only this non-food food (meaning highly processed, highly caloric, low-nutrition foods) is available and is wreaking dire consequences on the health and well-being of those who consume it. The arc of our broad conversation went something like this:

All food starts with a farmer. What farmers grow is a product of market economics and government subsidy. Scale confers great advantage and distorts production; it decreases agricultural product diversity. The vast majority of mass-produced agricultural products like corn and wheat and soybeans are destined for processing—lots of it. Processed foods are economically cheap but have great and incalculable costs on our environment and our health care system. Processed foods are made more attractive and addictive and unhealthy by the calculated addition of sugar and fats. Even when real foods are made available in food deserts, consumers have lost their connection with what real food is and simply don’t have the time to or ability to do simple scratch cooking. “Social engineers”—two words I heard paired for the first time in this discussion—must be deployed to re-educate consumers, change their behaviors and overtly connect our food system with our health care system.

Will you have food for tomorrow?

In the arc of that conversation, the air was sucked out of the room when we were reminded by one of the panelists of Abraham Maslow’s famous “hierarchy of needs.” When daily survival is at risk, consumers will happily eat non-food food rather than starve, let alone seek out a farmers market carrot which they have no idea what to do with in the kitchen. Maslow’s hierarchy puts a social twist on the core question: Will you have real food for tomorrow or will your need for survival dictate the choice of non-food food?

On the first Monday of November, we hosted our Farmland Feast. This annual fundraising event earns nearly half of our operating expenses. At FRESHFARM Markets we use these funds to run farmers markets. We use these funds to develop programs that help farmers and producers grow and to make their businesses economically viable. We use these funds to increase consumer preference for seasonal foods, locally grown foods, sustainable foods. We use these funds to increase consumer access to these foods and to teach them how to cook and preserve these foods. We think about increasing the diversity and security of the Chesapeake Bay foodshed, the foodshed of our nation’s capital. Ours is an important mission: In 2012 the average American farm lost nearly $1,400.

Will you have food for tomorrow?

At FRESHFARM Markets, we are dedicated to making sure the answer is a resounding “yes!” for consumers all across the economic and social spectrum.


Mike Koch_Headshot


Mike Koch is the Executive Director of FRESHFARM Markets and founder of FireFly Farms, an artisanal cheese business. A local food advocate and agribusiness leader, Koch has developed new partnership models with milk producers and has spearheaded advocacy and economic development efforts to support agriculture based businesses.

Time for Local Christmas Trees!

christmas tree Make a memory and support a local farmer! Here's your list of Christmas tree farms in VA and MD. To search for Christmas tree farms in Maryland, go here. For Christmas tree farms in Virginia, your list is here.

The weekend weather will be perfect for an outing to a local Christmas tree farm! Get outdoors, make some memories, support local farmers and get a fresh, local real tree that looks and smells beautiful. Real trees are a renewable, recyclable resource that keep unwanted waste out of our landfills and are good for the environment. Recycled real trees are chipped into mulch, putting nutrients back in soil.

Artificial trees are often petroleum based, overseas imports and end up in landfills forever. According to the Maryland Department of Agriculture, while growing, Christmas trees absorb carbon dioxide and other gases and emit fresh oxygen, unlike artificial trees which are petroleum-based. When growing in open space, a 3-inch diameter Douglas-fir tree can reduce atmospheric carbon by 23 pounds and intercept 102 gallons of storm water runoff per year.

Christmas tree farm lists courtesy of @Maryland's Best and @Virginia is for Lovers!


You’re Sweet Enough Already

Rethinking Sweeteners from The Physician’s Kitchen

SugarBy Avery Morrison, special to Edible DC

Entering Casey Health Institute (CHI) feels like a peaceful utopia as you enter fresh from the bustling traffic of rush hour. I had braved after-work traffic to attend the last of Casey Health’s Physician’s Kitchen series for the summer (don’t worry, they resume in mid-September. Click HERE for more information.) The Physician’s Kitchen series is run by the physicians at CHI who truly believe in the food-as-medicine approach to diet and health. Each session begins with a lecture and ends with a demonstration and tasting. The topic of the lecture changes each session, but the entire series focuses on the powerful influence of food on the body and how to use food to get and stay healthy. After the classroom setting, there is a cooking demonstration, tastings, and the recipes are shared so that the all the information from the lecture gets hands-on reinforcement.

It starts with using the best ingredients. Almost all the food used throughout the series comes from a local CSA, and CHI is also a distribution center for that CSA. Additionally, they are conscious about food waste; any extra food is sent to Manna, a nonprofit that feeds the hungry in Montgomery County.

The lecture I attended focused on sweeteners, both good and bad. I come from a family of Splenda and Crystal Light power users and I was in for a big surprise. ‘Artificial Sweeteners are bad’ was something I had heard before, but finally, someone gave me an explanation why. The lector, Dr. Carrie Runde, told us of the negative side effects and the science behind why artificial sweeteners aren’t great for us, but most important for my demanding sweet tooth, she gave us roughly 15 alternatives.

After the lecture, we went back into the kitchen where we tasted raw energy balls and fruit skewers with caramel sauce, both amazing and filling—and great after school snacks or to take for a work lunch. They follow this article.

At the session ended, there was an contest featuring CSA produce as a prize for correct answers regarding food and health. Leaving with a fresh bunch of exotic basil, I vowed to get rid of the Splenda and Crystal Light lurking in my kitchen, and replace it with Stevia and other natural sweeteners. If you are interested in doing the same, I’ve shared a few natural sweeteners and the conversions Casey Health provided at the lecture series at the end of this article. And thanks to Casey Health for sharing the easy recipe for Raw Energy Balls, perfect for a healthy option for school snacks or lunch.


Raw Energy Balls Total Time: 15 min Makes about 1 dozen balls

1 cup raw almonds (or pecans or walnuts) 1 cup pitted dates (or dried apricots) ¼ cup raisins ¼ teaspoon cinnamon ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom ¼ cup raw almond butter (or another nut butter) Shredded unsweetened coconut or cocoa powder

Grind almonds in a food processor until finely ground. Add the dates, raisins, and spices. Grind to a fine meal. Add almond butter and process again until thoroughly mixed. Form into balls and in the Edible DC test kitchen, we liked them rolled in shredded coconut. Cocoa powder works too. Adapted from The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook.

Natural Sweeteners and Conversions

Sweetener Amount to replace 1 cup sugar Adjustments to recipe
 Agave    ¾ cup  Reduce liquid in recipe by ⅓ to 1/2 . Reduce baking temperature by 25˚
 Barley Malt Syrup*   1 ⅓ cups Reduce liquids by 1/4 . Add ¼ teaspoon baking soda for each cup syrup to help baked goods rise.**
 Brown Rice Syrup*    1 ¼ cups Reduce liquids by ¼ and add ¼ teaspoon baking soda for each cup syrup to help baked goods rise.**
 Date Sugar  1 cup  None
 Frozen juice concentrate  ⅔ cup Reduce liquids by ⅓ and add ¼ teaspoon baking soda per cup of concentrate. **
 Honey  ½ cup Reduce liquids by ⅛. Reduce oven temperature by 25 degrees and cook a bit longer.
 Maple Syrup    ½ to ⅔ cup  Reduce liquid by ¼ and add 1 teaspoon baking soda per cup of syrup. **
 Molasses    1 ⅓ cup sweet molasses Reduce liquid by 6 tablespoons and add ½ teaspoon baking soda per cup of molasses. ***
 Stevia  Read labels for powder, liquid or concentrate Follow suggestions on product label
 Sugar cane juice  1 cup (Rapadura, Sucanat, muscovado, turbinado, demerara)  None
Xylitol or Zero  Granulated 1 cup  None

*If you use barley malt of brown rice syrups in baked goods, be aware that a natural enzyme in these sweeteners may liquefy the consistency of the batter. This is more likely when eggs are not used. To prevent liquefying eggless recipes, first boil the barley malt or brown rice syrup for 2 to 3 minutes, cool, then measure and use. **For each ¼ teaspoon baking soda, reduce salt by ¼ teaspoon. ***Do not substitute more than half the sugar in a recipe with molasses, blackstrap molasses is not sweet.

For any questions, concerns or more info about the CHI CSA, email

Casey Health Institute (and the CSA pick up location), 800 S. Frederick Avenue, Gaithersburg, MD 20877, 301-644-6464,


Edible.Contributors-Avery MorrissonAvery Morrison is a contributor to Edible DC and summer intern. An award-winning student writer, she is a sophomore at UVA and plans to study medicine.