Sunday, November 23, 2008

Thanksgiving Plans?

Hey readers, I'd love to hear your culinary plans for this year's holiday. Any variations on traditional favorites? Anybody not like turkey in your household (I know someone who enjoyed kangaroo last year, after spending time in Australia)? Any family traditions that perhaps only involve your family?

Our gatherings involve some of the traditional fixings...these include turkey, green beans, and sweet potato casserole, though my sweet potatoes involve more of a souffle and I'm looking to lighten up the green bean casserole this year. Plus, given the Asian heritage of my husband's family, we also enjoy Chinese-style vegetable wrappers, something like a make-your-own spring roll.

So, let's hear about your holidays...what are your wacky traditions? Fun customs? I'm all ears.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Tree Grows in the West End: Founding Farmers

As I sit watching our election results pour in, in this the most patriotic of times, I'm thrilled to write to you about a restaurant brought to us by our Founding Farmers. With its locally-grown initiative, coop ownership, and LEED certification, those that bring us, as they term it, "true" food and drink", also bring us creativity, social responsibility, and economic independence for our original small businessmen. Most importantly, though, Founding Farmers brings Washingtonians delicious offerings from small and local farmers and ranchers.

The enormous menu at FF reminds me of something one might find at the Cheesecake Factory, not one of the most sought after scenes in town. Comfort food favorites, classically-twisted appetizers, salads, sandwiches, and steaks all stare back at me. When Hudson opened, I was promised an upscale diner experience. When I showed up in Uggs one Friday evening, I was both disappointed and a bit embarrassed about my severely underdressed status. The promise Hudson failed to meet, Founding Farmers fulfills. While I still would not recommend venturing out to FF in Uggs, the comfort level is pronounced. The decor, service, and that overstuffed menu all made me feel right at home.

With plenty of classics and unique cocktails, as well as an impressive wine list, the bar menu at FF is comprehensive. I enjoyed the Organic Cucumber Delight, made with organic Ketel One vodka, cucumber, and cantalope. This refreshing beverage served as a nice thirst quencher and palate cleanser. Also on the menu are a variety of hand-crafted virgin beverages, including a tart lemonade enjoyed by my dining companion.

Next, we turned our eyes to trying to choose to first courses. With tempting salads, charcuterie, flatbreads, cheese plates, and other small plates, we found it too difficult to pick. Our table shared the deviled eggs platter, speckled with the original delicacy, as well as lobster, crab, and smoked salmon versions. To compliment the house-cured bacon lollis, we ordered a small salad to split as well. The lollis were meaty, sweet, and altogether decadent. The salad, while not earth-shattering, was tossed with two of my favorites, a light sherry vinagrette and candied walnuts.

As if we weren't already stuffed, we then both found it hard to pass up the salt-rubbed prime rib; one rare, and one medium-rare. Served with mac and cheese, and a squash casserole, this meal was served on a classic diner platter, large enough for a pot roast. Not a lot of lightening up during this course, the accompanying horseradish sauce was the perfect strength and consistency, while the au jus was gravy-like goodness. I was too stuffed to even consider dessert after this hearty main plate (though I should confess that my alternative choices were the chicken & waffles or the steak & enchilada plate, neither exactly a waste-watching choice).

While I passed up dessert on this occasion, that doesn't mean I gave up on it altogether. Come on folks, I'm never that desperate. I carried home a generous slice of carrot cake served with a thick and creamy frosting, as well as caramel drizzle. So decadent, so delicious. Across the table, my dining companion took on the apple galette, a puff-pastry-wrapped confection. Sampling a taste, I would migrate towards the cake offerings, including the carrot referenced above, as well as devil's food and red velvet, all topped with classic cream cheese frosting. In the end, I finished my meal with the Intelligentsia coffee, which served as the perfect compliment to the perfect meal.

I left FF overstuffed, and overhappy. A comfort food dining destination in the heart of the business district. My next visit will probably be at lunch, where I hope to enjoy a sandwich, soup, or entree salad. FF offers enough choices that I'll have to visit a least a few more times before I can offer a comprehensive review. At first glance though, things are sprouting up well.