Published in USA Today.
Washington D.C. has the good fortune of being surrounded by a bounty of fresh, regional ingredients from Maryland’s organic meat and dairy farms to the Chesapeake’s fresh-caught seafood. Local chefs and diners alike look forward to playing with the instruments of changing seasons, ready for the next symphony of flavors, textures and aromas. Seasons are a time of transformation, to start things anew, so keep your eyes peeled for garlicky spring ramps, fat spears of asparagus, juicy strawberries in summer or plump oysters in autumn.
At Cleveland Park’s Ripple, seasonal ingredients come naturally to Chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley, whose sun-kissed California style is evident in a kaleidoscope of flavors on your plate, including her award-winning gnocchi. Pair it with one of 50 wines by the glass, plus 200 by the bottle. Be sure to save room for ooey-gooey, warm chocolate chip cookies and milk.
In Penn Quarter, magical things are happening below street level. Cedar’s Chef Aaron McCloud is known to work on the fly, perusing local farmers markets daily and formulating the night’s menu. McCloud excels at creating sublime vegetables as well as game meats like bison and elk, which hit the mark each time. Expect unlikely co-stars like lobster and white chocolate, which will surprise and win you over.
When Table opened in Shaw, throngs of curious diners would pack into Chef Frederik de Pue’s cozy garage restaurant, eager for a taste of his French and Belgian-influenced European fare. Delight in an ever-changing menu of fanciful creations, such as the grilled pompano filet with colorful baby vegetables and salsa verde. Everything is made from scratch, including the painstakingly handwritten menus, which take about 300 hours to produce.
As the name implies, Georgetown’s Farmers Fishers Bakers sources ingredients from a collective of 40,000 farm owners, ensuring that everything is fresh by land, air and sea, including the very tasty Rye Whiskey and Farm Gin. That honey on your Honey Pot Fried Chicken? Produced by Founding Farmers’ own honeybees, humming away in one of the largest rooftop apiaries in the country.
If it got any fresher, it would cluck. Beuchert’s Saloon’s Chef Andrew Markert sources fresh meats and produce straight from co-owner Brendan McMahon’s family farm East Oaks Organics in nearbyPoolesville, Md. Once a Prohibition-era speakeasy, this Capitol Hill watering hole is the place to redeem your cocktail calories, plus Markert loves personalizing the dining experience for guests at his coveted, six-seat Chef’s Table.
With one of the most beautiful courtyards in summer (and winter!), popular French brasserie Poste wows crowds from the adjacent Verizon Center with succulent short ribs, steamy bowls of mussels and frites. Chef Dennis Marron’s Poste Roasts are so über popular, they’re available year-round, bringing large groups together to feast on whole suckling pig, goat or king salmon, accompanied by ingredients straight from Marron’s Chef’s Garden.
Adams Morgan is once again a legit dining destination because of Mintwood Place. Chef Cedric Maupillier takes regional ingredients and gives them a playful French twist. His beautiful and hearty dishes should be enjoyed with plenty of wine for best results, in a warm, glowing setting that’s good enough for the First Couple.
In the young and gritty Atlas District, dine like a boss at Boundary Road, which became the toughest reservation in town after the President himself showed up to sample its creations, such as the famous foie gras torchon peanut butter and jelly. Get there in style once the D.C. Streetcarbegins operating.
New renovations, including a 30-foot-long wall made of beans, give a clue to the homespun flavor at Capitol Hill eatery Art and Soul, which earns high marks for Southern fare with flair. Chef Art Smith marries simple ingredients to create dreamy classics like chicken and dumplings and shrimp and grits, which could be the highlight of your entire trip.
Blink and you might miss 1905 Bistro & Bar, but that’s how locals prefer this hidden gem in Shaw. Chef Joel Hatton works sumptuous magic into every dish in an Old World setting that feels like New Orleans at the turn of the century. Muted whispers of truffles, honey butter and pork loin will surely bring a flush to your cheeks.