Founding Farmers – Washington D.C.

I made a trip to Washington D.C. recently and despite the heat managed to see quite a lot.  I can’t believe it took me so long to get to the capital but better late than never, right?   Seeing  the National Monument, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence and the Star-Spangled Banner flag in person was amazing. Of course after trekking across D.C. I needed to find a good place to eat. Enter Founding Farmers, a few blocks from the White House in Foggy Bottom and my favorite restaurant in D.C.

I was lucky to get a last-minute reservation and was happy because when we showed up it was packed. Living up to its name the restaurant is owned by farmers who strive to be, “… a place where true, sustainably farmed, grown and harvested American foods are brought to our guests.” In addition, the restaurant is LEED certified using reclaimed wood, poured-concrete bar tops, low and no-fume paints. The design is very welcoming with a touch of industrial. A colorful arrangement of jars filled with various vegetables greet you in the front door. Puffy clouds line the ceilings to balance out the concrete and steel.

While waiting for our table we decided to try the craft cocktails and found out why Founding Farmers was the 2011 winner for the Best Beverage/Mixology program in D.C.

The Clementine – Clementine and chili-infused El Jimador Reposado Tequila, Benedictine, lime and pineapple juices, agave nectar. Fresh juices gave this drink a refreshing and light taste.

Fraise Fling – Strawberries, lychees, Cap Rock Organic Vodka, agave, prosecco. Sweet but not too sweet with fresh strawberries and lychees (no canned lychees here!)

We found a spot at the bar and decided to forgo our table as we kept seeing plate after plate of beautiful food being served and we were h-u-n-g-r-y. I know deviled eggs are on every menu these days but these were a stand out. We got the Devil-sh Eggs Combo of Maine Lobster, Crab and Smoked Salmon. Absolutely delicious and fresh, real fish. I would have ordered more but saw so many other things on the menu I decided to hold off.

It was very hard to decide what to order as the menu is pretty extensive. I went total comfort food and got the chicken pot pie and was not disappointed. The best pot pie I have ever had. Not only was the sauce and fresh vegetables memorable but the biscuit/crust that came with the dish was like nothing I’ve ever had. First of all, it is huge. Secondly, perfectly crusty outside and warm and soft inside with the right amount of butter. Heaven.

Another staple of American dining the Land and Sea with the scallops (choice of crab cake, scallops or fried shrimp). Again, quality meet and fresh scallops cooked to perfection. The mashed potatoes were completely ridiculous (in the best way) and the cheesy risotto held its own against the rest of the perfection on the plate.

For dessert we tried another cocktail, La Paloma. Served spicy or mild with El Jimador Blanco Tequila, grapefruit and lime juices, agave nectar, topped with mezcal. I’m glad we had this at the end of the meal because it would have been too tempting to have more than one of these. I had the mild version so it was sweeter while the spicy is, you guessed it more spicy.

After dinner we took a stroll by the White House and then looked for a place for a nightcap. We stumbled upon Off The Record in the The Hay-Adams hotel. You descend down to a dark bar where you can imagine many “off the record” political conversations and whispered gossip have taken place. Rich reds and black color the room with cartoon caricatures of past and current politicians. The bartenders give off a very old school vibe and serve a solid drink. I really can’t confirm or deny anything that happened there.

Private Cupcake Tasting At Swirlz

I met Pam (one of the owners of Swirlz) at a Glossed and Found event earlier this summer and naturally the conversation turned to food. When I found out she was apart of Swirlz I asked her a million questions about her cupcakes. The creative process that Swirlz goes through (over 500 flavors and counting) is very interesting. They encourage all their staff members to actively come up and share their ideas. I thought I was dreaming when Pam invited me to a private tasting for some new flavors they were putting together with Pinnacle Vodka!

I set up a time to come in with Jamie, manager of Social Media and Events, and anxiously awaited the tasting. I “managed” to find a friend to come with me and we headed to the Lincoln Park shop. Warm and inviting is how I would describe the vibe just like Pam and Jamie.

Jamie walked us through the Swirlz history (Chicago’s oldest “All Cupcake” shop) and how the day-to-day operations run. Over 90% of the ingredients are made in-house and on site fresh daily. They make morning deliveries to Whole Foods as well as catered events. Making the cupcakes fresh daily ensures you won’t get a dried out product that I am sure you have experienced before. Using quality ingredients keeps the cakes from tasting greasy or too heavy. They also have at least one gluten-free option every day.

Jamie gave us A LOT of cupcakes to try. They were all exceptionally good but I am going to focus on my favorites. Swirlz does the staples as well or better than everyone else: red velvet and vanilla. But they also do their unique creations even better so if you want something different this is your place.

Banana NutellaGluten-free banana cake, layer of Nutella (chocolate-hazelnut), Nutella buttercream (chocolate-hazelnut). What can I say, obviously anything with Nutella is going to be good but this exceeded my expectations. Luscious (I hate the word moist so I won’t be using that) and creamy. You won’t go wrong with this one.

Limoncello – This was my favorite cupcake of the bunch. I am a Limoncello fan but that doesn’t necessarily translate into a good cupcake. This was heaven. The lemon curd inside was mixed with the vodka and there was a hint of vodka in the frosting. After I took my first bite I said to my friend that it almost tasted light. The lemon was refreshing almost lemon zesty. I’m pretty sure I could have eaten about 5 of them (they were mini-cupcakes!). I still think about that cupcake to this day.

Cherry Chip – Pinnacle vodka creation, cherries soaked in vodka, need I say more? This was a veeery close second to the Limoncello. There was the perfect balance of vodka, sweetness and tartness of the cherries.

Drumstick – Malted buttermilk cake,  layer of chocolate peanut crunch, vanilla buttercream  dipped in praline chocolate glaze. This cupcake was not apart of the tasting but Jamie brought after he found out this was the first cupcake I had at Swirlz. When I am in the mood for chocolate this is the go-to cupcake. It’s the Swirlz take on the drumstick ice-cream cone and it just may be better than the real thing. Crunchy outside before you hit the buttercream and cake.

A huge thank you for their time and hospitality to Pam and Jamie. Swirlz hosts tastings so go and try for yourself, you won’t regret it!