Fresh and organic from the Heartland of America, American food has been done right!
Once upon a dining session, I had a friend of mine from Germany tell me that he believed The United States does not have their own cuisine. I could see his point and where he was coming from, but I told him that I would tend to disagree. For the most part, the influence on our taste buds as a whole in this country has been derived from Mexico, Italy, Africa as well as the Native Americans who showed us a thing or two about their seafood in the likeness of cod, halibut, herring, and salmon. I’m guessing the Native Americans were the first ones to dare the colonists to try an oyster and watch all of the reactions for fun. “No! you can’t eat the shell!” Pocahontas might have told John Smith.
I firmly believe that Founding Farmers is true American cuisine presented to the highest regard. This would be the place to have a meal if you honestly have an interest in being challenged on what it might mean to dine out for American fare. With Founding Farmers, sustainability is a number one priority, and their mission is to put back into the environment what is taken out with a major concern for minimal use of chemical pesticides, the welfare of animals, fair wages paid to the farmers for what they produce, and good working environments for employees. All ingredients come directly from farmers in North Dakota and straight to your table (with a short layover in the kitchen, before your plate, of course).
I began my meal with a drink from Founding Farmer’s exquisite prohibition-era style bar. Built as a showcase of offerings resting upon a stone-laden foundation, there is an entire beverage menu based on drinks that the anti-prohibitionists enjoyed in some way, shape, or form when it was illegal to indulge in a cocktail from 1919-1933. With that in mind, I ordered the “Dark and Stormy” which is made of dark rum, house-made ginger beer, and lime juice. I then ordered the “Queens Park Swizzle” which is a blend of Angostura 1919, Lemon Hart Rum, bitters, mint, falernum, lime juice. I could easily taste the craftsmanship and the art (and that desirable pre-meal buzz). I then ordered the fried green tomatoes as an appetizer, which was sided with a goat cheese and herb dip accompanied by a special avocado concoction as a secondary dipping. I can emphatically say that these were the best fried green tomatoes I have ever had. As great as my starters were, here came my Filet and skirt steak sided with enchiladas, all topped with a chimichurri sauce and complimented with parmesan dusted corn on the cob. Of course, the steaks were cooked perfectly, as I expected. I ordered medium rare, and I got medium rare. Juices seeping out and staring at my lips, almost too pretty to eat. However, just because you’re pretty looking sure doesn’t mean you can get away with not being devoured. Sometimes, I admit, I have taken my time to eat a meal in order to best preserve the artistry of it all. But not this time, a fork and knife have got some work to do.
And this is what American food should be portrayed as The eloping of a perfect timeless steak and Mexican influenced enchiladas. There is not much more of an American outlook on dining than a combination such as that (save for the hamburger, which Founding Farmers also nimbly perfects). I’m also not the only one who is giving Founding Farmers a high five, either. Just take a look at their online presence if you feel any need for further meal consultation.
Executive Chef Joe Goetze was able to find time in his demanding schedule to answer some questions about what it’s actually like to be a part of Founding Farmers and what it means to all of us, as hungry individuals on the prowl for true quality:
As Executive Chef of Founding Farmers, can you tell us a bit about your background?
I grew up in New York and got my first restaurant job as a teenager at a hotel in Connecticut, where I did just about every job in the kitchen. While going to the Culinary Institute of America, I built up my foundation and experience at the Hyatt Regency in Orlando, Florida. After graduating from the CIA, I worked at a number of restaurants in Dallas, Texas before joining the Founding Farmers team. I came on before the restaurant opened in 2008 to develop the menus, create signature dishes, and build the culinary teams for The Farm.
I understand that Founding Farmers receives their food products directly from farms in the Heartland of America. What more can you tell me in relation to this fact?
We source from regional family farmers and members of the North Dakota Farmers Unions (NDFU) whenever possible. For example, the flour we use for our handmade pasta and baked goods comes from North Dakota Mill in Grand Forks, North Dakota. We also work with quality like-minded local purveyors and a number of farms throughout the region to get the freshest, best quality product that each season allows us.
What are you cooking up for the Fall at the restaurant, with the change of the seasons in mind?
One of my favorite fall-inspired dishes on the menu is our goat cheese ravioli and chicken cutlets that we serve with roasted fennel and honey-ginger squash puree. We also do a seasonal chili with house-ground chuck, bacon, kidney beans, pearl barley, and seasonal veggies. It’s perfect for the cooler fall weather.
What meal from the menu would you recommend to a first-time guest?
Any of one of our handmade cocktails with fresh juice from the bar is a must for the first-time guest at Founding Farmers. Our drinks are like nothing like you’ve ever had before. If you’re not in a drinking mood, go with the homemade orange soda; it’s my favorite. For food, the Bacon Lollies and Fried Green Tomato appetizers are a great way to start off a meal. Then I would recommend our Yankee Pot Roast or the Chicken & Waffles, which are two of our signature dishes. For dessert, go with a slice of our house made Carrot Cake and a black coffee. This is the perfect first meal at the Farm that will have you planning your next visit before you’ve even left the restaurant.
How do you cook at home?
I shop daily and cook from scratch. For me, the best part of cooking at home is the wood-fired oven in my backyard. I’m always on a quest to create the perfect pizza crust.
What advice would you give to new cooks or chefs entering the culinary world?
Some advice I would give to new chefs is developing your palate, learn to understand what you’re tasting, and learn how to season food. Don’t expect a lot when you’re just starting out. New chefs should focus on understanding how to handle and prepare ingredients. If something comes across your cutting board, learn everything there is to know about it. Finally, press your chef coat with heavy starch!
If you could invite one person to dinner, who would it be?
Tina Fey. Brainy and hilarious…do I need to say more?
If you had to UN-INVITE one person to dinner, who would it be?
The arrogant chef.
Founding Farmers has two locations:
In Washington D.C.: 1924 Pennsylvania Avenue NW (202) 822-8783
In Potomac, Maryland: 12505 Park Potomac Avenue (301) 340-8783
At both locations, breakfast is served from 7am-11am and brunch is served on the weekends from 9am-2pm as well as lunch and dinner.
What's Your Reaction?
Cultural and Poetry Editor