Jardenea: Passion and technique meet in D.C.

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Jardenea-BarLast week Sara and I had the privilege of visiting Jardenea at the Melrose  Georgetown Hotel in Washington, DC. They invited us in to try their new fall menu.

The Restaurant’s Executive Chef Nate Lindsay shares the same seasonal farm to table philosophy we support at My Clean Kitchen. The young chef carefully sources his ingredients each season, making sure to build the menu around the quality ingredients he is able to find. We love local, boutique restaurants like this one. There are many reasons to support Chef’s like Nate Lindsay, as well as restaurants that support and encourage the seasonal, farm to table concept like Jardenea. As we thought though how we wanted to share our dining experience with you, we wanted to be sure to include some of the background on why we would even consider writing a review for them. Bottom line, we hope we inspire you to not only visit Jardenea but also to visit other farm to table restaurants the same way we encourage you to shop for local ingredients when you make our recipes. So, even if you aren’t a Washingtonian, please don’t stop reading. Take what you read here and be inspired find a farm to table restaurant near you.

 The Farm to Fork Approach

Jardenea calls their approach Farm to Fork (a fun play on the traditional Farm to Table terminology). In addition to their Farm to Fork approach the restaurant also focuses on the use of seasonal ingredients. Chef Lindsay changes his menu 4 times a year, based on seasons. I’m so glad we went for the fall menu, its my favorite food season of the year. This year’s fall menu features apples, pears, brussels sprouts, winter squash, parsnips and other flavors that evoke the feelings of fall. Through its’ use of seasonal ingredients Jardenea’s menu is able to deliver exceptionally well on providing the taste of fall. Each dish we sampled evoked strong memories of autumn.

For our meal, we decided to try the fall dishes Chef Lindsay recommended. We started with the Pheasant Terrine & Aged Gouda Souffle and the Autumn Artisan Mixed Green Salad. The Pheasant was delicious and very pretty on the plate however, for us the cheese souffle was the star of the dish. It was creamy and so lusciously flavorful, we were tempted to lick the plate clean (don’t worry we didn’t, we were on our best “out where people can see you behavior”). The Autumn Salad was a pleasant surprise. The braised pears were spicy, like a chai latte, and the pickled onions were reminiscent of a sweet girken pickle. All the components went togther well, except the blistered tomatoes, which seemed a bit out of place.

For the entrees, we both went with food that was quintessentially fall, the Cast Iron Seared Duck Breast and the Citrus Brined Berkshire Pork. The plates themselves were very pretty, with the pork coming out looking to rival the beautiful DC architecture that surrounds it. The duck was beautifully done and included a confit brioche, that was like a delectable gourmet grilled cheese. But, the star of the entree course was the panchetta brussels sprout slaw. We both decided that this is how brussels sprouts should always be prepared. Coming in a close second was the apple butter that garnished the pork. It was quite possibly the best apple butter either of us had ever tasted. Finally for dessert we had the chocolate lava cake with homemade vanilla ice cream and the chefs take on a deconstructed smore, with a wonderful homemade marshmallow. The whole meal was amazing and the made in-house desserts were the perfect way to end the meal.

Now lets talk a little bit about where the food came from. To start off with the chef explained to us that he sources as many of the fruits and veggies that he can from local or regional farmers. He develops relationships with the farmers and in return they let him know what the good stuff is. In addition to sourcing local produce, Chef Lindsay also sources all his dairy from a farm in PA. Knowing where your dairy comes from is incredibly important since the care of the animals and the quality of the milk can vary so drastically by farm. Not only does this focus on local produce and carefully sourcing the meat and dairy help to enhance the flavors of the meal, but it is also a more ethical way of sourcing your food than buying off the shelves at the grocery store, but more about that later.

Why Farm to Fork Matters  – The Power of Eating Local

So why does it matter that Jardenea focuses on locally sourced seasonal ingredients? This is a question you might be asking yourself. “Farm to Table” is becoming an overused phrase in modern dining, almost to the point of losing its meaning. Everywhere you go you see a restaurant touting their farm to table philosophy. In addition, you are bombarded with the local food movement. Everyday there is a new article on the importance of local food and it is likely your Facebook feed is overrun by people posting pictures of their local farmers market. Given this onslaught of terminology and hype it is easy to understand why some people may view the “local food movement” as just another passing trend. However, unlike other trends this one is important and not only impacts your personal health, but the health of the planet as well. Here are some reasons why you should be jumping on the local food band wagon:

  • Fresher Food Tastes Better – Often our food is picked when unripe and chemically treated so it ripens during transport. When you eat food that is grown locally, it ripens before its picked, allowing it to mature to its full flavor.
  • Healthier – Once produce has been picked it begins to lose nutrients. Since most food in the grocery store, that is not local, has likely traveled from at least across the country and more likely across the globe, it is less nutritious than the fruits and veggies you buy from your local farmers.
  • Supports Local Economies – Utilizing local food chains helps connect urban and rural communities by encouraging partnerships and social interactions. This builds stronger economies.
  •  Increases Diversity – Monoculture is the death of genetic diversity in plants.
  • Protects the Environment – Generally speaking, small local farms are more environmentally conscious in their farming practices than their corporate counterparts. Also, the diversity of vegetables grown on small farms helps to preserve the nutrients in the soil, thus reducing the overuse of fertilizers.
  • More Sustainable -Buying local also helps to reduce the “food miles”, the distance your food traveled from the farm to your table, of the food you eat. On average food travels 1500 miles before it arrives at your dinner plate. Think about all the energy that was expended to get it there. Is this sustainable? Buying locally can significantly cut down on the fossil fuels involved in transporting the food you eat.
  • Preserves Open Space – Sick of apartment buildings and strip malls popping up in your surrounding neighborhoods?  When farms go out of business, their land is often bought up by developers. Supporting local farms help to preserve the open space where you live.

As far as our Jardenea visit, overall the food was prepared well, beautifully plated and the service was excellent. We even witnessed a man across the restaurant all but lick his soup bowl. We asked our waiter, and he had ordered the Parsnip soup. It must have been good! That being said, the restaurant , which is located inside the Melrose Georgetown Hotel, seems awkward in its connection with the hotel. The only way I can describe it is; an awkward hotel restaurant feel with superior food. The hotel itself sits just between two trendy areas of DC, Foggy Bottom and Georgetown. It seems that Washingtonians would have a hard time determining which it truly belongs to, and I think the restaurant is also grappling with its identity in the same way. While they do describe themselves as a Georgetown hotel, I can see how locals don’t view it as such. It’s not in any of the main Georgetown areas. Other than the beautiful decor, the best asset of the location is that it’s only a short walk from the Foggy Bottom metro, which should hold some appeal, for locals and travelers alike. Even though the restaurant is attached to the hotel lobby the overall vibe makes it seem like it would be a really cool place to hang out and have drinks and a meal with friends. The entry way to the restaurant has large high top family style tables that would be great for large groups.

Restaurants like Jardenea are important. They help support local food economies and are a force of good against the powers of globalization. It is easy for many people to claim they believe in the power of real food and the importance of eating local, but when it comes to their dining options they opt for a large chain restaurant. However, we would argue that where you choose to dine is just as important as where you choose to shop. Restaurant like Jardenea show you that seasonal food is also delicious food. That when fresh ingredients are placed in the hands of talented chefs, they can be transformed into something wonderful. We loved our experience at Jardenea. The food was excellent, the service impeccable and the decor beautiful. We loved that they focus on locally sourced, in season produce and meats. If you are local or even in town for a visit, give them a try, you won’t be disappointed.

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