WeLoveDC authors Donna (greenie) and Katie (foodie) have paired up to bring you a double-hitting feature about local area restaurants that take on the challenge of being green. Donna will explain the logic behind the environmentally friendly trends and Katie will tell you if the food tastes any good. It’s a rough life, but someone has to do it, right?
Katie: Tucked inside the courtyard of the Hotel Monaco in Penn Quarter, Poste Moderne Brasserie is like a little city oasis. Most of the restaurant activity, at least in the warmer months, revolves around the closed-in patio. Poste’s patio has lots of tables, its own drink bar, a raised stage patio, and then this a little partitioned subsection off to the side with a large marble table situated between rows of herbs. This is the chef’s table. And Donna and I were at Poste for the exclusive “MARKET TO MARKET” dining experience.
Katie: The concept of the market dinners is simple. Guests take a walk through the Eighth Street Penn Quarter Farmers Market with executive Chef Robert Weland then take a seat at the Chef’s Garden table for a five course tasting menu showcasing local and artisanal products. Our week was a bit different, as Weland was out moving to a new house with his baby (I suppose that’s an acceptable excuse), we were in the capable hands of executive sous chef Jon Nickerson.
Donna: As the owner of some spindly lavender and a single potted basil plant, I was impressed with the herb garden. These folks take container gardening to a new level, with large pots bearing a variety of flora, from down-home tomatoes to Muscat grapes, sage, elderberry, and even raspberry vines. They, too, grow lavender, but theirs looks better than mine, and they have the culinary know-how to whip it up into sorbets and vinaigrettes. That kind of sorcery simply does not happen in my kitchen. They also grow stinging nettle, which I’ve grown accustomed to avoiding in the woods, and tame it into soups and ravioli, sting-free.
Donna: The farmers market tour was quick, although they’ll let you stay and shop if you like. Nickerson pointed out a few vendors he buys from. Some are organic, some are not. This excursion makes for a leisurely evening, but the buying of course is done in advance.
Katie: So back we went to our table. We started off with an Amuse Bouche. The local wine pairing was a Blanc de Chardonnay, Thibaut Jannison, from Monticello VA. The amuse was a tasting of the kampachi, beef tartare, oyster with American sturgeon caviar. The beef tartare stood out to me as my favorite part of the amuse. The salmon in a mustard served in a cone was tasty as well as really fun.
Donna: I have to back up for a second and say that the table was almost on fire after a day in the hot sun, warming the silverware and melting the candles. So we checked out Poste’s water, which is filtered and put into glass bottles on site, with carbonation added for sparkling. No wasteful little plastic bottles there.
The tender kampachi was sustainably farmed in Kona, Hawaii; the beef came from Maine’s Pineland Farms, which uses responsible farming techniques; and the white sturgeon caviar came from the Columbia River, a sustainable choice. The oyster traveled from Washington state.
Katie: The next course was my favorite, the Green Almond Gazpacho, with cucumber sorbet and borage. It was so unexpectedly flavorful, with little cuts of cucumber and almond in the dish. I loved everything about this fresh summer soup, bright flavors, wonderful crunch and textures, it was both creamy and light.
Katie: Poste also does a separate garden dinner, Poste Roasts, that I wrote about a little while ago where they bust out the grill on the patio and roast you up an animal of your choice. The culinary team showed off for us, and grilled up some watermelon for a Grilled Watermelon Salad. With a noticeably smoky flavor, the heat brought out the sweetness of the melon, almost carmelizing the surface. Paired with heirloom tomatoes and garden basil, the creamy yogurt was a perfect pairing. This was the ideal summer salad. If you were looking for a super light summer supper, putting this salad with the cucumber gazpacho would be the ideal meal.
Donna: In addition to being delicious, these summery dishes were pretty. So were all of the dishes, mostly decorated with garnishes from the herb garden; the smoky, juicy grilled watermelon salad came topped with three basils grown at Poste. As a practical matter, the greenery grown on the patio cannot supply the restaurant in bulk; there is not enough space. The chef plans his menus up to a year in advance, and chooses herbs to appear as flavorings and flourishes.
Donna: This tasty salmon comes from Alaska and is caught in the wild, which is a green option for salmon.
Katie: Roasted Cappretto (baby goat) Anson Mills creamy polenta, grilled garlic scapes made me want to lick my plate. One of the people we were dining joked about asking for a spoon. I agreed, and was actually kind of serious, I wanted to scrape every last bit out of the dish. The goat, I think by nature of the meat, is slightly chewy, but the creamy stone-ground polenta was thick, reminiscent of grits. Mmm…
Donna: I, too, loved this dish, and the fact that the goat came from an eco-friendly farm.
Katie: The Elysian Fields Farm Lamb Saddle with broccoli, farro, pursalane was a great final protein. I loved the fresh salad with two kinds of radish. The grain was perfectly done, with a good firmness with a bit of a vinegar kick.
Donna: Elysian Fields Farm is in Pennsylvania and pampers its lambs. Pursalane, new to me, apparently is considered a weed. But it is one tasty weed indeed, so cheers to native plants, zero waste, and serving it up.
Katie: Finally we got to dessert. Two desserts, to be exact – plus a final sweet amuse – so practically three. I was super full when we got to this point, but I fell in love with the basil ice cream. The cherry pie had a chocolate ganache layer at the bottom, and the basil ice cream was a great pairing.
Donna: I’m all for a place that serves me three desserts. They were delicious, down to the rich tiny chocolate truffle that was my last bite.
Katie: All in all a great meal, truly. I loved the creativity of the plates, I liked the unusual pairings, and the way the culinary team works with fresh, local ingredients. The wine pairings were perfection, and I had a great time dining al fresco. I’d highly recommend the Market to Market dinner for any foodie, your palate will be tickled, teased and pleased.
Donna: The dinner was delicious, no question. The presentations were exquisite, and the food tasted fabulous. On researching this piece, I discovered that most of the ingredients do come from sustainable sources, if not truly local ones. This was a pleasant surprise, because at the dinner the focus was on the culinary aspect of the food. I would have liked to hear more that night about the food’s origins, especially with a market dinner.
Chef Weland did send along this quote, which explains his concept for the dinners. “Market to Market at Poste is all about introducing guests to local farmers and really encouraging them to buy and eat local. My grandfather had a huge garden, and that’s something you never forget. Believe me, your food tastes better when it’s fresh and locally sourced, and you’re reducing your carbon footprint in the process.”
I agree. Hear, hear — and cheers to a great meal.
“MARKET TO MARKET” is offered weekly on Thursday evenings during the Spring, Summer, and Fall. Please call Stacy Nemeth at (202) 449-7062 or email at stacy.nemeth (at) postebrasserie.com to make your reservation.