Here’s another feature where WeLoveDC authors Donna (greenie) and Katie (foodie) have paired up to tell you about local 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: Located in the heart of Bethesda Row, Redwood Restaurant and Bar is sleek, clean and stylish. With high ceilings and unsurprising wood decor, it’s a huge modern space with some seriously tasty food. And not only that, they do a great job of sourcing their products from local farmers, and utilizing the Bethesda farmer’s market, conveniently located right outside their door. Donna and I were invited to explore Redwood’s local food, so we went one Thursday night and sampled the fare and heard from Executive Chef Blake Schumpert exactly how he chooses the produce and meats he uses.
Donna: I like that at Redwood, they spell out their philosophy toward local foods up front, with a statement from owner and CEO Jared Rager posted on the Web site and a shorter message printed on the menus, so there’s no mistaking: “We are an independent, locally owned restaurant that showcases a seasonal menu featuring the best mid-atlantic ingredients available. Our produce, cheese, meat, and seafood is naturally-raised, organic, or sustainable whenever possible and is sourced from local growers. We’ve assembled a wine list from around the world with a particular focus on small production vintners who practice sustainable viticulture – making wine in a way which is economically viable, socially supportive and ecologically sound.” Hooray!
Katie: So with a clear mission, and a farmer’s market right outside their door, Redwood is an excellent place to eat some savory fare while feeling good about your meal’s carbon footprint.
Donna: Dine at Redwood on a Thursday night, as we did, and you can see the farmers market from your table. Little wonder why they decided to do these special dinners, which continue for the next two Thursdays. The chef can wander outside and choose from fresh, local fruits, vegetables, hydroponic greens, sausages and cured meats, lamb and bison, organic mushrooms, baked goods and honey, to name a few.
Katie: Redwood has an extensive menu, and a lot of it is sourced from local places. Our amuse of corn chowder was made with corn from the farmer’s market. The amuse was creamy but without losing the sharp fresh corn flavor.
Donna: Initially, Katie and I were invited to Redwood to check out their special Farmers Market dinner. But when we got there, we discovered that indeed the menu contained so many locally sourced dishes that we sampled the whole kit and caboodle instead. That was a great decision for the tastebuds.
Donna: A market vendor showed up on the restaurant’s regular menu that night, too. A semi-firm cow’s cheese from market vendor Stonyman Gourmet Farmer, based in Washington, Va., graced our platter along with other cheeses hailing from Maryland, Georgia, Minnesota and the grand poobah of cheese, Wisconsin. Meat routinely comes from Maryland’s Roseda Farms (raised on grass pastures, without hormones or growth stimulants) and Vande Rose Farms in Iowa, which also uses sustainable practices and no hormones or growth promotants.
Katie: I had a great watermelon and feta salad that was bought from the market as well, and Chef Schumpert said he tends to get some of his breads from the baker at the market. It’s great for them to be able to support their clientele and other businesses by utilizing something only steps away.
Donna: My dinner started with the beet salad with a layer of creamy goat cheese on top. It then went to a juicy roasted pork loin sandwiched between grilled rapini and olive oil crushed potatoes, plus some scattered marinated figs that were the secret to it all — when put on the fork with the pork, they provided a little sweet that made that great dish truly excellent. The pumpkin flan was drool-worthy. All of it made me very happy for local food, and for this chef who knows how to cook it.
Katie: I really enjoyed the lamb and bison that were local. Donna and I were so full from our tour of the menu’s locally sourced foods that I was able to take home bison to have for lunch the next day. It even traveled well, which says a lot for its preparation.
Donna: As Executive Chef Blake Schumpert explained, the proximity of the farmers market provides a hands-on experience. He can easily have access to the freshest produce available, which is critical to the quality of Redwood’s dishes. Not everything can be bought locally – for example, the truffle vinaigrette that accompanied the roasted root vegetable salad was not available from just outside Redwood’s windows – but most items are.
Donna: On the farmers market menu the night we went were a pepper roasted buffalo strip loin with wilted savoy cabbage, butternut squash and black trumpet mushrooms.
Katie: As I said before, I loved the bison, but I also got to sample a bit of the short ribs, although not on the local menu. They were fantastic and came over creamy grits, with just the right texture. I’m a southern girl, you know, and I’m picky about my grits. Redwood’s lived up. I really enjoy short ribs as a fall dish, its fatty flavor warms you right up.
Donna: Another reason for the farmers market dinners is simply marketing, said Chef Schumpert. Katie and I got a similar answer to the question of why when we visited Charlie Palmer, and that’s just fine with me. I think it’s great that consumers’ demand for local food is affecting restaurants’ sourcing decisions and hope that plenty more will follow Redwood’s lead.
Katie: When Donna and I first started this feature, we had to hunt down meals to try. Now we’ve got a lot of places reaching out to us, explaining how they source their food and asking us to come try it. I think that speaks right to Donna’s point. Between DC’s farmer’s market expansions, paired with a growing consumer demand and better educated foodies, DC has a growing and impressive great locavore scene in our city.
Donna: Dessert was a smooth pumpkin flan with a thin, crispy ginger cookie on top. I had the flan, and it was delicious. The warm spices made me want to cozy up in fleece for fall, or maybe to decorate for the holidays.
Katie: It’s fun to see how chefs take on pumpkin in the fall – you can do so much with it, put it in ravioli, bread, pancakes, muffins, make it into soup, and of course, create pies. I liked it in this flan, which had an earthy flavor that reminded me a bit of chai tea mixed with pumpkin.
Katie: I had a warm bread pudding for dessert, a bit like a brownie, the chocolate crispies were a nice accompaniment to the warm soft pudding. But I don’t think I’d order it after a big dinner, I couldn’t finish this rich dessert on my own after eating all that local farm fresh food. But I’m not complaining. Every time Donna and I are invited to try a new farm fresh place, I’m impressed with the quality of our local Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania food offerings. Our region has some fantastic food, and the chefs are tuning in!
Redwood is located at 7121 Bethesda Ave in Bethesda, MD 20814 – take a turn into Bethesda Row to find it. Reservations are available on OpenTable.