Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Founding Farmers: Great, Except for the Food

I met my friend Bill for lunch downtown and he suggested that we try Founding Farmers, which is right around the corner from his office at the World Bank, instead of one of our usual 19th Street standbys. Having taken a look at the menu on line, I happily agreed.

On a snowy and cold day in DC, the dining room did not appear full at 12:45 when we walked in. Nonetheless, the courteous hostess said there would be a 25 minute wait for a table (perhaps the open tables were reserved?). But we were welcome to sit at the bar, and so we did.

There were lots of positive things we found about FF. The menu is very well constructed, with lots of appealing options mostly oriented toward comfort-type foods (meatloaf, chicken pot pie, entree salads, and so forth). The prices are very fair for a downtown restaurant and the portions are generous, to say the least. Unfortunately the food was not very exciting.

Bill and I split a "flatbread" with prosciutto and figs and mascarpone. The portion was generous -- three good sized slices. When I think of flatbread I expect a kind of thin crusted pizza. This was, however, literally a kind of flat bread. Not that flat. It sort of resembled a piece of country wheat bread with stuff on top, more like what you might expect from bruschetta. The topping was of good quality but the mascarpone was smeared on the top like butter and made the whole thing rather greasy. In general I would say the dish lacked seasoning.

While I was intrigued by some of the comfort food options on a cold snowy day, and Bill initially was leaning toward a salad, we ultimately opted for burgers...I had the simple cheeseburger and Bill had a "Frisco" burger with a variety of toppings including avocado. Mine was a very generous portion for $10, almost more than I could eat (and that's saying something!). The meat was allegedly hand ground but frankly I could not tell the difference. I had ordered it medium rare and I thought it was a tad underdone but frankly medium rare is a matter of opinion and this was certainly within the range of tolerance.

The big disappointment is that this big, attractive burger just didn't taste like much. It tasted like a big pile of unseasoned meat. The fries that came with it were limp and also not particularly flavorful (which of course did not stop me from eating most of them in the interest of research). It would appear that the kitchen's supply of salt had been exhausted...perhaps they had used it all to clear up the sidewalks in front of the restaurant and there was none left for the food. Or maybe there are salt and pepper shakers on the tables and we missed out by sitting at the bar.

With the burgers we each had a beer (Stone IPA, quite tasty, although they were out of my first choice, Bell's Two Hearted Ale). The food and beer came to just under $40 which I thought was an amazing bargain for a generous lunch in the heart of downtown. I just wish the food had been tastier. I will try it again, though, in the hope that perhaps I just chose badly, since I would love for a place like this with an attractive setting and very fair prices to succeed.

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