Founding Farmers: the other cool place on Pennsylvania Ave

Just blocks from the White House, I will be encouraging the whole San Diego Congressional delegation to support

So many good things to say about Founding Farmers and only one, small hiccup. Searching for a place for early breakfast was a small challenge, very glad we nestled in to this spot up the street from the White House.  Definitely a place I will encourage newly minted San Diego Congressman-elect Scott Peters of the CA-52nd to hit up before his first visit to chat with our President.  Please read this on the Farmers’ website.

The coffee was from Intelligentsia and was tasty, though could’ve been a smidge stronger.  Here’s a bit about the direct trade practiced by these folks.  Direct trade basically means they buy coffee for what it actually costs from the farmers who produce it. But the food, ah yes the food. I had this

The classic. Those English muffins are very locally made

The first half of this Benedict was all that a Benedict should be.  Housemade English muffins were light, toasted and just slightly chewy–perfect. The poach on egg number one was spot on and the hollandaise was above average. Humanely raised ham steak was a plus. The one small hiccup was Benedict number 2. It was very under poached. So much so that I didn’t eat it. But this is actually a GOOD part of the story.  Here’s why. It’s about how you, as a staff, handle a kitchen slip.  Our server, who was pleasant enough, didn’t notice my whole untouched egg (or perhaps did notice and just didn’t ask why I had him take my plate with a whole untouched egg). Well, untouched except for the place I poked and found the underdone goo. But Katie came to the rescue.  Katie was the Manager on duty in the morning.  And it became very clear, very quickly why she was in that role.  She asked how everything was–and of course 90% of it was outstanding.  But I told her the truth about the poach and she tried hard to make it right by voiding the dish from the bill.  I didn’t want the money–not that I don’t like money, but I was more into supporting the restaurant and having them just do a little quality control in the kitchen to help the next Benedict fan out.  I protested the idea of taking back money for something I’d paid for…so she relented…and then knocked off $5 for the pancake instead! Very nice.  Totally unnecessary, but very nice.  And this, friends, is how you handle a slip up.  Everybody has an off moment in their job sometimes.  You miss a typo or swing a hammer and miss the nail or misspeak when the mic is on–happens to everyone.  But this was just right in terms of damage control.  And by the way, literally everything else we ate was out-freakin-standing.

Moving back to the food, my wife had the Farmers’ breakfast.  Before it disappeared here’s what it looked like

Nothing about this ‘plain’ breakfast was ordinary. Maybe the fruit, but they didn’t cook that.

The bacon was hearty, grilled and covered in some kind of black pepper maple coating that just added to the bacon eating experience.  Usually I am a bacon purist, just fry it up and drop it on my plate, please.  But sometimes, if the place is known for something spectacular or a menu item creates some intrigue I’ll stray.  Technically this was my wife’s bacon, not mine, but thanks to community property laws (and my quick fingers) I felt perfectly justified in snatching a piece.  Good stuff.  I didn’t try her eggs or her side of fruit, she said they were good, and they were gone in fairly short order, so I assume they were good.  This brings us to the surprise of our meal.  Okay, if I don’t write some sort of an explanation to build the drama it will be a total let down.  So bear with me.  There are certain foods that I love. Bacon, a good steak, well-prepared Brussels sprouts, and even a good salad fit this bill.  What I am not is a particular fan of hash browns.  I’ll eat them, ya know, if they show up along side something I’m interested in, but not really what I’d call a draw, so to speak.  My wife is even more ambivalent about hash browns than I am.  She actually hedged and ordered some fruit expecting the hash browns to be marginal or bad.  Well these

Totally appropriate close up of the leek hash browns

were freakin’ delicious.  They were so good we had a five-minute conversation about why these were so much better than most hash browns available for human consumption.  It could have been the crisped up outer covering.  Or the still tender inside.  Or the acceptable level of grease (which most places get very wrong, either too dry and too greasy).  Or the light seasoning.  I’m betting the combination, along with the generous use of the leek, all contributed to this little fried bit of goodness.  I could have called this post ode to the hash brown and it would have fit nicely.  In addition to our two primary dishes, we noticed two other things that caught our attention.  The first was a carrot cake pancake.  Pictured here

I didn’t expect this “dessert” to show so well in a breakfast. It did.

It sounds much less interesting than it was.  I was not interested in having it, but they twisted our arms, so I thought I should put in a couple bites, just to see.  Much better than expected.  Sadly, we only had about two bites apiece.  In part because we had our main plates, and in part because we also ordered these.

Not quite Café du Monde, but really, really good

The beignets were on the menu with a 20-minute pre-order time, which was kind of our undoing.  We probably would’ve skipped either the pancake or the beignets, but forgot we’d put them in by the time we ordered our meals.  Then, in a strange twist, they didn’t show up until after our food arrived.  This was poor planning on our part.  Still, they were staring up at us, so I figured it was worth at least a taste.  Two and a half beignets later, covered in housemade raspberry something or other, I can say they were a nice, warm treat.  Not quite as good as the ones from Café du Monde in New Orleans that I wrote about in a previous post, but not chopped liver (which, by the way, is absolutely disgusting and foul–in case you wanted my two cents).  We left more of our food than we should, and speaking of which, did you know that Pret a Manger donates all its unused fresh food each day to feed homeless in D.C.?  I didn’t.  I think maybe it’s time to push my Assembly and Senate folks to change the law so local restaurants in California can do this, too.  I wrote about this while doing the Calfresh Challenge and even asked a couple of my restaurant buddies.  They directed me to the law that needs to be changed, so I think I’ll be ringing up Toni Atkins, Shirley Weber, Joel Anderson and Brian Maienschein to get this changed.  Obviously we should create a path out of homelessness for those who want to/are able to take it.  But it seems we can do better about aligning food resources with people who are hungry.  Making this a goal for 2013, I think.  Back to my food story.  Wait, food part is over, but there is one other good note to this restaurant.  It starts with this

This was funny. Oh I wish more people would heed it.

Wife said the bathroom is glorious, so I had to check it out. Not glorious, as in opulent, more like pleasantly, surprisingly nice and somewhat refreshing.  No, seriously.  The first cool thing was that there were two bathrooms: one was a Women’s bathroom and the other was a Men’s AND Women’s bathroom. Good thinking.  I’ll save my tangent about rethinking what we understand equity in public policy to mean for a different day, and just say I assume someone thoughtful has decision making authority here.  Second thing was the photo I just showed. Both the slight judgy and snarky reminder and the candle were nice. You can’t smell it, but it was one of the best smelling bathrooms ever.  Yes, even a tad refreshing.  Nice touch, Farmers.  It’s nice when you can support a place that turns out to also be awesome.  I suppose we do a lot of research just to be sure we’ll have a chance of dining success.  This was no exception, even with the speed bump.  Good spot, check it out. Thanks for reading. By the way, I also tweet about food, local politics, community engagement and craft beer here. Cheers