Photos by Tony Brown
Fine dining establishments where vegetables get star treatment.
Vegan diners have long endured heaps of vegetable sides carelessly piled onto a plate and passed off as respectable entrees. But those days are now ending as more conscious eaters move toward plant-dominant diets in response to research showing the damaging health effects of meat and the detrimental repercussions of factory farms on the environment. Erica Meier, executive director of the animal advocacy group Compassion Over Killing, says that “the single most important action each of us can take to protect our health, the planet and animals is simply to choose plant- based foods.” Whether going green is a personal, environmental or ethical decision, diners inclination toward meatless menu items is being met by progressive chefs who are unintimidated by the challenge of pushing meat aside.
ELIZABETH’S GONE RAW – 1341 L Street, NW
Eight years ago Elizabeth Petty was diagnosed with breast cancer.After a battery of treatments and surgeries, she committed to a plant-based diet that she says helped save her life.Wanting to share the beauty of her food journey with others, she opened Elizabeth’s Gone Raw, a raw vegan, seven course, $75 prix-fixe culinary experience available to patrons on Friday nights only. Petty runs a full service catering business the rest of the week, but her passion lies with the creative side of her kitchen. Chef Francisco Hernandez changes the roster of dishes monthly and to the dismay of some regulars, will never feature the same concept twice with the exception being crunchy, addictive kale chips that every diner gets to try.Within the confines of raw food, where nothing can be cooked above 115 degrees, Hernandez challenges himself with masterfully conceived and artfully prepared dishes. Details rule in every corner of the restaurant, down to the specially filtered ionized water, a carefully-curated organic wine menu and the ice (hand carved by service director and sommelier Phil Heyser) that makes every drink good to the last sip.
EQUINOX RESTAURANT – 818 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Todd Gray and his wife Ellen Kassoff Gray started incorporating vegan and vegetarian options into their menu in 1999.The positive response from Equinox’s loyal diners set off a chain reaction leading up to the creation of their famous vegan brunch, once served every Sunday at the old Corcoran Gallery of Art. Equinox’s menu, which changes seasonally, has now evolved into being 50 percent plant-based. Gray finds it both challenging and exciting to experiment with the breadth of plant-based ingredients, which, he notes, provide more variety than animal protein. Of the challenges, Kassoff cites the initial hurdle of getting diners out of their comfort zones.“You have to earn people’s trust with this way of eating,” she says. With each mushroom bolognese, polenta frite and cauliflower tempura, they get one step closer to doing just that.
This article appeared in the April 2017 issue of Washington Life.