For vegetarian and vegan diners on the lookout for superlative fare, these 10 dishes fit the bill
Eggplant Parmigiana at I’m Eddie Cano
In the January/February 2019 issue of Bethesda Magazine, we raved about the eggplant parmigiana at I’m Eddie Cano, a 60-seat Italian restaurant in Upper Northwest D.C. helmed by chef and co-owner James Gee. We’re still fans of the neat rectangle of ultrathin, breading-free eggplant slices layered with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, fresh basil and a bold sauce rich with San Marzano tomatoes.
“I’m not a vegetarian myself, but I like paying attention to vegetables. I believe a lot of cooks underplay them on the menu,” Gee says. “The way we roast the eggplant slowly, it turns silky and custardy. Because we don’t fry it, the greasiness is eliminated. It’s eggplant-dense, eggplant-rich.” Indeed, a pound and a quarter of eggplant goes into each 8-ounce portion of the dish, served bubbling hot and draped with melted buffalo mozzarella cheese in a cast-iron baking pan. Along with another vegetarian dish, cacio e pepe—tonnarelli (like spaghetti) with pecorino cheese and black pepper—the eggplant parmigiana is a top seller. “We will never take it off the menu,” Gee says. “Too many people love it.”
I’m Eddie Cano, 5014 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, D.C., 202-890-4995, imeddiecano.com
Ravioli Déstructuré Aux Trois Légumes at La Ferme
This upscale old-school French restaurant, tucked away in a quiet Chevy Chase neighborhood, has been a go-to for special occasions since it opened in 1985. For vegetarians, chef Scott Chambers, who has worked at La Ferme for 30 years, has a lovely offering—deconstructed ravioli, which he put on the menu four years ago to rave reviews from guests. Chambers sautes a surfeit of assorted fungi, such as shiitake, oyster, cremini, lobster or chanterelle mushrooms, and drains them, collecting the concentrated mushroom juice to make a sauce he enhances with black truffles. He puts a large square of cooked pasta in a soup plate and tops it with creamy artichoke flan and the mushroom medley, sauteed with spinach and mushroom jus. He lays another square of pasta over the vegetables and garnishes the dish with frisee lettuce, chopped tomatoes, curls of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and more truffle jus.
La Ferme, 7101 Brookville Road, Chevy Chase, 301-986-5255, lafermerestaurant.com
Impossible Meatloaf at Founding Farmers
Impossible Burgers are all the rage, but at Founding Farmers, the Kensington-based chainlet that opened its Park Potomac location in 2011, the Impossible Meatloaf impresses us more. When the Impossible Burger was introduced to the market in 2016 by Impossible Foods Inc., it caused an instant sensation, because the texture, taste and color of the plant-based product approximates that of actual ground beef. (Ingredients include water, soy protein concentrate, sunflower oil and coconut oil.) Founding Farmers got squarely behind it, using the product for applications beyond burgers, including breakfast sausage, tacos, chili and meatloaf. “When I tasted the Impossible Burger, I thought, ‘Wow, this tastes like real meat,’ ” says Joe Goetze, Founding Farmers’ senior vice president of culinary development. “It’s not cheap, though. It costs us $11 to $12 a pound, as much as rib eye.”
Founding Farmers’ meatloaf can easily go head-to-head with any respectable beef version. Shallots, garlic, mustard, thyme, sage and lots of sauteed mushrooms imbue the vegetarian-but-not-vegan loaf with tons of flavor; its tomato and vinegar glaze creates a pleasing caramelized crust. This American comfort food classic from the 1950s, which comes with buttery mashed potatoes and sauteed green beans, has become Impossibly 21st century.
Founding Farmers, 12505 Park Potomac Ave., Potomac, 301-340-8783, wearefoundingfarmers.com
Roasted Vegetable Gnocchi at Seasons 52
All-fresh, never-frozen produce with an emphasis on seasonality is part of the business model at
Seasons 52, a Florida-based chain with 45 locations nationwide. (The North Bethesda location opened in 2011.) You won’t find dishes prepared with butter or cream, and the menu touts that they don’t have a fryer.
Along with the regular menu, diners receive a specialty menu that clearly lays out the gluten-sensitive, lactose/dairy-sensitive, vegan and vegetarian dishes. Roasted vegetable gnocchi, a vegan offering, captures our attention—first because of its multicolored presentation, then because it just tastes so good. The potato-based dumplings are sauteed in olive oil to brown and crisp their exterior, then tossed with zucchini, roasted tomatoes, roasted broccoli florets and tomato basil sauce. For crunch, the dish is topped with a granola of almonds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and quinoa. “The dish appeals to vegetarians, but also to people who are looking for something lighter,” says Christophe Holmes, Seasons 52 North Bethesda’s executive chef. “We let the vegetables tell the story of who we are.”
Seasons 52, 11414 Rockville Pike, North Bethesda, 301-984-5252, seasons52.com
David Hagedorn is the restaurant critic for Bethesda Magazine.