Restaurant Review: Cafe Saint-Ex

January 13, 2010 § Leave a comment

Sous Chef Jesse at Cafe Saint-Ex has very recently become one of my favorite chefs in DC.  Why? Because in the middle of Sunday Brunch (a notoriously horrific shift for chefs everywhere) I waltzed in to announce that I only eat local food, in the middle of January, and would like to know where every damn thing on the menu comes from (I still have a lot of guilt about doing this all the time, and really should start calling before I go out to eat anywhere).

Our waitress was nice about it, checking with nearly every person in sight to see if they knew where various food items were from.  The advertise on the front door that they source produce from Tuscarora, but I wasn’t sure which ones. Their menu currently isn’t terribly seasonal, but they regularly source their ground meat from Smith Meadows (the same farm that produces my beloved nutmeg squash pasta), so I figured I was safe with a burger.  But what to go on it?

After incessantly pestering our poor waitress about it, I finally said “you can just put anything remotely local you have in the kitchen on a plate and I’ll eat it.”  I wasn’t expecting much, but what came out was positively beautiful.

Jesse created this gorgeous salad from pea shoots and different kinds of radishes.  The larger white ones had been roasted and showed a little caramelization on the outside, and the brunoised pink ones were soft and sweet with that signature radish bite. 

I piled half the salad onto my burger and dug in. Amazing.  I’m doubting the bread is local (though might be from a local bakery?), and I’ll admit to having some chevre on top of unknown origin (very high quality and likely sustainable from somewhere, but probably France, not Maryland. Yes, I feel very bad about this. but I was desperate. and this was the lunch after the accidentally heavy night of  drinking and non-local food.)

Saint-Ex had an overhaul several years ago when a young(er) Barton Seaver, award winning chef and sustainability advocate (and new husband to the lovely and talented owner of Anemone Design Carrie Anne) took over as executive chef and brought his local food sensability to the table.  Local and sustainable food became part of Saint-Ex’s identity (something I LOVE to see happen) and they have continued with it long after he has moved on.   They do change their menu seasonally, and I look forward to going back in more favorable seasons when they will have more options for local food for order. 

In any case… as long as I can get a burger and salad, I really don’t care what else they have on the menu right now.  They treated me like a preferred customer instead of a picky-eater freak… and that kind of service deserves to be recognized.

Delicious food, locally sourced, and front to back stellar service. Especially in January, who could ask for anything more?

**Please patronize Cafe Saint-Ex and let them know you appreciate their committment to local, sustainable food sources!**

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