So, my good friend and ex-neighborlady from Michigan came to visit me. I figured rural Maryland only has so many sights to see, so we’d go down to Washington, D.C. This is the first in my two-part series of places I went to eat this weekend.
We almost didn’t make it to a fancy restaurant called Founding Farmers that I’d heard about on the Facebook. 45 minutes before our reservation, we ducked into a pizzeria to have a beer before supper and kill some time. The place was called Top of the Crust or some silly thing, and it smelled so good we seriously debated cancelling.
I’d heard that Founding Fathers was a green, sustainable, farm-fresh, no antibiotics, shade-grown fair trade sort of ritzy join, and was expecting a delicious, romantic evening. Imagine my surprise when we sat down beside a table full of guys in shorts and sandals and a table with 2 young children. The inside of the place was indeed glitzy, all hardwood and burnished metal, but that made the place deafening. A butterfly fart in one corner of the restaurant would echo until it became a deafening roar; since everyone in the joint was shouting at each other how much they liked the food, I relied on lip reading and a clever game of charades to figure out what was happening.
The bar menu had “let the bartender pick!” as a drink option. I usually prefer beer over cocktails, but I decided to roll the dice and see what I got. The waitress returned with a glass containing a fist-sized piece of ice and what I’m pretty sure was Old Grandad bourbon. She then took a cigarette lighter from her pocket and tried to light a piece of lemon peel on fire. After about two minutes, it flared with a WHOOMP! into a little ball of fire and sparks, and she dropped the soot-covered peel into my drink. I was, to use the British expression, gobsmacked.
I don’t know if this is the new trendy thing in drinks, or if I was actually served the finest tipple imaginable, or if everyone on earth has gone mad except for me. But I do know this: a film of oily black soot on the top of your drink is not particularly appealing. I even resorted to wiping the glass down with a napkin, but to little aid. I don’t know the name of this drink, and have decided to refer to it as the Shitless Wonder. One thing I DO know is that the bartender should be shot for charging $14 for a glass of ashes.
The first thing we ordered were the cracked black pepper corn chicken wings. I entertained the lovely lady with stories of my many adventures in Sumatra (n.b.: I’ve never been to Sumatra) while in the back of my mind I frantically tried to understand what had just happened with the burning lemon. The wings arrived, and I nonchalantly bit into one.
A second later, a wave of flavor and emotion hit me, and I floated from my seat, levitating into the air, as blinding light poured out of my eyes and ears. BEHOLD, I said simultaneously in the 822 most widely spoken languages of the earth, FOR THERE IS A NEW RELIGION. And that was only after one bite. They were the most gloriously delicious things I have ever eaten, and if the people of Washington do not erect a monumental granite chicken wing as a tribute to their glory, they are cretinous philistines and criminals against taste and decency. If you live in Washington D.C. and you are not, at this very moment, eating the chicken wings at Founding Farmers, you are wasting your life. Every moment without those wings is like an eternity spent floating in darkness. They were so delicious that I didn’t just eat them with my mouth: I ate them with my soul.
Euphoria over, I settled back into my seat and realized that a number of surrounding diners had been sunburnt by the radiant glory of these wings. But I didn’t care. And then the hot dogs arrived. I had ordered the Hot Dog Trio because I thought a fancy place would have some sort of witty, fancy take on hot dogs. They didn’t. I could have had the same experience and saved a load of cash if I’d gone to the stand down by the national mall. My lovely date said the crab cake is delicious, and I must agree. That’s my fault for choosing hot goddamned dogs.
About this time, my second drink arrived. I had thought that perhaps the bartender would be in a better mood, so I went with the random-let-him-pick option. Imagine my surprise, nay, my terror, when the waitress showed up with the exact same drink. “Oh god, no, please, no.” I said as she blackened the slice of lemon. “Don’t worry,” She said, “It’s a totally different drink.” She dropped the soot-covered lemon into my drink and, even though my entire body had gone numb at the asinine stupeosity of it all, I was able to tell she was right. It was cheap rum, instead of bourbon. (Side note: It may have been Maker’s Mark 14 year aged brandy cask rum, or some damnable thing, but I know that cheap rum tastes like ashes, and THIS TASTED LIKE ASHES.)
During desert, by which I mean the pleasant conversation (as mellifluous as any morsel we’d eaten) we had after the meal, I decided to try a beer. They were out of Belgian beer, so I decided to try something called “Old Chubb” which was described as Belgian-like.
You know what? I’m tired of writing this. I’m out of analogies. Old Chub is to Belgian beer as McRib is to proper BBQ. That should summarize things quite nicely.
Go to Founding Farmers. Eat there. But do your drinking somewhere else, don’t hope to carry on a conversation, and if you see the bartender that fed me $28 worth of sooty booze, feed him his teeth for me.