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Farmers Fishers Bakers (formerly Agraria, etc.) - Chef Joe Coetze Also Works With Founding Farmers


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In the hazy time between presses of the snooze button this morning, I heard a blurb on WTOP about a restaurant called Agraria, due to open in 2006 on the water in Georgetown. Now that the haze has passed, Googling has revealed some more information about this interesting concept.

From a press release by the contractor:

This 13,500 SF high-end restaurant will be located in The Harbor Place in Georgetown and will include a lobby, bar, kitchen, and a main and private dining area. The restaurant, pioneered by the North Dakota Farmers Union (NDFU), will serve quality foods sourced directly from farmers and will use the branding "From Our Fields to Your Table." The restaurant will educate urbanites about family farm products in a casual, fine dining environment. Construction will begin in January 2006 and will be complete in May 2006.

It must have been in the works for a while -- I found this from 2003:

The Ultimate Value-Added Cooperative, under the aegis of the North Dakota Farmers Union, is planning to open the "Agraria" restaurant in Washington, D.C., this summer. It will feature foods from family farms throughout the country, but mostly pasta, beef and breads from North Dakota. Bison will be featured as a specialty item. The restaurant's menu will be used to educate urbanites about family farm products and a different farm family will be featured each month. Investors must be members of both the Farmers Union and the cooperative.

Hmm. Wonder why these North Dakotans want to set up shop all the way over here.

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Yes.

A "food-centric" place on the waterfront. Chef is Paul Morello of Les Halles (DC). 350 seats.

Partnership between http://www.magnategroup.net/ & ND Farmer's Union.

Was told a bar scene will not be the focus. Could go many ways...

http://www.agrariarestaurant.com/

http://www.agrariallc.com/

The catering menu looks good, and not too pricey. I wonder when the dinner menu will be available.

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I wonder if anyone in North Dakota knows that the architect of Harbor Place, Arthur Cotton Moore, and his wife refer to this as the "Embassy of Mars?" <_<;):)

Nonetheless, I truly hope that this is indeed what it seems--a group of farmers banding together with marketing types to sell their product. Are we seeing the "new" face of farming in America? If so, all I can say is, IT'S ABOUT TIME!

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A friend who used to live in Montana told me that in the Upper Midwest, they don't tell Polish jokes, they tell North Dakota jokes. ("Didja hear the one about the North Dakotan who...?") And they did things like referring to Cheerios as "North Dakota donuts"-- perhaps this restaurant is an effort by North Dakota to restore some gravitas to their national identity.

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A friend who used to live in Montana told me that in the Upper Midwest, they don't tell Polish jokes, they tell North Dakota jokes. ("Didja hear the one about the North Dakotan who...?") And they did things like referring to Cheerios as "North Dakota donuts"-- perhaps this restaurant is an effort by North Dakota to restore some gravitas to their national identity.

Hving grown up in Wisconsin, I can assure that everyone in the Midwest looks down on denizens of the Dakotas...NoDaks and SoDaks, much the same way that the cretinous coast-dwellers look down on Midwesterners.

And yes, they do still tell Polish jokes. Like "didjya hear about the Polish NoDak farmer who opened a restarant in DC? Yah, he said he wanted to live someplace where there was no winter".

Actually, the last time I visited the ancestral homelands (in N. Dakota), I encountered beef and grain products of EXTREMELY high quality. So yeah, I'd definitely try the restauraunt.

Rob

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I saw on thelist that there's an event at Agraria Thurs as part of the soft opening.

Thursday, May 18 - Slow Food DC Hosts A Book Party Featuring John Peterson at Agraria RestaurantJoin Agraria Restaurant for an informal book party to celebrate John Peterson's first book, The Real Dirt on Vegetables catered by Agraria. This event is part of their soft opening. Enjoy a full tour of Agraria Restaurant. This is not a sit-down dinner, but the opportunity to sample an array of the Agraria's offerings. $35 per member. $40 per non-member. 6:30pm. - 8:00pm. 3000 K Street, NW. For more information and details, call 202.298.9193.

When is the official opening?

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More information is available at the Agraria web site:

click

I want this venture to work, but what do people from North Dakota know about running a DC restaurant?

They do seem to be starting with some good help, though.

in the restaurant industry, who knows. sometimes it seems that good spirits, optimism, and hard work are enough. (i.e. alice waters and chez panisse? or more locally, nora) other times, that formula doesn't cut it. of course, that's all very obvious. it seems a lot of restauranteurs pick places that seem a little off kilter when compared to their geographic origin.... and quite a few do succeed. it could offer a fresh "dakotan"(??) outlook on dc dining :)

i'm excited about this restaurant. i'm always excited to see an opportunity for local agriculture to be utlised and supported. hopefully they'll stick with it and find a way to make it all work out. it has the potential to be a great addition to the area dining scene, methinks.

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Kudos to Derek et al, but I am a little skeptical of any serious commitment to, say, Nora or Chez Panisse dining. Nobody has yet bothered to put a decent restaurant in Washington Harbour (that I've been to) and the whole Georgetown waterfront scene is dedicated to drinking, touring and boat ho's -- nothing wrong with any of that, but I'd guess that rents reflect high-markup liquor sales potential, rather than the less lucrative sale of swell food. The whole North Dakota connection is tenuous. And they're already plugging their catering business. I'm hoping for the best, but not necessarily expecting it.

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Kudos to Derek et al, but I am a little skeptical of any serious commitment to, say, Nora or Chez Panisse dining. Nobody has yet bothered to put a decent restaurant in Washington Harbour (that I've been to) and the whole Georgetown waterfront scene is dedicated to drinking, touring and boat ho's -- nothing wrong with any of that, but I'd guess that rents reflect high-markup liquor sales potential, rather than the less lucrative sale of swell food. The whole North Dakota connection is tenuous. And they're already plugging their catering business. I'm hoping for the best, but not necessarily expecting it.
I wish only the best for the Brown brothers and owe them the opportunity to show us what they can do. I can't believe they would have left Firefly and Corduroy unless they believe they are onto something good. I for one, plus Dame Edna, will happily sample the goods as soon as they are up and running.

I don't understand why Harbor Place has had such trouble finding and keeping good restaurants. Remember that first restaurant with the all the publicity--the one with the train running around the room? I just laughed when I read that the wife of the architect, Arthur Cotton Moore, referred to it as the "Embassy of Mars." :)

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this just in from the building museum, in case anybody just can't wait:

May 24

Exclusive Restaurant Preview

Dine by Design at Agraria

Wednesday, Reception 7:00 – 7:30 pm

Dinner 7:30 – 10:00 pm

Enjoy an exclusive evening of fine dining, high design, and stimulating conversations with the architects and executive chef at a private, pre-opening premiere of Agraria Restaurant, designed by Adamstein & Demetriou (A&D). Owned by the North Dakota Farmers Union, Agraria will feature foods and ingredients produced by family farmers and small producers across the country. At a cash bar reception with an appetizer buffet, participants can explore the restaurant located in Georgetown’s Washington Harbor. During a four-course dinner that includes a wild mushroom and watercress bisque and sautéed breast of chicken with a vegetable medley, architects Olvia Demetriou, FAIA, and Theodore Adamstein will discuss their latest creation. A&D is behind some of Washington’s hottest restaurants, including IndeBleu, Zaytinya, and Zola. Tom Prescott, president of the Magnate Group, LLC, the firm managing the restaurant’s development, will explain its concept. Over coffee and dessert, Executive Chef Paul Morello, most recently executive chef at Les Halles, will discuss the culinary design of the dinner and overall menu.

$105 Museum members; $125 nonmembers. Prepaid registration (https://s21.2coolweb.com/nbm/signup.asp) required by May 21 after which date no refunds are allowed. Price includes reception, dinner, and gratuity. Liquor and wines are on a cash basis. The restaurant is located at 3000 K Street, NW; garage parking available.

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I get that creepy feeling that we might be seeing one of those restaurant reviews that starts

"The architecture is fabulous..."

Not a good sign from either a good food or business longevity point of view ...

let's hope that I am wrong, wrong, wrong, and I am mocked mercilessly ...

(I can already imagine my wife saying "You would like that, wouldn't you?") :)

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It's exciting to see this flurry of activity and we haven't even opened yet. The restaurant will stand for itself soon enough, but I will add one thing as a matter of respect for the people who employ me. The North Dakota thing is not tenuous. We are owned by the North Dakota Farmers Union. They concieved of the project and we answer to them.

As for the Harbour. Try the statement with a different inflection:

"Nobody has yet bothered to put a decent restaurant in Washington Harbour?"

Then you'll get the answer to why Agraria.

The catering business has to do with the fact that our restaurant is not open yet but we have a great prep kitchen. Why not.

Derek

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It's exciting to see this flurry of activity and we haven't even opened yet. The restaurant will stand for itself soon enough, but I will add one thing as a matter of respect for the people who employ me. The North Dakota thing is not tenuous. We are owned by the North Dakota Farmers Union. They concieved of the project and we answer to them.

As for the Harbour. Try the statement with a different inflection:

"Nobody has yet bothered to put a decent restaurant in Washington Harbour?"

Then you'll get the answer to why Agraria.

The catering business has to do with the fact that our restaurant is not open yet but we have a great prep kitchen. Why not.

Derek

You tell'm. I can't wait to see what you all have to offer. It would be great to finally get a good restaurant down there.

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It's exciting to see this flurry of activity and we haven't even opened yet. The restaurant will stand for itself soon enough, but I will add one thing as a matter of respect for the people who employ me. The North Dakota thing is not tenuous. We are owned by the North Dakota Farmers Union. They concieved of the project and we answer to them.

As for the Harbour. Try the statement with a different inflection:

"Nobody has yet bothered to put a decent restaurant in Washington Harbour?"

Then you'll get the answer to why Agraria.

The catering business has to do with the fact that our restaurant is not open yet but we have a great prep kitchen. Why not.

Derek

I am eager to be proven wrong. And utterly confident that the front of the house will be alarmingly welcoming (for others, if not for myself) and the cocktails like magic.

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Click here to keep abreast of exciting developments for this daring "concept" restaurant, which will house up to 300 lucky patrons.

I can't wait to feel proud, virtuous, and noble as my dining check trickles down to those poor, struggling North Dakota farmers, toiling in the soil with dirty fingernails and sweaty brow.

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Fortunately, our site benefactor hasn't formed any opinions that might otherwise temper his enjoyment of Agraria :)

I can't speak for the farmers but my brow is sweaty; however, I will definitely clean my fingernails before service.

I promise to sign off until you all have a chance to check it out for yourselves. I didn't mean to stir any controversy.

Hope to see you all there, that goes for you too Rocks.

Derek

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Fortunately, our site benefactor hasn't formed any opinions that might otherwise temper his enjoyment of Agraria :angry:

I can't speak for the farmers but my brow is sweaty; however, I will definitely clean my fingernails before service.

I promise to sign off until you all have a chance to check it out for yourselves. I didn't mean to stir any controversy.

Hope to see you all there, that goes for you too Rocks.

Derek

Ya know, lots of folk think this town is "incestuous." They have no idea. My DH and I will take ourselves to Georgetown and sample the goods at Agragia at the appropriate time. Why? Because my DH's grandfather was a farmer in SOUTH Dakota and OH, BY THE WAY, Dreamy Derek lives a block-and-a-half up the street from me. I learned this after running into his brother, Tom, on the street. I was going to the bank and he was just coming from same establishment.

Families are made in peculiar ways. Exhibit A is DR.com. :)

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The North Dakota thing isn't tenuous at all--I've been following it a bit in the North Dakota press, and NDFU is indeed the reason for the venture. They've been trying to get it off the ground for several years now. I don't know their current financing, but the old pitch, at least, was limited to members of the union.

They Get Agraria back east

ND co-op plans DC restaurant - Newsline

I'll grant you, I've made my share of cracks about it to our ag reporter, but that's mostly because I'm from Iowa and he's from North Dakota and it doesn't take much to set us off anyway.

[didja hear about the two dakotans who went to see a movie at the drive-in and died while they were there?

yah, the movie was called "Closed for the Winter."]

[didja hear what happened to the Iowa ice hockey team???

yah, they went into spring training and drowned.]

But from an ag/lobbying perspective, the venture's legit--for some reason, the North Dakota Farmers' Union really has decided to further its members farms & goals by sinking money into a restaurant, and individual farmers have ponied up to do so. From the dining perspective, which is what matters here, we're all waiting to see how their concept translates to the table. They've made some good hires, they're in a pretty space with a checkered history, and I, for one, wish nothing but the best for my poor country cousins from the Dakotas....

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Excuse me for shameless promotion, but I want DR folks to come most of all.

Bar Agraria

Exclusive Preview

Thursday, June 1st

6 P.M. to 9 P.M.

$30 per person includes one cocktail, passed hors d’oeuvres,

charcuterie, seasonal vegetables and fruit. Tax and tip are not

included, and guests may purchase additional beverages at a discounted

price.

Agraria is a family-farmer owned and sourced fine dining restaurant

scheduled to open in the early summer at Washington Harbor in

lower Georgetown. Join us for an exclusive preview of our “Classics”

cocktail menu under the direction of beverage manager and

sommelier Derek Brown while the final “punch list” of construction

is being completed. (We will also have the ingredients to make

your favorites.) Guests that bring a 3 x 5 index card with their full

name, email and favorite cocktail and/or cocktail recipe will receive

a second complimentary cocktail.

Space is limited, so please register now by sending me a PM.

Classics

Although the names might sound the same as other bars, ours are

made with the best ingredients and consummate care (tart, bitter,

strong and flavorful is how we like our classics). If you’re looking

for sweet and easy, ask your bartender for a non-traditional version;

otherwise, sit back and enjoy the distinction!

The Sazerac

Jim Beam Rye, (secret ingredient), Ricard, Angostura and Peychaud

bitters, simple syrup, twist

The Manhattan

Wild Turkey Rye, Carpano Antica Formula sweet vermouth,

Regan’s orange bitters, garnished with a candied orange wedge

The Martini ($2 supplemental)

Millers Westbourne Strength Gin, Vya dry vermouth, Fee Brother’s

orange bitters, served with a tray of pickles

The Sidecar

Hennessey VS, Cointreau, fresh squeezed lemon juice, simple syrup

with a raw sugared rim

The Margarita

Patron Silver, Cointreau, fresh squeezed lime juice with a salted rim

The Bronx

Millers Gin, Vya sweet and dry vermouth, fresh squeezed OJ,

Blood Orange bitters

The Americano

Campari, Carpano Antica Formula vermouth, soda water

Our “Champagne” Cocktail

J Sparkling Wine, sugar cube, our housemade Sunflower Bitters

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Derek was the consummate host tonight, proudly introducing the space, the amenities, the bar staff and the classic cocktail menu.

Don't expect rustic, despite the North Dakota farm connection. It 's quite the opposite--elegant, modern, sleek. the huge space has been cleverly divided into separate spaces--almost like a group of small restaurants connected to the same kitchen. Stone, glass, and wood and lots of modern lighting fixtures. There are several private dining rooms and a lounge area, many with fireplaces and flat screen tv's. In one, "The Wine Room", a huge round table is surrounded on all sides by floor to ceiling sculptural metal grids which will hold wine bottles.

The bartenders are charming and Derek has decreed that topshelf liquor will be used for the cocktails. I had a tasty Sazerac cocktail and a tangy Margarita, made with Patron Silver. Tom, the head bartender, was trying out recipes from a book of "obsolete" cocktails that Derek found online. Porcupine and I shared a Jack Rose, made with applejack, lemon juice and pomegranate grenadine. One of the fun things Derek did this evening was to set up a tasting of the seven or eight different types of bitters he has sourced-- two different orange bitters, blood orange, peach, mint, in addition to Angostura and another herbal/botanical, the name of which I can't recall, along with a "sunflower" bitters decoction he made himself. My favorite was one of the two orange bitters that was strongly perfumed with cardamom.

Just before Derek gave us a tour of the place, including the kitchen(s)--there is a huge prep kitchen behind the open kitchen that services the restaurant-- a selection of really good truffles was set out where the hors d'ouevres had been. Chocolate, raspberry-chocolate-chile, and a white chocolate flavored with cardamom and rolled in crushed pistachios. Presumably, these will be provided as a post dessert treat to dinner guests.

The menu philosophy appears to be carefully sourced ingredients prepared with simplicity. Prices are fairly high. How the place will feel when it is full of people, and how good the food and service will be are questions that remain to be answered. The bar is sleek, attractive, comfortable and friendly. The drinks are great. That we know for sure.

Derek seems very determined to provide good service, and to recruit, train and develop a waitstaff that will exemplify his philosophy.

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One of the fun things Derek did this evening was to set up a tasting of the seven or eight different types of bitters he has sourced-- two different orange bitters, blood orange, peach, mint, in addition to Angostura and another herbal/botanical, the name of which I can't recall, along with a "sunflower" bitters decoction he made himself.

The other one was Peychaud.

Derek, Tom, and staff made us all feel very welcome and mixed some stellar drinks. If the kitchen and wait staff do as well as the bar staff, Agraria will be a great restaurant.

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My favorite was one of the two orange bitters that was strongly perfumed with cardamom.

IIRC those were Regan's Bitters, bottled by the Sazerac Co. Lovely stuff indeed.

The space has been divided into a number of different rooms, each with its own set of architectural details, but in the same overall style. The stone walls lend a warm rustic solidity to the space, but I suspect the dining room will be a bit loud with all the hard surfaces. Jake pointed out, and I agree, that the bar service area is set a little too similarly to the fine dining area, and it will be interesting to see how this works. I'd prefer a more lounge-like setting in front, myself.

Derek's devotion to classic cocktails is worthy of praise, particularly the care shown in selecting spirits that complement the final blend. My Americano was made with Carpano Antico vermouth, which was so beautifully aromatic that I'm not sure I can mix with M&R again :) The display behind the bar isn't comprehensive in the style of Bourbon or The Brandy Library, but it betrays a fondness for rye, including a gratuitous display of bottles of Black Maple Hill. For now, the classic list is brief but the mixology is excellent...the drinks I managed to sample had great balance and flavor, but more importantly there were no miscues.

In addition to the classics, there's a "creations" cocktail list which wasn't yet available last night, but which looks very interesting, if not as wildly experimental as something from Thrasher's labs. Fig-infused vodka anyone?!

Agraria's bar will be open this weekend as their soft launch continues.

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Some charcuterie and chocolate truffles. And some lovely deviled eggs. The actual menu is still under development, though we did see a draft.
Someone involved with the management of Agraria told me that they were looking for a new chef as the original one did not work out as planned.
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