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The Federalist, Classic Upscale American Downtown - Chef Harper McClure Has Moved On - Closed


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I had dinner here yesterday evening, and I'm strongly initiating coverage of Chef Harper McClure's "The Federalist" in Italic in the DC Dining Guide (members only). I had a wonderful shaken traditional Gimlet, the restorative (if a touch salty) old-school Turtle Soup, and a simply lovely Stuffed Pork Chop with a glass of Côtes Du Rhône. There is fine, old-school work going on in this kitchen, with fully reduced sauces rooted solidly in French technique. A wonderful addition to our city's dining scene, both for a potentially vibrant bar area, and also for a romantic or business dinner. Well done, Chef McClure, well done.

Cheers,
Rocks

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Geez! This was my best chance to start a new restaurant topic in months and two people beat me to it by 17 hours or so. :o;)

In no way prompted by this thread popping up, had lunch here today for a business meeting simply because it was new, I'd liked Palette when it was there and it was convenient for us.

HEADLINE

A place maybe still finding its voice but with the advantage of a CIA-trained chef who toiled at Vidalia and Marcel previously. Good food priced fully but consistently with many other downtown, business-suitable, lunch dining rooms. By no means a destination place to seek out but one to watch as it evolves and a fine choice if in the area.

VENUE

To be honest, I didn't like it but this is so a matter of personal taste. Palette, which preceded The Federalist in the same spot under the Madison Hotel's previous ownership, was a modern, uber trendy kind of buildout. Eye catching and maybe interesting whether or not ones style. This total renovation is perfectly comfortable and professional. No issues there.

My dislike is around the theme. The name and lanterns outside (other decorative elements) are meant to evoke the American Colonial era. And, think I read something online about one of the overseers mentioning the food would be a throwback to that era? Two problems with that. First, the food isn't really that at all. Second, really? Couldn't do something more creative or a tad more interesting than colonial? Feels more like a theme done without any professional design help rather than the stated goal of a "neighborhood restaurant" as mentioned in one of the writeups already done.

Overall, this isn't at all a big deal of course. Maybe a bit darker than ideal but, as already said, absolutely comfortable and appropriate for a business lunch or quiet dinner. Table spacing is good and I'd guess noise level not bad at all when crowded, which it wasn't today.

FOOD

Fine. Pretty good at times. Not especially interesting or innovative. Did seem true to the...sigh..."farm to table"...emphasis with everything that arrived on plates at our table. But, unlike TS, who really skewered this place in a late November First Bite, my dining companion and I were happy, though not wowed, with what we ordered:

Note: Didn't take the itemized receipt so some of my prices may be a bit off but I use a "~" if not certain below

- "Chicken Consomme: Clear Chicken Broth, Chicken Meatballs, Leek, Sage Oil" ($9): This was nice. the broth had a high fat content but not too much so it had some richness to it. The sage oil probably added to the fat perception. Very fine shards of leek were plentiful in the small bowl; maybe even a bit too much. Can't be sure I remember correctly but think it had two (maybe three?) of the meatballs. These were okay but can't remember much more to say about them. They reminded me of the ones in the Italian Wedding soup that Whole Foods sometimes sells. Overal, a fairly small portion but served in a semi-dramatic, heavy pewterish type bowl. Ah yes, that theme. Comforting starter with a higher interest quotient than the name might imply.

- "Leek and Potato Tarte: Yukon Gold Potato, Melted Leeks, Pipe Dreams Goat Cheese" ($no idea but can probably back it out from the other numbers here. Maybe somewhere around $10?): My dining companion ordered this. He didn't say anything about it and I didn't try it since we were more focused on our conversation but he did finish it so I assume he enjoyed it.

- "Baked Macaroni with Cheese" (~ $6 or $7): Because I always go for any mac and cheese variant at a new place, had to order this. It was good and I have to also admit this was different from any other I've had in the area. They use wide and long pappardelle-type noodles with a nice cheese sauce that seemed to have at least two different cheeses in it. The consistency is smoother and looser than a typical "mac and cheese." Satisfying. We both enjoyed it.

- "Limestone Farms Rainbow Trout: Pan Roasted Filet, Green Bean Amandine, Parsley, Lemon-Caper Butter" ($25): Leaning toward a rockfish dish priced just a dollar higher, I asked our waitress which she'd recommend between the two fish dishes. She immediately replied the trout, which I found interesting so asked why. Her response wasn't that persuasive; she said something like "it's just really good if you like lemon butter sauce" but I ordered it anyway. It was good. First, the fish was fresh and nicely prepared with crispy skin. Second, it was a good portion with both filets of a good sized fish. The preparation was pretty straightforward--can't recall the last time I saw "green bean amandine" on a plate outside of a cafeteria--but it was all well prepared. The beans were fresh, haricot verts style. This was also served atop a nice wild rice pilaf type element.

- My dining companion ordered a main and, for the life of me, I can't recall what it was. Again, I'll blame that on the conversation we were having and the fact that his main didn't enter our discussion at any point. But no complaints whatever it was. Lame, I know.

SERVICE

We had to wait maybe 3 or 4 minutes for a tall blonde (maybe Russian?) hostess to take us to our table. Our waitress tried very hard to meet any and all needs. She was very nice. I think she probably didn't have much experience as a server but she did a fine job nonetheless. Way better than another, similarly less experienced waitress we had at Kinkead's earlier this week for dinner but more on that later on that thread. We didn't want for anything, had what we needed and didn't notice our waitress today so much. I guess the ideal, especially for a business lunch.

VALUE

We spent around $87 for two pre tip and with just one iced tea and one hot tea to drink and no desserts. That's expensive but maybe not much different from other fine dining spots downtown given what was ordered.

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Hello to all, Harper McClure here. Wanted to take the opportunity to share our Valentine's Day menu with everyone on the board. It being our first time, we really want to knock it out of the park, so we're offering some really great luxury items for a killer price. $75 for 5 courses, plus all the bell's and whistles that'll make your sweetheart swoon. Hope to see you all real soon!!!

1st Course

Stingray Oysters on the Half Shell, American Sturgeon Caviar, Champagne Gelee

Or

Roasted Path Valley Rainbow Beets, Citrus Salad, Watercress, Macadamia Nut

2nd Course

Seared Diver Scallop, Burgundy Truffle Puree, White Asparagus

Or

Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras, Vanilla Roasted Pineapple, French Toast

3rd Course

Butter Roasted Maine Lobster, Carolina Gold Rice, Mascarpone

Or

Duo of American Wagyu: Roasted Strip Loin, Shortrib Ravioli,

Matsutake Mushroom, Cardoons, Red Wine Reduction

4th Course

Blood Orange Bavarian, Vanilla Sponge Cake, Passion Fruit, Milk Crumbs

Or

Soft Gianduja Ganache, Roasted White Chocolate Soup, Cognac Cream

Mignardises

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Sooooo...just how sad would it be if I went down to The Federalist alone to enjoy this meal? :)

The media would dispatch a reporter and you'd become a human interest story. Someone would secretly take a video of you with their smart phone and it would show up on You Tube with dialogue inserted. It would go viral. :blink:

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Hey there guys and girls...its been too long since I've posted here, but I thought I would just update everyone on what we've been doing at The Federalist. We are now open for Brunch! We're doing a prix fixe menu, $35/person. Appetizers are served family style at our communal table and will change every week depending on the season. You can expect farm fresh vegetables, fruits, soups and house cured items. Desserts will also change weekly, but the milk and cookies have been a big hit! Spring menu has started for both lunch and dinner and I'm pretty excited about the food our kitchen is preparing right now. Our staff is really starting to hit it's stride. Check out our website www.thefederalistdc.com to see all our menus, and don't forget to check out my weekly blog....hope to see you all real soon!

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The bad news: Harper McClure's last day at The Federalist was March 14th.

The good news: Harper will be Executive Sous Chef at Marcel's, further bolstering an already talented kitchen. That said, with all the restaurants Robert Wiedmaier is opening, I can't imagine someone as talented as Harper being a Sous Chef for too long ...

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The bad news: Harper McClure's last day at The Federalist was March 14th.

The good news: Harper will be Executive Sous Chef at Marcel's, further bolstering an already talented kitchen. That said, with all the restaurants Robert Wiedmaier is opening, I can't imagine someone as talented as Harper being a Sous Chef for too long ...

This is interesting news. Noone has posted about Federalist's food since late 2011 when I posted after a lunch and shortly after Chef McClure had taken over. Has anyone been in the past year? That Valentine's Dinner last year maybe? Didn't see theMatt in the Post as I'd expected. ;)

This reminds me it has also been too long since I've been at Marcel's (partly due to experiences in other Wiedmaier restaurants--though do enjoy both Brabos).

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This is interesting news. Noone has posted about Federalist's food since late 2011 when I posted after a lunch and shortly after Chef McClure had taken over. Has anyone been in the past year? That Valentine's Dinner last year maybe? Didn't see theMatt in the Post as I'd expected. ;)

I haven't been since Harper moved on, but someone I trust went last weekend and said it bordered on being abysmal - he was told that the hotel chef is running the restaurant for now. (I've downgraded it, a lot, for the time being.)

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