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Scratch Made: Potomac’s Founding Farmers Is a Tweet

Scratch Made: Potomac’s Founding Farmers Is a Tweet

By Pamela Schipper | Photography by Marie Motruk, Courtesy of Potomac’s Founding Farmers

Touchpoints abound in Park Potomac’s newest restaurant, located just minutes from I-270 via the Montrose Road exit. First, there’s the tactile attraction of reclaimed wood, industrial metal and meandering ductwork accented by bare light bulbs that quirk, fancifully, down. Then there’s the handcrafted feel of whittled barnyard buddies, individually welded tabletop pitchforks, wooden birdhouses that climb the walls and a miniature rural mailbox that delivers the chit. And if you look up, you’ll find a flock of ducks in formation beneath a pillowtop mattress-turnedcloud— all painted white except for one lone red duck.

“The ducks are plastic decoys,” explains Dan Simons, co-owner of Potomac’s Founding Farmers. “I bought them, and we painted them white. The red one is one odd bird right there. That’s me. Totally.”

An odd bird whose imagination has soared above the nest located in Foggy Bottom.

Since September 2008, Simons and his partner Mike Vucurevich have been managing partners in the Foggy Bottom Founding Farmers, owned by the North Dakota Farmers Union. When Simons and Vucurevich felt the need to spread their wings, they approached the union. “They’re wonderful to do business with,” says Simons. “All the positive stereotypes are true—the Midwestern, heartland, business on a handshake. They’re sophisticated businesspeople but they’re kind and honest.” A resident of Garrett Park, Simons proposed a Montgomery County restaurant co-owned by the union, Simons, Vucurevich and 23 other investors, 20 of whom reside in Montgomery County.

Maryland Warbler
Potomac’s Founding Farmers is ready to do the local strut with at least one-third of menu items unique to this location. “We don’t want to be a chain,” says Simons. “I don’t want to duplicate the restaurants. I say that the restaurants have the same DNA. Our principles are the same, our beliefs are the same, our passions are the same. So there’s that familial connection.”

Like two sisters who love honest food and serve it fresh from American family farms. Starting this spring, Potomac’s Founding Farmers will branch out to feature more Maryland fruits and vegetables, in addition to the natural beef already sourced from Piedmont Ridge in Harford County.

“It’s food that sort of hugs you a bit,” says Joe Goetz, Founding Farmers corporate chef who, together with Vucurevich and Executive Chef Rob Ross, has created a Park Potomac menu that builds on popular downtown fare with at least 30 percent unique dishes. “I especially like our salads. The crazy corn salad is great, and the slow-cooked meats.”

Goetz trained at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, and has worked in some of the finest restaurants in Florida and Texas. But you won’t find dainty, artistically arranged food on his tables. “I come at food from the eat-ability standpoint: How well does it eat? Not presentation.”

“Sometimes I put a little spin on things,” he admits. Like the homemade tater tots and bacon lollis, served on skewers and brought to the table propped against miniature artisan metal pitchforks. Or the deconstructed chicken pot pie; its biscuit-ey goodness is buoyed in a warm and creamy stew.

Nesting Time
In addition to breakfast, lunch and dinner, Potomac’s Founding Farmers offers “The Afternoon Social” with tea sandwiches, scones, a custom organic tea blend, champagne punch, cookies and other desserts created by award-winning Executive Pastry Chef Courtney Goldian. The restaurant invites customers to settle in for friendship building or business. Free wi-fi, bar-area booths with easy-access outlets, a printer, and overnight mail and postage supplies are sure to make businesspeople feel right at home.

Cock-a-Doodle-Doo
This restaurant has a lot to crow about. For starters, everything is made from scratch, including sodas built in the restaurant’s “Farmacy” and fancy alcoholic drinks that are never prepared from packaged mixes. Try a ginger ale. “We mince the ginger,” says Simons, “and we reduce it down to a simple syrup, add in a little of our lemon-lime and then boom, we have our ginger ale.”

But the real showstopper is the 800- to-1,000 degree Fahrenheit oven. This custom-designed oven cooks the restaurant’s spatchcock, meaning butterflied and flattened, chicken in nine minutes flat, and does fish in a mere three minutes. “It’s really the centerpiece in the kitchen,” says Simons. “I can do a lot more roasting, charring, hightemperature chicken.”

Affectionately known as “Woodstock,” the oven is one of only a handful in the area. “It’s very rare,” says Goetz. “It cooks very quickly and is very sensitive, with circular heat. But even though the meat cooks quickly, it doesn’t lose its flavor.” Goetz recommends the Peruvian Spatchcock Chicken Spiced with Aji Sauce.

“This section of the menu will grow,” says Simons. “It’s a huge difference from downtown because I don’t have this piece of equipment there. I have rotisserie chicken downtown, and the spatchcock chicken has a totally different texture of the skin, a different flavor.”

An Honest Bird
At the end of the day, Potomac’s Founding Farmers has two four-toed feet dug firmly into the dirt. “What we’re interested in doing is trying to avoid the corporateowned farms and the industrial food supply,” says Simons. “You can’t avoid it 100 percent, and anyone in a big restaurant like this who says they do, they’re not transparent. But for the most part, we really know where our food comes from. That for us is the big message— the message of trying to educate people that there is a difference between American family farmers and corporate and industrial farmers.”

Founding Farmers’ Brunswick Stew
Makes 3 1/2 quarts (serves 6–8)

¾ pound applewood smoked bacon—raw and julienne
¼ cup canola oil
1 cup yellow onion, diced
2 tablespoons shallots, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons minced garlic
¾ cup celery, diced
¾ cup carrots, diced
½ cup fennel, diced
1½ cups leeks, sliced, white part only
2 quarts chicken broth (low salt or no salt)
1 cup tomato juice
¼ cup barley
¾ cup Idaho potato, peeled and diced
¾ cup garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
1 cup tomatoes, ½” diced
¾ cup yellow squash, diced
¾ cup zucchini, diced
1 cup frozen lima beans
½ cup fresh green beans, diced
1½ cup cilantro, rough-chopped
¼ cup basil, rough-chopped
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1½ teaspoons black pepper, fresh mill-ground
¾ cup barbecue sauce ½ pound baby spinach
¾ cup green onions, sliced
1½ each limes, juiced

Optional for heartier stew
1 pound roasted whole chicken, pulled

Cooking instructions
Heat a stockpot to medium heat and cook bacon until crispy but not burnt. Add oil and heat. Once oil is hot, add yellow onion, garlic, shallots, celery, carrots, fennel and leeks. Sauté or “sweat” vegetables for 4 to 5 minutes or until translucent. Add chicken broth, tomato juice and barley. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Add potatoes, garbanzo beans and tomatoes and simmer for another 10 minutes. Add yellow squash, zucchini, lima beans, green beans, cilantro, basil, salt, black pepper and barbecue sauce. Simmer for 5 minutes to heat through. Prior to serving, add spinach and green onions, lime juice (and warm, pulled chicken, if desired). Add additional salt to taste.

Best when served with crusty bread.

Potomac’s Founding Farmers is located at 12505 Park Potomac Ave. Visit www.wearefoundingfarmers.com/parkpotomac for hours and a menu listing that includes vegetarian options.

Published in the January/February 2012 issue of Montgomery Magazine.

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