Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Overview: Walker's Grille

In today’s world, organic food represents the fastest-growing sector of the food industry, and while local farmer’s markets and specialty grocers offer sustainable and organic food, sticking to a diet that is local, unfrozen, unprocessed, seasonal, organic or near organic while dining out presents a challenging task. DC’s farm-to-table, eco-friendly options are few and far between; so, imagine my surprise when I discovered an eco-friendly restaurant tucked away in the historic district of Franconia. In the Metro Office Park right off the Franconia-Springfield metro, Walker’s Grille remains unknown to most Washingtonians when it should be embraced just as readily as Founding Farmers in Foggy Bottom.

As the Commonwealth of Virginia’s first LEED certified restaurant, Walker’s Grille serves up local ingredients, all natural beef and poultry producers, sustainable and domestic seafood, in addition to dairy and eggs products from Lancaster, Pennsylvania’s famed environmental family farm, Kreider Farm. The owners jumped through hoops and paid 30-40% more than average for restaurant build-out to ensure the U.S. Green Building Council awarded them with a GOLD LEED certification, which is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings.

Besides the green building technicalities and the high quality food products, Walker’s Grill delivers a delicious and vibrant menu accompanied by friendly wait staff, an affordable wine and cocktail menu, and a casual, yet upscale dining scene. Whether you are a vegetarian, carnivore or seafood lover, you will struggle making a timely decision on your menu selections with so many enticing choices. The salad appetizers alone are hard to pass up with choices between arugula with grilled pineapple, mango, red onion, red pepper and corn and Boston Bibb lettuce with strawberries, candied walnuts, goat cheese and balsamic dressing. Either way, you can’t go wrong pairing either up with an Absolut Pear Punch martini, a refreshing cocktail to get the digestive juices flowing. The arugula salad boasts a zingy lime and olive oil dressing along with crunchy, chipotle spiced tortilla chips and the sweetest, most unforgettably-flavored corn you’ll experience. 

After appetizers, a stellar wine and food pairing can be exploited with the pan seared scallops served with asparagus and pesto, lemon zest dressing. The browned scallops glisten in the dimmed lighting and match well with a bracing Sancerre (Sauvignon Blanc) that slices through the sweet succulence of the scallops with mineral, grassy, and kumquat orange flavors.

For those who shy away from ordinary, don’t be fooled by the chicken selection on the menu. This whole-roasted chicken bursts with aromatics, while a salted and seasoned crispy outer skin gives way to moist white meat underneath, garnished with braised collard greens and a savory, salty old-fashioned stuffing overflowing with carrot, onions and celery. Scents of Thanksgiving waft through your nostrils while you remember this chicken never set foot in an inhospitable, inhumane environment, since Walker’s Grill only serves Bell and Evans chicken. The decadence of the dish calls for a medium to full-bodied red wine with ample fruit, silky smoothness, and a kiss of oak, which is found with a local Virginia glass pour, Paradise Springs Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine dissolves in your mouth along with the juicy chicken.

Wrap up your dining finale with a unique dessert composed of avocado, berries and pistachios whipped into a green-colored parfait. Interesting delight: not too sweet, and not bland like avocados tend to be. The raspberries and blueberries contrast the avocado nicely, adding texture and bright acidity. A sparkling moscato with ambrosial flavors would compliment this concoction nicely if they had such a selection, maybe they’ll take this prod as encouragement to seek one out. 

However you look at it, Walker’s Grille is an anomaly and should benefit from food lovers who cherish the environment, the method of food manufacturing, the carbon footprint left for posterity, and most importantly, enjoy gratifying food. So far, less than 50 restaurants in the U.S. have received LEED certification—and a shocking 40% of those are chain restaurants that buy mass-produced, non-organic or non-sustainable farmed foods. Walker’s Grille should be jammed packed with business every night of the week despite it’s Springfield locale, which plays a factor in obscuring it’s visibility from the DC dining radar. I’m here to tell you, though, once discovered, you will keep going back.

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