All around town, restaurants are unveiling their fall menus for what promises to be a season of the regulars (pumpkins, squash, cauliflower) and a throwback to traditional roots and warm comfort foods. We sent our food contributor, Clayton Barlow-Wilcox to preview the new historically-inspired mid-Atlantic menu at The Federalist, and he came back with a full stomach and nothing but rave reviews. Check out his thoughts below and enjoy pictures by our resident photographer, Farhang Alem.
The Federalist has a modern take on historically mid-Atlantic cuisine with ingredients from the best producers in the region. It’s a welcoming space attached to the newly renovated Madison Hotel just north of McPherson Square with a great outdoor patio and large dining room with a comfortable and quiet atmosphere. The menu uses some of the best locally sourced ingredients and melds them together in traditional combinations with some international and stylistic flair, no doubt brought from the previous work Chef Harper McClure has received at previous positions at, Bacchanalia in Atlanta, arguably the most highly acclaimed restaurant in the South, and DC acclaimed restaurants Vidalia and Marcel’s. For a meat and potatoes kind of menu that takes cues from 18th century eats, the food was delicious and homey with dashes of creativity and some interesting flavor combinations, like lamb loin and pomegranate jus and seared tuna with carrot puree, but was not too adventurous in its flavors. There were also new takes on classics like clam chowder with cabbage and crispy pork belly and heritage pork chop with apples and crispy pig ears.
The cheese is regionally sourced, the charcuterie is house-made and the drink menu hearkens back to some classic styles and ingredients with a black mission fig flip and a bourbon cocktail with a cranberry-ginger shrub. The beverage master has put together a dizzying array of signature drinks using house infused liquors, homemade shrubs, syrups, and juices to provide any diner with a sweet, savory, sour, and even spicy cocktail combination. There is also an extensive wine list for those not trying to participate in the cocktail party, but I don’t why they wouldn’t, because the drinks were fantastic.
With house-made liquors, syrups, and shrubs paired with in-house charcuterie, cured salmon, and dry aged beef, the Federalist goes a long way with expressing it’s homemade credibility across the menu, hopefully they’ll continue to experiment and push the boundaries with flavor because the ingredients were local, delicious, and cooked perfectly. In time I can see those traditionalist roots growing into a more unique picture for the restaurant.