District dining: A week of farm-to-table food

WASHINGTON – If there’s one thing D.C. diners are familiar with, it’s Restaurant Week. But for the third year, one local organization and its partners are putting their own spin on the food-focused week: The group is encouraging the hungry masses to eat locally.

Farm-to-Table Restaurant Week, a collaboration of Think Local First DC, FRESHFARM Markets and the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington, is part of Eat Local First Week. From July 22-28, 25 participating restaurants will offer fixed menus, full of dishes and drinks sourced from area artisans and farms.

But Farm-to-Table Restaurant Week goes beyond the menu. It also includes a week of discussions and events. It even ends with a “block party” at Union Market, featuring food, live music and culinary demonstrations.

According to Stacey Price, executive director of Think Local First DC, food is an important, leading component to the growth of small businesses in the city. She says food serves as a conduit between community and commerce.

Suzanne Simon is a local blogger and entrepreneur who works to bridge food and community. At her recent restaurant concept, Chaya, she and Bettina Stern use ingredients from local sources to fill and sell homemade corn tortillas at the White House Farmers Market.

Simon is leading an edible garden tour through D.C.’s Bloomingdale neighborhood on Friday, July 26, as part of Eat Local First Week. This is her third year organizing the tour, which she says has grown from around 30 people in 2010 to around 150 in 2012.

Simon says the tour highlights eight garden spaces, including five private gardens, a school garden and a community garden. But for Simon, it’s more than just showcasing plants, fruits and unique urban garden spaces — it’s about discovering the different neighborhoods in the city.

“When you’re in your car, you can completely drive through a neighborhood and not get a sense about what it’s about. [The tour] pulls people in to discover all the neighborhood’s shops and restaurants,” says Simon, who adds that it would be ideal to move the tour to a different area of the city each year.

After the edible garden tour, the group will head to Big Bear Caf

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