Breaking Down the Dish is a feature of the D.C Sustainable Food column in which we
highlight a single dish from a local restaurant, and investigate the inspiration and local/regional
producers behind it.
This week’s Breaking Down the Dish:
Steak of the Day with farm-herb butter and mashed sweet potatoes
Executive Chef Barton Seaver is not selling Kool-Aid at the new Glover Park eatery Blue
Ridge, but you might not know it from the buzz surrounding both the restaurant and the man
Whether or not it's on the menu, people have been lining up to drink in what Seaver is talking
about, and what he's serving. For a man interested in "saving dinner" - Seaver's narrative
device for highlighting the human component of food conservation - it's all part of a grander
evangelical strategy (including an upcoming seafood retail outlet and a soon-to-air television
show) to drive greater awareness of and diversity to eating sustainably - even Jamie Oliver
recently said it's impossible to make a difference without a television show.
"Sustainability is about people," Seaver said. "And there really is a human component of this,
which is consumption. This is not about what we need to save but how we enable ourselves to
With Blue Ridge (which opened this past Monday), Seaver and owners Eli Hengst and Jared
Rager will put that mission to the test with their people-focused, neighborhood farmhouse-style
joint that features "simple, approachable cuisine emphasizing sustainability and local
sourcing." The focus of that sourcing, as the name suggests, is the area in and around the Blue
Ridge Mountains and surrounding Shenandoah Valley just south of D.C.
For its seafood offerings, the restaurant will focus on mountain fish: trout, catfish, as well as
low country options; oysters and blue fish from the Chesapeake. Meat, too, emanates from the
Piedmont region, primarily via relationships nourished through the Virginia Department of
Agriculture's Farm-to-Table program, which connects Virginia farmers with area chefs and
restaurateurs. Blue Ridge will purchase whole animals that will make their way, in near
entirety, onto the menu - from charcuterie, to appetizers, to main courses.
Despite the local and regional focus at Blue Ridge, you won't find any of the names of farmers
and producers tacked onto the end of each menu item, merely a simple note at the bottom
stating the company's mission to do business in "ways that benefit the entire community."
And while Seaver says the "the story" of Blue Ridge is an important, perhaps driving force of
the restaurant, he and the restaurant's owners will work hard to ensure that people's
experiences focus on the communal aspect of dinner.