Where to Find a Little Art and Soul

This is a special post that will just be a review of an incredible experience I had last night.  I generally do not use names, but will make an exception to point out excellent service and special people I met.

Traveling as a vegan can sometimes be a pain.  I’m often relegated to large salads or a collection of side dishes (usually overcooked veggies) when dining out – unless I happen to be somewhere with an awesome vegan scene (and you can guess how many times THAT happens).  I usually have a Clif Bar and a banana in my purse as an emergency back up plan!

For the past 8 years or so, D has made it his personal mission to find restaurants for me and to try and arrange something special for me to eat when I’m traveling.  Often it’s because I’m away for work and attending vendor sponsored dinners – and I have no say in the restaurant choices.  Of course vendors like to impress, so they pick the most expensive steak and seafood place in town….and I’m left with mushy veggies.  It’s certainly not always – sometimes D succeeds in getting these places to make me something special, but it’s hit or miss.

Well let me tell you about a totally different experience last night in DC.  My husband was up here last weekend for a photography trip, and stopped in a place in Capitol Hill called Art and Soul.  He really enjoyed it, and was hoping I would too.  Since I’m here for work for the week, he reached out to the restaurant to see if they would do something special for me.


First of all, they have a very active social media presence, and the number of tweets flying back and forth this week was crazy!  I love a company that really embraces social media, and @ArtandSoulDC really does.

It’s also owned by James Beard award winning Chef Art Smith.  You may know him from two different seasons of Top Chef Masters or as Oprah Winfrey’s one time personal chef.  Oh, and he owns a boat load of other restaurants and is a cookbook author.  I was totally giddy to try out his restaurant.  He was there last night (even got a grainy picture of him in his camo chef jacket), but did not meet him.

Chef Art Smith visiting with a table near me
Chef Art Smith visiting with a table near me

D spent several days talking and emailing with their social media managers, restaurant managers, and chefs – all to plan a perfect evening for me.  By the way, Chef Doug (@ChefAngrySauce) is the man to go see, no matter WHAT you want to eat.

Make no mistake – when looking at their menu, you would never think this would be a haven for a veg head.  It is farm-to-table Southern cuisine – with a gourmet twist, of course.  I can tell you though – based on the meal I had – you would never know that vegan wasn’t their thing.

I arrived twenty minutes early – to a major party happening in the outdoor area.  I was afraid I would have to wait for my table, but I was seated as soon as I came in.  It’s a nice and simply decorated restaurant that makes good use of their space – plenty of seating, but we weren’t packed in and sitting on top of one another.  No loud music either, which I appreciated.  I read for the first half of my stay (I was solo dining!),was with a friend the second – and we could easily hear each other.  It was dimly lit (as expected), but with a good vibe.

Within a couple of minutes, Chef Doug was at my table!  He introduced himself, told me about his communications with my husband, and said how happy he was for the challenge of making me something wonderful – and that he had a three course meal….with wine pairings….all planned out.  Talk about personal service!  I felt a little like Cinderella.

Roman was my server, and was very attentive and kind.  I had no problems letting him pick out my drinks for the evening – and while I’m generally not a white wine drinker, everything I had worked wonderfully with my meal.

Speaking of my meal…..

My first course was a delightful gazpacho.  I’m a sucker for cold soups, and I had to wonder if D gave him any hints!  It was a creamy tomato soup with chopped veggies, micro greens, and with a surprising twist of Moroccan spices and some mild heat.  The coldness of the soup combined with the heat of the spices was simply fantastic.  I have a feeling I’m going to spend the next year trying to recreate this dish!  I thought about licking the bowl. It was paired with a light Spanish wine.

My second dish was surprisingly hearty, but without being heavy.  Israeli couscous, farro, and chickpeas were the base of the dish, with peas, sugar snap peas, roasted asparagus, micro greens, roasted artichokes, and fiddle ferns.  Chef Doug served this with a table-side pouring of a wonderful broth over the dish – that I wish I could remember what it was called.  It was what the artichokes were boiled in, but also contained lemon and herbs.  It was very light and incredibly flavorful.  One of the waitresses there (who stopped by often to see what I was eating!), brought me a spoon so I wouldn’t miss any.  This was the first time I had ever had fiddle ferns, and they were very delicious.  At this point, I had to start slowing down – I didn’t want to get too full, but also really wanted to take the time to enjoy my meal.  Roman paired this one with an Italian white wine, which was also very good.

Dessert (something I almost never get to have!), was a trio of sorbet.  Raspberry (my absolute favorite), grapefruit, and kiwi/strawberry.  I honestly couldn’t finish it, but it was very tasty and fresh.  Roman served this with a small glass of a sweet German white.  Again, perfect pairing.

an absolutely incredible meal!
an absolutely incredible meal!

I had the chance to speak with Chef Doug a few more times that evening, and let him know that D and I will be coming there together later this summer.  I sincerely hope he makes my dinner again!

To top of an already perfect evening, my girlfriend LS came by for a late dinner (off the menu, but she said it was also wonderful) and a few drinks.  Roman again picked our wines for us.

So all in all – it was an incredible night.  It’s not very often that I get to experience such personalized service and to have an amazing vegan meal (that I didn’t make myself!).  I love D for making it happen, and for Art and Soul for making me feel so very special.  If you’re in the area – I highly suggest checking them out.  They definitely get 5 stars from me!

On a side note – a special mention for something I witnessed at the restaurant.  The table next to me was ordering, and the server (Roman!) asked them if they had any dietary restrictions or food allergies.  As a mother of a child with severe food allergies, I applaud the establishment for caring enough to ask this.  Dining out can be scary when food allergies are involved, and while my dietary restrictions are (more or less) self-imposed – my daughter’s aren’t.  The fact that they are willing to accommodate anyone who comes in is not something every restaurant can claim.

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I am a 45 yo busy career single mom and doctoral student attempting to find her inner athlete, be a gluten-free(ish) vegan, and find a way to balance it all without going crazy! I love to cook, read, run, box, do yoga, dance, travel, and learn as many new things as I can - which often gets me in trouble.... I am passionate about life in general, and if I didn't write about it, I'd probably implode.

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