While planning our recent trip to Washington, D.C., Bill and I went right to AmericanFarmtoTable.com for dining ideas. Only two restaurants were listed within the district’s limits: Equinox and Nora, but Nora is the one that caught our attention. It might have been that Nora is the first organic restaurant certified in the United States. Or that one of our waiter friends at our local favorite, Everyday People Cafe, had recommended it to me when I ran into him in the grocery store. Or, maybe it was simply the proximity to our hotel in Dupont Circle! In any case, we made a reservation and, on our last night in the district, Bill and I had a delightful meal at Nora. It was the best place we ate during our six-day visit to the D.C. area.
Originally constructed in the 19th century as a grocery store, the main dining room feels cozy and intimate. The eclectic menu, which changes daily, serves organic new-American cuisine in Nora’s own creative style.
In April 1999, Restaurant Nora became America’s first certified organic restaurant, which means that 95% or more of everything that you eat at the restaurant has been produced by certified organic growers and farmers who share in Nora’s commitment to sustainable agriculture. Nora’s focus is on seasonal, fresh organic food, prepared in a healthy, balanced way–from grassfed beef to hand-made cheeses, and fresh seasonal produce. And it’s obvious from the menu and when asking the staff about the sources for the food. (Check out Nora’s list on page 2 of the dinner menu that details sources for everything from water to coffee to herbs to energy. It’s amazing!)
I had a delicious New York strip steak, which usually isn’t my favorite cut of beef, but I was so happy to find grassfed meat that I ordered it, and was glad I did.
I had other courses to show but the lighting is pretty dark so several of my photos via smartphone did not turn out, except for this delicious raspberry tart.
You should know a little bit about Nora Pouillon, because her philosophy behind this restaurant is so impressive. The following information comes directly from the restaurant’s website.
Nora Pouillon is a pioneer and champion of organic, environmentally conscious cuisine. Born in Austria, Nora promotes and embodies healthy, sustainable living. Her inspiration in the kitchen comes from her parents who understood the value of simply prepared seasonal foods. When Nora came to the U.S. in the late 1960s, she was disturbed by the amount of processed and chemical-laden foods Americans were eating. That’s when Nora began her search for seasonal and organic food and her crusade for healthier living.
She made a lifetime commitment to nutritionally wholesome food, balanced eating and sustainable living that is based on the premise that you are what you eat, drink and breathe, and that it is important to take responsibility for one’s own health. Nora’s approach also includes a daily exercise routine that strengthens and focuses the body and mind.
She opened Restaurant Nora in 1979 and was immediately recognized for her ability to create not only healthy but also delicious organic dishes. In 1999, twenty years later, the restaurant became the nation’s first certified organic restaurant. Only three other restaurants have since achieved this goal.
Nora was instrumental in creating the organic certification standards for restaurants that guarantee at least 95% of all food served originates from certified organic sources. In the early 1990s, she launched the farmer/chef connection by introducing the farmers of the Tuscarora Organic Growers Coop (TOG), to other local chefs, helping to ensure their farms’ economic viability. She also initiated the very first producer-only farmers markets in the nation’s capital, now known as Fresh Farm Markets, which has grown to include eight active markets. While serving as a board member of Women Chefs and Restaurateurs, Nora established an organic internship program and still receives five interns each year at Restaurant Nora. She is the author of Cooking with Nora, a seasonal menu cookbook, which was a finalist for the Julia Child Cookbook Award.
If you live in D.C., or plan to visit, check out America’s first organic restaurant!