Elizabeth’s Gone Raw

by Gena on November 6, 2011

On Friday night, I had the pleasure of a unique DC dining experience: dinner at Elizabeth’s Gone Raw.

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It is an unbelievable fact that, in the many months I’ve now lived in DC, I have not yet had a chance to try DC’s only raw, vegan restaurant. I blame this on a few things: school, budget, timing, negligence. Fortunately for me, Elizabeth Petty, the elegant and gracious founder of Elizabeth’s Gone Raw, invited me to the restaurant for a raw dinner on Friday night. With the enthusiasm of a raw foodie who hasn’t eaten so much as a bite of raw restaurant food in months, I said yes.

I’ll be honest: when you’ve lived in NYC for a while—thus had Pure Food and Wine, Bonobos, Quintessence, and a host of other raw restaurants at your fingertips—you become a little immune to the wonder of raw restaurant dining. You forget that the chefs have been dehydrating things for days. You forget that they’re relying on such simple and delicate ingredients that they—more than any other chefs, perhaps—must labor to get flavors just right. You forget that these restaurants are almost always organic, and primarily local, which means that they’re paying premium so that you, the diner, can eat with a sense of assurance about the origins of your food. And you forget how much sheer creativity raw food demands.

Eating at Elizabeth’s on Friday reminded me of all that. I’d go so far as to say that it reminded me of why I love raw food in the first place.

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When I arrived at Elizabeth’s, I was immediately greeted by the restaurateur herself, who was busy seating guests. Elizabeth’s interest in raw food goes beyond mere culinary inclination: several years ago, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and her raw foods journey has been a part of her healing process.

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For Elizabeth (as for many of us), raw foods are about so much more than pretty skin or bright eyes: they’re also a means of learning to appreciate good health, vibrant energy, and a reinvented relationship with food. I love that Elizabeth has invested this dining space with personal passion. Beyond that, Elizabeth has studied at Hippocrates and comes from a restaurant background, so EGR is a natural marriage of her history and talents.

As I waited to be seated, I munched on some of the best kale chips I’ve ever had:

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I may or may not have gotten an order of seconds when I was seated at my table.

The ambiance at EGR—which is situated in a lovely, restored townhouse—is very elegant. I haven’t had a meal that declares “fine dining” so clearly in a long time.

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Elizabeth’s is only open on Friday nights, and they serve patrons only with a five course tasting menu that is designed around local produce each week. As a diner, an experience at EGR means putting yourself in the hands of the chef. This is not something that’s easy for me: picky eater that I am, I like to have control over what my dinner will be, and this is never more true than when I eat raw, because I happen to know my own raw palate so very well. With that said, I couldn’t have picked out a lovelier—or more Gena-ppropriate—menu for dinner on Friday. It was fresh, elegant, and the portion sizes were spot on.

We started with a cream of celeriac soup, warmed in the Vitamix, and served up with an orange relish and black sesame seeds.

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The soup might have been a tiny bit thicker, but then, I appreciated that I was not dipping into a giant bowl of cashew cream, which is how a lot of raw soup feels. Moreover, the flavors were fantastic: I loved how the sweet and bitter bite of orange peel brought life to the creamy, calm celeriac. And the contrast in texture was also great: it’s key in raw, blended soups!

Next was our salad course: sunflower seeds, avocado, and a raw cracker.

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Because I’m me, this was probably my favorite course of the night. Avocado? A gingery dressing? Sunflower sprouts?! Be still my heart. Sunflower sprouts are the queens of sproutland—so dense, filling, and rich in protein—and I cannot find them anywhere in DC. Anywhere! Elizabeth grows her own, and uses them at the restaurant, which gave my enjoyment of this dish a personal touch.

We were served a small refresher sorbet:

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And then it was time for our entrée. Remember what I made for dinner a few nights ago?

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This would be the all raw version:

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Beet Carpaccio with garlicky cashew cheese and fresh dill. Along with a green sauce that blew my mind, whatever it was. (I should know what it was. EGR prints every single ingredient on the back of the menu—a transparency that I absolutely love.)

So many raw entrees err on the side of excess: too much fat, too much spice, too much stuff. I realize that these dishes may be trying to compensate for a lack of animal protein, and that this is a good thing for mainstream diners, but I’ll always feel that the best raw food is also the most minimalist. This dish was bursting with flavor, but it was also light, bright, and simple, so that I enjoyed every note of fresh dill and ever sweet bite of beet. Delicious.

Thankfully, I saved room for dessert:

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Raw, vegan pumpkin pie. Having glanced at the ingredients, I will tell you that it contains no pumpkin (thank goodness, because raw pumpkin, in my experience, is a little too raw) and I will also tell you that I plan on trying to imitate it. Soon. It was spectacular: spicy, and very sweet.

I thanked Elizabeth for a great meal:

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…and for bringing a slice of the raw community to me. Here in DC, I don’t have the support of Dhru, Philip, and the WLIR meet up folks; I don’t have a thriving juice scene, or a restaurant and takeaway around the corner from work that exceeds my wildest dreams (Sarma, I heart you). The vegan scene in DC is small, and the raw scene far smaller. Eating at EGR reminded me that we raw foods lovers have strength in numbers, wherever we may be, and that we’re always thrilled to connect over kale.

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Over dinner, I was asked “what is it you love so much about raw food?” I’ve been writing about the semi-raw life for so long that I actually paused to consider that answer.

“They’re light and bright,” I said. “They’re simple. You have to season everything perfectly, because you can’t hide under heat and and processing and fat. They’re healthy. And they’re so, so, creative—to make raw food great, you have to bring so much ingenuity to what you do.”

Thanks to Elizabeth and Ares and the EGR staff for reminding me why I happen to be a raw foods lover. Thanks, too, for your hospitality and kindness. In general, I love to have some choice in the matter of what I eat, so prefix tasting menus really aren’t my ideal. But if they always taste this good, I’ll stand corrected. Anytime.

xo

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{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga November 6, 2011 at 8:35 am

What an amazing dining experience and great Friday night discovery. Elizabeth sounds like a wonderful person and clearly the food her restaurant serves looks lovely and inspiring and just…comfortable. One of those restaurants or food experiences where the food and you just ‘click’ and it’s so comfortable and comforting all in one.

Happy that you had this special dining experience. Hopefully there’ll be many more!

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Evan Thomas November 6, 2011 at 8:46 am

I’m intrigued by the raw pumpkin pie with no pumpkin. I’ve seen raw pumpkin pie recipes with pumpkin and thought “how on earth could that be good?” I need to come up with a pumpkin pie for thanksgiving. I might give the vegan, semi-raw, 4-ingredient pie that’s been going around a try.

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Ilana November 7, 2011 at 9:38 am

Matthew Kenney uses carrot juice to simulate the pumpkin ness in one of his books.

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Christy November 6, 2011 at 8:47 am

I forgot you had moved to DC (I’ve been so behind on reading blogs!). I’m thinking of coming mid-March so I would love to see you and check out this beautiful raw restaurant!! Yum! Are there many vegan restaurants in town?

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Jenn from Much to My Delight November 6, 2011 at 8:50 am

I feel like I have wasted ample opportunities to try raw foods as I have lived in NYC for 12 years and never been to any of the restaurants you mentioned. You’ve inspired me to take a trip, and experience what sounds like a really fabulous way of eating. And man–Elizabeth’s skin is quite an advertisement for eating raw!!

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Tt in nyc November 13, 2011 at 6:32 pm

I was just at quintessence yesterday for a late lunch with an omni friend who was delighted with her meal as much as i was! Also a reasonable check at the end-

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Hannah November 6, 2011 at 9:08 am

Oh, this sounds lovely! What a beautiful meal – presentation and taste, I’m sure. I’ve never heard of a restaurant only open on Friday nights-that must be a challenge, but then again an opportunity to produce the freshest food available.
…But what is “celeriac”? Is that some sort of celery?

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Gena November 6, 2011 at 8:55 pm

Same as celery root — a root veg that tastes like a hint of celery, but also a bit like turnip (IMO).

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Hannah November 7, 2011 at 1:45 pm

Ah well that makes sense! Also, did elizabeth comp your meal? The food pictured on the website looks beautiful but it’s so expensive !

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JL goes Vegan November 6, 2011 at 9:40 am

I want to come to DC just to go to the Friday night dinner — with you, of course!

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Gena November 6, 2011 at 8:54 pm

We would paint the town red.

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Amanda November 6, 2011 at 10:15 am

Wow, what an absolutely beautiful dinner. The food looks so elegant and vibrant. I wish I had known about EGR when I visited DC this past summer. The next time I’m in DC, I will make sure to eat there.

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Lindsay @ biking before bed November 6, 2011 at 10:26 am

What a beautiful dinner! I wish I had known about this restaurant when I lived outside of DC for two years. Now I have a reason to go back! I am very intrigued by your raw pumpkin pie. I can’t wait for a recipe.

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Ellen November 6, 2011 at 10:37 am

It seems to be a little disingenuous to tout her bright skin and eyes when that picture is so clearly photoshopped… significantly. I’m very glad your meal was wonderful, and that she’s overcoming cancer, but it is a huge pet peeve of mine when health gurus edit their photos in such a glaring and obvious manner. (Donna Gates is another one.) Doesn’t project true beauty in my eyes at all.

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Kittee Berns November 6, 2011 at 1:05 pm

Your dining adventure looks fun! As for your coveted sunflower sprouts, have you tried the Bethesda Co-op?

xo
kittee

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Jess @ Jess Go Bananas November 6, 2011 at 1:25 pm

Everything sounds amazing! I am really interested though in the pumpkin pie that wasn’t made with any pumpkin!
Your response to why you eat the way you do is fabulous! I always say that vegan/raw food is the art of food due to all of its creativity! :D

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Lauren November 6, 2011 at 1:58 pm

Wow, what a great place with a great inspiration behind it. Everything looks so good!

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Ali November 6, 2011 at 7:26 pm

Wow, that salad looks AMAZING! I have to say, It is true that there is so much more to raw foods than glowing skin and vibrant eyes, but you and Elizabeth both looks absolutely dewy in your photo! I agree with you that truly delicious raw food is a work of art, due to the fact that there is no where to hide. I am happy to see that you had a good night, you deserve it!!

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Heather November 6, 2011 at 8:18 pm

Drool. Drool. Drool.

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Meghan (Making Love In The Kitchen) November 6, 2011 at 10:47 pm

I have heard such fantastic things about her uniquely extra special spot. Looks like the food is as amazing as the sweet circulating chit chat about this place.

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Ela November 7, 2011 at 12:01 am

So glad for your wonderful experience–and I love to hear about Elizabeth’s integrity and that she evidently takes seriously the charge of the ‘tasting menu’ setup.

I love sunflower sprouts! No way you could buy them here–reminds me I should get some growing…

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Alexia @ NamasteYoga November 7, 2011 at 5:34 am

looks like you had an amazing time! i cant even look at the kale chips photos.. i havent had any in such a long time and am craving for them like there is no tomorrow. haha..

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Casey November 7, 2011 at 7:04 am

This looks amazing! And speaking of Philip, he is inky home city right now touring! Been lovely to meet him.

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Eris November 7, 2011 at 7:27 am

Im do glad I read this! I live in the DC area and am frustrated that there are no restaurants. Can’t wait to try it!

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Skye November 7, 2011 at 10:17 am

Wow. This makes me want to splurge and go there!

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Melomeals: Vegan for $3.33 a Day November 7, 2011 at 10:39 am

That meal sounds fantastic… I love your restaurant reviews.

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Lisa November 7, 2011 at 11:08 am

I was supposed to eat there on Friday night with my fellow IIN friends. I had to cancel because I was home sick with a nasty cold. Glad I got to see your pictures of what I missed! Looks great. I’ll have to try it soon.

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Daisy November 7, 2011 at 11:21 am

Hey Gena,
Looks incredible!! How did they substitute pumpkin!? Just pumpkin pie spice + cashews and/or coconut, I imagine? (PS– pumpkin parfait at Pure Food + Wine = to die for!)

While I adore raw restaurant dining, I always find that it can be difficult for those of us who practice food combining. I know you’ve written in your blog that you do not prescribe to food combining, and find that there’s no substantial scientific evidence to sustain the practice. The pro-combining literature I’ve read comes from mainly nutritionists (Natalia Rose, Kimberly Snyder) and holistic/colon (hydro)therapists (Gil Jacobs, the LYT nyc team, etc)

I’m “experimenting” with my body’s reactions to food combining and have indeed felt that it helps with digestion, but I would love to read some evidence to the opposite if you have some good articles or books to recommend!!

Thanks! I love reading your blog. You’ve been an inspiration to me on my journey to emotional and physical relationships with food and self :)

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Gena November 8, 2011 at 9:05 am

Hi Daisy!

I’m very familiar with the pro-combining philosophy (I practiced food combining myself for a while), but there’s virtually no scientific basis for it. In fact, the premise is scientifically impossible: when we eat, everything we eat is churned up in our stomachs with high amounts of hydrochloric acid. This acid breaks everything down into a mass called chime, which will then go into the small intestine (where it will be attacked with bile and other kinds of enzymes) and ultimately the large intestine. It’s impossible for any one food to “wait” behind another, or for foods to separate in our digestive system based on their “transit time.” Everything we eat is immediately broken down and mixed together, and by the time they hit our small and large intestine, their nutrients are already being absorbed. Furthermore, the high amount of HCl in our stomachs, and the fact that our stomach pH is always very acidic, means that “fermentation” in our stomach is impossible, and that the idea that protein and carbs require different pHs for optimal digestion is impossible.

Food combining is deliciously intuitive, of course — I was intrigued, too! But it’s not grounded in fact. However, I feel that it helps many people to simplify and think hard about what they eat, and in that regard, it’s useful.

G

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Elizabeth November 7, 2011 at 11:47 am

Love sunflower sprouts. They are the only sprouts on my grocery list as they are hard to do at home. But they are one of my favorite things to stuff into raw nori rolls or to top off soups and salads. Love celeriac too. I think I’d have skipped the sorbet mid meal, but otherwise, what a great meal all around.

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debbie katz November 7, 2011 at 1:29 pm

i was there the same night w/ my fellow IIN friends! lisa t. sent us your blog, and i loved reading about exactly what we ate! i tried so hard to explain to my friends what it was like, and now i just forwarded on your blog, b/c you captured it so perfectly! what a great night and delic food! thx for sharing it so well!

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Erin November 7, 2011 at 2:25 pm

So they are all vegan? I read that they use honey, so I haven’t been — I’ll pay for a quality meal, but I’m not paying that much for food I won’t eat!

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Melissa (Be Delicious) November 7, 2011 at 5:29 pm

This is why I could never live in a small town again. Here in SLC we have one…one raw restaurant and no vegan that I’m aware of, although there are a few vegetarian that I’m sure have some options. If I want to eat right, I have to eat at home. Thanks for sharing!

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Drisana November 7, 2011 at 5:36 pm

Yum, that meal looks amazing! Can’t wait for your version of the pumpkin pie!

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Melissa Ramos November 7, 2011 at 6:27 pm

Hey Gena,

While I’m not 100%, I do admire and respect your work. The photos are always stunning and honestly make me drool. I LOVED the beet ravioli dish photo and the story of the amazing time you had. Keep up the inspiration and sexiness!

Much love…

xo

Melissa

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Amanda @ AmandaRunsNY November 7, 2011 at 6:56 pm

That looks like a delicious meal. I’m especially curious about the pumpkin pie! I am not a huge pumpkin fan but I love savory pumpkin flavors and so the idea of a “spicy” pumpkin pie is intriguing. I look forward to your take on it.

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Marlena Torres November 7, 2011 at 7:19 pm

It’s been so long since I’ve been in NYC and enjoyed the amazing raw food scene there. I daydream about Pure’s salads, sundaes, and mallo mars fairly often (sigh)

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Hannah November 8, 2011 at 5:37 am

Oh please do, please do recreate at least the dessert! As someone in a city with no vegan restaurants, let alone anywhere that even serves a raw dish, I’m in desperate awe!

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Kaitlyn@TheTieDyeFiles November 9, 2011 at 11:02 am

Love your explanation of why you love raw food. Just beginning to get into it, I’m really looking forward to getting the creative juices it requires flowing. Your meal looks delicious (and please do replicate the pie!), and I agree that transparency of ingredients is something I value. Elizabeth is just glowing! How wonderful that DC’s only raw vegan restaurant is such a good one :)

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Victoria November 9, 2011 at 7:42 pm

“Connect over kale” ` I LOVE THAT!! (Kale being the greatest thing ever.)

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David November 12, 2011 at 1:20 pm

There is no question about it EGR is the best! There Kale Chips are the Best of the Best! My wife and I have been to EGR many times, and everytime is better than the last. You have to try this Great Raw experience!

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Molly April 10, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Thanks for this review! I just received an internship at the Humane Society Legislative Fund in DC this summer, and I am SO excited to try this restaurant out! I need all the dining advice I can get!!!

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Erin September 12, 2012 at 3:59 am

Just tried it out, I would say good but not really exceptional to be honest and the prices were sky high. We ended up with a $280.00 dinner tab and left feeling still hungry. Ouch! Also the drinks, couldn’t she have come up with some decent alternatives to alcohol? Neither of us drink so we were at a loss as what to order besides wine. How about exotic teas, smoothies, elixirs, superfood drinks, tons of alternatives. Too bad, DC still needs an excellent raw food restaurant.

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