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Posted at 2:29 PM ET, 02/10/2011

Meat and heat-free fine dining at Elizabeth's Gone Raw

By Justin Rude

A wild mushroom tart from Elizabeth's Gone Raw. (Lavanya Ramanathan/The Washington Post)

The raw food movement is seen by many as a culinary outlier - an extreme vegan diet far removed from mainstream dining trends. Elizabeth's Gone Raw, a new raw food kitchen hosting occasional seatings downtown, seeks to change that perception.

Located at 1341 L St. NW, the Raw Food dining club is owned by Elizabeth Petty, who also runs the Catering Company of Washington. Petty's journey to raw food after a 2009 breast cancer diagnosis was well documented last year in the Food section by Jane Black. Now, with her kitchen fully up to speed and the almost-weekly raw food dinners attracting crowds, Petty is ready to expand her schedule of guest speakers and special dinners, starting with a special Valentine's dinner tomorrow night.

Despite what you might think, not all raw dishes are salads... but the one I had was pretty great. (Lavanya Ramanathan/The Washington Post)

The prix fixe dinners take place on the second floor of the L street row house from which Petty runs her catering business. Held three times a month, the dinners typically run $65 per person with an optional wine pairing. Reservations can be made on the company's web site.

The dining room is handsome and elegant -- an appropriate venue for the attractive creations of chef Thomas Berry and pastry chef Calvin Lee. The raw diet is a meatless, dairy free cooking style that avoids temperatures over 115 degrees in an attempt to preserve natural enzymes and other nutritional elements that are eliminated by high heat. To do this, the kitchen cooks use dehydration to add texture, and use natural binding agents like flax and ground nuts to create shells for tarts and thin pastry layers for baklava.

Baklava with macadamia nut pastry sheets is a nice finish. (Lavanya Ramanathan/The Washington Post)

Tomorrow's dinner is a special Valentine's Day celebration of raw cacao. A seating for the 5-course meal is $75 (and there are about 10 seats left), and includes admission to the after party, which features a DJ, passed hors'dourves and wine. Tickets for the after party alone are $40. The meal will feature a rosemary pear soup, salad of shaved fennel and orange on spinach, grapefruit sorbet, a chocolate coconut spring roll on spicy kelp noodles and cacao cake with lavender. Each course incorporates cacao in some way, but deputy Food editor Bonnie Benwick, who sat at a tasting of the special menu earlier today, applauded the use of chocolate in the coconut spring roll with kelp noodles, while also giving high marks to the dessert. Sweet endings being a Valentine's Day must, each diner will also leave the meal with a box of truffles.

Elizabeth's Gone Raw obviously fills a vegan fine dining niche that isn't always served in our city, and it also gives raw food fans a great option for one of the year's biggest dining out days. But beyond that, our experiences there have shown that even unflinching omnivores can appreciate raw food done right.

By Justin Rude  | February 10, 2011; 2:29 PM ET
Categories:  Restaurants  
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