In nature, little birds are seen policing insect hitchhikers on the backs of large mammals, and small fish act as groomers for sharks. It’s known as symbiosis, and it’s not exclusive to the animal kingdom. These mutually beneficial relationships also exist in the restaurant world and demonstrate a mastery of a grade school golden rule: sharing is caring.
The players: Vermilion and Catoctin Creek
What they share: The flavors in gin—like juniper and citrus—often overlap with those in cured fish, so why not marry the two? That’s what Chef Will Morris has done at Vermilion with the help of Catoctin Creek. After the gin botanicals impart their piney flavor to the spirit, Morris blends them into the salt and sugar cure he uses for fish.
Try it: Vermilion; 1120 King St., Alexandria, Va; (703) 684-9669; vermilionrestaurant.com
The players: Masseria and Don Ciccio & Figli
What they share: The bread served with foie gras at Masseria gets its symphony of flavors from the grains used to make Don Ciccio & Figli’s Concerto liqueur. Chef Nick Stefanelli dries the spent grains, grinds them, and incorporates them into whole-wheat bread. “Its slight sweetness especially complements the foie gras,” he says.
Try it: Masseria; 1340 4th St. NE; (202) 608-13330; masseria-dc.com
The players: MISFIT Juicery and Baldor Specialty Foods
What they share: MISFIT Juicery, which is dedicated to making use of ugly produce, partnered with Baldor Specialty Foods to source the scraps they discard when preparing fresh-cut products like carrot sticks or melon cubes. “They’re sending us the sides and tops from that production as a part of their commitment to sending zero food waste to the landfill,” says MISFIT co-founder Ann Yang. Carrot scraps, for example, make their way into “24carrot gold” juice.
Try it: Various locations, misfitjuicery.co/locations
The players: PassionFish and Congressional Seafood Co.
What they share: Chef Chris Clime of PassionFish has plenty of bones to pick, thanks to Congressional Seafood Co. He uses the supplier’s halibut bones to make a classic fish stock, souped up with wine, bay leaves, and aromatics. This concentrated liquid is added to dishes like cioppino. Clime counts maximizing product, minimizing waste, and getting the best quality stock as benefits of the partnership.
Try it: PassionFish Reston; 11960 Democracy Dr., Reston, Va.; (703) 230-3474; passionfishreston.com
The players: Red’s Table and Caboose Brewing Co.
What they share: Hopheads may recognize a familiar flavor in several Red’s Table desserts. That’s because pastry Chef Chris Works incorporates spent grains from Caboose Brewing Company into pie crusts, cookies, graham crackers, cakes, and muffins. Works dehydrates the grains, grinds them into powder, and uses them to replace a portion of flour. “I use them mainly for their nutty flavor,” he says.
Try it: Red’s Table; 11150 South Lakes Dr., Reston, Va.; (571) 375-7755; redstableva.com