Great Sage!

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If I write one more post in which I gush about how much I love Valerie and Katie, you all will probably start to think I’m either a sap or a stalker (or both). But seriously, I love Valerie and Katie. As I noted recently in my chickpea, avocado, and nori dip post, it’s hard to move to a new city. You feel unmoored, culturally ill at ease, vulnerable, lonely, and a host of other scary things. No matter how much I like DC—and I like it a whole lot—there are plenty of things about NYC that I miss. Mostly, I miss having a diverse and quirky and wonderful circle of close friends only a phone call away.

Which is why I’m so lucky to have found these two intelligent, hilarious, and ambitious ladies:

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That’s Katie on the left. Katie and I like to say that we’re friends because we have more in common than just blogging: we’re both blunt, we both hail from the literary world (Katie is a writer and MFA grad; I’m a former editor), we’re both vegans who identify strongly with animal rights, and we’re both prone to a little angst. We like it that way. Katie writes a blog called Quick Cook Rice, which you should all check out for its fabulous photography and recipes, it’s funny stories of driving across America as a vegan, and its thoughtful and writerly writing.

Valerie’s on the right. Valerie writes City Life Eats, which is a beautifully presented, personal-but-not-narcissistic, and intelligent-but-not-pedantic blog about life as a gluten free and high-raw eater who also holds down a demanding job in a big metropolis. Valerie’s capacity to balance corporate hours with juicing and making wonderful meals in a rather tiny kitchen never ceases to impress me. Beyond that, Valerie and I might be twins, separated by birth countries (she was born in Europe). We have similar palettes, similar recipes, similar opinions, and similar sensibilities. She’s one of the few people I know who’s as particular as I am: we almost brought Katie to tears of laughter with our 10 minute discussion about how feckless Food for Life brown rice tortillas are. Nuff said.

Valerie, Katie and I decided to have a long overdue dinner at Great Sage, a vegan dining mecca in Maryland:


Boy, do I wish this place were closer to the District. It’s by far the best vegan food I’ve had in DC, and it’s wonderfully inclusive: you can find everything from juice and raw food to quintessential vegan comfort food on its menu. I can’t imagine any friend of mine not finding something tasty to eat here. Just look at the options!

Valerie and I started our meals with the restaurant’s live green juice. The color was a little off (clearly, they’d just been juicing carrots, so it had a muddy, orange/green hue), but the juice itself was fabulous:

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Katie had just been saying that juice really isn’t her thang, but she was impressed with our cocktails, too!

I always feel happy after green juice:

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We all decided to split the gluten-free spin on the Mediterranean hummus tasting plate, which had dolmades, a generous portion of hummus, crudités, caramelized onions, olive tapenade, and rice bread. I was glad that the restaurant could accommodate Val, who’s a gluten free eater. And I was even gladder that the hummus was delicious and heavy on the sesame: I suspect they may use homemade tahini.

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Next up, I had the “almost raw” Vietnamese spring rolls, which were simply raw veggies stuffed into rice paper and served with a peanut dipping sauce. I love to see other people embrace the “almost raw” or “mostly raw” title!!!

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I got these along with the raw California salad, which had beets, veggies, guac, sprouts, tomatoes, and a wonderful red pepper vinaigrette that I have promised to recreate for Katie. She and Valerie got the same salad, and, like identical triplets, we all got sides of cashew cheese:

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The cashew cheese was the only let down of the meal: way too grainy and not processed enough for me. But the flavors were right.

What a great meal! It’s always a joy to eat exactly the kind of food you like with people who appreciate similar fare. I have spent a lot of time lately griping to friends about the vegan dining options in the District (right Kathy?), but having Great Sage a drive away definitely helps to alleviate my homesickness for Pure Food and Wine, Blossom du Jour, and the Candle Café empire. Speaking of that, I find it interesting that Katie, Valerie and I all share strong connections to NYC. I think we all feel a little like ex-pats in DC, even though we like it. It’s a nice bond to share.

Thanks, Katie, for driving Val and I out to Great Sage, and thanks to the restaurant for one of the best meals I’ve had out in a long time!

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See you back here tomorrow. Enjoy the rest of your Sundays, friends.


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  1. Thanks for this wonderful write up about your experience at Great Sage! The pictures are beautiful and it sounds like you had a great time with the perfect company. We are always trying to set our goals higher with each menu… more local food, more RAW and making sure most items are/or can be made gluten free. We love any and all feedback and this was such a treat to read. Our summer menu begins on July 7th, we will be adding RAW tacos to our dinner menu! Hope to see you soon!

    -Katie/Asst. Manager Great Sage

  2. Greetings!

    I just stumbled across your website and really enjoy your recipes. Isn’t Great Sage the best? I tried it my first time on Sunday as well but for brunch. I recommend checking out brunch. πŸ™‚

  3. The food looks amazing! You’re really making me crave beets.

    “Mostly, I miss having a diverse and quirky and wonderful circle of close friends only a phone call away.”

    I can’t say much else except that I understand how you feel – I went through this nearly four years ago. Your friends are still there via phone & internet though, so try not to feel too lonely xx

  4. I just love everything about this post, and I’m totally gushing. I mean, the food was amazing and the company better. It’s like having a crush.

    Honestly, the feckless tortilla conversation is my favorite thing to happen ever. You two are ridiculous. You also realize how much material you’ve given me, right?

  5. I <3 Great Sage! And their carrot cake πŸ™‚

    I'm glad you're having fun acquainting yourself with the area.

  6. I’m so happy you found Great Sage!!! That’s a short distance from where my parents live (and I used to live) and my younger brother worked there for a while. It’s so good! I went there just a couple of weeks ago and had the green juice–it was definitely a vibrant green and DELICIOUS! Veronica ( lives nearby there and has her own blog. Maybe you guys should get to know each other! πŸ˜‰ Glad to hear you enjoyed it!

  7. I went on their website and looked at the menu before I finished reading your post and I swear I would have gotten exactly what you guys got. Twinsies? πŸ™‚
    I love your dress btw.

  8. Sounds like a great experience and a great restaurant, and a couple other great blogs I need to find time to check out (just got home, am about 1000 miles behind on everything!)

  9. Wow — a restaurant that has gluten-free bread available!! Locally we have The Owl House, which makes their own gluten-free teff bread. It is SO delicious, sweet, and moist!! Slash I lahhhve hearing about other bloggers, especially when I’ve never heard of them before! I’m glad you had a great time, G!

  10. Three things:

    1) I agree with you about the Food for Life Brown Rice Tortillas. I love a lot of their other products but not those–they are always fall apart on me and the flavor seems ‘off’.

    2) You look GORGEOUS!

    3) Those spring rolls are making me drool. Please create the recipe (pretty please?)! πŸ˜€

  11. Oh my goodness! I am not a blog gusher by nature, but this post warms my heart to such a degree that I just can’t resist. I worked at Great Sage for a few years during and after college as I was establishing my careers in theater and healing arts, and it’s a place that has meant so much to me for multiple reasons. Not only did the relationships and the food there sustain me to a great degree on my continued path with veganism, but it was a place where I found true community during a time that I needed it acutely. Having been on the staff during the first few years of the restaurant’s life (which is always a tenuous time for new establishments; it was certainly nerve-wracking for us sometimes) I feel a sense of pride and happiness to know that it continues to thrive and to feed people on so many levels. And I am so glad that your review will continue to get the word out about this place that I love so much, for so many reasons that go beyond what’s possible to share here. Your positive review is well-earned and I know it is greatly appreciated. I’m so glad you enjoyed yourself in this “home” of mine and that you shared your experience with your readers.

    I have been a reader for almost a year now and identify with the pangs of leaving NYC for DC, the struggle to adapt to this city while leaving The City behind. May you come to feel at-home here in the way that I have. Know that there is a vibrant community of passionate people here doing work that resonates with your own. Know that being here puts you in proximity to policy-making in a way that’s strategically important for people like you who are inclined to be thought leaders; even if you’re not actively working with the government, having forward-thinking conversations in this place sends out ripples of change that may be difficult to quantify but become palpable the longer one stays engaged with the work here.

    And, in the meantime, may you keep finding places like Sage that help you to feel restored. After all, that linguistic similarity between “restoration” and “restaurant” is no accident. (And if you haven’t tried it yet, I suggest Everlasting Life Cafe on Georgia Ave. It’s a completely different experience from Great Sage, but it’s a raw vegan’s dream deli.)

    • I keep meaning to mention the place to Gena – I have heard such mixed reviews on the place, but always good to hear a positive one – I look at their menu and am concerned about being able to eat gluten-free there as clearly this is a kitchen that uses a lot of seitan in their cooked dishes but am intrigued by the raw offering

      • I have good friends who LOVE Everlasting Life. I will be working not far from it very soon, so it’s on the “must try” list!

      • Valerie, it’s an interesting spot for a lot of reasons and has gone through a major transformation since I first encountered it three years ago. I have an intolerance to soy and can’t eat much of what’s on the menu, but the things that I can have always manage to satisfy me. (My boyfriend is gluten free and was able to eat there with me without any troubles, so at least on that particular day and in the dishes we chose there wasn’t any cross contamination.) I just love the kale salad (though it has enough garlic to qualify as medicine and isn’t for those who hate garlic or have trouble digesting it raw.)

    • What a lovely comment! Makes me feel even more at home. I’ll definitely be checking out Everlasting Life soon, and perhaps be lucky enough to meet you at some point.

      • Yes, it would be lovely for our paths to cross in the embodied world as well as the digital one! In fact, I just realized that there is an initiative happening through HUB DC that I’d like to invite you to join. I’m posting it here because there may be other DC readers who are interested, and the conversation will only benefit from more voices.

        Here’s the link:

        The circle I’m specifically hoping you’d consider joining is Creating Alternative Healthcare Structures. You can access an editable Google doc that we’re using to brainstorm about curriculum and add your thoughts even if you’re not able to meet with us. We’ve yet to choose our meeting dates, so if you’re into the idea (and that goes for ANYBODY who’s reading!) send me an email and I’ll loop you into the scheduling doodle.

  12. What a beautiful post, so glad you’ve found wonderful friends in DC and I can’t wait to read more on their blogs.

    Seriously wonderful eats here, Great Sage looks lovely and I wish I had access to such a wonderful vegan restaurant!

  13. PS – I think the only reason I keep up with juicing is the fact I can juice ahead of time – I usually juice 2-3 times a week, but it means enough juice for a most of the week, and if I get tired and skip a day I buy one at Java Green (which is near my office).

  14. It was a delightful evening and thank you so much for your kind description of me and my blog – I do love how similar our tastes are, and I loved how Katie was laughing so hard she was almost crying at our conversation over the tortillas. Too funny.

    Honestly, if Great Sage was metro-accessible, I would seriously make the trek out at least 2x a month, even if it meant an hour metro-ride. It was the best vegan food I have had in DC, and I do love how gluten-free was just not a big deal for me. THanks again for being willing to go with teh gluten-free option on the hummus plate πŸ™‚

  15. I am a big fan of Katie. She is legit. I didn’t know about Valerie until recently, but I will certainly be scoping her blog out, now that I know she is GF. What a delightful time with good people; nothing better than breaking (rice) bread with like-minded folk. πŸ™‚

  16. I’ve never been able to go to a vegan restaurant but you blog makes my desire to do so grow more and more each time you write about a new location! At first glance I thought the prices were high, especially for appetizers, but when the food is actually, you know, good, for a change, it’s worth the price.

    I’m also very happy that God has blessed you with the presence of friends who share the same values and lifestyle with you!

  17. I love vegan restaurants. I find the high-end ones to have better food than the high-end omnivorous restaurants, actually. Maybe it’s because vegans think they have something to prove. Hehe. I love showoff-ish (in this context, I mean that in a good way) vegan joints because they get so creative with ingredients, present plates with brilliant color, and usually have really good sauces. Seeing your spring rolls is making me want peanut sauce! I love the peanut sauce at my favorite vegan place in LA. I’m glad to see you’re finding the gems near your new city, and are bonding with friends. Your posts always brighten my day! πŸ™‚

  18. My absolute favorite restaurant. It’s a good 60-mile drive for me, but so worth it!

    Love your outfit, too!

  19. Looks like fun! Way to seek out good food even if it’s not totally convenient. I love the dress and the hair btw. Excited to have new blogs to check out xoxo

  20. You look so pretty Gena! Those spring rolls look so good! I have been wanting to recreate a version at home for a while. Maybe you can direct me to a good recipe.

    How lovely for you that you got to connect with these fabulous food bloggers. Even though I am a fairly new blogger, I really hope that will be my experience as well, so I can enjoy my passion with others like me not only in cyberspace πŸ™‚ If you ever come to LA you have to go to Real Food Daily – the cashew cheese there does NOT disappoint.

  21. Aw. I love that place. πŸ™‚ Did you visit Roots next door? It’s a pretty nice grocery store. And now that you’re down in the DC area, you should check out MOMs too!!

  22. Gena, so happy for you that you have connected with Valerie and Katie. I “know” Valerie and have read her blog for years, but Katie is a new-to-me blogger and so I will pop over to her site next.

    As you said, moving is hard. But having people that you connect with, that you can share a meal, a cup of coffee or a green juice out with, make life sooo much better. There is NO substitute for real life friends and real life meetups and even more so when you first move to a new city. I’ve moved wayyyyyy too much so can speak from my own experience πŸ™‚

    What a great looking food spread, too. Those spring rolls have my name all over them!

    Enjoy your Sunday πŸ™‚

    • I’m a native Marylander and Great Sage is my favorite vegan restaurant! Glad you enjoyed:-)

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