Veg Diner Monologues: Mirabelle’s Multi-Tiered Root Cellar

Where to Get It: Mirabelle, 900 16th St. NW

Price: $19

What It Is: Three tiers of root vegetable salads featuring various preservation techniques. The top of the wooden box is striped with pickled carrots and shaved celery in a Seedlipvinaigrette with chopped herb stems and whole sprigs of fresh herbs. Chef Keith Bombaugh says that this layer represents the end of summer, when gardens are still vibrant. Lift the lid to find the second compartment filled with carrots pickled in lime juice and cooked with sesame, yuzu, and soy before being air-dried to create a wrinkled effect meant to be reminiscent of the first frost. The third and final box contains salt-roasted beets, grilled endive, whipped blue cheese, and a brown butter crumble. Bombaugh hopes the white dusting on top of the beets suggests the dead of winter when the ground is covered in snow.

The Story: Root cellars are typically dark, damp underground dens with specific temperature and humidity requirements. Farmers stock them with root vegetables and other garden treasures to be eaten throughout the colder months. Many of the roots Bombaugh uses in this dish are the vegetables that do well in root cellars, including carrots and beets. He hopes the three-tier box evokes the feeling of climbing down a steep set of stairs into a root cellar.

Why Even Meat Eaters Will Like It: Salads don’t typically come with a story. This dish is fun to pull apart and restack with your hands. It features classic combinations like carrots and raisins and beets and blue cheese, but with some unique twists. Bombaugh spent time at molecular gastronomy powerhouse Alinea in Chicago where presentation is paramount, and it shows.