It’s cold out. That means a few things here in the nation’s capital: false predictions of snow, networking functions disguised as holiday parties, and the seasonal closing of farmers’ markets. While the first two remain hallmarks of D.C., there is hope for the District foodologist (the term “foodie” is sooo over)—historic Eastern Market (7th and C Sts., open Tues.-Sun.).
When a better part of the South Hall—the area designated for food vendors—burned earlier this year, shoppers were saddened by the loss of both the community dwelling and the delicious crab cakes from the Market Lunch. Luckily, with the help of many devoted advocates, including federal and local elected officials (they can create change!), Eastern Market’s food vendors continue to sell their goods in the newly created East Hall.
The interior of the market conveys a different feel now: The bright white walls, floor, and ceiling of the new structure is in stark contrast to the original dingy-yet-homey atmosphere. Fortunately, much of the food remains the same, with fresh produce and unusual cuts of meat. So while D.C. collectively holds its breath until spring for the rest of the region’s markets to reopen, check out what the Market’s top vendors have to offer in their new digs:
Southern Maryland Seafood (est. 1939)
With whole fish options such as branzini, and a variety of filleted fish such as tuna, everyone’s ichthyological preferences can be accommodated. Shellfish are plentiful too, with many types of scallops, shrimps, and clams. And salmon lovers can enjoy the fish in six forms, from whole King to smoked Cajun.
Union Meat Company (est. 1946)
As there is no shortage of bacon, ham, and chitterlings lovers in this area, Union Meat Company provides the pig in all sorts of ways: country ham skins, bacon ends, pork brains, pig feet and ears, and everyday thick-cut bacon and pork chops. If you’re not a swine fan, get some ground venison meat and enjoy a deer burger. Beef, lamb, veal, and ready-to-eat hot dogs and half smokes are also available.
Market Poultry (est. 1975)
Of course Market Poultry offers chickens (and all their parts) and a variety of eggs, but it also boasts six types of turkey sausage, including feta-and-spinach and raspberry-and-maple syrup.
Eastern Market Grocery (est. 1993)
Indulge your carb cravings here: Fresh pasta products in unique flavors can be incredibly difficult to pass up. Saffron fettuccine, pumpkin tortellini, and shrimp with Thai red curry ravioli are best bets; ready-made products, such as roasted peppers and five varieties of pesto (including artichoke lemon and walnut sauce), make this stand a one-stop-shop for a delicious dinner.
Brewers Fancy Dairy Products (est. 1964)
The cheese counter is a favorite of any Eastern Market regular. The new venue lends more space to this always-crowded spot, but standing in line is almost the best part—the clerks offer cheese samples to patient customers. For those who nibble beyond Kraft slices, try Windsor Red, a bright pink cheddar by way of port and brandy additions; St. Agur blue cheese, sweet and salty and perfect melted over a burger; or Sage Derby, light green with white specs in a semi-hard, slightly herbal cheese. The tub butter from Pennsylvania is another treat.
Fine Sweet Shoppe (est. 1964)
Sweets and breads dominate the glass cases here. Patrons can find bread pudding, sweet-potato pie, mini chocolate-chip cookies, cannolis, and hamentashen; bagels and lunch-meat sandwiches are cheap and tasty lunch options.
Canales Delicatessen (est. 1983)
Don’t just stand awed and open-mouthed at the beautifully roasting whole chickens: Grab a half-pound of the wonderful smoked-chicken salad or pulled-chicken barbecue to go; Canales also fixes up a mean sandwich (paired with chips and drink).
Paik Produce (est. 1990)
This is not your standard supermarket produce; choose from the standbys (onions, potatoes, and lemons) or the exotic (pomegranates, fresh figs, and papayas). Canned goods and Asian products are also sold.
Outside South Hall
Seasonal produce dominates vendors’ spreads, which now offer a wide variety of apples, dark greens and root vegetables (packaged in convenient bundles), and hot apple cider warmed and stirred with care (sold for a buck and served with cinnamon sticks). Also a new presence—and quite popular—is Crepes At The Market, which technically arrived just weeks before the fire. Owner and self-declared “crepe master” Mitchell Salland’s favorite crepes right now are the egg, onion, tomato, basil, and gruyere breakfast option and the apple, pecan, butter, and cinnamon-sugar afternoon treat.
While you’re on the Eastern Market food journey, travel a bit farther to Uncle Brutha’s Hot Sauce Emporium. Uncle Brutha’s used to sell its Fire Sauce No. 9 (with chile verde garlic and ginger) and signature Fire Sauce No. 10 (four chiles and garlic) at a table right outside South Hall. Now its own cozy store, boasting ceiling-to-floor hot sauces, spices, and marinades, is just a few blocks down at 323 Seventh St. And, as no trip—anywhere—is complete without a little bit of booze, calm your hot-sauce-coated mouth at Chat’s Liquors’ (503 Eighth St.) Saturday wine tastings. Every week, ever-smiling owner Burnie Williams lines up importers to discuss blends from New Zealand and boutique vintages from California. Feel free to ask Williams about any product in his store: He knows his whiskeys as well as he knows his regulars’ names. —Stefanie Gans
Originally in The Onion / December 27, 2007
Photo: Save Eastern Market