A long time ago the H street area was one of the cultural centers of D.C. Like most cities, D.C. went into decline. People moved to the suburbs, businesses shut down. When I moved to DC, several years ago, the Florida Avenue Market was one of the first I visited. Of course I visited Eastern Market; I loved it on sight. But the Florida Avenue farmers market held a special place in my heart. It was one of the few places I was able to consistently find catfish and the butcher shop inside of the market was one of the best I have ever seen. At one point I decided to make Pinot Noir Blackberry ribs (the recipe is below), the gentlemen at the butcher shop got me the best cuts of meat for a fraction of what I would have paid elsewhere.
Last October an electrical fire tore through the farmer’s market, gutting the inside and robbing the neighborhood of an authentic diamond in the rough. There was a certain charm and grit to this farmer’s markets that will be sorely missed. Though much of the market was destroyed some things survived, like A. Litterie’s an authentic Italian Market. The burning of the Florida Avenue Market, was a true tragedy. And while the original market and vendors will be sorely missed, I believe the renovations will make a wonderful addition to the NE area of DC.
The changes to the new market have been a startling to see over the past year; watching the progress has been nothing short of intriguing. This past Saturday a summer picnic was held at the new market to give local residents a chance to preview those changes. Though the day was nothing short of dreary, that didn’t stop locals from coming out an enjoying the day. Local restaurants served signature small bite dishes, several food trucks were present, there was even a moonbounce.
I attended the renamed Union Market with several friends. Upon entering you’re blown away by the fact that the market is decorated by massive chandeliers. A closer inspection shows that the chandeliers are made recycled water bottles. Our first order of business was the acquisition of beverage. I had studied the lineup of restaurants and vendors at the summer picnic extensively and knew exactly where to go. Our first stop was outside at Scott Drewno’s station (head chef at The Source), where chili noodles with summer squash and pork were being served. The dish was ridiculously tasty and a foretelling of things to come. We were further distracted by a pulled pork and cracklin’ sandwich served with mustard and sauerkraut. Some of you may question the liberal use of cracklin’ in the sandwich. Having tasted the dish, I have to wonder why more sandwiches don’t have more pig skin included as an ingredient. The cracklin’ added both texture and flavor: both much appreciated.
Eventually we made our way inside, where our first stop was the Rappahannock Oyster Bar. I have never been disappointed in the Rappahannock oysters, and this time was no exception. After the oyster bar, there was a literal haze of food and snacks. We sampled chorizo with chimmichurri sauce, nutella stuffed churros, and tacos from the chupacabra food truck. I had two stand out personal favorites. The first was a bacon frank with cherry tomatoes and lettuce from Red Apron’s Frank cart. My absolute favorite was a funnelcake dusted with cinnamon and powdered sugar. My companions went on to sample fried Oreos and a fried brownie sundae.
I had a great time; and it was nice to see the neighborhood resume activities as a community. While I lament the loss of the local vendors who belonged to the old market, the new market is a much needed addition, not only the Atlas district, but to the District of Columbia as a whole. I can only hope that some of those vendors return and that the other attractions once associated with the market also make a reappearance.