Friday, December 3, 2010

Eastern Market

I love working on the Hill. As a North Westerner, I rarely ventured too far south or east in the past eight years. But now that I work on 8th St. SE, I am spending a lot more time at Eastern Market. I've appreciated the market in the past, and I mourned the fire a few years ago. But the mental divide that exists between the Hill and the rest of DC kept my visits sporadic at best. 

So, let's talk about the good, bad, and ugly of the market. First off, it's not nearly as pretentious as some might guess. This is no Dean&Deluca. What I like best about the market is the interaction between the employees and customers. Not in a cheesy, "Welcome To Wal-Mart" kind of way, but in a genuine butcher-to-cook way. 

A few weeks ago, I wanted to braise some lamb shanks, but wanted a nice stock to use. I went to Union Meat  and asked them for lamb bones. The long-haired Cowboys fan asked me if I wanted the bones split. "No," I said, "that's alright, I'm just making a stock." With an impassive gaze, he said "That's why you should get them split." Tell me you're going to get that at Whole Foods. That's what your grandparents' butcher would have said. He took my $1.65 a pound purchase and ran all the bones on the bandsaw because he knew it was better for me.  Seriously, ask any grocery store clerk in DC to do that for you and see what the reaction is. 

Also, the selection is much better than any grocery store in DC: lamb legs, veal bones, liver, pork shoulder, necks, hanger steaks, sweetbreads, in addition to excellent cuts of steak. I bought a three-rib standing roast for my first Christmas hosting the in-laws, and it was magnificent. Beautiful marbling, bright red meat, and delicious, delicious fat around the cut. 

As you can see, I was very excited.

The fish market is good too. They
 usually have whole dorade, which 
is great on the grill or in a pan, 
stuffed with lemon and rosemary.

Anyway, I would like to organize a trip over there to talk about the available food. What has been your experience with the market? Any reactions to the cheese purveyor? How about the bread?

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