Palena Market is finally open

Now you can cook like Frank, as in Ruta, the chef-owner of the esteemed Palena Café and Dining Room. The brand officially expanded at noon today with the launch of Palena Market, adjacent to the restaurant’s cafe space in Cleveland Park.

The shelves of the 400-square-foot shop entice with what Ruta calls “things we like to use in the restaurant:” pasta from Naples, olive oil from Liguria, toasted cornmeal, local honey and Pronto coffee. (The actual brewed variety is not yet available, due to zoning restrictions, but the chef hopes to revisit the idea down the road.)

There’s more: Dishes from Palena’s stoves and wood-burning oven. The market’s baked goods run both savory (Gruyere croissants, focaccia) and sweet (macarons, ricotta cake). Fans of the restaurant’s bread basket will find sourdough and whole-wheat loaves. There are no seats, alas; the treats are only for take-out.

The market was expected to open months ago, but Ruta says he wanted to get other parts of his operation, namely brunch, running smoothly first. Speaking of brunch, the chef is offering one of the menu’s highlights in the shop on Saturday and Sunday. Do I see a line forming already for his lemon-glazed, orange-zested doughnuts?

After today, Palena Market will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Weaned on a beige buffet a la “Fargo” in Minnesota, Tom Sietsema is the food critic for The Washington Post. This is his second tour of duty at the Post. Sietsema got his first taste in the ‘80s, when he was hired by his predecessor to answer phones, write some, and test the bulk of the Food section’s recipes. That’s how he learned to clean squid, bake colonial cakes and distinguish between nutmeg and mace.

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