A part of Mark Furstenberg's past died Wednesday. A new chapter in the 75-year-old baker's life will be born on Tuesday.
Marvelous Market, the bakery that Furstenberg founded in 1990, closed its last location in Georgetown, the executives citing a lack of revenue, according to the Washington City Paper. (I couldn't immediately reach anyone at Thompson Hospitality, the giant food-service company that bought Marvelous Market in 2008.) News of the once-formidable bakery's death came at a strangely synchronous moment for Furstenberg: just as health department inspectors were reviewing his forthcoming Bread Furst in Van Ness.
Inspectors nicked Furstenberg for a few minor things — a disposal that wasn't hooked up, a faulty bathroom faucet — but nothing that should prevent the veteran baker from opening Bread Furst next week. Furstenberg expects to debut the shop at 7 a.m. Tuesday, May 6, which will mark the first time he has been cooking professionally since his short-lived stint downtown at G Street Food.
But before that birth occurs, Furstenberg has been mourning the death of his first baby. He wrote a blog item this morning on the demise of Marvelous Market. "It makes me sad, and it makes me angry," Furstenberg told me this afternoon, "because it did not have to be this way."
Furstenberg blames himself and the people who assumed controlled of Marvelous Market after it went into bankruptcy in 1994. Furstenberg says he made the mistake of expanding the bakery without the expertise necessary to manage a multi-unit business — a decision, he says, that cost him his share of the bakery — but he says the subsequent owners made the fatal call to stop producing their own bread, which sent the business on a downward spiral.
Whatever the cause of Marvelous Market's demise, Furstenberg doesn't have a lot of time to dwell on it. He's about to launch his third bakery, Bread Furst. (He also founded Breadline near the White House.) At his age, Furstenberg is treating this as his last business; he's working with a talented group of bakers, pastry chefs and other artisans who are expected one day to assume ownership of the place.
Furstenberg's Bread Furst team includes baker Ben Arnold (formerly of Restaurant Eve, Society Fair and Range), head pastry chef Jack Revelle (formerly with the White House pastry department for eight years) and Violeta Palchek (formerly with Murray's in New York and Cheesetique in Arlington) who will handle the cheese and charcuterie.
The Bread Furst menu (a draft version is below) will include a wide selection of breads (from baguettes to bialys), pastries (from honey-glazed doughnuts to seasonal muffins), cakes and cookies (including a chef-driven MoonPie), sandwiches (such as roast beef with spicy slaw on corn rye or a house-made peanut butter-and-jelly on brioche), French toast with rhubarb-and-maple compote, cured meats, cheeses cut to order and even some traditional (and sometimes seasonal) ice creams.
"If I turn my back, the pastry chefs will start making lemon verbena" ice cream, Furstenberg jokes. "Because pastry chefs, as you know, prize creativity above all else."
John Flemming is handling the drinks program, all non-alcoholic, whether the coffee-based sips (featuring Madcap Coffee) or the line of ice-cream drinks. Furstenberg says Flemming will be "Washington's first soda-ologist." I think he's being cheeky given Furstenberg's previously published stance on the term "mixologist."
"I'm an old man, and I'm nervous. I've sunk my future into this place," Furstenberg says about the opening. But then he quickly shifts tone, the prerogative of a complex man who understands the joys and pains of launching a new business.
"I'm excited," the baker adds. "I'm particularly excited because the neighborhood has responded unbelievably."
And that's just on Furstenberg's blog. Wait till the place opens on Tuesday.
Bread Furst, 4434 Connecticut Ave. NW, www.breadfurst.com. Expected hours of operation: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.