Editors' pick

Union Market

Union Market photo
John Taylor/The Washington Post

Editorial Review

New Union Market enjoying busy weekends
Friday, October 5, 2012

Excerpted from a Sept. 10 post by Bonnie Benwick on the All We Call We Can Eat blog, washing tonpost.com/allwecaneat, with additional reporting by Amy Joyce.

One month in, and Union Market, near Florida Avenue NE, has people on both sides of the counter curious and hopeful about the collection of small-batch food producers.

Set across the street from a number of vacant food wholesaler businesses, the hall has that brand-spanking, newly renovated smell and look, with wide aisles and lots of natural sunlight from a long wall of windows. Think climate-controlled farmers market with minimalist, un-tented stalls, punctuated by the occasional built-in counter for eating oysters or drinking artisanal sodas.

“There are more people here this week than last week,” noted Jessica Burdge of Trickling Springs Creamery, as she spread fresh butter on bread for visitors to taste.

The market won’t be open Mondays through Thursdays until November. But the lunch hour on Friday had a healthy buzz. Visitors took their time browsing the booths, and a handful of couples ate oysters and drank chilled white wine at Rappahannock Oyster Bar.

“This is a really nice setup,” said Emily Christensen, who was visiting for the first time. “There’s room to grow.”

Carolyn Stromberg of Righteous Cheese already is considering how to staff up her spot. “I thought I could run this whole thing with two people,” she said. “But I think I need three people for the bar alone.”

This Saturday and Sunday, there will be a pop-up farmers market at Union Market selling eggs, honey, apples and more seasonal produce from Toigo Orchards, Spring Valley Farm and Orchard and others. The stand will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Union Market had its grand opening Sept. 8 with 20 vendors on hand, plus a few high-profile “pop-ups” of established food purveyors or offshoots of bricks-and-mortar businesses rounding out the offerings of charcuterie, meats, cheeses, produce and prepared foods.

Among the market highlights:

Vienna’s Aromatic Spice Blends owner Deepa Patke was pleased with the turnout for her pop-up stall. Perched behind a counter of custom-mixed $4 packets, she pronounced the energy at the market that Saturday as “especially good.”

At the EcoFriendly Foods pop-up, farmer Bev Eggleston traded his cowboy hat for a faded gray baseball cap. He was beheading Carolina shrimp ($10 per pound) that had been whole and on ice for a few days: “You need to do that, or they’ll start to go bad quickly,” he said.

Customers who stopped at Craig Rogers’s Border Springs Farm pop-up got to sample three kinds of lamb sausage -- and the benefit of special prices (beautiful racks at $16 per pound) and the farmer’s recommendations for cooking chops and boneless legs.

“We brought up a whole truckload, and there’s not much left,” Rogers said. “People from the neighborhood told us how excited they were to have us here.”