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Penn Quarter FreshFarm Market

Jordan Wright
The Georgetowner
August 2009

Photo by Jordan Wright

Photo by Jordan Wright

Farmers markets spark our culinary imagination, nourish our communal spirit, and excite our artistic creativity in the kitchen. The lavish bounty of the field stacked chock-a-block, evokes images of country roads dotted with rural farmhouses and red barns. We gaze adoringly at the summer’s abundant cornucopia while our inner sybarite emerges full-blown and we stand urban-ready to do battle with pots, knives and glass canning jars glinting. Awaiting our dreams are velvet-skinned peaches, crusty loaves of Kalamata olive bread, crates of jewel-like eggplants and juicy tomatoes.
Photo by Jordan Wright - Copper Pot Food Company's summer-in-jar Nectarine and Bourbon Jam

Photo by Jordan Wright - Copper Pot Food Company's summer-in-jar Nectarine and Bourbon Jam

Consider the humble tomato. The fruity flesh a palette of epicurean possibility. Until recently only hybrids such as “Big Boy”, “Early Girl” and “Roma” could be found in the marketplace, but now, countless varieties of heirloom tomatoes are cultivated by our local farmers. In Penn Quarter’s small but mightily impressive market, I found a myriad of tomato treasures like “Green Stripes”, red and yellow “Brandywines” and “Black Cherries”, tiny globes of pop-in-your-mouth sweetness. These open-pollinated non-hybrids are luscious with the bygone field flavor of prized tomatoes. I pondered the possibilities of a dinner alfresco.

Would it be a colorful ratatouille simmered with the headliners of the current season, green beans, onion, garlic and eggplant? Jim Breger of Anchor Nursery grows a heritage Sicilian eggplant variety called “Rosa Blanca” that would do nicely.
Angel hair pasta, tossed with quick-sautéed garlic and cherry tomatoes in all three colors from Mountain View Farm, could then be dressed with a fruity olive oil, scattered with ribbons of basil and crowned with curls of Parmegiano-Reggiano shaved a la minute. The larger tomatoes might be stuffed with celeriac remoulade or used in gazpacho. And taking us into the winter months, a dehydrator could preserve the Romas for use in pesto and served atop bruschetta, while canning would afford us crisp “bread and butter” pickles or dilled beans to prolong summer’s memory.

Photo by Jordan Wright - Enjoying the day at Penn Quarter Farmers Market

Photo by Jordan Wright - Enjoying the day at Penn Quarter Farmers Market


Like schoolboys out on recess, neighborhood chefs were everywhere at this market with some of the same thoughts in mind. Chef Andy Kitko of the newly opened Cedar, located at the top of the street, is already receiving rave reviews for his creative use of seasonal ingredients with a French influence. Would the melons have been for his Chilled Melon Soup with lobster and basil? Maybe the berries were for his Strawberry Pavlovas with lemon curd and passion-fruit-coconut sorbet.

I met Chef Terri Cutrino of Café Atlantico, joshing around with the other chefs while picking up her order for the restaurant. “Every Friday night the café does a farmers market dinner, a three-course meal using ingredients found here at the market. This week I’ll make “ciccioli” a sort of pork rillete,” she revealed.

Emily Haas of Black Rock Orchard, who was generously handing out samples of her fruits, told me, “The chefs have won me and the other farmers over. We used to be swamped by them. Now they place their orders ahead and they’re ready when they get here.” Her ripe nectarines would be perfect for my ginger nectarine cobbler topped with Dolcezza’s artisanal Lemon Ricotta Cardamom gelati and her “Golden Donut” peaches, with their mango and apricot overtones, could dovetail well into a peach and blackberry galette and incorporate two ingredients in abundance now. www.dolcezzagelato.com

From Oyamel Restaurant I encountered Executive Chef Joe Raffa and cohort Chef Luis Montesinos,

Photo by Jordan Wright - Executive Chef Terri Cutrino of Cafe Atlantico enjoys a laugh with fellow chefs

Photo by Jordan Wright - Executive Chef Terri Cutrino of Cafe Atlantico enjoys a laugh with fellow chefs

who affably showed me their cache of nopales (cactus pads) that they planned to grill, pickle or salt, then puree with pineapple juice for use in salads. When queried about the unusual choice of pineapple juice, Raffa grinned, “I grew up in Hawaii!”

At Wollam Gardens’ booth I spied Chef Brian McPherson of Poste Moderne picking up the restaurant’s flower order… sprays of fragrant Casablanca lilies.

Photo by Jordan Wright - Chef Brian McPherson of Poste Moderne with lilies

Photo by Jordan Wright - Chef Brian McPherson of Poste Moderne with lilies

It was on to the Bread Ovens at Quail Creek Farms and its breathtaking array of baked goods. The choices seemed endless. Here you could find ciabatta, savory and mixed berry tarts, peach and blueberry muffins, pagnotta, giant boule, pane pugliese, brioche, rustic Italian potato bread and iced apple cookies with golden raisins and pecans…a veritable crescendo of fresh baked delights. They’re also known for their seasonal soups. Try a Virginia Peanut soup with crabmeat and country ham or a lovely and cool Vichyssoise. You’d have to venture far afield to Burke, VA, Loudoun County or Annapolis to find them in another market. www.QuailCreekFarm.com

Photo by Jordan Wright -- Chef Nathan Anda of Red Apron Butcher Shop

Photo by Jordan Wright -- Chef Nathan Anda of Red Apron Butcher Shop

The Copper Pot Food Company, on hand with its farm-fresh line of handmade batches of jams, brought Nectarine and Bourbon Jam, White Fig and Balsamic Vinegar Jam, Strawberry and Vanilla Jam and Peach and Prosecco Bellini Jam to spread on your favorite bread or use as a decadent topping for ice cream. It tastes like summer in a jar. www.copperpotfoodcompany.com

Another standout was the Red Apron Butcher Shop. Here Chef Nathan Anda has created a line of authentic hand-cut house-cured meats unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Anda, who formerly cheffed at Tallula and EatBar, displayed his charcuterie, which included soppressata, guanciale, pork belly, prosciutto, pepperoni, bresaola, sopressa, corned beef and something called “tesa” that was new to me. “It’s like pancetta with the skin,” he helpfully offered. www.redapronbutchery.com

Penn Quarter Farmers Market – Thursdays, April 2nd through December 17th – 3 pm till 7 pm. 8th Street between D and E Streets NW, Washington, DC – For a list of other participating famers and producers go to www.freshfarmmarkets.org.

For comments or questions write Jordan@whiskandquill.com or go to www.whiskandquill.com.

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