Although it was a cloudy day with a slight chill in the air, nothing was going to dampen my spirits last Thursday. With my reusable bag in my hand, I headed over to Penn Quarter on a late lunch break to herald opening day of the Penn Quarter Farmers Market! Located on 8th Street between D and E Street, the Penn Quarter farmers market is a popular stop after work for the K Street set. It's also a welcome place for Penn Quarter residents to pick up fresh produce, meat and dairy. So it was no surprise that the market was bustling when my co-worker James and I got to the market around 4. It's still fairly early in the season, so there was not a huge selection of fresh fruits and vegetables, but Black Rock Orchard had an ample amount of apples and apple products (including cider). Strategically placed in front of the Black Rock Orchard stand was a lovely bucket full of blossoms that I mistakenly thought were cherry blossoms (who could blame me with it being prime cherry blossom time in DC). But James, ever the fan of reading signs, pointed out that they were apricot blossoms. Although I was very tempted to pick up a few sprigs, I knew they'd wither away due to neglect. We continued down the market in search of the new lamb vendor, Springfield Farm of Kent County.
As we wandered around the market, I kept an eye out for the Chef at Market demonstration scheduled for opening day. Rob Weland, the chef at neighboring restaurant Poste, was to begin around 4 pm but there was no demonstration booth set up. However, the amazing smell of cooking crab cakes more than made up for the absentee chef. Looking around, I quickly found the source of the aromas making my stomach grumble angrily: Chris' Marketplace. Chris Hoge's dedication to using the freshest seafood in his cooking is evident the minute you taste one of his crab cakes. Although I have read up on Chris' crab cakes and ingredients, I have never been able to actually speak with him. This isn't because he doesn't appear friendly or willing to chat. No...it's simply because the lines around his makeshift kitchen are always long. By the time I get up to the front and place my order, the person behind me is already breathing down my neck to move along. Opening day was no exception, so I continued on.
We continued along and stumbled upon a booth festooned with gold wrapped chocolate eggs. Two women were manning it and offered James and I a chance to win one of them. Not one to turn down free chocolate, we happily accepted the challenge. It seemed simple enough: answer a few questions correctly and you win a chocolate egg (either milk or dark chocolate). The very first question identified the company and it's mission. Divine Chocolate is a fair trade chocolate company co-owned by a collective of farmers in Ghana. From drinking chocolates to baking chocolates, Divine's product line covers the cocoa gamut. Although not a usual Penn Quarter vendor, Divine shares in the ideals of buying locally and responsibly. Luckily, James and I answered enough questions right to win two chocolate eggs. Before we left the booth, we picked up information about Divine and where to buy their products in the DC area.
Still in search of the Chef at Market demonstration, we headed down 8th Street and ran into the crowd surrounding the Ovens at Quail Creek Farm. Their breads and pastries are hands down some of my favorite in DC, especially their lovely loaves of brioche. Sliced thick and dipped into a custard of egg, cream and vanilla, their brioche make a wonderful french toast for a lazy weekend breakfast. James picked up a loaf of sourdough bread with the intent to use it for a weekend breakfast sandwich. Although I was tempted to pick up a loaf of brioche (did I mention it smelled amazing?), I knew my weekend plans of packing didn't mix well with a big, carb heavy breakfast. I promised myself I would celebrate my (hopefully) successful move with a decadent vanilla bean french toast in the coming weekends.
A lovely flourish of green brought a glimmer of Spring to this otherwise cloudy day as we passed Endless Summer Harvest's mix of lettuce and arugula. The DC area masters of hydroponic farming, Endless Summer Harvest brings a taste of Spring and Summer all year round to DC residents. Hydroponic farming employs the use of large greenhouses and a nutrient rich source of water to grow plants out of season. Endless Summer Harvest concentrates mostly on greens and herbs and I routinely get a bunch of their arugula or basil for pesto. And believe you me, during the sparse Winter months it was wonderful to whip up a batch of pesto for a quick lunch. Another sign of Spring evident on opening day? A wealth of tulips, fresh herbs and other colorful flowers lining tables all around the market. Reds, yellows, whites and oranges dotted the otherwise gray backdrop of opening day and filled their immediate area with a light fragrance. I was once again tempted to buy a bouquet of yellow tulips but decided it was best to wait until the move.
It was good to see all the old familiar faces: Blue Ridge Dairy, Cibola Farms, Dolcezza Artisanal Gelatos and Everona Dairy. But I was on the hunt to find Springfield Farm of Kent County, the new lamb vendor. James and I walked around the market twice in search of both Springfield Farm and the Chef at Market demonstration. However, we were unable to find either one. I was also unable to find the other new vendor, Red Apron Butchery, only seeing the usual Cibola Farms meat vendor. However, it is only the beginning of the market season, so I keep hope alive there will be two more meat vendors at Penn Quarter in the near future.
Before leaving the market, I spoke briefly with Liz Falk, FreshFarm's DC market manager, and found out Rob was running a little late for the Chef at Market demonstration. As much as I wanted to stay to watch Rob cook, I had to get back to work. James and I headed back with plans to hit up the market again next week. And although I didn't buy anything (it's a bit hard to cook when the contents of your kitchen sits in boxes on the floor), I was thrilled to have my Penn Quarter market back for the season!
The Penn Quarter Farmers Market is open on Thursdays from 3 pm to 7 pm.