Union Market's Tasty New Additions
Have you been to Union Market recently? Things just keep getting tastier over there, and this week we take a look at two exciting new additions.
Chef John Mooney, whose Bell Book & Candle bistro is a West Village staple, has brought his talents to DC through Bidwell, his new restaurant inside of Union Market. The menu is packed with homey comfort foods boasting gourmet twists. For instance, his deep-fried deviled eggs include a kick of habanero in the filling and are served alongside a housemade buttermilk ranch. In fact, all of the condiments served at Bidwell are made in-house. Other menu highlights include a venison black-bean chili, a patty melt on seeded rye, and oysters served perfectly fried over a verdant sauce or lightly roasted under a parmesan-laced coating (both pictured below).
The space boasts comfy booths, a long marble bar, and cozy lighting against dark wooden paneling that helps you forget you're actually inside a bustling market. Tucked into the back of the space is the open kitchen, where diners can pull up a seat at the counter and watch the action. (Or, we suppose, have the cooks watch you eat, if that's your preference.)
John is known for the aeroponic gardens that he uses to supply his restaurants with fresh, high-quality produce. He will be planting one of these trademark gardens on the roof at Union Market this month, weather-permitting, and will be training his entire staff to help maintain it. He tells us that in addition to ensuring that his restaurants have the best produce, the gardens are a great source of team spirit because all of his staff members feel personally invested in the restaurant through their work in the garden. He hopes to be able to offer patrons tours of the garden once it's up and running.
On the opposite end of the building, the market has finally added a fishmonger: The District Fishwife. Owner Fiona Lewis hails from Melbourne, Australia, where she grew up eating the freshest of seafood and surrounded by the type of packed, fresh-food market that Union Market is modeled after. She's lived in DC for three years now, and sorely missed the fresh seafood markets of her home. So she jumped at the opportunity to create one at Union Market.
The fish sold at The District Fishwife isn't just the bulk stuff delivered off the back of a truck that we find in most shops in DC. Fiona can't stop raving about her fishmonger Vernon Lingenfelter. Together, the two regularly scour DC's wholesale fish markets for the best offerings to line her display case with. "People always ask me, 'What's good today?' and I laugh. Look at this beautiful fish--it's all good! And since Vernon picked it all out, you know it's the best you can get."
In addition to fresh fillets for the home cook, Fiona will be offering a rotating menu of freshly-made seafood dishes. Items like Thai fish curry and a potted mackerel pate will make appearances, but her fish and chips will always be front and center. She explains that in Australia and England, fish and chips shops are as ubiquitous as cheeseburgers are here, but she hadn't been able to find a proper version of the dish in DC. There are a few key factors: the batter must have the perfect texture--light, crisp, yet thick enough to seal in the fish completely. To obtain that, the frying oil has to be really clean and really hot. Also, the "chips" have to be the perfect size and thickness--somewhere between a matchstick and a steak fry. Add some creamy tartar sauce for dipping (she makes her own), and you've got heaven in a basket.