As fall descends upon us east-coasters, we spent a hot September Saturday afternoon in Northeast DC's Union Market for a sampling of some of our favorite aphrodisiac, Oysters!
Union Market is a piece of history, in the district, dating back to 1931's Union Terminal Market, which was founded to replace a similar venue that was torn down to make way for the National Archives. Today, it is home to some of the area's best artisanal food and drink. Stalls feature goods for sale and some really good eats, as well.
Before getting into any bivalves, we strolled around and took in some of the shops. Choice cuts of meat were ready for the taking at butcher shops like Red Apron and Harvey's Market. We took in the great spirits selection at Cordial...and ran into Green Hat Gin, that's distilled right in the heart of D.C., stirring the echoes of prohibition-era entreprenuers.
Another few yards down, we ran into The District FishWife and couldn't help but grab some fish & chips.
The beer batter was just the right kind of sweet and salty, blanketing a nice, crumbly blue catfish. It could have done with maybe 30 seconds less in the fryer, but it wasn't bad at all. The portions were huge, each platter consisting of two generous hunks of fried fish. Now, when it comes to fries, we generally figure any spud will do and that it's pretty hard to mess up a french fry...but when you're talking fish & chips...well, that's a whole other story, altogether. It is our opinion that the chips in a platter of fish & chips have to be exemplary, as they are 50 percent of the dish. The FishWife does not disappoint as she offers us a sturdy, thick-cut steak fry to serve as the bed of our catfish. Lightly salted and possessing a nice crunch, we made quick work of our chips, even as we barely made it through the second fish.
Onwards, we continued to Rappahannock Oyster Bar for our primary target: A good sample of freshly-shucked oysters.
The Rappahannock Oyster company is based on 100-plus acres of oyster ground on the Rappahannock River that started as 5 acres when it was purchased in 1899 by a 24-year-old James Croxton, Jr. Today, the company is run by his great-grandsons, Travis and Ryan Croxton. The oyster bar they keep in Union Market is their foothold in the district, with their other two restaurants in the heart of Virginia.
It was tough getting some seats, but we circled like vultures for a bit and finally got some at the bar, before any others were the wiser. As I sat, I noticed the battle-worn bottle of angostura bitters on the bar, which, to me, is always a sign of a bar that takes itself seriously. Before I ordered anything else, I took a look at their specialty cocktails and had a "Dead on the Vine", which is a delightfully refreshing concoction of vodka, apricot liqueur, lemon juice, and absinthe. I had another one, after I gulped the first one down....it was a Saturday, so sue me.
Not wasting any more time, we settled into their large sampler platter, which featured all three of their offerings from sweet to briny, Rappahannock River Oysters, Stingray Oysters, and Olde Salt Oysters. The rich and buttery flavor of the Rappahannock had to be the winner, for me. Let us know if you ever try the sampler.
After the oysters, we managed to wander around some more and goof around with some of the shop folks.
Curbside Cupcakes, still hanging onto the trend, gave us a little sweetness to top off our little bivalve sampler, and I'm not even talking about the cute shopgirl. In the end, that beat out Dolcezza's great looking gelato, which we will have to come back and try. Some of our other favorites that we were sad to miss out on, that day, were DC Empanadas (who's name says it all) and the wildly awesome Korean BBQ tacos at TaKorean. We still had some space to sample some great artisanal cheeses at Righteous Cheese, though, as well as some pickled delights at Number 1 Sons.
The outside had some cool people playing cornhole and a groovy little camper selling cool refreshments on a 95-degree afternoon.
Overall, I'd say it was an afternoon well-spent.
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