Society Fair is a market in Old Town Alexandria, but it's not just any market. It's the supremely creative invention of chef Cathal Armstrong and his wife, Meshelle. They also own the acclaimed Restaurant Eve. I was tipped off about Society Fair when it opened - about a year ago - by Anna Spiegel, one of our food writers at The Washingtonian. I checked it out immediately and have been returning regularly ever since. My reason this weekend was to get the fixings for Saturday night dinner. The boucherie part of the market prepares some of the most beautiful roasts to be found anywhere in the Metro area. Really, works of art made from beef, pork and lamb. I spotted a handsome rib roast and tournedos. But then ...
Over at the prepared foods I noticed a brown shopping bag that said "Date Night Bag." Here's what was in it in separate containers: Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, Brussels Sprouts, Green Salad and dessert of Chocolate Pudding. Armstrong, who came from the kitchen bearing a tray of chicken pot pies, said the dinner bag also included a bottle of Malbec wine from Argentina. The price? $45. Sold! I also picked up a pint of Society Fair's excellent celery salad, some of which I later added to the green salad. I also like to mix the celery salad with pasta. And in the cheese department I got a wedge of firm goat's cheese to go with the Virginia apples I had at home. Dinner was complete.
Above is the salad and the meatloaf. I added sauteed mushrooms. It was a delicious dinner for two, but truthfully there was enough food for three people and possibly four. Below is a picture of the chocolate pudding. The whole meal was delicious. When it comes to weekend food, especially weekend entertaining, I'm a hunter-gatherer. I'll drive miles for one item that's made perfectly by a particular market, and I have favorite markets all over the place - in Annapolis, in Potomac, in Sangamore, off Spout Run, and various parts of DC.
Society Fair is easy to find. It's front door is on Washington Street in Old Town, next door to the Lyceum. Interestingly, the Lyceum is very connected to the Joynt family. My father and mother-in-law, Howard and May Joynt, did quite a lot to help support the restoration of the pre-Civil War building, which is now a history museum. It's where Mrs. Joynt's memorial service was held in 1996. They exhibited some of her remarkable collection of 18th Century American silver, which included pieces made by Paul Revere. The Joynt family manse was around the corner, at the intersection of Duke and St. Asaph Streets. It is one of the most beautiful and well-preserved 18th Century homes in Alexandria, with original floors and mouldings and a garden designed by the landscape architect of Colonial Williamsburg. The house was sold after Mrs. Joynt's death. Mr. Joynt died in 1989. They would have liked Society Fair.
So, this Date Night Bag, with the "grab and go dinner for 2," worked out well. I had seen this same idea offered by a market in Austin, Texas, and thought what a great idea. Especially when it's done well. There's much more to choose form at this market: eye-catching desserts, including miles high frosted layer cake, excellent cookies; fresh juices, fresh cocktail mixes from Todd Thrasher, salad dressings, cold salads, and a sandwich menu that makes one want to live on sandwiches alone. I'm eager for the short ribs sandwich to return for the cold weather months. There's wine, coffee, pasta, condiments ... and also a bar and dining room. Basically, it's all there. Go. You'll thank me.