Jump to content

Society Fair, Bistro and Market on S. Washington and Duke Street in Old Town Alexandria


Recommended Posts

[is there really no thread in the restaurant forum? I could not find it if it exists.]

Stopped in for a bite of lunch and had the "My Turkish Cousin " - Lamb Shoulder | preserved lemon yoghurt | sultana mostarda | sautéed spinach | flatbread ~ $14. That is one excellent sandwich with wonderfully flavorful lamb.

After lunch stopped in the market and bought a nice barded beef roast and some of the Leafy greens sausages (kale, collard greens, pork) for a nice weekend dinner.

The space is wonderful and the market is filled with tempting purchases everywhere. It was aslo nice to see and chat with Mr. Wabeck. Looking forward to my next visit.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

[is there really no thread in the restaurant forum? I could not find it if it exists.]

I think it's because this place is so daunting (like Wegman's in Sterling, and Whole Foods in Fairfax were when they first opened) that people aren't quite sure what to do.

[To state the obvious, we'll keep this thread for the prepared and cooked foods section, and have a separate thread in Shopping and Cooking for the grocery section. Thanks to Mike for having the wisdom and expertise to divine this. I guess there would be a similar thing, too, for Wagshal's, Fairway, Eataly, etc - it's almost an unnatural division, but given the current structure of this website, these two forums dichotomize both aspects of places like this, and this probably makes the most sense. There is no final decision, and if anyone wants to write me with other suggestions of how to handle this type of situation, then please do. This is all pliable, and at the end of the day, what is most useful to people is what we'll have; we have to start somewhere, and I suppose this is as good a place as any.

So in summary, for now, if you want to eat and drink at Society Fair, come to this thread; if you want to shop at Society Fair, go to the Shopping and Cooking forum. And, who knows, if someone feels strongly about their retail wine selection, there could conceivably be a third thread in the Beer and Wine forum as well.]

Cheers,

Rocks

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think it's because this place is so daunting (like Wegman's in Sterling, and Whole Foods in Fairfax were when they first opened) that people aren't quite sure what to do.

[To state the obvious, we'll keep this thread for the prepared and cooked foods section, and have a separate thread in Shopping and Cooking for the grocery section. Thanks to Mike for having the wisdom and expertise to divine this. I guess there would be a similar thing, too, for Wagshal's, Fairway, Eataly, etc - it's almost an unnatural division, but given the current structure of this website, these two forums dichotomize both aspects of places like this, and this probably makes the most sense. There is no final decision, and if anyone wants to write me with other suggestions of how to handle this type of situation, then please do. This is all pliable, and at the end of the day, what is most useful to people is what we'll have; we have to start somewhere, and I suppose this is as good a place as any.

So in summary, for now, if you want to eat and drink at Society Fair, come to this thread; if you want to shop at Society Fair, go to the Shopping and Cooking forum. And, who knows, if someone feels strongly about their retail wine selection, there could conceivably be a third thread in the Beer and Wine forum as well.]

Cheers,

Rocks

[You could add Wine Bar to the sub-title to make it clear(er).]

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Stopped in the other day for a quick bite with my daughter. We both had the braised beef shortrib sandwich and enjoyed them immensely...along with the pickled beets that came on the side. Kudos to our server who knew we were in a rush, so he very thoughtfully asked if I wanted to pay my bill before the sandwiches even arrived so we could leave as soon as we were finished eating.

Can't wait to hang at the wine bar one night when I have more time and enjoy the many other offerings.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Another shout out to breakfast at the Fair...

After barely dodging today’s heat with an early visit to the Old Town Farmer’s market, I walked the few blocks over to N. Washington Street. I discovered a solo diner’s breakfast nirvana, open at 7AM Saturdays and 8AM on Sundays. Granted, the selections are not extensive, but the quality is exceptional. Available choices include scones, quiche, muffins, and a few hot items such as warmed oatmeal and biscuit sandwiches. This morning’s egg, ham, and cheese biscuit (around $6) astounded me with deft seasoning, immense size, and rarely procurable ingredients. The flavors were upliftingly fresh and true, and I would have sworn the flour had been freshly milled. Gluten avoiders take note---you can order this without the biscuit and dine very well, especially with the accompanying salad and side dish selections from the cold case. Iced coffee (around $3) held no trace of bitterness, even more refreshing when mellowed with a splash of Trickling Springs milk.

After ordering at the cash register and awaiting your sandwich at the butcher counter, diners can sit anywhere in the venue. Arrive early, and only a few others will share your oasis of morning tranquility. If you choose a seat at the bar, you’ll marvel, as I did, at how it appears more like a showroom kitchen than the demo dinner prep station from a mere ten hours ago. The smallest of mindful touches greet the eye. Three aprons hang perfectly aligned on hooks just outside the chef’s walkway. Two wooden spoons in a jar cradle each other’s hollow, a sharp contrast to the errant antennae appearing on my own kitchen counter. I expressed marvel at the discipline behind such precise attention to detail, and posed a rhetorical question to a friendly staff member: “Who does that, in this day and age?”

“Chef Armstrong” he responded, with a knowing and admiring smile.

*kyung nae*

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just curious. What ingredients are rarely procurable?

I've been trying to come up with an apt catchphrase to designate ingredients one cannot zip down the street and procure at a standard supermarket or other convenient location. Ingredients found only at the better farmer's markets (limited day of week access), specialty shops (long distance or parking hassle access), other treasure troves. The idea I am trying to convey is not about quality; it's about not having the convenience through continual access to the ingredients unless one is lucky enough to live or work adjacent to such venues and vendors.

"Rarely procurable" doesn't quite capture it, but was the best I could come up with during this morning's post.

Wordsmiths: Any suggestions?

(new thread alert)

(moderators)

(have at it)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've been trying to come up with an apt catchphrase to designate ingredients one cannot zip down the street and procure at a standard supermarket or other convenient location. Ingredients found only at the better farmer's markets (limited day of week access), specialty shops (long distance or parking hassle access), other treasure troves. The idea I am trying to convey is not about quality; it's about not having the convenience through continual access to the ingredients unless one is lucky enough to live or work adjacent to such venues and vendors.

"Rarely procurable" doesn't quite capture it, but was the best I could come up with during this morning's post.

Wordsmiths: Any suggestions?

(new thread alert)

(moderators)

(have at it)

'Rarely procurable' has the connotation for me that if you find it, it's almost a once-in-a-lifetime find. For the situations that you describe, the phrase that comes to mind is: 'not readily procurable.' This suggests to me that while the ingredients are not easily found, they're far short of impossible to find.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've been trying to come up with an apt catchphrase to designate ingredients one cannot zip down the street and procure at a standard supermarket or other convenient location. Ingredients found only at the better farmer's markets (limited day of week access), specialty shops (long distance or parking hassle access), other treasure troves. The idea I am trying to convey is not about quality; it's about not having the convenience through continual access to the ingredients unless one is lucky enough to live or work adjacent to such venues and vendors.

"Rarely procurable" doesn't quite capture it, but was the best I could come up with during this morning's post.

Wordsmiths: Any suggestions?

(new thread alert)

(moderators)

(have at it)

Pretty sure that all hams are rare and pro-curable.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just a quick note on the evolving coffee program at SF. Met Portia (not sure if spelled correctly?) who's handling their coffee now after a stint at Northside Social. Portia rocks. She knows coffee, the local scene and how to make whatever espresso or pourover drink ordered. I'd thought they were an exclusive Ceremony spot but not exactly right. They have some limited Intelligentsia also and may add another local option or two. If ever there was a good match in terms of local businesses with like philosophies, Qualia is it. Qualia would be great supplying EatGoodFood Group or at least SF but know that might be too far for Joel. If not, Joel, call Portia!

Anyway, good and increasingly interesting joe made well happening at SF.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Maybe stressed, maybe short-staffed, maybe getting ready for a crowd later that night…but here’s what you don’t do when two sisters walk into your bar and sit down.

It was 5:45 on an early week night. We noticed a series of ornate purple signs that explained “Dinner event tonight; please enjoy these seats until 7PM but then make way for the event.” We planned to have a quick beverage, 30 minutes top, and thought no problem.

Once we sat, our immediate greeting was not a greeting, but what we took to be a stern reminder of the placard policy. We explained we were there for just a quick drink, and had dinner plans down the street.

The bartender proceeded to tend, but to all other matters such as vigorous cleaning and greeting other patrons. After around 15 minutes, we gave a pleading look to another staff member wandering by in the hopes they would help us and take our drink order. Instead, the second staff member came up to remind us of the timing policy, even though we had menus in hand and had been there a while. It was embarrassing, I had raved about the gracious hospitality and fun at Society Fair, this was my companion’s inaugural visit, and we were made to feel like intruders.

There are multiple ways to balance the need for earlier-evening patrons to comply with a timing policy, while not making them feel unwelcome. Tone is everything, and these encounters felt pushy and dismissive.

We were finally able to order and beverages arrived quickly. The cocktails were fantastic. The Bitter Beginning ($13), sharply poised via vodka and herbal-essence grapefruit, is an outstanding apéritif. My companion adored The Peach Gent, evoking honeysuckle, peach, and gin (also $13), and proclaimed it to be one of her favorite refreshments this year. We left long before the 7PM deadline arrived.

At that price point, and with the Armstrong reputation, such service was unexpected and unappreciated. I’m shaken, not stirred.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Nothing worse than having egg on your face after lauding a place. How embarassing. Did you talk to a manager?

No. Calling for one would have interrupted our dialogue, and brought the focus of the situation to the service rather than our conversation. I was in a conflict avoidance mode, and therefore brought some of this on myself---a manager can't rectify that which they cannot see.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That's a shame. I stopped by on Tuesday night before my Campagna Center meeting. Staff was very nice at offering me a seat or a spot at the bar. Sat at the bar and had two cocktails- the peach cocktail on the menu, which was delicious with lavender and gin, and then a homemade gin collins, with a bit of a twist that was also really refreshing. The bartenders were really nice and we joked around for a while. I got the mozz sandwich with roasted veggies and pesto which was a little messy, but very good and worth the dairy pill. The mozz wasn't too runny, but also not too firm, the veggies had a nice flavor and texture, there were the really good cured olives on the side. They were then getting ready for the demo dinner, which looks like it takes a good bit of work, but were still attentive and nice.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

No. Calling for one would have interrupted our dialogue, and brought the focus of the situation to the service rather than our conversation. I was in a conflict avoidance mode, and therefore brought some of this on myself---a manager can't rectify that which they cannot see.

Totally understand :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Maybe stressed, maybe short-staffed, maybe getting ready for a crowd later that night…but here’s what you don’t do when two sisters walk into your bar and sit down.

...

My previous experiences, those above, and the concerned response I received give me confidence my most recent bar experience was an anomaly.

In follow up to my post, I discovered my inbox contained a genuinely concerned PM offering an apology and a do-over. I may not be able to follow up for various reasons, but the sentiment was unexpected and most appreciated.

In the meantime, I'm likely to duck into the Fair again soon for a savory meal or to solve my ever-pressing terrine, interesting mustard, and tiny pickled tidbit cravings.

(pickles)

(if loving you is wrong, i don't wanna be right)

(hipsters be damned)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Society Fair is becoming my pre-meeting dinner routine. The very close proximity to the charity that I work for and ability to get street parking not far from makes it a very good location. Was there for a meeting the other night with another member of the charity. The just terrific bar staff remembered not only me, but what I drank last time, and what someone next to me drank last time and made it for me. So I had a really good pineapple cocktail with pineapple sparkling wine that was very happy and fun after a day in which I spent a great deal of being annoyed.

Co-chair met up with me and we had our meeting. Then we had a nice dinner with an appetizer of cheese, accompanied by a very interesting jam (cranberry something?) and a selection of their really good in house breads. The cheese was nicely varied a mild blue and I forget exactly what the two others were, but I liked them. We then had the salad of the day which was a nice piece of salmon, perfectly done so it was a bit crisp and nicely seared on the outside, but not overdone with a nice soft texture inside on a bed of roasted/marinated veggies with a side of lightly dressed greens. Although not what I expected when they said salad it was delicious and very well composed. It didn't feel to heavy and was just the right amount of food. Had a glass of their on tap chardonnay which I really liked,as well, it was smooth, not quite as oak-y as some chardonnays. I am normally not a big chardonnay girl, but this was up my alley. I would look up each component, but their website doesn't load well on my computer, likes my iphone doesn't like my PC. Sorry I normally try to be much more detailed oriented.

They were really nice about us having our meeting there and didn't rush us, but made sure glasses of water replenished and that we got drinks and food when things were getting empty. The only major problem is that I see this becoming addictive behavior for me. I always try to vary things up, but it is so convenient and the people there are so nice to me, and I can pick up cookies on the way out, eat one, take the rest for later. And when things get busy I can run by the market and get lunch for the next day for me too. Really way too convenient. Thank goodness they are not closer to my home or office or things would really get bad.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thursday French Steak Night is fantastic - garlicky Caesar salad, choice of ribeye, NY strip or filet with three different sauces, with the steaks cooked in butter and cast iron pans, and the night I went, creme caramel for dessert, all for 45 bucks plus tax and tip. Can't beat that with a stick. Excellent cocktails and wine but the service was a bit slow (they were training) I am so pleased I can get Stumptown Coffee in the adjoining shop (even though it is a very limited selection). Looking forward to coming back.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thursday French Steak Night is fantastic - garlicky Caesar salad, choice of ribeye, NY strip or filet with three different sauces, with the steaks cooked in butter and cast iron pans, and the night I went, creme caramel for dessert, all for 45 bucks plus tax and tip. Can't beat that with a stick. Excellent cocktails and wine but the service was a bit slow (they were training) I am so pleased I can get Stumptown Coffee in the adjoining shop (even though it is a very limited selection). Looking forward to coming back.

Isn't this amazing? I don't know how much longer Cathal is going to be making these steaks, but get there early, get a bar seat right in front of the stove, and enjoy it while it lasts.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Another great deal is the charcuterie happy hour plate which is an extremely generous portion of some of their housemade charcuterie and sliced meats. I had that with the arugula and goat cheese salad last night, which while very simple in terms of ingredients was executed really nicely.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Another great deal is the charcuterie happy hour plate which is an extremely generous portion of some of their housemade charcuterie and sliced meats. I had that with the arugula and goat cheese salad last night, which while very simple in terms of ingredients was executed really nicely.

How is the charcuterie relative to the B.J.S era?* Sounds like it is still very good but any differences noted? Who took over the program?

* Before Julien Shapiro, now Head Butcher at Range

Link to comment
Share on other sites

How is the charcuterie relative to the B.J.S era?* Sounds like it is still very good but any differences noted? Who took over the program?

* Before Julien Shapiro, now Head Butcher at Range

The rillette was certainly interesting, but interesting good not interesting crappy. It isn't like the one you get in the case, which tastes exactly like it did during the JS era. This one had either a really spicy mustard mixed in, or I want to say it was wasabi, it had this great taste that cut through some of the richness. I really liked it, a softer in texture than what you generally get in the pots on the market side. I didn't love the pate campagna as much, but I don't think I had their pate before. Just not enough flavor for the amount of fat, it was just ok, I like a more interesting pate though, for instance the pate campagne at Lyon Hall. Then there was a very generous portion of prosciutto and you just can't screw up prosciutto I think it was like 5 or 6 big thin slices. I have had both the rilette and chicken liver pate from the market side since the JS ear and both were pretty much the same. I should have checked if they were selling this rillette over in the market, it would be great on a sandwich.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mr. MV and I enjoyed breakfast at SF a couple Sat. ago. Mr. MV got the biscuit sandwich with bacon, and I got one with ham. Excellent biscuit. I'm not from the south*, so I can only comment that the biscuit was buttery, flaky, soft and amazing. Totally worth the calories.

Excellent lattes too.

I like that you can wander into the Demo Kitchen area and grab a table. I'm looking forward to enjoying the outdoor seating (wonder if they allow dogs.. hmm (we like to bring one along to the markets afterwards)).

*Mr. MV and I lived in Richmond for a few years and have a familiarity with Southern foods from that experience. We are always on the lookout for excellent biscuit egg sandwiches that rival those at Strawberry St. Cafe's Market in The Fan.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mr. MV and I enjoyed breakfast at SF a couple Sat. ago. Mr. MV got the biscuit sandwich with bacon, and I got one with ham. Excellent biscuit. I'm not from the south*, so I can only comment that the biscuit was buttery, flaky, soft and amazing. Totally worth the calories.

Excellent lattes too.

I like that you can wander into the Demo Kitchen area and grab a table. I'm looking forward to enjoying the outdoor seating (wonder if they allow dogs.. hmm (we like to bring one along to the markets afterwards)).

*Mr. MV and I lived in Richmond for a few years and have a familiarity with Southern foods from that experience. We are always on the lookout for excellent biscuit egg sandwiches that rival those at Strawberry St. Cafe's Market in The Fan.

I have seen plenty of dogs there and have taken mine there, folks usually keep them outside of the fenced in area.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

We visited Society Fair this evening, not knowing what to expect because the website doesn't really make it clear what is where and how to deal with it (or it could be my ineptitude). When we arrived we learned it was market on the right, restaurant on the left.

As my SO was parking the car because the Lyceum warning signs scared me enough to make him park elsewhere, I ordered the Whiskey and Wine cocktail. The whiskey was definitely in there, but I thought it was more of a fall cocktail because of the influence of the cloves and star anise. He ordered the Malbec and liked it. We ordered the bread and butter, but because it hadn't arrived when the entrees did we cancelled it. He got the meatloaf (mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts) and I ordered the steak salad. We both noticed that the meat parts of the entrees were cold. My salad and dressing were good and his sides were too, but when the main parts are cold it puts a damper on each dish. I liked the meatloaf I sampled.

For dessert he got the Macchiato, which he enjoyed, and we split the Afternoon Delight. Dare I say I could probably make it myself?

Would I go back again? Yes. But I'd order differently to see what else they can do. He was a bit disappointed, though.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Fan-flippin-tastic.

The past two times I’ve ventured to Society Fair, I’ve not been a huge fan. Circumstance has found me dressed more casually, a choice for which I should admittedly be more willing to bear the social consequence. That being said, I have been treated with indifference, ignored in favor of diners who appeared to be bigger spenders, dulling my overall impressions.

Tonight's experience flipped that impression on it’s head. The Light Horse was hosting a beer event in the dining room, so we needed another local and casual option. We were once again dressed in post-apocalyptic/gym world fashion, but ventured into Society Fare to see if we could grab a few seats. Not only were bar stools ample, but we encountered friendly, enthusiastic service and a parade of masterfully executed dishes.

Whiskey and Wine ($13) is a B&B lover’s dream, served room temperature, heady with cardamom and warm citrus fire. I definitely agree with Lovehockey's assessment that this drink evokes Autumn. My palate adores this exact flavor profile, and fell in deep admiration.

Pork rillettes ($9) was far better when paired with the mound of bitter frisee than the accompanying baguette. Was that a whisper of horseradish in the mix? A revelatory carrot soup featured a thick shock of orange color, mysteriously deep flavor, and perfect serving temperature. Mussels chowder ($9), an immense portion, showcased sweet cream, brine-enhanced potato, and Virginia ham, with fascinatingly congruent micro-diced chives. Beef bourguignon, a triumph, mirrored an enticing shellac of red wine reduction surrounding fall-apart tender beef. Deftly seasoned, perfectly caramelized cioppino onions held accompanying court with braised, thinly sliced carrots. Today’s seasonal cake, all by itself, would be worth the visit, a butter and bay leaf layer cake barely kissed with sweetness, edging into savory and unstoppable.

A minor service quibble in that our second course arrived well before we finished our first course, but it happened to result in no temperature or other flavor consequences.

A cocktail, glass and a half of wine, several beers, three courses shared for two, $110 plus tip. Monday is the day to fan-up and get reacquainted with the Fair. From a personalized service perspective, I think the day of the week dramatically matters here.

(no mole bitters in the store, alas)

(but on the way out the door)

(we saw several more)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I tend to avoid posting about negative experiences, but Society Fair served up such an expensive abomination of a sandwich to me last Saturday, that I am saying something about it here, in hopes it will result in some corrective action at the sandwich station. I was heading down to Dyke Marsh to pick J. up after his morning bird walk and we were going to hit the road immediately, headed toward North Carolina. I stopped at Society Fair to pick up a sandwich to eat in the car. I ordered a "Walter"--a roast turkey sandwich served on baguette. I asked that it instead be made on sandwich bread, because I didn't want to deal with showers of crumbs in the car from the baguette crust. Big mistake. First, my request was ignored and the sandwich was made on baguette. When I reminded them that I had asked that it be made on sandwich bread, they remade it, wrapped it up, and I paid and left. I think it cost $9. We were already some distance from downtown Alexandria when I opened the package to find bread so dry and stale that the top piece had cracked in the middle. There was no mayonnaise or any other dressing to moisten the dry bread and the few slices of white meat turkey, a slice of cheese and a couple of shreds of lettuce. I ended up discarding the bread and eating the innards. It was possibly the worst sandwich I have ever been served, especially considering its high price. Big tsk tsk.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Another shout out to breakfast at the Fair...

...The smallest of mindful touches greet the eye. Three aprons hang perfectly aligned on hooks just outside the chef’s walkway. Two wooden spoons in a jar cradle each other’s hollow, a sharp contrast to the errant antennae appearing on my own kitchen counter. I expressed marvel at the discipline behind such precise attention to detail, and posed a rhetorical question to a friendly staff member: “Who does that, in this day and age?”

“Chef Armstrong” he responded, with a knowing and admiring smile.

Both of the past two weekends, I've found myself having breakfast at the Fair after the Old Town Farmer's Market. I stand behind my original sentiment that this can be a pleasant, inexpensive, and unusual environment in which to enjoy your breakfast with a friend.

A few caveats since my last post:

  • The attention to detail is not what it used to be. The careful, precise, borderline obsessive-but-appreciated placement of overnight storage items has left the building, replaced by neat, tidy, yet unremarkable upkeep.
  • Go early. This is important. Do not plan to be there past 10AM. That's when the lunch service prep begins. And that includes ICE GRINDING. An intolerable, can't-hear-my-companion-talk, my-gawds-make-it-stop, I-must-be-trapped-inside-a-rock-polisher ICE GRINDING. Granted, this task must be completed at this precise time each weekend, otherwise fresh ice would not be available for the condiments. But it turns the dining room into a din of an echo chamber, not a place you or anyone else would want to enjoy breakfast. Plan to vacate no later than 10AM.
  • Do plan to bus your own table. I was shocked with the wording on new tabletop signs that read "Lunch Service begins at 11AM. Please clean up (or was it pickup?) after yourself." The wording struck me as the admonishing mother-wags-finger tone often found on the door of a workplace microwave, not the way you would address welcomed guests. However, as much complaining as I'm doing about the placards, a prepping server offered to bus our table, a sign that the staff here are focusing on service, delivering above and beyond hospitality moments.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Do plan to bus your own table. I was shocked with the wording on new tabletop signs that read "Lunch Service begins at 11AM. Please clean up (or was it pickup?) after yourself." The wording struck me as the admonishing mother-wags-finger tone often found on the door of a workplace microwave, not the way you would address welcomed guests

I haven't found the signage offensive because you basically have the run of the place so I can see how plates etc. can be left on the tables in the bistro area, whereas in the main store area, it seems a bit more intuitive to bus because you see the station.

If that makes any sense?

My problem with the signage is that I get hungry for the weeknight specials while I'm eating a butter-laden biscuit sandwich :wacko:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I haven't found the signage offensive because you basically have the run of the place so I can see how plates etc. can be left on the tables in the bistro area, whereas in the main store area, it seems a bit more intuitive to bus because you see the station.

If that makes any sense?

My problem with the signage is that I get hungry for the weeknight specials while I'm eating a butter-laden biscuit sandwich :wacko:

Oh, the "bus your own table" guidance is a fair policy, for sure. If there is no table service/tip situation, people should be expected to clear their own plates. My shock was directed at the phrasing.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yesterday Society Fair had a crawfish boil that was actually quite pleasant.  A pound of boiled crawfish, which is a small amount for a crawfish boil, served the correct way, with boiled corn, potatoes, cipollini onions, and andouille sausage. Drinks for the occasion included Abita Springs beer and a very well made Sazerac cocktail.  Louisiana music, of course.

We haven't been down to Louisiana for a crawfish boil in a long, long time but annually attend the Louisiana State Society crawfish boil at the Navy Yard park.  This year the Louisiana State Society crawfish, while much more plentiful, and, indeed, all you can eat, were not very tasty, well seasoned but overcooked, and many of them had a sort of blackish patina that I associate with roadside ditches. Very high percentage with straight tails, which means they were dead or near dead when boiled, and had to be discarded.

In contrast, the Society Fair crawfish were sweet, fresh, and clean.  Only one with a straight tail out of two servings, which happens even in Louisiana. They may have even been purged, they were that clean.  I don't think they were Belle River crawfish, which is the epitome of crawfish, but much better than I have had in years.

Larry, apparently a chef?, is from Slaughter, Louisiana, not far from my home town of Baton Rouge.  He definitely did it right.  I believe the corn was local Silver Queen, much more delicate and sweet than the tougher yellow corn one usually gets.  The andouille was better than average.  The cipollini onions were a nice touch.  Everything well spiced.  We would definitely do this again.

Our waiter said that Larry was thinking about doing this again in November, which seems odd.  Crawfish season does not really start until January, and corn will not be in season.  They are small in January, don't get to a good size until the spring, and by June and July, tend to be tough. Nevertheless, if they cook it, we will come.

I hope they consider getting Belle River crawfish next time, and ordering andouille direct from LaPlace, the andouille capitol of the world.  Also, it would be nice to be able to add more crawfish to the order rather than a second order.  Corn and potatoes are all very nice, but the point of a crawfish boil is crawfish.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A couple weekend's ago we went to Society Fair with Max, we got sandwiches to eat in and a number of take home goodies.  I was happy they moved the Pope's Lunch from old Virtue, it is such a good sandwich.  Matt loves their shortrib sandwich.  Of the take away goodies, the Guatemalan tamales were great, the piece of strawberry basil cake didn't hold up well in the fridge even for a day.  I also liked their kale salad.  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You would think with everyone that lives on Columbia Pike and in that area it would be a busy area, but it seems to me there are a lot of places that went in there that are struggling- RedRocks is now doing delivery, Taq Poblano Lee Harris does discounts if you will go to their Columbia Pike location.  As both my husband and I work in Alexandria area and end up doing a lot of stuff in that area we end up at the Alexandria locations so often we don't go to the Arlington location often.    

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You would think with everyone that lives on Columbia Pike and in that area it would be a busy area, but it seems to me there are a lot of places that went in there that are struggling- RedRocks is now doing delivery, Taq Poblano Lee Harris does discounts if you will go to their Columbia Pike location.  As both my husband and I work in Alexandria area and end up doing a lot of stuff in that area we end up at the Alexandria locations so often we don't go to the Arlington location often.    

I agree about the difficulties in this new Penrose development.  Not sure why, but I've noted that the businesses in this development (including Red Rocks and T. Poblano) seem to be struggling quite a bit whereas Bangkok 54, Drafthouse, Bob and Edith's, etc. continue to do brisk business.

That said, I think that Society Fair's closing is mostly due to their own failings.  I absolutely love the Old Town location, and I think it was foolish to try and bring an outpost of that into such a small space.  They had an inconsistent menu (and lacked dinner options), they had almost zero seating (besides the bar), the "market" aspect was a complete afterthought (occasional prepared/packaged foods in the cooler, but not even a fraction of the variety or quality of what they have at Old Town), and service was awful (the high schoolers working there would outright ignore you).  I think they would have been better served by straying from the Society Fair image a bit and getting creative with the space.  It just doesn't feel like they tried very hard in this location.

I continue to go to the Old Town location on a very regular basis for their excellent bakery and butcher shop.  Still miss when Julien was working there.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Grab and go dinner last week included a cold cooked chicken breast, their kale salad, curried cauliflower.  I know this sounds completely stupid, but it was great to be able to have a cooked chicken breast, as many of their grab and go options don't have that much protein.  I didn't want a salad, and this was so much more than a salad, although probably technically still a salad.  This is such a convenient spot for me to grab dinner before board meetings, so I like it when they change up their selections.  They also had cooked sliced meatloaf which I will get another time.  They would probably have heated up the chicken for me, but I actually prefer it cold sometimes in a salad.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I feel like the loss of their catering manager was a big loss.  We worked with her and really liked her.  I think their events went really well with her experience.  Parking also really didn't help this space, there was just not enough parking, and it was just far enough outside of where a lot of bigger offices are and the tourist web that the walk was just a little too far.  I will really miss this place, I really liked it.  Their grab and go items that were very vegetable focused were great.  I feel like if they had come along a little later, when uber eats/door dash were more established and built up a delivery following that would have helped.  But I feel like this is a big loss for Old Town in a lot of ways, especially that part of Old Town.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

21 hours ago, ktmoomau said:

But I feel like this is a big loss for Old Town in a lot of ways, especially that part of Old Town.

I wholeheartedly agree, and it leads me to an unfortunate observation about Old Town. As an avid home cook, I used to very regularly shop in Old Town for meats at the phenomenal Butcher's Block, kitchen equipment and specialty goods (Italian flour, beans, grains, spices) at La Cuisine, bread and cheese at La Fromegerie, and a variety of goods at Society Fair.  Over time, BB closed. La Cuisine closed. La Fromegerie stopped its retail component and switched to a restaurant. And now SF will likely close. If it does, I don't imagine I'll make it over to Old Town much anymore, and that's unfortunate. 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well it seems like they are staying alive- for now.  We went on their "last" evening and they weren't running any bottle specials, so I figured they weren't closing.  Service was ackingly slow, as the bartenders were also servers and it was busy, but I am sure they are trying to keep expenses as low as they can.  The food was good.  I treated myself and ate some fries, which were excellent.  I also had seafood stew, which was good.  Friends brought snacks to a winery on Sunday from there, so maybe they have a chance.  I really hope so, it just seems like it is going to be a difficult road.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...