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

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[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.

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[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

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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).]

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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.

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Nothing like stopping by early in the day on a weekend to grab one of the breakfast biscuits and a coffee. Egg and cheddar on biscuit, and you can choose to add ham or bacon, if you like. So buttery and good.

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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*

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This morning’s egg, ham, and cheese biscuit (around $6) astounded me with deft seasoning, immense size, and rarely procurable ingredients.

Just curious. What ingredients are rarely procurable?

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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)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 :)

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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)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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After having a few of the sandwiches here the D.Q.M. W (Braised Beef Shoulder | Horseradish | Spicy Pickled Leeks | Ciabattini) runs a close second behind My Turkish Cousin.

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