New York City has Mario Batali‘s Eataly, now Alexandria, VA, has Cathal Armstrong and his wife and business partner Meshelle Armstrong‘s Society Fair – an emporium of fine foods. The Armstrongs have added five restaurants to the city since 2004; Restaurant Eve, Eamonn’s A Dublin Chipper, PX, The Majestic, and Virtue Feed & Grain. Society Fair opened in late 2011.
Super Chef checked out the new spread, focusing on the butchery, though Society Fair also includes a bakery and a wine bar with a ‘demo’ kitchen for cooking classes, and plenty of specialty foods and kitchen products. Since it is close to Valentine’s Day, there were lovely gift items, including chocolates, and cute cake decorating kits for sale, as well as slate boards for cheese service. The coffee is excellent, perfect with Society Fair’s pastries and cakes.
Society Fair is a vast space, 7,000 square feet with a high pressed tin ceiling. It feels like a Belle Epoque, late Victorian shop and café – or one of the food halls at Fortnum & Mason. There is plenty of room – to cruise around the lovely displays of cookies and stand at the espresso bar for a shot. The wine bar is vast room next to the main hall – perfect for a sandwich or drink in the evening.
The butcher’s case was full of meats not usually available around the Washington DC area. The butchery is under partner Dan Fisher, but Super Chef was shown around capably by butcher Julien Shapiro. He showed off the Randall Lineback cuts including an expertly tied roast, as well as a full carcass of this heritage animal that is being raised in Virginia. Super Chef ased Julien about what he is most proud of:
I am proud of the pork & quince pâté en croûte, smoked saucisson à l’ail, Randall Lineback rindswurst (all beef, cooked sausage), boudin blanc de Mans (all pork with fatback, rice and onions) as well as the leafy-greens sausage (saucisse verte), breakfast sausage, duck & prune as well as the duck pâté with green peppercorns, pistachios and rum soaked raisins. I will have ballotine de volaille (chicken ballotine with gizzards) and pork liver pâté in aspic this weekend.
The boudin are light and plump with plenty of flavor. Even the breakfast sausages were winners.