Home, wherever that may be for you, is where many go to celebrate the holiday season. This is the time of family, food and sharing. It’s also the time for shopping and putting a new spin on traditional holiday recipes. Recently, Jihanne, a writer based in Washington DC, decided to make a stop at Union Market to discover what a few food vendors like to give to others this holiday season. Keep reading to follow Jihanne through the smells and tastes of Union Market, to find out locals’ favorite holiday recipes and to discover how each dish can end up on your family table this year!
Union Market in Washington DC
Opened in 2011, Union Market houses over thirty artisans who sell mainly foodstuffs and prepared foods. Walking through this busy warehouse, one finds stalls busy with workers selling their wares to the public. Here, shoppers ask questions about products and laugh over drinks with friends at a kiosk-fashioned restaurant. One can easily find a one-of-a-kind boutique on Georgetown’s Wisconsin Avenue or purchase seafood on the wharf in Southwest’s Waterfront. In Union Market, however, you can discover these things (and more!) in a single location. This place is a home for one-stop shopping.
Monica Grover and her husband, Ivan Fitzgerald, are the dynamic duo behind Bazaar Spices. With a love and passion for food, family and community, starting their own business together seemed a natural step for them to take. She and Ivan quit their jobs to travel the world a few years ago, learning from local markets in Peru and India before starting their own business back home in Washington DC. Today, Bazaar Spices provides exotic ingredients to locals looking to make delicacies like these spiced wedding cookies pictured above.
Spiced Mexican Wedding Cookies – The Recipe
Monica says that baking-spices such as nutmeg, cardamom and cocoa powder are always a good idea during the holiday season, and her favorite dish to make with her two-year-old twin boys is sugar cookies. With a shop that houses some of the most exotic spices in the world, she and her family enjoy following recipes like this one for Spiced Mexican Wedding Cookies, made of cinnamon, vanilla, cardamom and cloves.
Bazaar Spices has so many different kinds of grains, spices and flavors from different parts of the world, it’s a good thing that they’ll have a bigger space soon. In December, they’re opening a brick and mortar location for Bazaar Spices in the old Atlantic Plumbing Building. If you find yourself shopping in the Shaw neighborhood of DC this holiday season, check them out!
My second stop was a vegan raw foods bar called Goshen, named after the biblical land in Egypt. The owner, Nathaniel Adams, waved me over to try a few samples. Their Pumpkin Surprise is incredible, made of raw carrots, ginger, cashews, almonds, and organic maple syrup. When I asked, “Where is the pumpkin,” the manager Marcus laughed and said, “That’s the surprise! There is no pumpkin!”
Though Goshen creates and sells delicious, holiday-friendly raw foods and desserts, Nathaniel tells me one of his favorite holiday dishes to make that isn’t vegan (so everyone can relate). His Mac and Cheese, made with shrimp, lobster and three types of cheeses that range from mild to sharp, is similar to Emeril’s Seafood Mac and Cheese. If you want a vegan option of his favorite dish, try this Creamy Vegan Mac & Cheese by the incredible vegan blogger Em.
Finally, I visited one of my favorite stalls, Puddin’, a Cajun and Creole eatery. Puddin’ sells savory items like Shrimp and Grits and Chicken and Beef Sausage Gumbo, holiday specials such as their Chocolate Pudding with Bacon flavor, and their famous bread pudding. As I waited to speak with Mike Mims, an employee and family member of the Puddin’ owner, I asked curious shoppers to taste a sample of the Brown Butter Bourbon Bread Pudding and see their reactions.
Owned by Toyin Ali, Puddin’ has the best bread pudding anyone has ever tasted. The first time I noticed the mini-sandwich board on the counter yelling the words ‘’BROWN BUTTER BOURBON BREAD PUDDING” to me, I could not resist. Anything with brown butter tastes fantastic. With this said, I urge you to try making some bread pudding this holidays if you can’t make it to Puddin’ stall or food truck (Even though Mike, too, advocates Mac and Cheese). I don’t know if you can beat Puddin’s pudding, but you can give it a shot with this recipe for Pecan, Bourbon, and Butterscotch Bread Pudding that’s similar – but oh-so-different.
I noticed Mike’s effervescence when I approached him and wanted to know what inspired him to work at Puddin’ everyday. He told me he wakes up everyday feeling good and eager to work. He has a love for the food they sell, the repeat customers, and the relaxed family vibe that all the vendors evoke at Union Market. He had the same love when I asked him what ‘home’ means to him. He smiled and said DC is a feeling, “that goosebump feeling that keeps you cultured.”
Looking around Union Market, I could feel exactly what he means.
Jihanne Fils-Aime lives in Washington, D.C., where she enjoys good food, farmers' markets, and concerts. She hopes to one day have a kitchen like Ina Garten.