I went to DC this past weekend to see my pal James get hitched, and thought I’d check out where the fresh mozz gets made below the Mason-Dixon. I departed from out slightly dingy hostel for the only promised land for foodies in the District: Eastern Market.
Eastern Market refers to both the expansive brick building where purveyors hock their wares and the surrounding neighborhood, a sleepy, cozy area near Capitol Hill. Built in 1873 as a city-supported market, it’s protected by the National Registry of Historic Places.
Until April 2007, when fire accosted the structure. Part of the roof caved in.
It’s currently being rebuilt, but in the meantime the city has erected a temporary structure known as the “East Hall” near the original grounds. It retains the lofty space-feel of the place, and serves as host to the same vendors. My favorite is the Bowers Fancy Dairy Products, run by Ray and Tessa Bowers, a Polish family that has been importing cheese to DC since 1964.
This family distributes samples generously and with zest. I sampled a surprisingly tangy goat’s milk gouda (decidedly different from it’s Dutch cow’s milk counterpart) and a gouda/parmesan hybrid with a woodsy flavor. If you stand there for 15 minutes you will be full. And in awe of their massive cheese plains.
In addition to the imported cheeses the Bowers’ also carry domestic, local cheese from nearby Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Cherry Glen raises award-winning goats in Boyds, Maryland, and features both fresh and aged chèvres (fresh is the more crumbly, tart of the two, aged chèvre takes on a creamier, lava-like texture with a stronger nose). They also manage a goat’s milk ricotta (a whey cheese from cows, sheep, or water buffalo) which makes use of apple cider vinegar to achieve the grainy consistency. The Glen Farm only uses microbial rennet, which is to say it’s vegetarian-safe.
My favorite part, the item that floored me, was the 5lb butter lumps in the display case. They measure 3x3x12. Woof.