15 Dec 2015


Holiday Shopping Idea: Union Kitchen

IMG_8826 2It’s December 15 across the land. This means you technically have 9 shopping days until Christmas. You missed the boat on Hanukkah, but it’s the thought that counts; Kwanzaa is 11 days away; and you can give gifts up until January 6th because that’s when the Magi supposedly brought presents to baby Jesus.

But let us be honest: gift-giving should happen every day, and you should give gifts to the most important people in your life, which definitely starts with treating yourself. And what better way to treat yourself than with some of the best and most innovative food, drink, sweets, and some of the best coffee around? You can find all these #MadeinDC treasures –packaged in beautiful, eye-catching ways– at Union Kitchen.

Union Kitchen started as a small food incubator in 2013, at 1110 Congress Street NE in NoMa, after what can only be described as a Goldilocks kind of situation took place: Blind Dog Café, 944 Florida Avenue NW, was unable to keep up with customers’ demands for its signature chocolate chip cookie. The kitchen was suddenly too small. This forced owners Jonas Singer and Cullen Gilchrist to seek a commercial kitchen. The kitchen space they found became too big, but gave them the idea to seek like-minded small businesses and startups to share the kitchen. The result was just right. Union Kitchen is now a membership-based hub for some of the best locally-made food around.

Back in October, I was treated (pun intended) to sample the goods at their newest production digs in Ivy City, 1369 New York Avenue NE. All of the products I sampled are available either at the (extremely adorable) Union Kitchen Grocery, 538 3rd Street NE, or through the retailers themselves. You can click on this link to check out a list of the members and know that they are all pretty much amazing.

For instance, those delectably fluffy biscuits from Mason-Dixie Biscuit Co.? They are waiting for you at the grocery AND! they are also available for your pigging-out needs at Union Market, 1309 5th Street NE, where they have a stall. (Who can eat just one… dozen?)

Among the many delicious offerings at Ivy City, one still sticks out in my mind– and to my teeth, because I am still eating some of the sample caramels from Surcee Confections, months after the event. (Thank you for your generosity, Surcee, and for turning a blind eye when I was literally stuffing my pockets!) I am a sucker for caramel, but I am mystified as to how these little morsels manage to pack so many beautiful, evocative flavors into tiny lumps of sugar and milk. My favorite was the pineapple one. And the coconut one. And the sea-salt one.

There are a few Union Kitchen retailers who now have their own bricks-and-mortar stores, as well. So, if you’re feeling like indulging your sweet tooth but, say, skipping the lines at a certain new fancy sweets-slinger in town whose business name sounds like Silk Car, you can check out RareSweets at CityCenter DC, 963 Palmer Alley NW, and keep it local. (Just sayin’.)

For your visual perusal, a few photos from the October event, along with my gushing descriptions of the products. Gift ideas, I will give you them. I wish I could feature all of the vendors, but just know that any of the local offerings you find at the grocery or through the Union Kitchen vendors are solid and delicious and you won’t be disappointed. You will also be hailed as a hero and receive praise from our local government (I mean, I assume so), especially since your tireless Ward 6 Councilmember is introducing legislation to help promote locally manufactured goods.

You will generally be deemed a deity for your superior gift-giving ability and thoughtfulness. #ShopLocal

Wild Roots Apothecary syrup and Rye. 5/5, Recommend. Would drink again but probably not at the beginning of an event, as navigation across the kitchen space became quite tricky. No, YOU try walking around a crowded room with one of these in you while you balance your notes, your cell phone, an umbrella, a rain coat, and two plates full of samples on unsteady hands. Not pictured: the delicious shrubs made by Element, which have amazing and surprising flavor combinations. Really excellent.

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The absolutely delicious Capital Kombucha kept me hydrated and provided a beautiful rainbow of color. What more can you ask for in your health drink? FYI kombucha connoisseurs: This kombucha has a much milder taste than other commercially available kombuchas. I find this pleasing, but as I am not an expert, this offering may ignite controversy.

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Biscuit biscuit biscuit biscuit biscuit biscuit biscuit biscuit (Mason-Dixie). It’s like staring into the divine.

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Vegan beet burgers from DC Vegan chef: delicious even to this avowed hater of beets. Also pictured, biscuit, vegan hand roll from Whirled Peas Kitchen, so this photo is only 2/3 vegan but 3/3 delicious.

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Ray Roundtree’s marinades were so tasty, they made me wish I’d had more room in my stomach to just sit and eat all the chicken. All of it. Real. Delightful.

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One of the prettiest food displays at the event, Dress It Up Dressing features some of the prettiest packaging as well: dainty couture sketches with clothes made out of edibles. Their offerings are really tasty and would make some very thoughtful hostess gifts. Perfect for your relative who loves fashion sketches and salad, whom up until now has been impossible to shop for. You’re welcome.

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