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I’d like to take a few moments to talk about a trend that my food-writing colleague, Metrocurean, touched upon earlier this year: upscale corner markets. You know the places. Neighborhood bodegas, those little shops of marginal quality, which have nonetheless helped us stock our pantries for years, long before the major grocery chains decided D.C. was a viable market after all.
If you haven’t noticed, these tiny bodegas have been undergoing a transformation. I first spotted the change a couple of years ago at Whitelaw Market on the corner of 13th and T streets NW, where, among the usual processed dry goods and American six-packs, you could now find imported English cookies, French wines, and U.S. microbrews. It seemed like a smart move: As the neighborhoods gentrify, the corner markets start catering to their refined tastes.
A couple of months ago, my friend Jim told me about the P&C Market. Located at 1023 E. Capitol St. SE, P&C has, as it claims on its Facebook page, “brought the quintessential European market to the heart of Capitol Hill.” Despite its insistence on aligning itself with European refinement, as if America didn’t have reasons for turning to mass food production during and after the war, the market does have plenty of charms, which are found almost exclusively on the shelves.
One Sunday afternoon, Carrie and I wandered over to P&C for a cup of coffee and a quick look around. We ended up sampling wines, buying a quart of Trickling Springs milk, drooling over the fresh breads from Bonaparte, and bemoaning the fact that we couldn’t buy a croissant, which Jim said was one of the best around. P&C had sold out already.
Last week, I talked to co-owner Brett Freeman, P&C’s director of sourcing for food and wine. He told me about some of the other items P&C carries: Mariage Frères loose leaf teas, chocolates from Michel Cluizel and Askinosie, bagels and scones from Uptown Bakery, various beef and pork products from Polyface Farms, coffee beans from Central Roasters, and a variety of artisinal cheeses from New York and elsewhere. Oh and this: P&C offers a line of gourmet sandwiches, too.
Would it surprise you to learn that Freeman is a Culinary Institute of America grad who once worked for Yannick Cam at Le Paradou?
Would it also surprise you to learn that none of P&C’s owners actually live on Capitol Hill? Despite this fact, Freeman and his partners, Chase Alan Moore and Pablo Espitia, have become fixtures in the Capitol Hill community. The owners even hosted a pig roast recently to celebrate P&C’s first year of operation, even though the anniversary doesn’t actually occur until Dec. 15. The guys just wanted to make sure they had good weather. Talk about being neighborly.
Don’t be surprised, however, if the threesome expands their upscale bodega concept to other neighborhoods. “If the right property comes along, we might,” says Freeman.
Photo by Lou Cantolupo