The best chefs know that in order to create culinary masterpieces, you have to start with the very best ingredients. That's why many choose to do their weekly shopping at the cornucopia of farmers markets in our region. If you're looking to up your game in the kitchen, take a page from the professionals' shopping list and head to market. These four chefs are seasoned veterans of the farmers market scene. Here are their picks for this season:
Chef Amy Brandwein of Centrolina
- Market: CityCenterDC FRESHFARM Market
- Open: Tuesdays, 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. (May 3rd through October 25th)
- Location: I Street Northwest between 10th and 11th Streets
Chef Brandwein's dedication to fresh, high-quality products is evident from Centrolina's retail market featuring specialty and house-made items as well as local produce, meat, cheese, and seafood. She practices what she preaches by shopping for the restaurant's fresh produce at the CityCenterDC FRESHFARM Market. During the spring, she looks for salad greens, ramps, spring garlic, and kale from Barajas Produce. In the early summer, pluots, apricots, and berries from Black Rock Orchard are at the top of her shopping list. The pluots and apricots find their way into seafood crudos, while ramps are used in pesto for sheep's milk ricotta raviolo, and spring onions are wrapped in grilled pancetta.
Chef David Guas of Bayou Bakery
- Market: Arlington Farmers Market
- Open: Saturdays, 8 a.m. - 12 p.m. (April - December); Saturdays, 9 a.m. - 12 p.m. (January - April)
- Location: Arlington County Courthouse Parking Lot: North Courthouse Road and North 14th Street
For the past five years, Chef Guas has been frequenting the Arlington Farmers Market because of its wide selection of produce and pasture-raised pork. By now, he knows the vendors extremely well, and many of them visit Bayou Bakery for a pick-me-up before the market opens. Some of his favorite stands include Westmoreland Farms, Potomac Vegetable Farms, Toigo Orchards, and Eco-Friendly Foods. This time of year, Chef Guas shops for goat cheese, honey, and asparagus for a seasonal salad of Charred Red Honey, Blanched Asparagus, Goat Cheese, and Lemon Vinaigrette. The asparagus is also the star of the Cream of Asparagus Soup. Soon, he'll be picking up armfuls of fresh strawberries for pies and jams.
Chef Nora Pouillon of Restaurant Nora
- Market: Dupont Circle FRESHFARM Market
- Open: Sundays, 10 a.m. - 1 p.m. (January - March); Sundays, 8:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. (April - December)
- Location: 20th Street Northwest between Massachusetts Avenue and Hillyer Place
Chef Pouillon was one of the biggest catalysts in starting D.C.'s first producer-only farmers market, FRESHFARM Markets, which has since grown to 13 locations. As a trailblazer and champion of the local and organic movement, she has had close relationships with farmers around the region since the 1970s and helped bring them to the market. She still sits on the FRESHFARM board, and regularly shops at the closest market to her restaurant - Dupont Circle - for just about anything she could need for her rotating menus. During the spring, she loves to buy snow peas, sugar snap peas, baby spinach, arugula, new carrots, radishes, and more. One of her favorite vendors is Next Step Produce, which is certified organic and has all types of produce, grains, and even unusual finds like pickled ginger.
Chef Danny Wells of Republic
- Market: Takoma Park Farmers Market
- Open: Sundays, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. (year-round)
- Location: Laurel Avenue
Just 20 feet from Republic, the Takoma Park Farmers Market has a great variety of vendors that Chef Wells loves, but it's still small enough that shoppers can engage with the farmers. He relies heavily on the beef, lamb, and eggs from Smith Meadows, which he calls "the best grass-fed meat provider on the East Coast." Chef Wells also stocks up on fruit (like apples for an apple pie doughnut, pears, peaches, and berries) from Black Rock Orchards and sauerkraut (for roast beef paninis) from Number 1 Sons, a company specializing in all things fermented. He occasionally sets up a booth at market himself to showcase some of the restaurant's seasonal dishes.