Enter the Fair

Chef Cathal Armstrong’s wine bar and market, Society Fair, is my fantasy food trip down the rabbit hole of “epicurean delights.”

“Love thy Butcher.” From fish to fowl, the butchery at Society Fair has nearly every meat  product one can imagine- even those that can make most of us a little queasy: whole chickens, eggs,  organic turkey, squab and quail, antelope and boar, suckling pig and goat, cooking fats such as duck, lard, clarified butte, head cheese, blood sausage,  and of course, innards and offal ( liver, tripe, kidneys, brain)

“Curds and whey, toe of Gummy Frog – you never know what magic you might find at the Society Fair Market.”  The market features homemade cheeses, pickles, curds, yoghurt and puff pastries, as well as sandwiches made to order like the Andouille sausage with etouffee on potato roll or lamb shoulder with lemon yoghurt and spinach on flatbread.

“Fairy cakes and donuts…”  Baguettes, ciabatta, challah, foccacia, nicoise sour olive, Old Town sour, potato rosemary, fresh hot chocolate, almond and cheese croissants, naan, bagels….more and more and more still. Fluffy cakes and sweet treats come from the Majestic and Restaurant Eve. Below is a recipe for buttermilk tarts, created by Society Fair’s own, Nathan Hatfield.

“Baguette in hand, stroll over to our wine bar…” and meet the “Big Bad”…cheese of course, which is a board composed of meat, cheese and other SF favorite nibbles. “The Cheese Touch” for those in a cheesier mood unites a selection of  cow, goat, sheep, blue and…stinky? And zee wine. The Bodegas Pujanza Rioja from Laguardia, Spain off the wine menu immediately caught my eye:  sweet-n-sour cherry,cranberry,mushrooms,roasted chestnuts,modern, and claret-esque. And with 120 win selections, there is certainly room for other winners.

Buttermilk Tart Recipe adapted from Nathan Hatfield, Society Fair, Alexandria, VA


Flaky Pie Dough 

  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
  • 2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ cup ice water


  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 2½ tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • ¼ cup buttermilk
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract


  1.  Make the dough: In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour and butter on medium-low speed, mixing until the largest butter pieces are the size of small peas. Turn off the mixer. Stir the salt into the ice water until it is dissolved, then slowly add the saltwater to the flour mixture, mixing until the mixture is shaggy and there are no large patches of unblended flour, about 30 seconds. Turn the dough out onto a large sheet of plastic wrap and press it into a ¾-inch-thick disk. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours.
  2. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. On a well-floured surface, roll the dough into a large, ¼-inch-thick sheet. Use a 5-inch cookie cutter or an upturned bowl that measures 4½ to 5 inches across to cut out as many circles as possible. Gather the dough, re-flour the work surface, and roll and cut the remaining circles.
  3. Lightly coat six 4-inch tart pans with nonstick pan spray, then fit each with a dough round. Crimp the excess dough around the rims of the pans, removing the extra dough. Place the tart pans on a rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350°. Remove the sheet pan from the fridge. Line each tart pan with a square of foil, then fill with a single layer of pie weights (or dried beans). Bake the tarts until the edges are barely golden and the bottoms of the tarts lose their raw look, 17 to 20 minutes.
  5. While the tarts are baking, make the pie filling: In a medium mixing bowl, lightly whisk the egg. Mix in the flour, sugar and salt, then whisk in the melted butter, followed by the buttermilk and vanilla extract.
  6. Fill the shells equally with the buttermilk mixture, leaving a ¼-inch gap at the top of each shell. Bake until the tops are lightly browned and the centers still jiggle slightly, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool at room temperature for 2 hours before serving.

Photos courtesy of the washingtonpost.com, capitolspiceblog.com, superchefblog.com, dcist.com, washingtonian.com, societyfair.net

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