Thunder Pig ConfectioneryWorking in partnership to craft a better sandwich, the Blind Dog Cafe at Darnell’s will now feature artisan breads handmade by local bakery, Thunder Pig Confectionery.

Thunder Pig Confectionery just recently moved to Union Kitchen’s brand new upstairs bakery, which houses a number of local bakeries and ice creameries new space has allowed Thunder Pig to expand operations to include bread and other fine pastries to their daily offerings.

Check out Thunder Pig’s work at:

www.thunderpigssweets.com

Twitter: @ThunderPigDC

Facebook: Thunder Pig Confectionary

and Blind Dog Cafe at:

www.blinddogcafe.com

Twitter: @theblinddogcafe

Facebook: The Blind Dog Cafe @  Darnell’s

(Guest post from Capital Kombucha!)

It was the end of the workday in fall 2011.  We were riding up the long stairs of the Dupont Circle Metro, proudly holding shopping bags filled with glass bottles of our latest test batch.  We were excited, ready to collect feedback from the taste buds of girlfriends, wives, and classmates.  As we reached the top of the stairs, the paper bottoms of the bags collapsed against the weight of the glass.  The bottles cracked into the moving stairwell, sending carbonated plumes of fermented tea spraying onto suit-wearing Washingtonians riding below us.

dupont metro

We were beginners, hobbyists, and students to boot, trying to follow through on a basic idea to make a healthy drink accessible in Washington D.C.  At that moment, the idea that our product, Capital Kombucha, would be sold in a national chain, let alone any respectable commercial business was, well, a dream.

This week Capital Kombucha is now available at the Georgetown location of one of the country’s best-known retailers of high quality food and beverage – Dean & Deluca.  In connecting the dots between this milestone in our company’s evolution and that day on the Metro, we have developed a new appreciation for what it means to start a food business.

D&D

Back in 2011 we knew that we still had to put in time in what musicians refer to as the woodshed.  We needed a place to experiment, fail, and learn from our mistakes.  But nobody was going to hand a brewery, especially while we were still honing our craft.  And no matter how creative one is, there is only so much space in city apartments.  We had a problem.

We found a small kitchen in Petworth that once housed a fish fry, but quickly outgrew it as area markets like Seasonal Pantry, Smucker Farms, and Puree Juice Bar supported not just our product, but also the idea that local food production is not simply a fad.  We still needed a place to grow into.

So when we met with the owners of Blind Dog Café who were quietly developing DC’s first food incubator, we believed we were merely in search of more.  More space.  More equipment.  More growth.  So, we signed on as one of the first tenants in Union Kitchen.

dre_keg

We set out for “more” and that is precisely what we got.  What we found, however, has been more than space, equipment, growth, or an improved bottom line.  At Union Kitchen, we have been fortunate enough to tap into a community, a vibrant and collective energy that is rooted in the interaction of food entrepreneurs, designers, and workers, who together, are setting out to alter the course of this country’s food culture – one day, one meal and, dare we say, one drink at a time.  And what better place to do this than in the nation’s capital, down the block from where America’s food policy gets built up or broken down.

 

 

 

Los Verracos

Diners sit and enjoy jerk chicken, jerk tofu, and arroz con gandules in Los Verracos’ pop-up restaurant space

As part of the LUMEN8ANACOSTIA festival in Anacostia, Los Verracos Foods held a pop-up in the Anacostia Arts Center on Saturday, August 10. Caribbean and Latin fare were enjoyed by several hundred guests while they explored various art exhibits, performance pieces, live music and dance, and complimentary massages.

The Washingtonian reports:

Tom Madrecki is moving up in the culinary world. The publicist and frequent chef, who runs the semi-underground Chez le Commis supper club from his Clarendon one-bedroom, is set to launch a (fully legal) pop-up wine bar in the Union Kitchen parking lot on September 29. While reservations for the 12-person living room dinners are tough to snag, the outdoor Vin de Chez will be open to the public and primed for around 40 guests from 2 to 9 PM.

The idea for the al fresco wine bar came about through Madrecki’s stints cooking in France and Denmark, where he staged in the notable kitchens of Le Chateaubriand and Noma. While in Copenhagen he frequented a temporary watering hole set up under one of the city’s major bridges by a well-known wine importer. Vin de Chez is meant to be similar, especially when it comes to offering unusual wines. Madrecki says he built the collection around his own taste, translating to a list that’s almost entirely made up of biodynamic and natural old-world varietals, some of which he’s importing directly from France (meaning, wine geeks, that you can finally taste that bottle of Sebastien Riffault Skeveldra Sancerre).

As for the menu, don’t expect your ubiquitous charcuterie boards and crostini. Though the setting will be casual, many of the dishes will reflect the ambitious flavor pairings of the supper club. You might snack on Madrecki’s riff on a meat and cheese plate—hereFourme d’Ambert blue cheese, Vietnamese cured pork, and basil-infused pickles—or fresh bread with house-made butter. Larger shareable plates include rockfish with celery ceviche and lamb with mushrooms. Reservations aren’t required for the communal wine bar, but will be for certain dishes that contain pricey ingredients and/or take considerable time to prepare. A whole octopus for four, braised in herbed vinegar and then quick-roasted to caramelize the flesh, requires three days’ notice; squab aged for a week in a temperature- and moisture-controlled environment (in Madrecki’s case, a “college-style mini fridge that’s really clean”) requires a 14-day preorder. Fortunately, one of my personal favorites from Chez le Commis is available anytime: homemade popcorn ice cream with a rich brown sugar caramel sauce and a dusting of cheddar powder, basically the best of the caramel and cheddar popcorn worlds combined.

Madrecki works with an electric stovetop and limited counter space for Chez le Commis, and will similarly make do with the space he has at Vin de Chez—in other words, it’s not your typical professional setup. The outdoor cooking station will boast induction burners, a convection oven, and a plancha (“or a pancake skillet”). Part of the fun of the supper club is watching adventurous dishes emerge from such a pedestrian setting, though the kitchen will soon change. Madrecki says he’s moving from Clarendon to the District come March, and may slightly alter the format of the dinners. “There will be more of a focus on high-quality ingredients and blowing people out of the water,” he says.

As for Vin de Chez, reservations are now available through the website. Stay tuned for an additional pop-up in October, weather pending, and then on a semi-regular basis in spring 2014.

We couldn’t be more excited to have them here!

Union Kitchen was recently featured over at Next City! Check out the article here.

Winging it around your kitchen table may be a fine way to get your plans for a world-changing app or non-profit off the ground. But when your start-up dream is instead for, say, artisanal charcuterie? Things quickly get complicated.

Let’s assume you can get your hands on the professional-grade equipment needed to produce at any sort of scale, without going into significant debt. You will still have to contend with a bevy of local and state health regulations, some of which outright ban wide commercial sale of food stuffs made in home kitchens. As more people dive into grassroots economic experimentation, either as side projects or work done outside the traditional ways of doing business, making a go of it in food remains enough of a challenge that it can convince many to not even bother trying.

That’s the problem that the “kitchen incubator” is meant to solve.

Spaces of this sort are springing up across the country. In Washington, D.C. there’s Union Kitchen, self-described as “a collaborative space for food entrepreneurs to leverage the power of working as a group,” and home to companies like Cured DCCapital Kombucha and Los Verracos. There’s Uptown Kitchen in Grands Rapids, Mich., which opened in late 2012 to “foster and grow the food culture,” and whose member companies include producers of everything from old-fashioned candy canes, sausages and “lacto-fermented edibles” like sauerkraut, kimchi and kefir. Just getting off the ground in San Francisco is the Kickstarter-funded Forage Kitchen, “a co-working space for food” that will charge $99 a month for access to beer brewing equipment, business consulting services and more.