Friday, October 12, 2012

The Food Market in Hampden

Last week I finally got to the Food Market, Hampden's popular new restaurant featuring former City Café chef Chad Gauss.  I knew two things about it: one, it was almost impossible to find seating there on a weekend; two, it was supposed to be good - not overhyped but average, but actually good.  So my buddies Eric & Alan confirmed.  I went ahead and made reservations for the three of us for a Wednesday, when the wait wouldn't be so long.

The Food Market is a buzzy, busy space, with so much going on, and a bar to soak it all in while you wait for your table.  The three of us had little wait though on this Wednesday night.  Yes it was jam-packed, but we only had to wait a few minutes.  I sat right next to the kitchen, where I got an appetizing eyeful of a pound tub of crab meat sitting on ice.  Nice.  I'm guessing here, but this is probably Chesapeake crab meat, not the Thai stuff.

I ordered an Old Dominion Oak Barrel Stout and my friends a nice wine, and we settled in to order our meals.

First came the appetizers, which we all shared.  Eric ordered the baby iceberg salad ($7).  I've never understood the fascination with eating iceberg lettuce covered in blue cheese dressing.  Hell, I've never understood the fascination with eating iceberg lettuce in any format.  I hate the stuff.  But this was tasty, salty, crunchy and juicy.  The bacon and egg were an extra nice few additions to the dish too.  Alan ordered the salt and pepper tuna ($10), seared and rare inside, firm and attention-grabbing, with cuke and avocado to balance the pepper out.  I eyed up the cracker fried urshters (also $10), in a tasty green hot sauce.  What else can I say?  They were oysters, prepared well.  A satisfying round of appetizers all around.

For the main course, I ordered the lobster roll ($17), which makes a lot of sense considering what part of America we're in.  Seriously though, I don't eat a lot of lobster rolls.  They are an occasional and pricey treat (recalling here the DC lobster roll food truck where these things go for fifteen bucks a pop).  This lobster roll was messy, creamy with "aerated mayo" (I guess that's mayo with extra air whipped into it), on a "griddled" lobster roll bun.  If I were a rich man, or if I lived in Maine, I would be eating these things all the time.  This dish was just beautiful.

My friends also got seafood.  I got to try the scallops with butternut squash risotto ($25).  I love scallops, and like lobster I just don't get many opportunities to eat them.  These things do cost money.  Perfectly made, I thought.  Though I didn't try the salmon with tomato oil ($23), I understand it was pretty good, too.

All in all this was a rare, completely satisfying meal.  I don't have many of these anymore.  I can see why the Food Market is so popular.  But it isn't a place I can afford to visit too often.  It's more of a special occasion place for me.