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Inside Society Fair, Cathal Armstrong's Food Emporium

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[R. Lopez]

Old Town Alexandria empire-builders Cathal and Meshelle Armstrong — behind Restaurant Eve, The Majestic, Virtue Feed & Grain, Eamonn's and PX — have been working on their food emporium Society Fair for quite some time. Well, this week it will at long last open to the public. And man it has a lot in store for the people of Alexandria: a bakery, a butcher shop, a coffee bar, a cheese station, a spice bar, a wine bar, a candy shop and a market stuffed with Cathal Armstrong-approved goods. So, essentially, it's a little bit like raiding the pantry at Restaurant Eve. Eater took a look inside and since this place is so many things at once, let's break it down for you:

Design: Society Fair is intended to evoke "a Willy Wonka of food," and, indeed, tables are stuffed with candy and spices and oils all within these deep blue walls. Marble counters are refurbished from a church and chandeliers hang from the ceiling. Also used as decorative elements are reclaimed iron awnings from the Paris Metro.

Coffee Bar: The first thing you see upon entering, the coffee bar offers a three-tier coffee program with espresso, French press and a brew bar. The station is surrounded by chocolates and candy, some from local purveyors (such as Pollystyle graham crackers) and others are the market's own signature varieties.

Bakery: Nathan Hatfield is in charge of the bread program here, which will provide fresh-baked bread from a French oven three times a day plus on special order. There's a window into the bakery where customers will be able to stand and watch Hatfield at work.

Butchery: Society Fair has what it calls a lard menu from which you can order whatever types of meat available or even put in an order — if you want antelope and they don't have it, they will get you antelope, plus some advice on how to prepare it all. Society Fair will be grinding meat to order, too. There's also a 10-deep sandwich menu, made entirely from in-house ingredients, such as a braised short-rib sandwich made with horseradish sauce and hot pickled leeks on toasted ciabatta.

Market: Olive oil purchased here at Society Fair comes in refillable bottles — like using growlers for beer. They've also got their own signature spices from a New York spice guy who supplies for Daniel Boulud and restaurants like Fatty Crab. They're also selling mixologist Todd Thrasher's drink mixes, house-made pickled cocktail olives and supplying things that Cathal Armstrong and Thrasher use themselves, such as the Manni olive oil Armstrong uses for finishing and the brand of bitters Thrasher prefers. And the market also draws produce from local farms, milk from Trickling Springs and a variety of house-made items from yogurt to meatballs to duck fat. It's also worth noting that Restaurant Eve's beloved mini birthday cakes will be available for purchase here at Society Fair.

Wine Bar: Off to the side of the market is Society Fair's wine bar, which will have sandwiches, charcuterie, wine by the glass or bottle, and wine cocktails. Five nights a week, Tuesday through Saturday, there will be demos in the wine bar with 10 seats available for reservation.

Look for Society Fair to open to the public on Friday — and a rep tells Eater that it will be open only in the evenings for the first two weeks.

· Society Fair [Official Site]
· All Previous Society Fair Coverage [-EDC-]
· All Previous Cathal Armstrong Coverage [-EDC-]

Society Fair

277 South Washington Street, , VA 22314 (703) 683-3247 Visit Website

Restaurant Eve

110 S Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 703 706 0450 Visit Website