While the thrum of activity surrounding Union Market has mostly gone quiet as D.C. observes a “stay-at-home” order, a blender still whirs from within the La Cosecha market that was still in the early phases of bringing on vendors before the novel coronavirus silenced the streets.
Zumo, the daytime component of pan-Latin cocktail bar Serenata, has been running an under-the-radar takeout and delivery operation since mid-March. The new brand, which comes from the parters behind popular Cuban cafe Colada Shop, builds trendy wellness-oriented breakfast and lunch items with Mexican, Central American, and South American sensibilities.
The Chocomey smoothie has been a top seller. Chef Tatiana Mora doesn’t add any sugar, relying on dates for sweetness to complement guava, pineapple, coconut water, almond butter, and a South American fruit called mamey — or sapote in Venezuela — which adds a texture similar to a pear. A syrup made from raw cacao nibs plays off the fruit with bitter chocolate flavors. In the Nopalito smoothie, cactus paddles get blended with pineapple, celery, orange, and parsley.
“In Mexico they eat a lot of nopal,” Mora says. “They put nopal in everything.”
Aside from getting a few hours of help from prep cooks, Mora and beverage director Andra “AJ” Johnson are working the triangular bar themselves from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Friday with a 10 a.m. start on Saturday and Sunday.
Even with the limited personnel power, Mora is building complex toasts. For an Argentine riff on lox and schmear dubbed the Patagonian Goat, the chef cures salmon for 48 hours in sugar, salt, pink peppercorn, cilantro, cumin, and a Peruvian pisco made of Quebranta grapes that have herbaceous and saline characteristics. The salmon goes with a baked goat cheese spread, tomato-based Spanish pisto, chimichurri. An Aguacate to My Heart toast adds charred hearts of palm, chipotle, mole sauce, and cilantro aioli to the avocado, which is “aguacate” in Spanish.
“It’s like the most amped up avocado toast ever,” Johnson says.
An Elote Caesar mashes up the ubiquitous salad — invented in Tijuana — with roasted Mexican street corn by adding roasted kernels, cotija cheese, croutons dusted in chile-lime tajin, and micro cilantro Mora grows herself. Empanadas filled with duck confit or veggies can be ordered cooked (in threes) or frozen (in six-packs).
Johnson is mixing a handful of cocktails, like a six-person Bloody Mary kit ($50), a “Best Ever” margarita, or a Dominican-centric Duende Tango from Serenata, with aged rum, mamajuana, aperol, scotch, orange Bitters, and olive. She’s also teaching Friday cocktail classes ($50) on Zoom that come with a pickup kit of spirits, mixers, garnishes, and snacks. The kit comes with enough supplies for two people to enjoy three cocktails each.
Zumo was already running as a weekend pop-up inside Serenata, but the partners decided to make most of the food menu available during the pandemic because it was already positioned as light food for people on the go. Or, as Mora puts it, “Your stomach will feel very happy with you.”