All words and photos: Marie Formica
The newly re-visioned Art & Soul space, wide open without clear beginning or end and sprinkled with minimal, farm-chic decor, is reminiscent of many places you’ve been lately, not limited to DC. There are mason jars brimming with wild flowers, a dozen Edison bulbs blooming into a full-blown hanging lamp, dark and distressed woods, all half-remembered details from some pastoral dream. But this is a frame around the true picture of Art & Soul.
The Artisanal Fair held there this week showcased local and artisanal vendors (as you’d expect). Ceremony Coffee (from Annapolis) had a rep who meticulously weighed water and coffee to get just the right brew. The company has coffee classes, even. Then there was wacky vintage furniture store Ms. Patty’s, which boasted items at the entrance to the restaurant as well as a chair made out of shiny vinyl belts (could you pass this off as “reclaimed?” I think it’s worth a try). Full Cellar Farm, too, had a niche, boasting eggs from the “westward slopes” of Jefferson, Maryland. Geechie Boy Market & Mill, all the way from South Carolina, is a family owned place that supplies the grits.
To complete this picture, now that the origins of it remain exposed, I must go into the food. The food. Pulled pork sliders and mini brisket sandwiches on tiny fresh biscuits, and I mean fresh as in I watched those babies pop out of the oven. Slightly spicy pimento cheese sandwiched between house-made crackers. Tender Louisiana shrimp resting on a paste of grits and a slice of toasted bread. Bacon cornbread, let me say it once more, there was bacon cornbread, amen. Fried chicken, breading fried to a reasonable squish and crunch ratio, alluding somewhat to Asian-style sweet honeyed fried chicken. Itty bitty cheese quiches, dangerously bite sized. Eggs deviled to perfection, a little kick in your mouth as you realize they’re slightly spicy. Salmon salad. Just right fried pickled tomatoes. Dark chocolate chip and cherry cookies.
The food you see in this review may be smaller than it appears on the full Art & Soul menu, with more full fledged dishes than these available if desired (and who wouldn’t desire after that list, am I right?). To be sure, it’s reimagined Southern food among cozy details of rural life. But I wouldn’t let that stop me.