Much to the benefit of its patrons, the Mt. Vernon Market Place experience is more the shape of the former, with an ensemble of eclectic purveyors providing everything from sweet to savory, breakfast to dinner. There is a place to get oysters (a “foodie” requirement) at The Local Oyster, a growler station at Taps Fill Station, a Mediterranean fusion eatery, a Chinese dumpling counter and an upcoming fast casual Korean offering from Brown Rice.
At the heart of the 15000 square foot space there is a handsomely outfitted stall, appropriately named: Cultured. The project of a once local cheese monger, Cultured is Andrew Cole’s espousal to fat, salt and acid.
Recognizable for his work at the Corner Charcuterie Bar (formerly Corner BYOB) in Hampden, Cole brought his charcuterie expertise and appreciation of nuance to his new venture. By the beckoning deli case, supplied with a variety of artisanal cheese and meats, there is a bar built out with warm finished wood, cozy and welcoming against the minimalist backdrop of the market.
The menu is sectioned into small plates consisting of a variety of paté and spreads, salads and sandwiches. At the center of the menu is the charcuterie. Ten years ago there was barely a scant trace of charcuterie on local menus, as it was foreign nomenclature to the average diner. Now its just as popular as oysters and cocktails. Cole provides two of the three.
A cascade of artisanal cheeses are on the menu, spanning globally from domestic cow’s milk, Bee Hive Barley Buzzed out of Utah, and ashed goat cheese from Monocacy in Montgomery, MD to Catalan staple garrotxa and Basque sheep’s milk ossau iraty.
The cured meats are just as traveled. Recognizable suspects like prosciutto, soppressata and chorizo are available as well as often hard to find cures like speck, bresaola and Jamon de Paris. Even the spreadable unctuous Calabrian N’duja plays a role on the menu. Guests can build their own charcuterie boards from the wide selection provided.
But what Cole excels in beyond adeptly curating a collection of preserved protein, is pairing those sinful morsels of fat and salt with the proper atonement of acid and sweet in the form of house pickles, relishes and chutneys.
According to Cole, Cultured is 13+ years in making, “It starts with understanding the product and understanding the profile—where most places would just serve you a piece of cheese or meat or maybe a piece of bread if you’re lucky. I’m on the third or fourth level of your palate.” His aim and interest is that of a vested sommelier.
“For me it’s all about the families and people involved and the production of creating these little wheels of cheese, to highlight different stages of the world and these small meats that age for two years.”
And inspiration comes from anywhere. His pairings are often a unique mingling of artisan craft.
“I’ll take a French cheese and I’ll do an Indian chutney and an Italian meat— to me that’s what Cultured is—a blend of the world and the flavors that you can produce, not just one region but how you can take all the regions and combine them into one global region, so to speak.”
This balance is highlighted in a crafty cocktail menu that takes spins on seasoned favorites like the Sazerac, an Old Fashioned (with orange flower water), and the race day predecessor of the current derisive cocktail Black Eyed Susan (the more palatable tipple Preakness). There is even a five cocktail section on the menu devoted to egg inspired potables, including the venerable Ramos Gin Fizz and an Egg Fashioned.
“He’ll come by sometimes to borrow eggs,” smirks Amy Yuhn, owner of Eat Taste Love and Cole’s partner. A recognizable face from Baltimore’s farmers’ markets, her all day breakfast menu is never in short supply and is conveniently across from his.
There is an admitted collaboration and friendly competition between the two.
This creative energy has propped Cole to open his second location within the Mt. Vernon Market Place. In a month he will open another concept, Between Two Buns, focusing on burgers, frites, sausages, shakes, bourbon and American beers.
The new project sounds enticing and another welcome addition the Mt. Vernon’s new cultural menagerie.
Cultured is open from 11:00am to 11:00pm seven days a week.