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Marvelous Market


Busboy
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[The backstory. You can skip ahead to the rant.]

In the pre-Marvelous era, Vie de France grocery store baguettes were considered state-of-the-art French bread. As a college student, laying one out, with a cylinder of Boursin or some grocery store Brie was considered not unsophisticated.

For a while I worked above the Bread Oven (Where I Ricchi is now), the kind of place that felt pretty authentic in 1981, that served a decent onion soup and sold acceptible baguettes -- loves with a real crust and a light mie and were pretty close to the real thing. After they closed, a place named Suzanne's (I think it was where the new City Lights is) on Connecticut Avenue with a good restaurant up top and a deli below sold decent baguettes for a while, I assume the baker had other outlets, though I never knew where they were. I'd pick up a loaf and some stinky cheese on the way to work, until my office-mate complained and Suzanne's switched to an inferior product.

And then there was great sadness in the Busboy Household, for we had no good bread.

Then Mark Furstenberg flew back from France with a sourdough starter given him by the bakers he trained with and bought those marvelous ovens -- the ones that bathe the baking loaves in steam to ensure a proper crust -- that no one in DC had, and Marvelous Market was born. And it was marvelous. People lined up down the street for their bread ration, two loaves only. And then he expanded to a spot on Connecticut Avenue across the street from the current location and I walked by it every day, on the trip from the metro to my apartment, and many nights stopped in for cheese and pasta and mesclun and, of course, bread. And there was joy again.

About this time Uptown Bakers opened, offering, to my taste, bread that was pretty darn good but, compared to Marvelous, decidedly second tier.

Over the years Utpown ended its retail biz and went wholly wholesale. Marvelous suffered financial setbacks; Marvelous and Furstenberg eventually parted ways. He now, as most of you know, runs the Breadline.

[end backstory]

In June, Marevllous announced that it would no longer bake its own bread. All baking would be done by -- horror – Uptown Bakery.

Guess what? Even with the fine new French boulangier Uptown hired, mass-produce Uptown bread still isn’t as good as the old Marvelous stuff. The crusts aren’t as crusty, the mie lacks that unctuous pull and lightness it used to have and the baguettes, which are now bought from Breadline, aren't as malty and delicious as the old sourdough baguette.

Worse, most of my favorite breads are MIA. Ficelles are gone. The Pain Rustique, my personal favorite, with a crust like a tortoise shell and a bubbly, light mie, seems to have been discontinued. The Palladin, named after and developed with the patron saint of DC Chefs, Jean-Louis Palladin, is gone. Even the little Bostogne – a bit of dough baked with cheese and olives, seems to have been put on hold.

In the summer I generally pick up bread at the markets – the Breadline sells two blocks from my house and they have breads, aside from those baguettes, I dearly love. But all winter and into the spring I rely on the nearby Marvelous to supply the staff of life – that it has tumbled noticeably downhill depresses me to no end.

And beyond the quality of the bread, it’s sad to see a pioneer and an institution reduced to the status of franchisee, a 7-11 for the foodie set. When Marvelous stopped making its own bread, it ceased being a bakery and became a marketing strategy, a distribution scheme. I’m sure I’ll still stop in for the occasional sourdough boule and wedge of gruyere, but it’s really not going to tastes the same...or be the same.

C’est la mie.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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I remember when lines were out the door at the CT and NEB Ave location.

At some point, in my early 30s, we stopped buying bread there. It was too much effort to chew and my jaws always hurt after I was done. The pastries and muffins were always good but very oily. The foodstuffs were always overpriced.

Still I would find myself there around the holidays, seeking a special sweet or something. The challah was always nice, especially the challah rolls. I haven't tried them recently so I don't know if there has been a change.

All in alll...Sigh....

Jennifer

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Finding a reliable supply of good bread is always a challenge. Places come and go, bakers change, and obviously it is a demanding day in day out job to keep up a high quality supply.

My two current favorites are the bread from Bonaparte bakery in Savage Mill and the pain de campagne at the local Whole Foods. Bonaparte used to be sold at a caterers shop in my home town of Edgewater but they went out of the retail business and now I only get it on occasional trips out route 32 towards Columbia. The Annapolis Whole Foods pain de campagne is made in very large loaves. They cut you off a hunk and charge by the pound.

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se Bonaparte now sells at Farmers' Markets including Rose Park and Foggy Bottom on Wednesdays in DC and Chevy Chase on Saturday Mornings.

Finding a reliable supply of good bread is always a challenge.  Places come and go, bakers change, and obviously it is a demanding day in day out job to keep up a high quality supply. 

My two current favorites are the bread from Bonaparte bakery in Savage Mill and the pain de campagne at the local Whole Foods.  Bonaparte used to be sold at a caterers shop in my home town of Edgewater but they went out of the retail business and now I only get it on occasional trips out route 32 towards Columbia.  The Annapolis Whole Foods pain de campagne is made in very large loaves.  They cut you off a hunk and charge by the pound.

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The sell Bonapart at the Dean & DeLuca in Georgetown, but it's way too expensive -- I buy $30 worth of cheese and charcouterie every time I go in for a loaf. :laugh:

Whole Foods breads strike me as faux artisanal -- they look like the real thing but, when you eat them, there's no comparison.

BLB -- if it doesn't take effort to chew, I don't like it. Crust that, after toasting, rips the inside of your mouth up is a plus, too.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Whole Foods baguettes are terrible and I don't bother with any of their other varieties. And, some of their baked goods are now from the wholesale sucky Marvelous Market.

Sutton/Balducci's sells an acceptable loaf, not great but not redolent of suckiness like the WF variety.

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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Chewy, smelly, glorious Bonapart baguetttes can also be had at Wagshal's on Mass Ave in Spring Valley (as opposed to the other Wagshals in the Sangamore Road shopping center across the MD line - what's up with that?!?) with the same fiscal hazards expressed above by Busboy.

"Food is an essential part of a balanced diet."

Fran Lebowitz

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Bonaparte breads are also sold at the TPSS Co-op, for you MoCo residents jonesing for a fix.

I still say the best baguette in town is baked by Somchet Chumpapo at L'academie de Cuisine. Anybody who's tasted one knows what I'm talking about. I'd pay a lot of money for those--too bad they're not on the market anywhere.

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The sell Bonapart at the Dean & DeLuca in Georgetown, but it's way too expensive --  I buy $30 worth of cheese and charcouterie every time I go in for a loaf.  :laugh:

Whole Foods breads strike me as faux artisanal -- they look like the real thing but, when you eat them, there's no comparison.

BLB -- if it doesn't take effort to chew, I don't like it.  Crust that, after toasting, rips the inside of your mouth up is a plus, too.

Bonaparte's is certainly better than Whole Foods, but I can't get it anywhere locally anymore. Sometimes you gotta take what's available.

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Crust that, after toasting, rips the inside of your mouth up is a plus, too.

That's what makes a hard roll sub from Litteri (sp?) so good. The blood from the roof of your mouth mixes with the oil, vinegar and Italian meats & cheese. And that's without toasting. :smile:

I think they still get the rolls from Catania on North Capitol St just off of New York Ave.

Thanks,

Kevin

DarkSide Member #005-03-07-06

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  • 8 months later...

I've noticed that Marvellous is again selling their own baguettes at some locations -- the "Parisian" rather than the sourdough, alas, but they go down pretty OK. The cheese section is, however, declining. MM was never a substitute for a proper cheesemonger, but it used to have a small selection of decent cheeses one could pick up before catching the 42 bus back home, the smell of the cheese and the implied menace of a baguette helping insure that one got a seat. Alas, it's pretty much all commercial stuff now, vacuum-sealed and short on personality.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Quite frankly, I found the baguettes at Marvelous Market to be too flat back in the day and the crust not all that remarkable. Of course, my day is less than a decade.

I used to go to MM for the sandwiches (turkey meatloaf actually good & something else with avocado and bacon) if I didn't have fixings at home.

The gingerbread and brownies were amazing, and the cornbread sold was in contrast to the high, sweet cakey kind at FF, i.e. more like the denser, Southern buttermilk type.

At least two of these three items are still good, but cut in smaller portions so that we Americans can learn why French women don't get fat.

* * *

Uptown makes some good breads, ciabatta for example. One of the problems is the propensity to sell them retail bagged in plastic, thinly pre-sliced.

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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  • 5 months later...
[The backstory.  You can skip ahead to the rant.]

In the pre-Marvelous era, Vie de France grocery store baguettes were considered state-of-the-art French bread.  As a college student, laying one out, with a cylinder of Boursin or some grocery store Brie was considered not unsophisticated. 

For a while I worked above the Bread Oven (Where I Ricchi is now), the kind of place that felt pretty authentic in 1981, that served a decent onion soup and sold acceptible baguettes -- loves with a real crust and a light mie and were pretty close to the real thing.   After they closed, a place named Suzanne's (I think it was where the new City Lights is) on Connecticut Avenue with a good restaurant up top and a deli below sold decent baguettes for a while, I assume the baker had other outlets, though I never knew where they were.  I'd pick up a loaf and some stinky cheese on the way to work, until my office-mate complained and Suzanne's switched to an inferior product.

And then there was great sadness in the Busboy Household, for we had no good bread.

Then Mark Furstenberg flew back from France with a sourdough starter given him by the bakers he trained with and bought those marvelous ovens -- the ones that bathe the baking loaves in steam to ensure a proper crust -- that no one in DC had, and Marvelous Market was born.  And it was marvelous. People lined up down the street for their bread ration, two loaves only.  And then he expanded to a spot on Connecticut Avenue across the street from the current location and I walked by it every day, on the trip from the metro to my apartment, and many nights stopped in for cheese and pasta and mesclun and, of course, bread.  And there was joy again.

About this time Uptown Bakers opened, offering, to my taste, bread that was pretty darn good but, compared to Marvelous, decidedly second tier. 

Over the years Utpown ended its retail biz and went wholly wholesale.  Marvelous suffered financial setbacks; Marvelous and Furstenberg eventually parted ways. He now, as most of you know, runs the Breadline.

[end backstory]

In June, Marevllous announced that it would no longer bake its own bread.   All baking would be done by -- horror – Uptown Bakery. 

Guess what? Even with the fine new French boulangier Uptown hired, mass-produce Uptown bread still isn’t as good as the old Marvelous stuff.  The crusts aren’t as crusty, the mie lacks that unctuous pull and lightness it used to have and the baguettes, which are now bought from Breadline, aren't as malty and delicious as the old sourdough baguette. 

Worse, most of my favorite breads are MIA.  Ficelles are gone.  The Pain Rustique, my personal favorite, with a crust like a tortoise shell and a bubbly, light mie, seems to have been discontinued.  The Palladin, named after and developed with the patron saint of DC Chefs, Jean-Louis Palladin, is gone.  Even the little Bostogne – a bit of dough baked with cheese and olives, seems to have been put on hold. 

In the summer I generally pick up bread at the markets – the Breadline sells two blocks from my house and they have breads, aside from those baguettes, I dearly love.  But all winter and into the spring I rely on the nearby Marvelous to supply the staff of life – that it has tumbled noticeably downhill depresses me to no end.

And beyond the quality of the bread, it’s sad to see a pioneer and an institution reduced to the status of franchisee, a 7-11 for the foodie set.  When Marvelous stopped making its own bread, it ceased being a bakery and became a marketing strategy, a distribution scheme.  I’m sure I’ll still stop in for the occasional sourdough boule and wedge of gruyere, but it’s really not going to tastes the same...or be the same.

C’est la mie. 

And the saga continues...

Part of the reason I think Michael Meyer has had so much difficulty, is he has a hard time focusing, whereas Mark just got himself in over his head financially, but still a genius in my opinion.

It's a good thing the reigns of production were taken out of uptown's and Meyer negotiated with Dahmane over at the Bread House, he was Mark's protégé and really the only true Artistianal baker in the area.

I have had their breads; they are addictive, like candy.

Michael Robert Porru

(former Corporate Pastry Chef)-Marvelous Markets

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  • 1 month later...
I tried the Parisian baguette today at the newly opened Marvelous Market on Capitol Hill. Not bad, given the other available options within walking distance.  :wink:

Sadly, that's often the best that can be said of MM these days.

Admittedly, the quality of an earlier incarnation of MM (and Breadline) spoiled us. You only have to go down to Whole Foods and get one of their artesian-ish boules to realize how comparatively good Marvellous is. There are still probably entire states where you can't get bread that good.

But one pines for the pain of the glory days.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Sadly, that's often the best that can be said of MM these days.

Admittedly, the quality of an earlier incarnation of MM (and Breadline) spoiled us.  You only have to go down to Whole Foods and get one of their artesian-ish boules to realize how comparatively good Marvellous is.  There are still probably entire states where you can't get bread that good. 

But one pines for the pain of the glory days.

Why is it that Our Nation's Capitol lacks good, readily available bread for the masses? To the barricades!!! :shock:
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  • 2 weeks later...

I got what I thought was a pretty good loaf of rye at the MM on Capitol Hill last week. I thought it was better than Firehook, but I can't say I remember the original MM/Breadline or have a good enough sensory memory to do much reliable comparison.

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I did some shopping at the upper Connecticut Ave Marvelous Market last August and had this to say:

I have a soft spot for Marvelous Market. When they opened, lo those many years ago, decent bread was a rarity in Washington. So it pains me to hear of the slippage in quality over the years. There was a little shakeup recently, so I decided to stop in the upper Conn Ave store and check out a few items that a good bakery, or a marvelous bakery, should be able to turn out: a baguette, a croissant, a scone, a sandwich loaf, and a cookie. All were disappointing.

Baguette: tastless with a doughy interior and a chewy, not crisp, crust. Granted, a good baguette can be tough to achieve, but this was actually worse than Whole Foods version.

Croissant: blown out and doughy in the middle. This indicates that the dough and butter were too hot, and it was overproofed. Of course, summer is tough for pastry, but if it's too hot either turn up the damn air conditioning or don't sell a shoddy product.

Scone: Inedible, dry and crumbly. Scones should be creamy with some flaky layers.

Cookie: This was my once-favorite salty oat cookie, now a crumbly shell of it's formerly sweet and savory goodness. The salt on top had dissolved, the cookie was stale, and raisins had been substituted for currants.

Soft Pullman loaf: was anything but. This was ordinary, slightly coarse-textured white bread and not baked in a pullman pan.

Everything tasted like it had been baked the day before. Sadly, it seems that MM has jumped the shark. Their website is advertising for franchisees, so we will be seeing more Mediocre Markets around the area.

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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As much as I am disappointed by the current state of thier "French" breads, I do find -- as Pat did -- their rye to e surprisingly good

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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As much as I am disappointed by the current state of thier "French" breads, I do find -- as Pat did -- their rye to e surprisingly good

Is it pumpernickel, or real seeded rye? I love good rye bread and it's surprisingly hard to find.

seeded rye

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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