I’m sitting in Hitchcock Deli, a local butcher counter known for its cured heritage meats and giant sandwiches of guanciale, pastrami, or cote de boeuf. Slabs of meat line the long cooler, slapped down on top of rough wood pallets, looking vaguely like they just got stuffed in the morgue and are awaiting their periodic autopsies. Thick slices of porchetta make their way onto the ‘Lazio’, layered on a long baguette and topped with salsa verde, dijon, and arugula. A house-made paté de campagne - described as a country style pork live pate with blanched pistachio, diced fat (!), all wrapped in bacon - lines the sides of a potato roll in the ‘Country Boy’ with a smear of grain mustard, lettuces (plural), and aioli. This place is far too trendy to list regular old ‘mayonnaise’ anywhere on the menu.
It’s an odd lunch choice for a mostly-vegetarian, but I happened to be in the neighborhood.
I order the beet salad. I think I caught the guy at the counter giving me a potentially-inquisitive, likely-evaluative eye roll as he asked if that would be it. My salad comes in a swimming pool of a white plate with large curls of manchego floating over curly arugula, all but hiding the toasted almonds and chunky beet steaks underneath. The beets are meaty, rubbed with the spice of the loose pickled peppercorns that give the whole thing a prickly finish. I build each bite onto my fork and soon only the blood-red juice is left at the bottom of the plate.
I all but break my no-desserts rule for the locally batched Ellenos greek yogurt with homemade lemon curd. Whoever invented greek yogurt (and no, it wasn’t the Greeks) gets my vote for president. Well, maybe vice president to the guy that invented lemon curd. For a long time I imagined lemon curd to be just an alternative to jam, mostly fruit with a hint of sugar to preserve, until I tried to make it that is. A sweet-tart yellow curd drowns the thick yogurt in a puddle of tangy, rich citrus cream. Listen: I encourage you to eat lemon curd with abandon, but don’t try to make it at home. Like the Merguez lamb sausages that stare me down from across the restaurant, there are some things that taste better if you don’t know how they’re made.
It’s a busy day; steaming rolls stuffed with all kinds meat fly off the counter to feed the lunch crew that flocks here. It feels somewhat out of place, this small foodie-enclave in the industrial environs of Georgetown, almost like a vegetarian in a butcher shop.