When Elizabeth Halen opens Condiment with the walls of Reading Terminal Market this month, several aspects of its ideology will hit you like a ton of bricks. First, its name, as in how did no one ever call a food spot Condiment before? "It's so simple, it hurts, right?" says Halen, the longtime owner of Flying Monkey Bakery in the Market.
Then there's the personal reason as to how Halen came to conceive of a homemade sauce salon, butter boite, curry club and maker of couture mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, fruit preserves and such.
"My boyfriend and I make mostly everything we eat from scratch, so that when he we was temporarily out of work I told him to do something around the house – make our butter, for instance." Not only did he accept the challenge, that fresh cream butter tasted better than any butter before.
Last, but not least, with her bakery a crucial part of the Market, Halen watched as consumers of quality fresh meats, fish and produce had to go elsewhere for the same level of quality when it came to putting together a meal.
"Sauces for meats or desserts, ketchup that didn't sit on a shelf, that sort of thing, even pre-made pie crusts or dough – people had to leave Reading Terminal Market for those goods. I wanted to create something that would keep shoppers in the Market. We could do it all here."
From there, the concept of Condiment was born, with all of its goods being made from scratch. "Have you ever tasted grass-fed cream butter?" she asks. "We'll make it daily." This also means that the usual overabundance of sugars and shelf-sitting artificial preservatives are gone from ketchup or mustard. In their place is all organic ingredients that, as much as possible, are sourced within the Market for the sake of sustainability.
"That means for our turkey gravy, Condiment will use carcasses from Bassett's Original Turkey as well as the onion and celery peelings that they use for stuffing," says Halen. "We’re going to reduce the amount of food waste by re-purposing it."
Yet, the real job of Condiment is to help you prepare a series if taste sensations where every element of a meal is as high in quality as the fresh organic meat or produce that you've purchased at the Market.
"Condiment is the final step," says Halen.
For example, let's say you buy fresh prime rib from Martin's and broccoli at Iovine's but don't know exactly what to do with them? Or maybe you need suggestions for an entire meal? Halen has created a bound recipe book with ideas as to what to do and how to get the ingredients you need.
"Let's say you buy our butter and want a particular herb taste – we'll do it for you," she says of her suggested combinations. "Maybe you're grilling a steak tonight. We'll add some blue cheese and herbs to that butter and make that marinate right there for you. You want a taste for your mayo for sandwiches that afternoon? We can make that immediately."
As we were speaking, Halen was putting finishing touches on a Thai Chicken Curry dish that all you need to do is buy the chicken, jasmine rice and veggies and you're home free. Plus, Condiment is not crazy expensive. If you want a pound of grass-fed cream butter, it’s $6.99. If you need less of it, Condiment will prepare that for sale. "Some people don't have room in their fridge for 24 ounces of ketchup," she says.
In the long run, Halen's Condiment and the rest of Reading Terminal Market is looking to be a one-stop shopping experience: "a food resource rather than a food court."