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A Warm Bowl of Tradition at Calomiris

Leon Calomiris gives me samples of the navy bean and avgolemono soups served at Calomiris Produce stand in Eastern Market. He’s letting me try them, he says, because he thinks his words won’t do them justice. “I don’t have the gift of gab, like my dad,” he tells me. “My dad was a ham.”

His father, Chris Calomiris, sold produce at Thomas Calomiris and Sons produce stand at Eastern Market from 1962 to 2011. It was Chris and his wife, Maria, who started one of the rituals of visiting the market– giving bananas to small children who came to visit.

Leon is drawing on parental tradition by offering varieties of hot soup, sold by the pint ($6) and the quart ($11). Two of the soups are made from his mother’s recipes.

“It’s a very Greek soup,” he tells me of the avgolemono soup. “If you’re Greek, you know what it is.” For those who are not and haven’t had the luck to sample his rendition: it is a chicken soup, made with rice and egg and with the mild zing of lemon highlighting the flavors. The French Lentil soup also draws on his mother’s recipe, with a vegetarian broth blending lentils with celery and carrots.

A heartier soup is the navy bean made with smoked turkey and thick enough that a bread accompaniment would be welcomed but not required.

Though the recipes link Calomiris to its founders, the choices also draw on the tradition of the current staff. Such is the case with the Arroz Caldo soup, a popular Filipino chicken and rice soup prepared in a ginger-based broth. The soup is made by Flor, a 17-year Calomiris team member, whom Leon describes as “one of my right hands.”

Leon Calomiris parents, Chris and Maria, started giving bananas to children who visited the produce stand “years and years ago.” Leon draws on multiple traditions for the hot soups sold today.

Calomiris also carries potato salad, coleslaw, and gourmet prepared salads (lettuce, tomato, fennel, beets and carrots) offered with salad dressings prepared right there at the stand in Eastern Market.

The produce stand has been offering hot soups for about two years, although they have been sold in jars for more than ten years. They are one of a few fresh-food operators offering prepared options in the North Hall of Eastern Market. Calomiris said the soup was offered hot in response to customer requests. “We’re just trying to keep up with what people want,” he said.

Calomiris Produce carries a wide selection of produce, from potatoes and lettuce, fresh herbs to strawberries, wild mushrooms to brussels sprouts. “We still do our best with that,” he said, with local seasonal produce featured and major staples always available.

Visit Calomiris Fruits and Vegetables inside Eastern Market (225 Seventh St. SE) from Tuesdays to Fridays 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Reach staff by calling 202-544-5442 or by email at leospartiate@yahoo.com

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