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Apr 20, 2009 08:35 AM

The best places to get free samples in DC

I have just moved to DC from New York. My favorite pastime in NY was finding every gourmet shops, chocolate stores, bakery, hotels with free apples, wine tastings or any place to pick up free samples. I had it so well mapped out that I barely had to walk a block without ducking into a shop for a sample of something or other.

Now, I have to start from scratch in DC! Any suggestions for your places to pick up some tasty samples in DC?


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  1. This isn't in DC (well, maybe it is), but there are a few around the suburbs - Bethesda, Silver Spring, etc. TRADER JOE'S. The best free samples, they give you a little mini meal in a tiny plate, always have free coffee, tea, and usually some sort of juice sample. Whole Foods usually has a few things too.

    1. If you have a car, drive out to a Costco in the 'burbs. They have lots of food samplings on weekends around noon.

      2 Replies
      1. re: comestibles

        As a kid my Mom use to take my brother and I out to Costco on a Saturday around lunch time and just have us eat free samples for lunch. If we were still hungry there was always a pretty good hotdog stand outside...but usually the free samples were enough. :)

        1. re: Elyssa

          I've heard of Costco as the 'senior buffet'. Actually I suspect there are a signicant number of people for whom this is reality.

      2. There is a Trader Joe's near 25th and Pennsylvania. Last time I went in with a young Italian colleague. A guy there near the door offered Italian truffle cheese. My buddy said, "I can tell you if its good. I'm Italian" in a really heavy Italian accent. Cracked me up.

        1. Another place in the burbs but on Saturday's Wegman's in Fairfax has wine samples on the lower level, cake and chocolate samples, you can get a taste of any cheese you like in the cheese department, tea samples, and etc.

          Cowgirl Creamery in downtown has samples. Also the Eastern Market and Penn Quarter market are great places to get samples.

          11 Replies
          1. re: ktmoomau

            Other than the cheese shop-where do you get samples at Eastern Market? It's not a location I would think of for a sample dinner. Whole Foods, on the other hand, can turn into a multi course meal.

            1. re: pineapple sage

              There are bread samples, peaches, nectarines, apples, hot sauces, dips like hummus, salsa, spiced nuts, all sorts of stuff, especially on Saturday which is more food vendors than on Sunday, and in the summer it is much more plentiful than the winter.

              1. re: ktmoomau

                looking forward to sampling/shopping the tomatoes from the farmer's row under the metal canopy (yes I do actually buy. eventually) ...

                1. re: hill food

                  Yeah I love the plates of peach slices when they are in their good season, I do buy too, but you can pick out exactly who to get what kind from when by those samples.

                2. re: ktmoomau

                  Ah, you were talking more about the outdoor stands than inside the actual Eastern Market. Gotcha.

                  1. re: pineapple sage

                    It is all the market, but yes there is more outside than inside the temporary East Hall of the market, there are a few inside the market. And often if you are perusing for something like the perfect salami or something they will give you samples.

                    1. re: ktmoomau

                      the cheese counter sampling drives me nuts 'cause I usu. know exactly what I want and they usu. have it. at Canales, one would have to ask (good luck getting a taste of Iberico - HA!)

                      and sometimes Mrs. Calomiris will offer a slice of pear. but that's inside.

                      yes when the regional produce starts rolling in, Saturday on the West side of 7th has some amazing stuff. I don't even really try growing tomatoes anymore (containers on a deck in my case).

                      1. re: hill food

                        My brother has an urban garden in front of his house and people take his tomatoes before they even turn red, he has to get them from the Dupont Farmers Market even when he grows a bunch of them. I told him to put an electric fence around them... I grow some small vine tomatoes on my deck, but really those tomatoes at the market there are so good and cheap for the some of the varieties and quality...

                        But if you frequent people get to know you. I used to do all my shopping there, but yeah it is hard just to get to the cheese counter at some point, but their sage one that they put out as a sample often is so good I can't help but take a piece when I get up there.

                        Cowgirl Creamery is excellent for cheese, lots of variety... very nice about helping you find the perfect cheese and you can sample stuff. It is hard not to buy stuff once you sample so much good cheese.

                        1. re: ktmoomau

                          Which markets do you find produce (or tomatoes) so reasonable? I always go to Dupont and am shocked how expensive everything is for a farmers market.

                          1. re: Jacey

                            I find the eastern Market ones to be a better bargain than buying the plants and growing yourself... they will be expensive compared to the grocery, but you can get good varieties at what I think are decent prices, especially compared to growing your own. Plant seeds and plants really have been getting more expensive as it gets more popular, and sold out quicker this year for certain varieties.

                            1. re: ktmoomau

                              and then there are the @#$%@$#% squirrels...

            2. The Fairfax Super H market has very good samples on weekends if you're into Korean and Asian food. They've had sushi or sashimi, grilled fish, tofu, curries, miso soups, etc. from my previous weekend visits.

              1 Reply
              1. re: dpan

                Great suggestions! Thanks and keep 'em coming! I can't wait to start trying these out.