A staple element of many European, Asian, African and Middle Eastern culinary traditions, pickled and fermented ingredients are just now starting to make their way into a wide range of restaurants nationwide. From accoutrements to integration in cocktail programs, pickling has become all the rage for U.S. chefs and mixologists alike, with many restaurants choosing to initiate house-made pickling programs as well as experimenting with unique vinegars and nontraditional pickling ingredients with which to work with.
Below, we explore restaurants in three major cities that are spearheading this trend.
Within Boston's vibrant culinary scene, pickled and fermented foods have made their way center stage. Local favorite Blue Dragon gastropub has been ahead of this emerging trend for a while now, serving up a number of pickled ingredients on its menu since it first opened in 2013. Dishes such as soy pickled deviled eggs, alongside a variety of banh mi sandwiches each topped with a variety of pickled veggies are amongst the top offerings of the restaurant.
From red onions to green apples, The Gallows features a number of interesting pickled ingredients in its culinary problem. Yet the team there take it a step further by bringing pickled vegetables into their mixology program as well. With a broad range of cocktails, their brunch Smokin' Rooster cocktail, a mezcal based bloody mary garnished with pickled green beans, is perhaps the most interesting.
Owner of Cambridge burger restaurant FOUR Burgers, Michael Bissanti offers a number of pickled accompaniments with his burgers and hot dogs, yet this was not enough. Looking to experiment even further with pickling, Bissanti opened The Brine Lab, where he jars his own pickles such as carrots, jalapenos, and other custom brines that are available for purchase both inside FOUR Burgers as well as wholesale for others who wish to incorporate his pickles into their culinary programs.
The Brooklyn culinary scene is amongst the most cutting edge in the nation so it is little surprise that a number of restaurants in the city are incorporating pickled and fermented foods into their culinary programs. And these restaurants don't have to search far to find locally produced, artisanally made pickles. Operations such as Brooklyn Brine Co., Wheelhouse Pickles, and the Brooklyn Standard Deli are each operating out of the city, selling their unique, homemade pickles to a number of restaurants as well as individual consumers.
In addition to culinary programs, a number of retail outlets and markets are also starting to sell these artisanally made pickle jars. Clinton Hill Pickles has been locally referred to as a pickle mecca for its wide range of unique pickles, such as pineapples, green beans, mangoes, beets, eggplant, and stuffed olives.
In the Bay Area, pickles are making their way through a number of local restaurants and beverage programs. The Alembic uses pickles as toppings for a number of its dishes, such as the jerk spiced duck hearts, topped with pickled pineapple, as well as the chicken liver mousse, served on top of crostini and pickled red onions. In addition to toppings, The Alembic also serves up pickled entrees, such as the pickled deviled eggs offered at brunch.
At the Hungarian inspired Bar Tartine, chef Nick Balla loves pickles so much he offers them in a flight. And while pickling inherently allows for the pickled ingredients to be used year round, Balla's pickling program still looks to feature a variety of seasonal veggies that are constantly changing. From tumeric carrots and green tomatoes to mushrooms and parsnips, the hyper-seasonal pickling program at Bar Tartine is unparalleled.
The Boxing Room, a Louisiana inspired restaurant, offers a number of always changing vegetables in its pickling program. Ingredients pickled and served thus far include pickled green tomatoes, cayenne peppers, watermelon rind, okra and beets, to name a few.
San Francisco based Chef Douglas Monsalud, of the recently shuttered Kitchenette SF, as well as Heart art and wine bar, and LRE (Living Room Events) identifies his own pickle obsession as drawing inspiration from celebrated food writer Michael Pollan, alongside a growing interest in the health benefits of both pickled and fermented food stuffs.
Monsalud explained in an SF Gate article why he believes there is a sudden interest in pickles amongst both chefs and consumers alike "First, they [pickles] are delicious. Second, because it is a preserving method, they are a great way to return to a taste of season past."
In the same article, Monsalud furthered, "In general, there is a return to an old world, artisanal, DIY, peasant sensibility which we love."
As the pickling and fermented foods trend continues to grow in popularity, there comes more room for chefs to experiment with nontraditional ingredients and pickling bases. So will chefs nationwide work to continue elevating this trend? It seems highly likely. It is now just a matter of trial and tribulations for chefs who are deciding what they can pickle from within their own restaurants, and consumers reap the benefits.