Autumn is a great time of year for a foodie. But a bountiful harvest is also the first sign that winter is coming. So, how do you hold onto that bounty through the lean months? By pickling, of course! Many OpenTable restaurants have mastered the simplicity and economy that comes from making their own pickles, giving diners a range of newfound textures and flavors. Here are six picks for restaurant pickle programs that bring you harvest-time veggies all year round.
Miller Union, Atlanta, Georgia
“There are three basic ways of putting up pickles,” says chef Steven Satterfield of Atlanta’s Miller Union. “Natural fermentation, vinegar brine, and quick pickles. We do them all.”
Satterfield, author of the Root to Leaf cookbook, makes his Hilda’s Icebox Pickles based on his grandmother’s recipe using cucumbers and a cold vinegar brine. He uses a hot brine solution for sunchokes and radishes, and a full vinegar solution for pungent items like sweet Vidalia onions and shallots. [Photo by Kelly Blackmon]
Jacob’s Pickles, New York, New York
In New York City, Jacob Hadjigeorgis has brought the Lower East Side pickling tradition to the Upper West Side, brining up everything from traditional dills to Thyme Jalapeño and Candy Red Beets pickles. The restaurant is host to a seasonal “Pickle Lab Series,” which currently features pickled fall vegetables, such as pumpkin, butternut squash, and okra.
Brick & Bottle, Corte Madera, California
The Michelin Bib Gourmand-recommended eatery incorporates pickles into many of its dishes, from a diced pickled cabbage and onion, used as a topping for its hamburgers, to a composed pâté plate with multiple cured and pickled components. “We do not try to reinvent the wheel,” explains general manager Brandon Parkhurst. “Many of our cured dishes are takes on classics. However, what we do in our kitchen is take high-quality ingredients and treat them with the utmost care.”
Iron Gate, Washington, D.C.
In Washington, D.C.’s Dupont Circle neighborhood, chef Anthony Chittum serves a tasting menu in their historic carriage house dining room, where the first course is a series of small tastes from the kitchen that always features something from their pickle pots. These can vary from bread and butter sunchokes, green beans and bird chilis, and zucchini, to name but a few. Many of the pickles are displayed in the dining room in jars that frame the open kitchen.[Photo by Samer Farha]
Terzo Piano, Chicago, Illinois
Chicago’s Terzo Piano, located on the 3rd floor of the Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago, pickles onions to set atop their lamb burgers and other vegetables to accompany their charcuterie. “We like using cauliflower since it’s available year round,” says Chef di Cecina Megan Neubeck. “It maintains its texture and can come in a variety of colors that helps make the charcuterie board pop.” The cauliflower (pictured) is salted and sits overnight so it will keep its crunchy texture when it goes through the pickling process.
South City Kitchen Midtown, Atlanta, GA
South City Kitchen Midtown, in Atlanta, Georgia, has an assortment of housemade pickled items, from basic bread and butter pickles to tomato relish, and pickled mustard seeds, which pop like caviar in the mouth. Meanwhile, their collard green kimchee brings a traditional Korean pickle into their Southern comfort zone.
And that’s the thing: you can pickle just about anything you set out to. It all comes down to asking yourself, “What is in season now, and how do I keep it around for a little longer?” Pickling not only preserves a vegetable but transforms it into something delightfully refreshing, infusing it with as much flavor as you desire.
Michael Rice is a New York-based writer, musician, and food enthusiast whose work has taken him to China, Japan, and throughout the United States. You can follow him on Twitter @mricenyc.