Food Gold: International Pickle Day Hits the LES

Posted on Oct 6th, 2009 in Food Gold by Mr. Goldbar

And we’re back with another edition of Food Gold. This week we hit up the INTERNATIONAL PICKLE DAY FESTIVAL in the LES of Manhattan to get our brine on and learn that pickled foodz are sure to CURE what ails ya! It’s gonna be DILL-LICIOUS!

(A-Trak if you are reading this please know that that one was for you.)

Anyways on with the show!

We know what you are thinking. Dude is only three columns in and already we are going the Renaissance Fair route and hitting up the freakin’ pickle fest. Trust me, I knew going in to this that there was a very high probability that we may go down in flames. BUT, if you rock with me and feign a ‘lil bit of interest in the history and applications of pickling, I think we can have a tasty time together.

So, what’s pickling? Basically it’s a method of preserving food by letting it ferment over a certain period of time—pretty basic, ancient stuff. You can either use salt and water or some sort of acid like vinegar or fruit juice to accomplish this. Now that we got that out of the way, let’s not sweat the technique and instead tawk about de foods!

The first stand we hit up was Russ and Daughters, purveyors of everything that makes any self respecting New York Jew’s (or foodie or non-foodie or gentile’s) life worth living. While they are most famous for their smoked lox and delectable cream cheese spreads (try the caviar one, it’s bomb) they also pride themselves on making spectacular pickled herring—the impolite OG kind that’s covered in onions and cream sauce and stinks up the room.

Admittedly it’s an acquired taste but when viewed through the lens of texture and flavor, it’s a true marvel. You have the salty/briny vibes from the pickled fish mixing with the pungent onions and the richness of the cream. I was going to write that it tastes like a memory of an old person you love but that sounded kinda gross so I’ll just say that there’s a reason this recipe has been unchanged for over 80 years—because it’s delicious and should always stay that way.

In keeping with the faux Judaic kick, I visited the Young Jewish Farmers stand and sampled some of their Adamah pickles. These were very unusual because they were not marinated in vinegar, like 99% of all pickles, but rather fermented with salt, water and magic spices. They have branded this a “natural” pickling method. I know, fascinated stuff, right? I couldn’t notice that big a difference between these natural dudes and the other traditional ones, but to their credit they had a pleasing tartness to them. My only gripe is that they were a little on the soggy side and lacked that capital C CRUNCH that makes biting a pickle such a rewarding experience. That said, they take any Vlasic to the mat.

For our final stop we visited Mama O’s Kimchee, which definitely wins the award for least offensive distinctly Asian cartoon Mommy logo. For those of you not familiar with Kimchi, it’s a catch all term for brined vegetables (usually cabbage) and seasonings (fish sauce, chilis, garlic) that are fermented over many days, sometimes longer. They are often served as side dishes in Korean cuisine, with different veggies and brines in the starring roles.

I’m not the biggest fan of the stuff, as most pre-made Kimchee is either repugnantly sweet or acidic, a result, I imagine, of adding too many chemicals to speed the “flavor building” process and then letting the already over-fermented product rot on shelves for months. Anyways, let’s not go there. No more dark thoughts. This stuff was pretty good, it just tasted exactly like what it was, spicy cabbage covered in goo. I appreciate the integrity of the ingredients showing through but I don’t think I’ll be signing up for the kimchi of the month club any time soon.

Although maybe this Pickle Club is worth a shot….

That does it for this week’s edition of Food Gold. Thanks for taking the leap with us! Here’s a parting shot. No need for a caption.

Fork The World!