This piece originally ran April 23, 2014. We’re revisiting it because Gordy’s will be part of the upcoming New Belgium Slow Ride Sessions. The third Slow Ride will be on March 8 at Mess Hall. It’ll feature class demos on beer and slow cooking from Gordy’s Pickles and Mason Dixie Biscuit Co. Tickets and more information can be found here.
Words By Ashley Wright, Photos By Jeff Martin
Gordy’s Pickle Jar owners Sarah Gordon and Sheila Fain live with their adorable dog James in a sunny, modern row house a few blocks from the bustling U Street Corridor. On the day we arrive they’re doing invoices for Gordy’s; there’s paper scattered across the large living room table and they’re having some issues with the printer, but other than that it seems to be a typical day in the life. Upon alighting on their landing, we take a few steps to the left and are in their cozy, appropriately green, kitchen.
Like most families, their fridge is covered in memorabilia: Hong Kong, Lake Tahoe, Tuscany, various Californian locales and many other places they’ve visited have their own magnets. Colorful ribbons from Sarah’s marathons and races move gently in the breeze from the open window. James’s stately diploma from puppy kindergarten hangs prominently on the side of the fridge; Sarah and Sheila are proud mamas. They joke that the whole fridge is an homage to their life before the pickle business, which keeps them both frenetically busy and tied to D.C. for the majority of the year.
Now we get to the good stuff, and there is a lot of good stuff in their fridge. “We try to support local businesses and source locally as much as possible,” says Sheila. From what I can see, they’re doing quite well: Local dairy Trickling Springs creamery is represented by milk in the door and yogurt in the fridge; various fresh veggies from Virginia’s Tree & Leaf Farm and Maryland’s Next Step Produce are in the crisper. There’s Allegheny Chevre from Maryland’s Firefly Farms, Maryland-based La Pasta goat cheese ravioli, The Pretzel Bar from Virginia-based Zoe’s Chocolate Co., pear butter from Pennsylvania’s Toigo Orchards, absolutely breathtaking mushrooms from Maryland’s North Cove Mushrooms… The list goes on.
James has his own little corner in the fridge–Sheila and Sarah poach fresh chicken breasts for him a few times a week and mix them in with his kibble. Sometimes, if he’s been good, freshly shaved parmesan finds its way into his food dish. For the humans there’s smoked salmon and avocados for lunch and all manner of pastas for dinner. Mostly, though, the ingredients in the fridge are there to assemble breakfast: It’s the only meal they consistently eat at home. “I have to have that yogurt that’s in there, and the grass-fed butter. We keep a lot of granola here,” elaborates Sheila. “All those dairy products are so good. Once you go to this butter you’ll never go back,” Sarah laughs. They keep Whole Foods’ Seduction Loaf in the fridge to complement the butter in the mornings along with some jam, and the butter often finds its way into their coffee as well.
Another must-have for breakfast: Gouter’s tonics or milks. Sheila explains: “They have cashew milk and dates and cow. If I have one of their Nourish milks with a banana all blended together, it’s really filling. Between that and the coffee I do with the butter it’ll last me until late in the afternoon. I’m working 12-hour days in the kitchen and it’s kind of non-stop, so I don’t have time to actually eat proper meals.”
The women joke that they live off of condiments. There are many in the fridge, mostly from local producers. They have an entire compartment dedicated to hot sauces: Snake Oil, which they always have on hand, is made by Baltimore’s Woodbury Kitchen. “It’s made from a local indigenous pepper called the fish pepper that he turns into this hot sauce,” Sheila says.
Then, of course, there are the pickles. Lots and lots of pickles. When asked if their fridge typically looks like it does that day, Sheila and Sarah exchange a look. “The biggest difference is there’s usually a lot more pickles,” Sarah says. Their delicious products, already packaged and waiting to be taken to a two-day Emporyum event in Baltimore, fill an entire drawer. There’s also a large and surprisingly heavy bucket of chopped, vibrant green jalapenos sitting in the back of the fridge. Gordy’s recently partnered with awesome local artist Kelly Towles to do the labels for their popular Giardiniera, so be on the lookout for those soon.
Compared to the fridge, the freezer is sparse. “It’s a sign we like the fresh stuff,” Sarah smiles. Here they keep various frozen berries for Sheila’s morning smoothies as well as their coffee and an extra loaf of bread. There’s also a lone container of delicious gelato from Dolcezza, with whom they’ve worked in the past: “Around this time last year we did a Thai basil jalapeno-infused sorbet [for Dolcezza]. It was super delicious; the heat was perfect. We gotta get at him again to do something else,” says Sarah.
There’s also a mostly full bottle of Gordon’s Vodka. “That [vodka] has been in there for like, three years,” laughs Sarah when we point it out. While they don’t drink at home often, they do have a fairly well-stocked liquor display in one corner of the kitchen–most of it, of course, is made locally. “A lot of [the liquor] is people we’ve done partnerships with. The Catoctin Creek pairs amazing with our Sweet Chip brine; we love them,” says Sheila. “It’s the ultimate pickleback,” Sarah assures us. Sheila tells us about some of the other liquors on display: “We did a shoot with Warby Parker where we made a [Green Hat] gin martini with our hot chile pepper brine, so kind of taking inspiration for a dirty martini but totally different.”
It’s generally agreed that Sarah’s Gerolsteiner mineral water, which she gets from Whole Foods, is the most essential item in their fridge on a daily basis; she plucks out a bottle as we talk. There’s also some vita-water for Sheila and fresh squeezed orange juice from P St Whole Foods’ juice-squeezing machine. Fresh and local are the watchwords in the Gordy’s Pickle Jar house, and they’re music to our ears.