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 Pickle Jar, their pickling business. As we come up the stairs, the large living room table is covered in scattered paper. Sheila and Sarah greet us breathlessly, having just won a bout with their uncooperative printer. They lead us a few steps to the left into their cozy – and appropriately green – kitchen.
Like most families, the front of their fridge is covered in memorabilia: Souvenirs from trips to Hong Kong, Lake Tahoe, Tuscany, and various Californian locales all have their own dedicated magnets. Colorful ribbons from Sarah’s marathons ripple gently in the breeze from the open window, and James’ stately diploma from puppy kindergarten hangs prominently on the side of the fridge. The couple jokes that the whole appliance is an homage to their life before the pickle business, a venture that both keeps them frenetically busy and tied to D.C. for the majority of the year.
As the door to the fridge is opened, we get to the good stuff. (And there’s a lot of good stuff.) “We try to support local businesses and source locally as much as possible,” says Sheila. From what we 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, and absolutely breathtaking mushrooms from Maryland’s North Cove Mushrooms.
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 pasta 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 a Whole Foods’ Seduction Loaf in the fridge to spread with the butter in the mornings.
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 an amused look. “The biggest difference is there’re 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 renowned 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, their coffee, and an extra loaf of bread. A lone container of delicious gelato from Dolcezza occupies its own shelf, a souvenir from a project the companies worked on together. “Around this time last year we did a Thai basil jalapeno-infused sorbet [for Dolcezza]. It was super delicious! The heat was perfect. We have to get at him again to do something else,” says Sarah.
A mostly full bottle of Gordon’s Vodka sits in the remaining shelf. “That [vodka] has been in there for like, three years,” laughs Sarah when we point it out. While they don’t often drink at home, 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 the gin 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 to sip as we chat. There’s also vitawater for Sheila and fresh-squeezed orange juice from the P St Whole Foods’ juicing machine. Fresh and local are the watchwords in the Gordy’s Pickle Jar house, and they’re music to our ears.