The small batch artisanal pickling company (read: limited, so go pick up a jar immediately) began in October 2011, and is named after co-owner Sarah Gordon’s dad, with whom she shares a mutual love of pickles. Along with co-owner Sheila Fain, they produce four varieties of pickles in a community kitchen on 9th &V St.
- Signature sweet chips are bread and butter pickles with hints of garlic and ginger;
- Hot Chili Spears includes a spiked brine with chili peppers;
- Thai basil jalapeño pickle are brined in spices that balance the heat, including peppercorn and fennel;
- Sweet pepper relish a savory relish of cucumbers, peppers and onion, pickled together in their signature sweet brine.
“We love pickling because it allows us to preserve the season. We take a vegetable that’s currently in season and enjoy it year round,” said Sheila.
While the 16 oz jars of pickled products may cost a little more at $10 per jar, you’re getting organic cucumbers prepared using a pickling process that helps preserve the natural crunch of the vegetable. And you’re supporting two local women who have self-financed their own business.
“You make incredible personal sacrifices, work around the clock. It’s about growing carefully, even if that means growing a little slowly,” said Fain.
You can pick up Gordy’s Pickle products online and at more than forty retail locations across the country, including Whole Foods, Smucker Farms, Cork and Seasonal Pantry in our neighborhood. If you would like to meet the owners, head over to the Fresh Farm Market in Penn Quarter on Thursdays.
Oh, and their next pickled project? Okra. Just try and beat me to their booth.
Coffee. Coffee. Wine. That’s pretty much the schedule of drinks in most of my days. But the guys at Capital Kombucha have given me a pretty good reason to add tea to that list.
Kombucha is a fermented tea drink that that was first created more than 2,000 years ago, according to Capital Kombucha co-founder Andreas Schneider. The drink’s ingredients include brewed tea, Kombucha culture, sugar and handmade flavors.
Schneider says most of the sugar is evaporated in the fermenting process, and that what’s left are the antioxidants associated with tea and a distinct probiotic quality (read: your intestinal tract will love you).
Schneider, along with his friends John Lee and Dan Lieberman, began to bottle Kombucha seriously in February of this year. The three met last fall as classmates in the George Washington University MBA program, which they will complete next year. Today, they bottle and prepare Kombucha locally from a commercial kitchen on Georgia Avenue, using ingredients from DC Central Kitchen’s Nutrition Lab to craft their hand-prepared flavors.
So what does Kombucha taste like? Imagine a tart fruit drink that is lighter than juice, but sweeter than water. A bottle of Capital Kombucha will set you back around $3.50, but the flavors are interesting enough to give it a try; they include Mango Chile, Basil Lemongrass, Mint Lime and Peach.
Schneider says their drinks pair well with smoothies and cocktails. He recommends testing out the two recipes below.
Capital Kombucha Bellini
- 1 Raspberry
- 2 Ounces chilled Peach Capital Kombucha
- 3 Ounces chilled prosecco or champagne
- In a champagne flute, lightly muddle raspberries before adding kombucha.
- Slowly pour over prosecco or champagne, stir and serve.
Booch Berry Mojito
- 5 blueberries OR raspberries
- 4 mint leaves
- 2 oz. Mint Lime Capital Kombucha
- 2 oz. white rum
- ½ oz lime juice
- ½ oz simple syrup *
- ½ oz soda water
- Ice (crushed or cubed)
- Add mint leaves, blueberries/raspberries, lime juice and simple syrup to a glass. Muddle ingredients firmly for 30 seconds (berries should be crushed).
- Add 2 oz. Mint Lime Capital Kombucha and 2 oz. white rum to the glass and mix with a spoon.
- Add ice and ½ oz of soda water.
- To really impress the guests garnish the glass by sliding one mint sprig or raw sugar cane into the glass.
* Simple syrup is equal parts sugar and water, then heated to dissolve. To make a simple syrup, bring 16 oz. of water to a boil, add 16 oz. of sugar, turn off heat, stir until dissolved. Allow syrup to cool before pouring.
The aisles of the grocery stores in our neighborhoods demand some attention. Nowhere else in the District can you find such a confluence of diverse populations: the weekdays being dedicated to the mom and the nanny at Whole Foods, while the Sunday morning power-shop is reserved for hipster couples and athletes at Harris Teeter.
You also have the post-work Monday shopper who was too hungover to make it out on Sunday. And the 17th Street NW Safeway practically demands its own dating service since you will be making out with your fellow shopper should you both decide to go down an aisle at the same time.
Yet some would argue that as we’ve sprawled into the brightly lit gleaming aisles of our trusty chain store, we’ve also lost some of the mom and pop market shops that make our neighborhood truly locally owned. We’re here to set that record straight and show you the gems that reside right next door.
Hana | 2000 17th Street NW
When you need your Pocky fix, head to Hana Market. I go here to pick up both cabinet staples and obscure Japanese ingredients. Their website recommends visiting on Thursdays for fresh vegetables from Delaware.
Smucker Farms | 2118 14th Street NW
Head here to get the best of specialty and artisan items like pretzels from the Pennsylvania countryside, DC Kombucha and cookies and snacks from small, family owned producers. In addition, you can also grab a variety of ethically raised meat and dairy products, as well as fruits and vegetables. This is also a pick up point for the Smucker Farms CSA.
Cork and Fork | 1522 14th Street, NW
If your wine knowledge extends as far as which red-grape variety of Three-Buck Chuck you’ll be imbibing, head to Cork and Fork immediately. Check out wine tastings on Saturdays at 3 pm throughout July. Not into vino? They also carry a solid selection of micro-brews. This store also accepts used corks as part of their cork-recycling program.
Seasonal Pantry | 1314 9th Street, NW
If you’re not already here for Chef Daniel O’Brien’s supper club menu, then stop in to pick up a variety of locally sourced market items. Among the shelves you’ll find canned vegetables, fresh sauces and Frenchie’s Handmade Pastries and Desserts (this week: Banana Bread, Chocolate Chip Cookies and Country Sourdough). Borderstan Food Writer Laetitia Brock recommends the Bacon N’ Waffles ice cream sandwiches from Suga Mama Sweets. Also try the seasoned charcuterie (we’ve heard the maple breakfast sausage is incredible) or fresh cuts from the butcher.
Cork Market | 1805 14th Street, NW
Here’s a fact for you: Cork Market’s fried chicken was named a Top 10 Pick by Bon Appetit Magazine. If that’s not mouth-watering enough to make you fight traffic to get here, check out their wine selection with tastings, Monday through Saturday. And you must not forget that Cork Market also makes great Stumptown iced coffee and egg sandwiches.
Habesha |1919 9th St NW
True, you can buy some seriously hearty Ethiopian food for breakfast, lunch or dinner at Habesha, but while you’re waiting why not shop around their wonderfully miniature market for some meat, spices and even injera? Yelpers say this is the place to go for home-style Ethiopian food at great prices. Apparently, you can also pick up phone cards and DVDs.
From Mary El Pearce. Follow her on Twitter @CupcakesDC and email her at maryelp[At]borderstan.com.
It’s not often that cooking myself dinner after a long work day is fun, much less hits the spot. On a recent rainy day, after a friend cancelled on me for dinner, I ventured out to find something to eat. I happened upon Smucker Farms, which I’d heard about but had never been to. The grocery that sells produce from a co-op of farmers from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, would surely have something good to eat.
I stepped in out of the rain and was greeted by the owner, Eric Smucker. The store was void of customers, and for a moment I assumed the business wasn’t doing well. “I think the rain is keeping people away,” Smucker explained to me, stepping out from behind the counter as I looked around. After I told him it was my first time visiting, he offered to show me around. Fresh baked bread, cookies, popcorn, honey and pickles filled the shelves on one side, and various vegetables and meats (all grass fed) the other. In the back he showed me the eggs, milk, yogurt and cheese, and their famous root beer, as well as soaps, lotions and children’s toys, all handmade by an Amish family.
I heard the door open and Smucker greeted the customer, who was looking for steak. I noticed the price – more than I was used to paying at a grocery store – and asked the customer why he was buying it.
“I’m cheap,” he said, smirking. “But I come here if I want good steak.” He went on to describe the tenderness of the meat, how the fat melts into the pan and creates an au jus with the butter, salt and pepper he puts on the meat beforehand. My stomach growled.
Soon after the rain stopped, and a steady stream of shoppers began flowing in and out of the store. Smucker engaged with each one, greeting the regulars by name. I paid attention to what they were buying, and I ended up leaving with flavored popcorn (a popular item), pickles, a petite filet, lettuce and a loaf of bread.
Even though I cooked the filet too long and had nothing else to put on top of the lettuce, it was one of the most enjoyable meals I’ve ever cooked for myself. The flavors were full and it didn’t take much to feel satisfied. Plus it was low maintenance – no pesticides means no need to wash the lettuce, and the steak cooked easily in a couple of minutes. While I have to admit the best part was the steak, the second best part was knowing that I was supporting local farmers produce truly good food.
Borderstan: Why did you decide to start your own business?
Smucker: I didn’t grow up on a farm, but both my parents did. The inspiration for the store came from me working on their farm [between jobs], and it was a lot of fun. I’d been in DC for 10 years, and I thought, “DC could use food like this.” The food from Lancaster is better than anything else available on the east coast. I figured this was a way I could make a living. My last job was to help businesses get started. Doing that on a regular basis, it wasn’t a huge stretch. I’d never worked in a grocery store, but I knew how businesses were supposed to run.
Borderstan: What makes this store different than a grocery like Whole Foods?
Smucker: We’re about the same price point, but I think the quality is better with more of a regional focus. You know exactly where food is coming from. In Whole Foods they tell you where food came from, but I don’t want tomatoes from California. Some people will get annoyed that we don’t have tomatoes right now, but they’re not in season. We focus on regionally sourced food. This winter we’ll probably do more greenhouse grown stuff. It isn’t as good, but over the winter it’ll get us by.
Borderstan: How has your life changed since you became a small business owner?
Smucker: It’s definitely different than the office. It’s nice on Monday afternoon when I can go do something, but on Saturday and Sunday I have to be here. But even at my old office job I was usually working all the time. I want to have seven or eight stores in D.C. to scale up, and we’re building a really good team to do that.
Borderstan: What’s the biggest challenge of being a small business owner in D.C.?
Smucker: Figuring out what people want. I think we’ve been really responsive, listening to what people want to see on the shelves then getting it there, sometimes the next week. We get deliveries twice a week, and getting certain things [with a short shelf life] down to a store like this isn’t feasible. It may be at some point, but right now it’s not. If only one or two people buy something, I can’t sell it. You can’t be everything to everyone. That’s Whole Foods’ job, not my job.
This was formerly an office space. The process to get the zoning changed to a grocery store was much more than anticipated. I was told so many different things on so many occasions [at the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, DCRA]. You’d do one thing and it was right for somebody but wrong for somebody else. The DCRA is still a Byzantine process. And you know what? I should have hired an expediter, but my arrogance got the best of me. It was my first store. Next time around I’ll know.
Borderstan: What advice do you have for anyone wanting to start a small business?
Smucker: Give yourself much more money than you’ll need, but try not to bring in any outside investors. Start slow and small, and work from there. Make sure people like what you’re doing.
From Alejandra Owens. You can find her at her food blog, One Bite At A Time. Alejandra also writes for City Eats DC, a Food Network site, where you can book dinner reservations. Follow her on Twitter at @frijolita and email her at alejandra[AT]borderstan.com
As someone who is constantly on the hunt for quality produce, dairy and meat, I was particularly excited to finally check out Smucker Farms of Lancaster Co. The owner, his family and a few local producers hosted a grand opening party where a number of food bloggers and local residents got to sample a variety of the items sold in the store
It’s a simple, unassuming store front — so much so that Tammy and I nearly walked right past it. Smucker Farms was founded by Eric Smucker, a Lancaster-native and long-time DC resident, to create a direct connection between producers in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and consumers in DC at their store at 2118 14th Street (just below W), which opened last November.
“I was between jobs as a result of the financial crash,” said Smucker. “It wasn’t a good time to be in finance! I was at home in Lancaster and felt the residents of DC were missing out on all the great produce and goods coming from where I grew up.”
The now settled into store features produce, meats, milk, cheeses, ice cream, gelato, baked goods, kombucha and more. At the moment, about 85% of the store features items or goods sourced or made in Lancaster County but they hope to flip that number to feature items or goods sourced from right here in DC. A few of the items that stood out to me were bottles from DC’s first kombucha microbrewery, Capital Kombucha, pickled items from Gordy’s Pickle Jar and pints of my personal favorite, Dolcezza Gelato.
Once you enter the store and realize just how big the space is, you appreciate how truly jam-packed it is with so many delicious things. Homemade pastas, crackers, specialty popcorns, “cookie in a jar” mixes (which made really lovely cookies by the way), jams, vinaigrettes, an entire case of a variety of cuts of 100% grass-fed beef, organic free-range chicken and sausages, a cooler stocked with fresh herbs, beets, lettuces, stir fry mixes and more, and a variety of spices that would make even the most well-stocked kitchen blush.
As if the “charm” factor wasn’t high enough, when Eric Smucker took to the daïs (an overturned wooden produce crate) to thank us all for coming, his mother asked him a question. “Is the grass-fed beef only fed grass, Eric?!” clearly tossing him a softball and making it all the more clear that Smucker Farms of Lancaster County isn’t some hippy/hipster, organic, locally sourced market — it was a family venture, something Eric Smucker wouldn’t or couldn’t have done alone.
“The building hadn’t been occupied since 2004 or 2005, and it was my father and I that did most of the demolition and build-out in the space,” added Smucker. “We had to tear up three layers of flooring to get to what you’re standing on now.”
Smucker then gave us the run down of all the blown up photos hanging throughout the store. “Those are chickens from our farm,” he said somewhat ironically. “And that’s my uncle sitting in a field on our farm. That’s the barn raising from my grandparent’s farm. And that’s a milk cow. Oh and that’s my nephew sitting on a tractor!” To which the group sighed a collective “awwwww.”
I have high hopes for the Smuckers’ store, and particularly see it filling a gap come winter when the markets shut down or it’s slim pickings throughout. Will you be making a trip to check it out soon? Or have you already? What did you guys think of it?
Smucker Farms of Lancaster County is located at 2118 14th St NW and is open from 9am to 9pm all week long.
Even though the farmers market looks a little barren right now, it’s probably time to think about the upcoming growing season. Why? Because it’s CSA sign up time! Around this time every year, local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Programs start accepting memberships for shares in their upcoming harvest.
By purchasing a share, members can pick up a box at a regularly scheduled interval (usually weekly) filled with fresh produce (and in some cases, dairy or meat too). The contents of the box usually change from week to week, so members will try a variety of produce over the course of their membership period.
As luck would have it, a newer CSA program this year, Oasis at Bird-in-Hand, will have a pick up location here in Borderstan! Last Saturday, I went to Smucker Farms of Lancaster County to find out more about it. (See Smucker Farms of Lancaster Co. Opens Shop at 14th & W NW from Maggie Barron.)
Oasis at Bird-in-Hand is a collective of small farms located in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. All of the farms use chemical free, organic farming methods to produce their vegetables. They use animals in lieu of tractors, and also do their part to preserve the land they harvest. By forming this collective, these small farms are able to thrive, in contrast to the many small farms currently struggling with financial hardship.
Several of the farmers were at Smucker Farms of Lancaster Co. on Saturday for a meet-and-greet with customers. They had samples of their meats and cheeses for customers to try and were answering questions about the upcoming CSA program. While gathering information about the CSA, I tried a sample of their raw milk cheddar cheese. The cheese had a sharp tang but melted into a silky smooth texture in my mouth. It was one of the best cheddar cheeses I have ever had the pleasure of eating. Sadly, I missed the samples of the brisket, but its intoxicating smell still permeated the store. The producers were glad to discuss their farming techniques and expressed excitement about the upcoming CSA.
The CSA will run for 25 weeks starting in mid-May, with weekly pickups at Smucker Farms of Lancaster County (conveniently located at 2118 14th Street NW). Each week, members will receive a box of freshly picked produce straight from the farm. The box will contain five to 11 items, depending on the available crops. Prior to their scheduled pickup day, Oasis at Bird-in-Hand will send members a newsletter detailing the produce they can expect in their box that week. The newsletter will also include information about the farms and suggested recipes for the produce.
The cost of a share is $590 for the 25-week period and it can easily be split with another person. There are a limited number of shares available, so hurry, before they sell-out by the mid February cut-off date! You can check out their website for more information about the CSA or to download the CSA application. Applications can also be dropped off at Smucker Farms of Lancaster, along with your payment. Then count the days ’til May!
To me, nothing says “winter is here, time to give up and eat cookies” more so than the seasonal closure of the 14th & U Farmers market. So imagine my delight to see that Smucker Farms of Lancaster Co. finally opened its doors at 14th and W NW last Saturday to help fill the void.
Owner Eric Smucker was at the helm this weekend, welcoming a steady flow of customers. Though the building, a former accountant’s office, had stood empty for five years, it now offers a selection of produce, meat, dairy, bath products, and even furniture sourced directly from 35 to 40 farms in Lancaster County, PA. Most of the suppliers are Amish, which is also how Smucker’s father was raised.
As demand for local and non-corporate food has skyrocketed in recent years, Smucker says the small farmers and producers in Southeast Pennsylvania have seized the opportunity.
“The small producers in Lancaster County are making some really great products, with incredibly high standards,” Smucker told me. “When I was a little kid, Lancaster farmers made farm cheese, Monterey Jack, and cheddar.” Now, the same farmers have mastered fancier varieties, and restaurants such as Vinoteca and The Tabbard Inn are buying it “because the cheese is so damn good.”
Smucker, who used to work in finance in emerging economies, began planning the store back in November of last year. “I initially thought I would want to stay south of U Street,” but his market research showed an opportunity at 14th and W Streets NW.
“With all of the condos, there are a lot of people living here. But the majority of them are doing their grocery shopping a mile to a mile-and-a-half away.” He decided he could offer a selection of what people wanted at a more convenient location. Yes Organic across the street is “a complement, not competition,” Smucker said. “We don’t sell orange juice, and they don’t sell a lot of the things that we have available here.”
As we spoke, a line of people outside the front door waited for lunch at neighboring Martha’s Table. Smucker cringed as his customers tried to navigate through the crowd and squeeze into the store. “They’ve told me they are going to move their line the other direction,” he said gently.
The fact that they are neighbors is an interesting juxtaposition to be sure — the farmers market set next door to a soup kitchen. It’s a reminder of how the tremendous forces of food politics and economics show themselves even at the most local level.
Still, Smucker’s enthusiasm for the job at hand, and for the farmers he sources from, is infectious. “We feel bare right now,” he acknowledged, pointing to the white walls and some of the still-empty shelves, “but we’re expecting lots more.”
That will include whole bean coffee, more baked goods, and a wider selection of meat and dairy. Check them out at 2118 14th Street NW, for more information.
Bye Bye Blue Boxes
We heard a while back that the Post Office at 14th and T Streets NW is bidding us adieu. In the same vein, if you’ve wondering why it’s not always easy, it’s because the blue mailboxes have also been slowly disappearing all over town, as DCist reports. It’s apparently been quite subtle — 194 boxes have already been removed and we haven’t really noticed (which obviously justifies the course of action). No, they’re not going away all together, but you may have to work a little harder to find one.
Medallion System for D.C. Taxicabs?
And speaking of going away, are taxis the next to thing to decrease in numbers? WTOP brings us the story about the D.C. Council’s consideration of requiring all taxis to have a special medallion that would allow them to operate in the District. Not only would it limit the number of cabs that we have, but it could also bring in $200 to $400 million to the government. Stay tuned for more info about this one.