We’ve talked before about how kitchens are extending themselves into supply, to create this beautiful loop of grow, make, cook, serve. Another in that ilk is Bar Tartine in San Francisco. There the buzz is about making each part of the offering from scratch, whether it’s the lard or the paprika, or the bread, which alone is worth a visit. The chefs are Nic Balla and Cortney Burns and the flavours and textures reflect the heritage of both – Eastern European and Asian. That may seem muddled but it works well together because of a kind of peasant honesty and warmth.
The really big deal at Bar Tartine in terms of DIY is fermentation. That’s the truly inspiring element. There’s hints here of both the Hungarian and the Japanese influences as fermentation is a staple in both food cultures. From an historic point fermentation is age-old and comes out of necessity, links strongly to harvest-cycles and has huge health benefits. But it’s also a dynamic way to bring a particular punch to dishes and a flavour profile that’s hard to find in any other way.
Kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, even yoghurt, are all ferments incorporated into dishes. If you include some pickles and chutneys, and even the right kinds of bread – read sourdough – there’s a lot of fermenting going on in our own kitchens too. And yes it’s de rigueur to ferment but those original reasons for doing so are still valid and vital: it makes harvested food last right through the year, it cuts down on waste and makes the most of what you have at hand, and it’s very very good for your insides, whether you’re a rave-reviews restaurant or a home cook.
Chad Robertson, who took the beautiful photographs for the Bar Tartine cookbook, took this pic of pickles too.