Chef and owner Renee Erickson puts crusty bread on your table, and the usual pat of butter, but she also leaves a pot of the most divine chicken liver pâté and a few pickled prunes in syrup. When I first tried it, I was electrified. I vividly remember it years later. The prunes are sweet but also a little sharp and just a teeny bit warm spicy and perfectly offset the rich pâté.
Renee is taking those prunes national, along with pickled red onion, pickled golden raisins and pickled figs. All the pickles have their own personality, but they all follow a similar profile: a little sweet, a little tart, a little spicy.
No cucumbers were harmed during the making of these pickles. Get that limp green wedge or those olive drab chips out of your head. These aren’t those kind of pickles.
Renee was at the Cheese Cellar last Thursday and was pairing the pickles with assorted cheeses- fresh chevre, aged gouda, ripe camembert, stilton. Then she added it to a slice of salami. Then she said raisins go on roasted fish and onions on grilled beef. I poured some fig syrup on pumpkin gelato. Then prune syrup on pumpkin gelato. I came home and thought, I can put the onions on a sandwich! I can add the prunes to pork chops! I can do raisins on a bagel with a shmeer! Figs with everything! Cheesecake, yogurt, roasted duck, lamb!
I fell asleep dreaming about dribbling pickled golden raisins on a goat cheese and sprinkling with shredded basil. I woke up thinking about pickled figs on a triple cream with some chopped marcona almonds.
You can get them at the Cheese Cellar, and various other Seattle locations, and around Oregon, too. And for you sad saps that aren’t lucky enough to live in the Pacific Northwest, she’ll be in the new Zingerman’s catalogue soon, but the Cheese Cellar ships, too. And I know it’s Christmakwanzakuh and we’re supposed to be giving, but be sure to keep some pickles for yourself. It’s been a tough year and 2009 doesn’t have a fairy godmother to wave a magic wand, so you’re going to need a little joy.