Those were the first words I really heard after sitting down to dinner at the Seasonal Pantry last weekend.
Sam and I had secured seats to a pop up dinner by guest Chef Aaron Silverman. Who, you might ask? Oh, you know, just this guy who’s worked at tiny, unknown restaurants including 2941, Momofuku, and most recently, McCrady’s down south. If that sounds vaguely familiar, it should. McCrady’s chef, Sean Brock, recently won the prestigious James Beard award for best chef: southeast. The New Yorker published a massive 11-page piece about Brock–a lover of all things pig–his rise to fame and devotion to southern cuisine. As a fellow swine swooner myself, I thought Chef Silverman’s dinner might just fit the bill.
I should first mention what an amazing place the Seasonal Pantry is. Inspired by farm stands and led by esteemed Chef Dan O’Brien (who was present during our southern dinner, assisting Silverman and putting together a few great dishes of his own for the table), his talent and enthusiasm for the market/supper club is infectious. By day the small market sells jellies, jams, pickled vegetables, salts, butters, meats, and homemade marshmallows, to name but a few items. Several times a week, however, the space transforms into a restaurant for 10. A single, large farm table spreads across much of the space. Drinks are served in mason jars. Some of the food is prepared on a cooktop a hand’s reach away from your seat. Everything is simple, clean, and unfussy. The space itself makes me swoon. And that’s not even getting to the inventive and wonderful food that is served (I’m so hoping to get in on the Wu-Tang dinner soon to come). To further sell you on Seasonal Pantry and O’Brien, check this out.
But back to the meal itself. After warming our bellies with said moonshine (which tasted suspiciously like Country Time Pink Lemonade with a major kick), we were presented with a bevy of delicious dishes with a heavy southern influence. The starter, fresh bread with chicken fat butter, definitely set the tone for the rest of the night, as we feasted on the likes of crunchy pig ears, fried chicken with mustard greens, and a dessert of cheddar grit apple puree ritz cracker blend (yes, for real). Playful yet sophisticated, one of the dishes included succulent lobster and baby corn in a puree of something buttery yummy that tasted just like Orville Redenbacher popcorn. Actually, come to think of it, Silverman boasted that he actually used Orville’s goods to make the dish. We also feasted on a cheese dish at the end of the night just before dessert that was very quirky: beet foam (it looked like Pepto-Bismol) encasing a racquetball sized nugget of some kind of yummy goat cheese, topped with nuts or some other kind of spice that was hard to determine. I felt a little like I was in the boat scene of Willy Wonka when eating that dish (there’s no way of knowing which way we are going).
Silverman’s real flair, however, was in charring the food so that it knew damn well it was dead and gone, and in a way that made your taste buds soar. Heavily roasted brussel sprouts with pancetta and egg yolk, charred cauliflower and Greek yoghurt, and–the winner of the night for me–lightly seared mackerel served with, honest to god, lemon ash and a black-as-night lemon puree. It was divine.
I hear Chef Silverman is looking to open up a place in DC. We’ll be lucky if he does. And I can’t wait to get back to Seasonal Pantry.