2005 Southeast 11th Ave
Dinner Wed – Sat, 5 p.m. – close
Brunch Sat – Sun, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
By Cat Wurdack
Spring is here and so is the pure, simple flavor of fresh peas.
2nd Story chef-owner Erin McBride is excited about peas — specifically, sweet, tender shelling peas and snap peas in their delicious, crunchy green jackets. Though McBride makes just about everything on the menu — puff pastry, gnocchi, pickled vegetables — this year, she’s having a particularly good time with garden-fresh peas.
She’s folding them into chicken pot pie and scattering them in a quinoa nicoise with olives and tarragon, feta and mint. She’s mixing them with wild nettles and carrots and toasted walnuts in cream sauce for potato gnocchi. She may even pickle them.
McBride is similarly infatuated with the gooey deliciousness of the duck eggs she serves from Dancing Chicken Farms. She cites the grassy flavor of the rich yolk, the way it runs a little on the fried egg brioche featured on the weekend brunch menu.
Certainly, these are good things, tasty and laudable in their way.
But it is McBride’s pickle jar — a much ballyhooed and frequently photographed still life of colorful vegetables exquisitely brined and arranged as a bouquet in a half mason jar — that some of us cannot easily forget.
McBride is proud of her pickle jar (she has been pickling since she was five) but she thinks it gets too much publicity and so has asked photographers to focus their attention elsewhere — on the leafy views outside the charming bay windows, perhaps, or the Moroccan-inspired turquoise door, or the elegant lavender-blue and dove-grey walls of the dining room which turn color with the changing light in this second-story urban aerie.
Yet there is good reason the pickle jar commands attention.
Each element (cauliflower, green beans, beets, celery, carrots) is individually brined or fermented with caraway, cinnamon, or turmeric to smack the taste buds, in that excruciatingly playful way that pickled things do, without sacrificing either native flavor or characteristic crunch.
The pickle jar is available as an appetizer, an accompaniment to a cocktail, and a brunch item. One could make a meal of it with spiced almonds and nuts, and crisp fingerling potatoes drizzled with olive oil, scattered with coarse salt.
What’s really important, if you like pickled things or think you might, is that the pickle jar is not going anywhere; it will not be displaced by seasonal whims. It will never, ever be elbowed out by fresh peas, or braised lamb with fava beans and sauce verte, or wild King Salmon.
So when you visit 2nd Story, expect a sturdy climb up twenty-one steps. It sits over Cellar Door Coffee, across from The Firken Tavern in the leafy Hoefer-Abernethy neighborhood.
And from the second story, looking out to the sky and the canopy of spring growth, you could be anywhere considering whatever pickle you’re in.