At the market,
"I can't afford to make a restaurant," says Daniel O'Brien, 31. "No way. I don't have the capital."
While he waits to open the eatery of his dreams, the frank former sous-chef of Bibiana and Equinox is rehearsing for the part at Seasonal Pantry, a 240-square-foot food shop he opened last month in Shaw. The inventory on display in the narrow room, which he calls "a tribute to farm stands," showcases products he has made himself. They include pickled cherries and lemon confit on the shelves and duck liver pate and ice cream in the refrigerator.
Thursday through Saturday nights, O'Brien turns the pantry into a supper club, where up to a dozen guests who have prepaid online find themselves gathered around a long wooden table. The menu depends on the market and O'Brien's mood. "After 15 years of cooking," says the native of Upstate New York, who works in view of his customers, "there are a million things" to consider.
Paper placemats with sketches of ingredients hint at what's for dinner. Fennel + lemon + olive oil + salmon - the first line of art on my recent visit - translates to folds of gin-cured fish artfully arranged with lemon zest, herbs and radish leaves. The delicate appetizer is trailed by a succotash of distinction: a strapping bowl of fresh corn, juicy tomatoes and fragrant basil garnished with a crisp sail of chicken skin. (Pork rinds, you've met your match.) Tonight's main course is a coil of pork sausage, spiced with paprika and coriander and topped with soft-cooked peppers and onion. The feast channels "The Sopranos"; a single portion could easily serve two.
Our lone server looks familar. Kate Nerenberg, an associate editor for Washingtonian magazine, happens to be O'Brien's significant other. The rest of us appreciate the speed with which she replenishes the wine carafes on the table.
The weak link of the meal is dessert. Fresh berries and whipped cream upstage the dense lemon pudding they dress. But there are smiles all around when we're treated to little pouches of the chef's barbecue spice on our way out the door.
Unless you've bought the entire table, you'll probably be supping with strangers. O'Brien advises newbies to "be outgoing. It's only two hours. Enjoy it."
He makes it easy. ♦
Sign up for Seasonal Pantry's featured clubs,
but hurry because space is limited!
Article courtesy of The Washington Post, Going Out Guide:
<< Click here to go back to the Press page