Spike Gjerde, the James Beard Award–winning chef at restaurants like A Rake’s Progress in Washington, D.C., and Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore, approaches local sourcing with religious fervor. He forgoes olive oil and lemons, using locally grown and pressed oils and vinegars in their place. His team dries mint, lavender, peaches, and cherries—and even makes garlic powder. He refuses to buy from distributors, even when they buy from local growers, because he wants every penny to go the farm. “A lot of people say, ‘Wow, this is harder than I thought.’ Then they just call [giant distributor] Sysco. But it’s why we’re doing it,” Gjerde says. “Our job is to get more value back to growers.” Keepwell Vinegar, one of Gjerde’s favorite makers, makes a bitter lemon vinegar, which he uses in a vinaigrette served as a clean accompaniment to fresh oysters. Spicebush berries, sometimes called Appalachian allspice, have a lemony, piney flavor. Order them from integrationacres.com, and use the extra to muddle in the bottom of a gin and tonic in place of lime.
1/4 cup bitter lemon vinegar (such as Keepwell)
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
1/4 teaspoon dried spicebush berries or black peppercorns, finely crushed
12 oysters (such as Chesapeake Bay Orchard Point), freshly shucked on the half shell
How to Make It
Stir together vinegar, shallot, and crushed spicebush berries in a small bowl. Serve oysters over ice with vinaigrette.
Crisp, minerally Muscadet
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