See also: Sacha Levine: Tastemaker #74
If you keep abreast of culinary up-and-comers, then you already know about Sacha Levine. She works for Chrysa Robertson at Rancho Pinot and puts in prep time for Charleen Badman at FnB -- which is to say, she's been mentored by two of the biggest, most badass female chefs in town.
The girl is going places. That's been clear for a long time.
One of Levine's many talents is pickling, and last summer, she launched a pickled product line called Green Thumb, which she now sells at Bodega -- the tiny gourmet market also owned by Badman and her partner Pavle Milic.
The name references not only Levine's commitment to the local, seasonal ingredients she uses in her pickles (think McClendon's Select, Two Wash Ranch and Crooked Sky) but also her signature thumbs-up response to just about everything.
Obviously, her pickles change with the seasons. Right now, she's making three products, each selling for $5:
Pickled Eggplant -- stuffed with chiles, which create a mild, slow burn on the tongue Summer Giardiniera -- a tangy mix of pickled yellow squash, zucchini, green bean, onion, garlic, red bell pepper and more Heirloom Dill -- a bright, crunchy and exotic mix of heirloom cucumbers, including burr gherkins, lemon cucumbers, Painted Serpents, Carosello Barese and Mandurian Rounds.
Soon, she'll be back to making pickled okra, later moving into carrots, turnips and other fall and winter crops.
As always, Levine also makes batch after batch of pickles for use at Baratin, the wine bar next to the Bodega. Here, her pickled veggies are served alongside Badman's extraordinary sandwiches, which is just the sort of lily-gilding no one really objects to.
Her pickles, Levine explains, are fresh, not preserved, and the procedure she follows is actually canning. Preserved pickles sit in brine until they naturally ferment, a process that changes (and softens) the texture of the vegetables.
If you like crunch, you'll like Levine's fresh pickles -- which are veggies mixed with brine, boiled in a jar and sealed. Kept refrigerated, they can last anywhere from three months to a year.
Although the peerless pickle-maker credits Badman for pushing her to have her own business, she insists that pickles will never be her one and only pursuit. That playing field would be way too narrow for a girl with her talents and interests, and she can't imagine ever making much money at it anyway.
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But for now, she's making pickles, and for now, we're glad to get them.