“It started as a conversation between friends,” James Beard Award-nominated chef Jeremy Blutstein said of his new collaboration with Almond Executive Chef and co-owner Jason Weiner. Since April of 2017, Chef Blutstein has worked as Almond Bridgehampton’s chef d’cuisine, bringing a spirit of raucousness and joie de vivre to this Hamptons habitué. “Jason and I were both into playing around with fermenting just about everything and anything we could get our hands on… Obviously, two lunatics who share the same desire to push the culinary limits as much and as often as possible are going to come up with some dope ideas.” The product of their brainchildren, the brand Kimchi Jews (a not-so-coy reference to the duo’s shared religion), will make its debut at L&W Market following the Memorial Day holiday. “It was a natural progression from menu development,” Chef Blutstein said.
Kimchi Jews will feature fermented goods from locally harvested produce, grains, and produce, and will include such specialties as kimchi (duh!), hot sauces, fermented vinegars, koji-cured charcuterie, sauerkraut, various pickles, fire cider, dry-aged beef, almond and wheatberry miso, soy sauces, black bean paste, and whiting fish sauce. The products are produced “old school Dr. Dre-style” in the basement of Almond. While some of the products are shelf-stable, the majority of them are living, breathing probiotic products—which means they need to be kept in a cool environment (like your fridge) and used within a reasonable period of time (probably easier than you think). It’s an expansive line, embracing flavor profiles favored in the Far East, which the East End is notably lacking.
Although Chefs Blutstein and Weiner are Kimchi Jews’ sole partners, they consider themselves part of a community-at-large. “We … get a big leg up from our farmer friends: Produce and goods at Balsam, Quail Hill, Pike, Amber Waves, Marilee Foster, Goodwater, Mecox Dairy, Holly Browder…” The pair also benefits from goods shared by “master fermenter Christopher Tracy at Channing Daughters.” The line of goods has made an unofficial debut in Almond’s dining room, where items are featured on the current menu. Recent showcased items include a kimchi (with both clams casino and Korean short ribs), a fermented carrot kraut using Marilee Foster’s carrots, and apple vinegar from Milk Pail apples.
Products will be available for sale at L&W Market, first, and also at the Amber Waves Farmers’ Market and the new brick-and-mortar space in Montauk. Eventually, wares will also be available for purchase online. Fermentation lovers can expect the line to expand with the season, featuring whatever happens to be fresh and delicious at the market. Last summer, the chefs produced an estimable line of hot sauces from different types of local chili peppers, the bulk of which I had the pleasure of tasting in a hot-sauce taste-off at Highway Restaurant and Bar in February.
In addition to good taste, you can expect a certain level of cheekiness from Chefs Blutstein and Weiner, who have embraced a pop culture ethos in much of their work. Jeremy Blutstein, in particular, has an affinity for Wu Tang Clan and playful 90s references—referred to as “classic” culture by millennials, but what do they know? (By way of example: Chef Blutstein, in answering a question regarding the wizards behind the kimchi, said, without irony, “That’s like asking if Rakim and Eric B. are the only ones sweating the technique,” a reference to a Long Island hip-hop duo who released the epic “Don’t Sweat the Technique” in 1992.)
Which is to say: This isn’t your Korean grandmother’s kimchi, or your favorite aunt’s refrigerator pickles. This line promises to be unique, flavorful, inventive, Wu Tang-tastic, steeped in localism, and, of course, extremely delicious. As Chef Blutstein might say: “Bring the ruckus.”