“I want to restaurant-ize pickles,” explained Samantha Paone, who, along with her chef/husband, Anthony, started selling their Golden State Pickle Works products at Petaluma’s east side farmers’ market last April.
Sam and Anthony are chefs. The two met while living in Oakland and working in the East Bay. In 2014, they accepted cooking positions at the Kenwood Restaurant and moved to Sonoma. Most recently, Paone has been consulting for the Sunflower Caffé, but last month, she left her day job to focus entirely on her pickling business.
“It’s more like play for me,” laughed Paone, who learned from years of working in San Francisco restaurant kitchens like Boulevard and Prospect, that the best way to preserve and save vegetables was to brine them.
She likens utilizing the entire vegetable or “root to stem” to the better known meat term “nose to tail.” The notion of not only preserving and preventing spoilage, but also pickling entire vegetables —stems, leaves and all — is equally important to the seasoned chef.
Working out of a commercial kitchen on Lakeville Street, Paone typically has at least four different products in various states of fermentation. Her Half Sour Cucumbers, Bok Choy, Kale and Apple Slaw and Cabbage and Caraway are regulars, but she also likes to keep it seasonal and not always predictable.
“I don’t use the word sauerkraut for my pickled cabbage, because people might have preconceived ideas of what it will taste like,’ she said. “I like to offer new flavors and new ingredients that aren’t as well-known.”
Loosely named after a beloved pickle store in Staten Island that Anthony would visit with his mother while growing up on the East Coast, the name Golden State Pickle Works doesn’t tell the company’s entire story. “The Live Larder” tag line more broadly defines the business and its reach beyond just pickles. Ranch and cultured cream dressings, mustard and mayonnaise, and even an apricot and pluot ketchup make up their product line, and in fact, their very first item was a ginger peanut sauce that Paone developed while she was still working in a restaurant.
Triple T Ranch in Santa Rosa is one of the nearby farms Paone works with to find locally grown cucumbers, peppers and radishes. Sebastopol’s Handlebar Farm provides her with lots of Bok Choy and green garlic, and in the summer she hopes to find locally-grown tomatoes, snap peas and romaine lettuce for new products.
A big part of Paone’s workdays include cleaning and peeling vegetables before the brining even begins. Five days is typically the minimum brining time required for many of her creations, but heartier beets and horseradish can take up to four months.
After so many years tucked away in kitchens, Paone describes her venture as an opportunity to come out into the light of day.
“One of the things I really like about pickling is that it takes us back to a simpler time before there was so much commercialization of food,” she explained. “I enjoy talking to people at the farmers markets about what they like to cook and eat.”
She also frequently reminds them that adding a last bit of acid to their recipes is often the missing ingredient that brings balance to a dish.