Let It Brine


Photograph by Sara Remington

Kris Tominaga and Brian Dunsmoor are in the kitchen at Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, peeling and dicing a multicolored haul from that morning’s farmers’ market. They pack produce into jars and trays filled with pungently spiced vinegars; some of the fruits and vegetables bathe for a few hours, others for weeks. More so than the hanger steak or the baked quail, these are the stars of their Venice pop-up restaurant: pickles. “About half our dishes have something pickled on them,” says Dunsmoor, whose Southern roots inspired him to feature the brined bits. Both chefs are alums of restaurants that focus on local fare (Dunsmoor at Axe, Tominaga at Joe’s), but the duo goes a step further: Bread-and-butter pickles are stacked next to the pork fritter, pickled shrimp are served with zucchini relish and buttermilk dressing, and a pickle bowl includes anything from Asian pear to shiitake mushrooms. “They are something you can eat between courses to refresh your palate,” says Tominaga. “There are a lot of strong flavors.”

In places like the Northwest the winter is a lot less bountiful, so pickling arises out of necessity,” says Daniel Mattern, chef at Cooks County on Beverly. “But in L.A. we have access to great produce year-round. We pickle to experiment with textures and tastes.” Cooks County’s pickled cauliflower, which accompanies a grilled snapper sandwich, is a hit with the lunch crowd. “Pickles are a natural reaction to the rich meat dishes that are popular,” says Mattern. “The acidity cuts through the heaviness.”

Roy Choi serves an heirloom pickle plate made with carrots, fennel, and radishes at his Culver City restaurant, A-Frame, and a tangy-sweet dish of pickled dragonfruit and mango at Sunny Spot in Venice. For him, pickling “makes eating fruits and vegetables a treat instead of a chore.” 

Open Wide: Where To Get It

12565 Washington Blvd., Culver City, 310-398-7700

Cooks County
8009 Beverly Blvd., L.A., 323-653-8009 

Sunny Spot
822 Washington Blvd., Venice, 310-448-8884

Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
1616 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, 424-268-8344