Funky, Fermented Foods Brighten Up Lunch, at Somerville’s Bronwyn
- Kristen Evans
- 3 Min Read
According to everyone from the wellness industry to natural food companies, fermentation is in. After all, it lengthens the shelf life of food and livens up average dishes with brightness, acidity, and texture. Chances are you can find fermented foods on almost any menu—from cocktail garnishes to flavorful sides like kimchi and sauerkraut.
But there’s another reason chefs and wellness gurus alike are flipping for fermentation—it’s good for your gut, too. (Just think about all the kombucha lovers you know!)
“Food preservation is one of the most ancient and beautiful forms of scientific alchemy, where something is becoming even more nutritious and alive than it was before,” David Klingenberger explained to Bon Appetit. Klingenberger owns the Michigan-based food processing business The Brinery.
In spite of our newfound love for fermentation, these foods are often overlooked in business settings. Don’t let a fear of vinegar or strong flavors scare you away from ordering fermented foods for the office. While you may worry about taste and smell, pickled sides offer a punch of flavor to most meals—and they’re a big part of global cuisine.
Whether you’re looking for a way to add cultural diversity to your menu or simply liven up lunch, fermented foods offer plenty of mileage. We went behind the scenes with chef Tim Wiechmann to explore the fermented foods served at his restaurant Bronwyn.
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Day two of #bronwyn #pigweek ! Tonight we have pork liver dumpling with choi greens, topped with crispy pig ears! $20 with sauerkraut and potatoes! We’ll have a new special every night this week, so be sure to get your reservation in!
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Fermented Foods, at Tim Wiechmann’s Bronwyn
Wiechmann helms the kitchen at Bronwyn, an award-winning German restaurant in Somerville, Massachusetts, named after Wiechmann’s wife and business partner. The restaurant reflects the values and food of Germany in both its menu and preparation style, offering artisanal, handmade sausage, pretzels, beer, and schnitzel.
“We wanted to create a farm-to-table restaurant that’s culturally German,” explained Wiechmann. “It’s very casual and warm, accessible, friendly—and the food is high-quality at a decent price,” he added.
An avid experimenter in the kitchen, Wiechmann loves fermentation of all kinds. One of his favorites? Cheese-making, which he does at home. (He’d just returned from an expedition to Northern Vermont, where he spent some time learning about raw milk cheeses.)
Fermentation is a chemical procedure that happens naturally in foods. As bacteria in the foods become active, explained Wiechman, the sugars are broken down to create lactic acid, which ultimately leads to better food preservation. The process helps us make all sorts of delicious dishes, including breads, cheeses, pickled vegetables, and beer.
At Bronwyn diners can taste the complexity of fermented flavors in the sauerkraut. Wiechmann sources his restaurant’s beloved sauerkraut from a local farm, Patriot Pickles, in Rhode Island. It took him ages to find a vendor that made sauerkraut of the quality he required for his restaurant, but now he goes through about 200 pounds per week. Once the sauerkraut arrives, Wiechmann’s team simmers the fermented cabbage with Riesling, honey, butter, and juniper berries, so it matches the flavor profile of his dishes.
Wiechmann uses a less time-intensive process of fermentation for other dishes. This makes it easier for Wiechmann to generate his own sourdough bread starter, for example. “Our pretzel is a quick starter with yeast,” he explained, “but we use a natural sourdough starter for bread.” Bread starters and quick pickles are a great way for restaurants to add “the complexity of aroma and taste” of fermented foods to the menu—without having to navigate the potential complications of fermenting foods over longer periods of time, Wiechmann said.
He’s a fan of the taste, too. After all, fermented foods are “interesting, bright, and acidic,” said Wiechmann. “They’re complicated to your nose. They’re nuanced.”
Why wouldn’t you want to give them a try?
Try Bronwyn’s Fermented Foods at the Office
Here are some fermented foods you can keep an eye out for when ordering for the office:
- Soft pretzels with house mustard
- Schnitzel sandwich with lemon rémoulade and German cucumber salad on a pretzel bun
- Vegetarian “hot dog” with chickpeas and lemon rémoulade on a pretzel roll
- Party tray of house-made sausage, sauerkraut, house mustard, and pork-fat-fried potatoes
- Tray of assorted hors-d’oeuvres such as currywurst bites, pork pirogies, picked eggs, potato pancakes, bratwurst on German rye bread
Try Bronwyn’s award-winning hot dogs and schnitzel for yourself.