Bacteria, algae and mold have gotten a bum rap, you guys.
But maybe not anymore.
Researchers are finding the mini-galaxy of microorganisms that live within our guts are vital to our health, and chefs around the world are increasingly harnessing microbes to create exciting new flavor profiles.
Clearly, there isn’t a better time for local fermenters Barrel + Brine to be smashing the doors open on a new cafe and tap room.
Co-owner RJ Marvin told us he’s definitely noticed growing interest in fermented foods over the past few years.
“Not only among chefs, who are able to preserve food and utilize it longer,” Marvin said, “people are also learning more about (its benefits for) gut health and where foods come from. There’s definitely a resurgence going on.”
Marvin was actually part of the original crew that worked to open Buffalo Proper. Just after Buffalo Proper opened its doors, he launched a fermentation program over at the Elm Street Bakery. He and his partner Lindsey, who oversees Barrel + Brine’s kombucha production, would go on to open a retail location in 2015, and the couple just completed a move to the expanding entertainment complex at 155 Chandler Street.
You’ve probably seen Barrel + Brine pickles or kombucha at Wegmans, and the new location will be a great way for Barrel + Brine to showcase a broader range of its fermented products.
“I’ll be able to utilize produce as it comes to us,” RJ Marvin said. “So, if a farmer has a bunch of carrots they’re trying to get rid of because maybe they’re not pretty enough, we can utilize those carrots in a dish relatively quickly.”
Unlike most restaurants, the new cafe is based not on a specific cuisine, but on a preservation, and that concept isn’t something you can find, anywhere, even in larger cities like New York and Chicago. One menu item that points to this uniqueness is the matzo ball soup, made with chicken that has been aged with a special mold called koji.
“If you inoculate a steak or chicken with koji, (the mold) starts to pull the excess moisture out of the meat and release its natural sugars and amino acids,” Marvin said. “Basically, it starts to produce more umami flavor in the meat. To make a (standard) chicken stock, we take raw chicken, put it in the oven until it was well-roasted and then throw it in some water and cook it overnight.
“But with the addition of the koji, it’s releasing so much more starches, sugars and amino acids, during that roasting process, it becomes super concentrated, super flavorful and more of that umami flavor. So once we boil that down, the stock becomes richer, more satisfying and more fulfilling than just a standard chicken stock. And after that koji chicken is braised down in the liquid, we just pull it off the bone and reserve it for the soup itself.”
Not to be outdone, Barrel + Brine’s kombucha program is now a force to be reckoned with, if it wasn’t already. The new location houses a 10,000-liter kombucha brewing system that will largely focus on four core flavors: strawberry-lemon, hibiscus-orange, ginger-lemon and elderflower. Other flavors will be made based on seasonality and a line of hard kombuchas (3 to 4 percent ABV) are coming soon.
If you’re not feeling kombucha on your visit, Barrel + Brine also has draft beer, as well as New York wine and spirits.
On top of all that, Barrel + Brine is located next to a massive courtyard complex, directly across from the BlackBird Cider Hall. The courtyard is expected to be a hive of activity, especially when, and if, the weather cooperates. There are lawn games and Adirondack chairs set up and canned beers or growlers can be brought into the courtyard from Barrel + Brine. Tappo @ Thin Man is across the street.
“What we do is kind of based in having people around and having a community,” Marvin said. “So people are more than welcome to come around and spend the day.”
Barrel + Brine also has Bloody Mary FLIGHTS. Oh yes honeyyyy
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♦️BLOODY MARY FLIGHT♦️ • Barrel + Brine House Bloody Mary mixes with @lockhousedist vodka today 11-4pm. • Kimchi Mary, made with house kimchi Brine • Bloody Verde, Tomatillo mix • Bloody Marie Lauveau, NOLA style with Obay bitters • Classic, our NY Deli Dill Pickle spiked original • #buffalobrunch
Barrel + Brine
155 Chandler Street, Buffalo, NY, 14027
Hours: Wednesday to Friday 8 a.m. – 10 p.m., Saturday 2 p.m. – 10 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. (brunch), Monday and Tuesday, CLOSED.