For the vast majority of human history, fermentation was solely practical—the only way, besides drying, to prolong the harvest. Now, it’s become a matter of taste. “I think people are coming around to the culinary aspects of fermented vegetables,” Kylene says. “They actually taste good. And [people] realize that it doesn’t just have to be cabbage, it can be cabbage and carrot and caraway.”
Or it could be peanut butter with house-made kimchi—what GYST calls the Sandor Sandwich in honor of fermentation guru Sandor Katz. For the less adventurous, GYST specializes in simple boards of meats, cheeses, and pickles to sample with a glass of wine.
GYST should also be a destination for the intrepid winos among us. Mel and International Sommelier Guild Instructor Jill Mott have developed an astounding and unique wine list. You might not recognize any of the labels—or even the grapes. But not to worry: Mel is happy to explain. She pours us an inky, rustic red wine called Pheasant’s Tears. It’s remarkable and different.
“The Republic of Georgia is one of the most ancient wine producing regions in the world,” Mel explains. “This wine is fermented in a qvevri—an earthen vessel they bury underground and seal with beeswax. Our focus is finding wines that are more natural—something with balance, biodynamic, low-intervention, even just from a smaller producer. There’s a liveliness to them. You can taste it.”
GYST’s beer list has a similar temperament—mild, lower alcohol choices with a balance of flavor that complements the meats and cheeses and lets them shine. It’s tough to appreciate the nuances of a farm-direct cheese under the assault of a triple IPA. During our last visit they were pouring Urban Growler’s pale ale and Destihl Abbey’s Single.
And since they’re fermenting almost everything else, GYST jumped into the brewing collaboration scene this August. They lent a spontaneously fermented brine of golden beet and bok choy to Fulton, who combined it with Brettanomyces yeast to create the Kitchen Garden Beer.
In the future, Mel and Kylene hope to use GYST to curate more fermentation demonstrations and get more people thinking about DIY preserving—to create a culture around creating cultures. They also hope to curate a retail market space for customers clamoring for their pickles and sauerkraut.
“This idea that fermented foods have all these microbial things happening that give us all kinds of pleasure and are really good for us, that’s great,” Kylene says. “But on a separate level, it’s about coming together and celebrating the people that make these products and learning from them. We always want to learn. We hope that when people come in they would want to learn, too. That’s what feeds us.”
Killer Pairing #1 — Grilled Cheese + Keepsake Cidery Wild Cider
If there’s one thing a cheese bar needs to have perfected, it’s a grilled cheese sandwich. GYST nails the perfect middle ground between melty and flavorful with a secret house blend of cheeses (sauerkraut optional), accompanied by a light kale salad.
For a “wild” cider—fermented with indigenous yeast—Keepsake’s is balanced and mild. It sports a vibrant golden hue, and a pristine, off-dry flavor. GYST smartly serves the cider in a wine glass—you’ll want to savor the aroma as much as the taste.
Killer Pairing #2 – Green Dirt Farm Woolly Rind + Hammerheart Brewing Hokan’s Brown Ale
Mel tries to order cheese farm-direct, so GYST has cheeses you’d be hard-pressed to find at even high-end cheese shops. The Woolly Rind is a young Camembert-style sheep’s milk cheese from Kansas City, Missouri. Smooth and nutty, the cheese is only aged a few weeks, so it’s subtler than your standard runny, funky Camemberts.
The beer is HammerHeart’s nut brown ale—creamy and nuanced with a patient roast character. Notes of cocoa nib combine with the cheese to make for a chocolate milk-like flavor on the palate. A perfect pairing for dessert.
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