Back in December of 2015, I wrote that the husband/wife team of RJ and Lindsey Marvin had opened Barrel + Brine – a culinary operation dedicated to pickled products. Since that time, their location on the city’s Lower West Side/Historic West Village has served its purpose, but the time has finally come for RJ and Lindsey to broaden their horizons. They have outgrown their shop/production space mainly due to the rapid growth that they have seen as of late. That growth can be attributed to 10 Wegmans locations (from Military to McKinley Parkway) picking up Barrel + Brine products. “We do all of our own deliveries,” RJ mentioned. “So at this point, those locations were within our delivery capabilities. Even that was a stretch for us, but our motto is ‘whatever needs to get done, we’re gonna get it done’. If that means that we have to work a few 16-hour days, then so be it.”
According to the couple, landing the Wegmans account began with 5 locations, but before they knew it that number had climbed to 10 (as discussions continued). That’s when they knew that they would be needing a much larger location. It just so happens that developer Rocco Termini had been wooing them to occupy a space on Chandler Street. Rocco had initially approached them at a farmers’ market. The Chandler Street turned out to be just what they needed. They will be opening in the same building as BlackBird Cider, at 155 Chandler.
Not only does Barrel + Brine specialize in pickled products (have you tried their pickles yet?), they also make kombucha and kimchi. “Kimchi has become our number one seller – people in Buffalo are really into it,” said Lindsey. “Wegmans is steadily ordering it. They also do a great job at broadcasting locally made products, by featuring the stories about businesses that are making the products. On Amherst Street, there is a huge display. Plus, they are ordering more and more from us – Maple and McKinley locations just tripled their orders.
By moving into a 3500 square foot facility on Chandler Street, Lindsey will be able to triple the kombucha production. Until this point, they have not been able to drive up kombucha sales. Incredibly, their new walk-in cooler will be the same size as their current production space.
Along with all of the new production space, the new Barrel + Brine location will also have a tap room, serving kombucha, local beers, kombucha cocktails, and Bloody Marys (using their own mix – see inset). They will also be serving up pickle plates, and a variety of foods that revolve around the art of pickling/fermenting, such as yogurts, kimchi poutine, and a hibiscus bagel with dill pickle cream cheese (yum!). Barrel + Brine lovers can also look forward to a number of specialty batches that aren’t available on store shelves.
Because of all of the spacious room, they will be able to store a lot more produce. Often times, they are offered fruits from suppliers that customers might not consider “perfect in appearance”. Well, if you ask RJ and Lindsey, these are sometimes the “perfect ingredients” for kombucha. Instead of throwing away bushels of peaches because they are not perfectly shaped or colored, or they were picked too early and are too ripe, they will be picked up and stored at Barrel + Brine, to be used in an assortment of products. We’re talking about literally tons of food that might normally be thrown out, or composted on a good day.
Barrel + Brine also sells its kombucha to Whole Foods, both Lexington Co-ops, all Feel Rites, and smaller artisanal shops. The fermented tea is also on tap at Breadhive, Tipico, Nature’s Apothecary, and Bar 1818 (Whole Foods Market restaurant).
The eatery at Barrel + Brine will have a preservation-focused menu. It will be ever-evolving, as the local crops rotate throughout the season. Customers will be able to get their growlers filled, or try out flights of kombucha. RJ and Lindsey also pride themselves in establishing relationships with other local producers, including Leonard Oakes winery, Blackbird Cider, Thin Man, and others.
The Chandler Street building is also a Start-Up NY hotspot, according to the couple, who are hoping to tap into tax breaks/credits, with programs rooted in Buffalo State. That means that they would agree to hire someone that is currently an intern in the Buff State program, and in turn RJ and Lindsey would give class lectures. “We can talk to people and spread the good word about fermenting,” they said. “To us, it’s all about the community aspect of fermenting, which comes from a process of preserving. The act of preserving dates back hundreds of years. It’s just as important today as it ever was.”
When visitors arrive to the new Barrel + Brine digs, they will get to walk through a courtyard, with places to sit outdoors, and bocce courts. People will get to taste the fruits of the collaborative partnerships, whether it’s a shot of inspired Steampunk Fire Tonic (collab with Leonard Oakes, using garlic, ginger, turmeric, lemons, oranges, horseradish, and habañeros), or nibbling on Breadhive dill pickle rye bread (made with Barrel + Brine’s leftover pickle brine), there will always be inspired food and drink on hand. Heck you might event find that the soap that you use to wash your hands after lunch is made with kombucha, thanks to a collaboration with Lamphere Street Soap Co.
Barrel + Brine makes small batch artisanal kimchi, probiotic rich sauerkraut, fresh pack pickles, and in-house kombucha.
As for their original Johnson Park neighborhood, they say that they will miss it dearly.”It’s hard… so many awesome people would stop by every other day to support us,” they chimed in together. “We’re going to miss the people in the neighborhood. We’re hoping that someone takes over the corner and creates a place to sit, hang out, and enjoy the neighborhood.”
In order to ensure that their new space is firing on all cylinders, RJ and Lindsey have launched an Indiegogo crowd funding campaign, to help offset the cost of the equipment that they will have to purchase. The rewards for donating range from classes to fermentation dinners to super special natural ferments (see examples of products here).
Finally, a pop-up party celebration will be held at their original 257 Carolina Street location on Sunday, April 8, starting at noon, featuring dine-in or take-out Korean Canadian Fusion (third annual pop-up lunch with Anthony Petrilli of The Grange Community Kitchen):
- Galbijim on Rice Bannock
- Korean Braised Short Rib w/ Chestnut and Asian Pear on Canadian Style Rice Flour Bread
- Kimchi Poutine
- French Fries w/ Korean BBQ Pork Shoulder
- House Made Cheese Curds
- Spicy Kimchi
- Corn and Scallion Fritters with Spicy Maple Syrup
- Special, secret kombucha release of Kosmic Kombucha (undisclosed ingredients)
Whew! There’s a lot going on with Barrel + Brine these days. And that’s just the beginning – just wait until they open up their new location… and prepare to have your mind blown!
“I don’t know how well we would have done in any other city but Buffalo,” remarked AJ. “The people have been so supportive. Who would have thought that Buffalonians would go so crazy for fermented products?”