We’re proud to collaborate with some of the best food people in our cities. We produce our own products in small batches in our regions, so it’s only natural for us to support others who are creating some of the best stuff out there. Two of those makers: business partners + life partners Sarah Gordon and Sheila Fain of Gordy’s Pickle Jar.
The pickled banana peppers these ladies create for our CAVA locations are hand-crafted with a zesty blend of coriander and fennel. Gordy’s also creates a variety of specialty pickled products available at local farmers’ markets and grocery stores throughout the DC area and beyond. We were also pretty thrilled for them when we heard about this limited-edition Nordstrom partnership featuring their killer Bloody Mary Mix.
We had the chance to grab lunch with Sarah and Sheila at their sunny Petworth production space recently, and we wanted to share a few of our favorite moments from that conversation.
So give us the abbreviated version: How did you get to where you are today?
[Sarah]: We both had a similar passion for food and wanted to work together, so we started daydreaming. I was living in San Francisco at the time and Sheila was back in DC. I decided to move back to DC because we knew it would be a great place to start Gordy’s. There was an appetite for our product and, at the time, only a handful of companies were manufacturing food products.
What made you want to work in food?
[Sheila]: It was really about bringing people back to tasty, authentic flavors made with real ingredients. The idea of creating a product that tastes great and makes you feel great really excited us!
What made you want to work with Cava?
[Sheila]: Gordy’s and Cava have a very similar ethos. We focus so much on ingredients, process, and the product, all while having fun and cultivating community.
What was your inspiration for the pickled banana peppers? Tell us about them.
[Sheila]: We wanted to create a balanced and layered flavor profile that would complement the existing offering in a way that was unique. There’s lot of rich protein and spice in Cava’s food, so we chose coriander seed for a citrus element and fennel seeds for cooling.
Any pieces of advice for small-batch entrepreneurs who are just getting started?
[Sarah]: Be honest in the relationships you build along the way. That’s so important for us — they’re vital to success and make sure your product tastes great!
Favorite part about your new(ish) production space?
[Sarah]: The natural light.
Go-to sources of inspiration?
[Sarah]: Traveling is a big source of inspiration for us. These days we mostly travel for work but we often extend our trip a day or two to explore and visit local chefs we’ve admired from afar. Last summer, we toured the farm at Blue Hill at Stone Barns and then took a picturesque drive up to Hudson, NY.
Any favorite food memories?
[Sarah]: We went to Tuscany the summer of August of 2011 right before we launched Gordy’s, and we had some of our best food experiences there. The slow food culture is very much intact there. Simple custards were some of the best, and of course the mozzarella and pastas!
What do you make when you’re cooking for loved ones? What recipe do you know by heart?
[Sarah]: Sheila’s big into pasta. Her go-to crowd pleaser is Bolognese. It’s a simple version with sautéed carrots and onions — and most important a good ratio of pork to beef. She sears bone-in pork chops first then simmers the remaining ingredients together for just under an hour. So it’s a relatively quick dish to make when the occasion calls.
Any foods you hate? Weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?
[Sarah]: We’re both pretty adventurous eaters. Sheila loves Uni more than me.
Tell us something not very many people know about you.
[Sarah]: Sheila has a Black Belt and I’m a 13-year cancer survivor.
What’s next for Gordy’s?
[Sarah]: Something very VERY exciting. Stay tuned.
[We’re thinking Sarah might have been referring to this AWESOME addition to the Gordy’s collection.]
What’s your go-to Cava order?
[Sarah]: We usually get the same thing: Supergreens salads with hummus, tzatziki, and harissa, plus braised lamb, quinoa tabbouleh, cabbage slaw, cucumber, banana peppers (double orders!), plus fresh mint and Greek vinaigrette. Pita on the side and always a house-made juice.