If ever there was an oddball food to attach your name to, it’s sauerkraut. Yet it makes sense to Spike Mendelsohn — the former “Top Chef”-testant behind We, the Pizza and Good Stuff Eatery — who’s gotten involved with a splashy, monthlong sauerkraut PSA of sorts called “Kraut Rocks.”
The campaign, sponsored by brands Krrrrisp Kraut and Silver Floss (and whose name is an apparent nod to “krautrock” music), is all about encouraging more people to buy and eat the tangy, fermented cabbage.
Mendelsohn will judge Kraut Rocks’ “friendly competition” among five local chefs out to create the best sauerkraut-enhanced dishes. Their specials (see list below) will be available all month; customers can vote for their favorites at Krautrocks.com. Mendelsohn says he’ll eventually crown a “sauerkraut king of D.C.”
I’m a fan. It’s a great flavor, full-bodied. And it’s very versatile. … I used to eat something, when I trained in the north of France, called choucroute, which is pretty much a classic preparation of sauerkraut and sausage. What people don’t realize is, throughout the world — whether it’s called kimchee or cabbage or choucroute — sauerkraut is something that you’ll find in every single cuisine.
What’s the most surprising use you’ve seen?
Erik [Bruner-Yang] from Toki Underground blew me away with his [Kraut Rocks] dish. He took a lot of [sauerkraut] liquid and braised pork belly in it, and then he made his own congee [Chinese rice porridge] out of the juice. It was brilliant.
How have you used it?
I made French onion soup. I caramelized onions and then put sauerkraut in it. Then, I used rye croutons and [melted] two different types of cheeses on top.
You promoted the acid-reflux medication Dexilant a few months ago. Are you still involved with that?
No, I think we wrapped that whole campaign up.
Do you have a guiding philosophy when it comes to choosing endorsement deals?
Yeah. I think ones that are very important and serve a purpose.
You’re still involved with Bravo; “Life After Top Chef” premieres Oct. 3.
I’m very excited for the show to air. I get a lot of credit every single day for all the restaurants that I’m involved with. What the show’s going to show [are] the people behind Spike Mendelsohn — that’s my sister, my mother and father, my good friends and my partners — who do a lot of the hard work. We filmed this in the midst of opening our new Crystal City location [of Good Stuff Eatery] and my new restaurant on Capitol Hill [steak-frites eatery Bearnaise, which will launch in the winter].
Kraut Rocks Dishes
Toki Underground (1234 H St. NE; 202-388-3086) chef Erik Bruner-Yang created Suan Cai pork belly rice with sauerkraut-flavored congee, left.
Granville Moore’s (1238 H St. NE; 202-399-2546) chef Teddy Folkman is serving “Kraut Rocks” mussels with “porkraut sausage.”
The Queen Vic (1206 H St. NE; 202-396-2001) chef Ian Reeves is serving pork loin with sauerkraut and roasted apples.
Redline (707 G St. NW; 202-347-1248) chef Fabrice Reymond is making sauerkraut- and sausage-stuffed aumonières (purse-shaped, dough-wrapped appetizers).
Virtue Feed & Grain (106 S. Union St., Alexandria; 571-970-3669) chef Ryan Wheeler is serving sauerkraut Scotch eggs (hard-boiled eggs covered in a mixture of sauerkraut and sausage, then breaded and fried). K.A.