It just didn’t feel right to take pictures. I felt like I needed to preserve the sanctity of these two places, to the extent a food blogger can. I’m talking about SUNdeVICH and Seasonal Pantry. Long overdue, I decided to make my initial trek to these two stores, nestled in Shaw in a somewhat quiet neighborhood and right around the corner from each other. The trek was worth it and I’m definitely going back.
On a lovely Saturday morning, I made my way to the alley where SUNdeVICH is located, only to realize the sandwich shop wasn’t yet open. Well, actually, I wasn’t sure where the entrance was. I left the alley, glued to my iPhone in hopes that “Siri” would tell me where I’d gone wrong, and trying to pretend — for any onlooker’s benefit — like I knew exactly where I was. Then, as I passed by Seasonal Pantry, I saw a guy unlock its doors and smile at me. His first words were “did you just call me?” It instantly put me at ease. No, I confessed — I was confused. I was trying to find SUNdeVICH. Apparently, it didn’t open until 12 — a full ten minutes away.
It turned out that the “guy” was Dan O’Brien, the creative mind and chef behind Seasonal Pantry. We ended up chatting for a few minutes about his passion for food and inspiration for opening the shop/restaurant. The Pantry is small, with only a few select items lining its shelves. Chilled items include house-made pastas, sauces, sausage, and ice cream. The Pantry’s inventory changes from one week to the next with a schedule of items to come written out on a large whiteboard.
The Pantry feels a little Old World Italian, which is no surprise given Dan’s background in Italian cuisine (He served as executive sous chef at Bibiana prior to opening Seasonal Pantry.) I liken it to walking into the personal pantry of a chef’s country home. According to Dan, the store is a tribute to the farm stands that he grew up with in his hometown, which don’t really exist here in DC. While Dan also keeps a few ready-to-eat items on hand (for example, on my visit, I noticed guinea foul manicotti in one of the refrigerators), the real beauty of Seasonal Pantry is to come in, pick up a bag of uncooked house-made pasta, some sauce, and be able to whip up a quick dinner at home.
The same small space doubles as a kitchen and dining room for the Pantry’s Supper Club, which allows diners to enjoy ever-changing menus (posted ahead of time on the Pantry’s website) while chatting with the chef. Seating is limited and tickets sell out fast. I haven’t attended a Supper Club dinner yet, but, I’d love to. Given his relaxed demeanor and enthusiasm for his craft, it’s no wonder that Dan is able to chat with diners while doing some serious chef-ing only a few steps away.
Inspired, I picked up a bag of house-made lemon-ricotta ravioli and pork and cheese sausage. I made two simple, but flavorful meals out of these two ingredients: ravioli — cacao e pepe style– and sausage and peppers.
Cacio e pepe sounds fancy, but, it’s not. You only need a few ingredients: butter and lots of Parmesan (or Pecorino) and pepper. To prepare, I cooked the ravioli in a pot of salted water. In a saucepan, I heated butter and added pepper. I let this mixture cook for a minute to allow the pepper to get a little toasted. Then I added some pasta water and the cooked ravioli. I finished it off with grated Parmesan and a little extra butter until the pan sauce came together. I love this preparation for ravioli, as opposed to saucing it, because it allows the ravioli to take center stage.
The sausage and peppers dish was equally as easy. After browning the sausage in a pan, I removed the sausage and added the onions, peppers, and some salt and pepper. I let the mixture cook down and caramelize and then added the sausage and a little broth to finish cooking the sausage through. I paired this with some crusty bread and a glass (or two) of wine.
With quality ingredients like those at Seasonal Pantry, it’s amazing how little you have to do to prepare a top notch meal.
ADDRESS: 1314 Ninth St. NW, Washington, DC 20001
HOURS: MON closed TUE/WED 2–8 THU/FRI 2–7 SAT/ SUN 12–7
Ali Baghderi, Dan O’Brien’s business partner is the creative mind behind SUNdeVICH. For the unfamiliar, SUNdeVICH is a sandwich shop that features thirteen sandwiches named after the cities that inspired them. For example, there’s the Athens, Istanbul, Buenos Aires, and the Kingston. All sandwiches are served on freshly baked baguettes supplied by a local bakery. I tried the Athens (of course) which came with lamb, tomatoes, sumac onions, tzatziki, and some ruffage. It was tasty with a good bread to filling ratio. The bread was great — crispy on the outside, yet soft and yielding. I’m a fan.
ADDRESS: Alley behind 1314 Ninth St. NW, Washington, DC 20001
HOURS: MON-SAT 12-9