Of all the popular foods that I have always felt guilty for not loving, mustard ranks close to the top. There was something so unapproachable and alienating about that fluorescent yellow squeeze bottle. I used to cringe when my childhood friend would squeeze packets of the neon stuff directly into her mouth.
But then I tasted the homemade mustard at the Standard beer garden and barbecue joint on 14th Street NW, served with a soft baked pretzel. And now, I’m a total convert.
The seedy canary-colored condiment induces a slight pucker with its yogurty tang and gets the nostrils flaring with its spice.
“I didn’t like any of the commercial mustards available, so I made a mix of several types with extra seeds,” says Standard owner and chef Tad Curtz, who otherwise refuses to dish up his secret recipe for the stuff. “I’m not going to tell you how to make this.”
Curtz spent weeks with his mentor, Peter Pastan from Neapolitan pizzeria 2 Amys, devising and taste-testing multiple sauces for the Standard. Besides the delicious mustard, others include a homemade barbecue sauce that is slathered on both the pulled pork and the brisket, as well as a secret burger sauce modeled after the stuff at New York’s Shake Shack.
Curtz modestly downplays his mustard as “not extraordinary.” I, for one, beg to differ. It’s life-changing.
I’m not alone in my mustard love, either. Since the Standard first opened in March, Curtz says patrons have been putting away about 150 pretzels per week along with about a gallon of the mustard.
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Photo by Samantha Le