We love our makers, each and every one of them. Read about them here...
QUINCE AND APPLE
Quince and Apple was founded in 2009 by husband and wife duo Matt and Clare Stoner Fehsenfeld. You can find Matt working in the kitchen developing preserves and working with stores and customers while Clare manages finances and overall strategy.
Matt's mom taught him to make preserves when he was three with the currant bushes in their backyard. He went to culinary school in Madison and spent several years working in high-end restaurants and managing a wholesale bakery. Both Matt and Clare come from families of entrepreneurs and have a strong passion for food. "We wanted to create a small business with a complete hands-on approach in the kitchen and great relationships with our team, customers and our community,” Clare says, “every decision we make is motivated by building those relationships."
New preserve and syrup flavors start as a brainstorm. "We experiment with a lot of different ideas and go into a test batch process. This lasts from two batches and two days to fifty batches and two years!" Some recipes truly highlight Wisconsin's best fruit since Quince & Apple uses as many local products as they can source. Depending on the year and season, certain fruits can be hard to find. For example, to create enough Strawberry Rosemary preserves, the Quince and Apple team were hulling strawberries 8 hours a day to make the most of what they could find.
Being a small, hands-on business, Quince and Apple is able to focus on each batch from start to finish, giving them the ability to carefully correct for seasonal variations and keep the quality of the batches super high.
The couple plans to introduce more flavors and hope to keep collaborating with other Wisconsin artisan businesses. While the company is young, their ideas are big.
Coulter Lewis is a child of the South, meaning food was always a delicious part of family life and always (well, almost always) fried. “It wasn’t healthy, but it did bring the family together.” As he and his brothers got older, they began to help out around the kitchen and by high school, Coulter’s brothers had become so handy that they’d landed jobs cooking in restaurants. And probably for the best. “These days, my mom enjoys the company while the three of us cook.”
Lewis’ love for food didn’t initially translate into an occupation. In his pre-Quinn days, he worked as an engineer, and Kristy - Coulter’s wife and Quinn co-founder – worked for a music systems company. Nonetheless, food was a passion, and healthy food in particular. The two (grudgingly) gave up microwave popcorn after reading the nutrition labels. “I grew up on it, so over time, I really started to miss it. I assumed someone would eventually fix it, but it never happened. When my son Quinn was born something just clicked, and I started full force on a mission to clean up microwave popcorn.” It began, as it so often does, in the Lewis’ home kitchen; lots of popcorn and flavor combo trial and error. Coulter was on the phone with suppliers and farms by day, popping kernels by night.
“Finding good ingredients from suppliers that shared our vision turned out to be quite a challenge. It took a year of phone calls and meetings, but now we have a very close relationship with all of our suppliers. Every ingredient is non-GMO, the corn is organic, even the cheese is rBGH-free. We’re very proud to be able to say that.”
Working in small batches and maintaining such high standards for their product means that it’s difficult to keep Quinn low priced, but the Lewis’ know that’s important, too. “It’s a challenge. On an average day we are slowly chipping away at building a self sustaining food company, but every once in a while, I pick my head up and realize what we have done. Making food is so fundamental and and we are on the leading edge of major change in our food system. It's just so rewarding!”
JACK RUDY COCKTAIL CO
ON FOOD AND CHILDHOOD:
Food was wildly important. We NEVER went out to eat, probably because I had two brothers and it would be expensive to feed a family of five. That being said, both of our parents cooked from scratch all the time. We enjoyed family dinner every night, and usually the topic of discussion was the food on our plates, and how much better it was than most restaurants. Our vacations were planned around food. Dinnertime, for sure, was the most enjoyable time of day. And breakfast. And lunch on the weekends.
HOW DID YOU DECIDE TO START A BUSINESS?
I loved gin, but was savvy enough to care about the things I put into my body. I didn't want to put a bunch of crappy tonic into my drinks, and I didn't want to serve crappy tonic either, so I set out to make my own. I never intended to start a company.
Customers at the restaurant I managed were asking if they could buy it. I thought if I sold 5 bottles a week then that would be pretty cool. I sold it all. I made more, and sold that, too. Then, Chef Sean Brock committed to serving my tonic as his house tonic at HUSK in Charleston, SC. I knew production had to grow, and that I might need to get an LLC. From there, we scored a few other local restaurants. I never said, "I'm gonna start a company," it just sort of happened. Two years later, we are on the cusp of releasing product number two, making some money, and having a blast.
HOW IS THE TONIC MADE?
We source all of our ingredients from an American company that specializes in selling the best botanicals from across the globe. When I started, we produced it in one-gallon batches in my home kitchen. From there, we moved into a catering kitchen and began to produce 5-gallon batches, and then, soon, bumped up to 10-gallon batches. Today, we produce our tonic in 250-gallon batches here in Charleston. The basic process remains the same, but the kettle is 15 feet tall rather than 3 feet tall.
Keeping up with demand. We've been very fortunate that a lot of people have wanted to sell our product, and along the way, we've had to say 'no' a lot because we just didn't have enough. We've grown slowly and carefully over the last two years, and while we produce much more today than we did then, we're still very much ‘small batch.’ I'm very comfortable with our current production rate, as it forces us to continue to be careful about who we go into business with.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE BUSINESS?
The learning curve is steep, but creating a profitable business that people love has been one of the most challenging and rewarding things I've ever done. Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. aims to be a producer of quality bar goods. Period. Of course, that could grow to be so much more in the future. For now, our guiding principle is to imagine what products would be in our great-grandfathers bar cabinet, and reinvent them for a modern drinker.
Trevor Tauzer & Claire Maygren-Tauzer
ON FOOD AND CHILDHOOD:
I was raised on a farm, homesteaded in 1861, been there all my life. My father started beekeeping in 1973, and I grew up immersed in agriculture. My mother and brothers raised goats, chickens, and the typical farm animals, while I mostly tended to bees with my father. I was involved in various things as a young adult, but it was ultimately the honeybees that stole my attention. Farm fresh, humanely raised, and organically grown foods are a mainstay in our household.
HOW DID YOU LEARN TO MAKE HONEY?
Our honeybees should get all the credit. All I do is make sure our honeybees are happy and healthy so they can do what they were made to do – pollination and honey production.
HOW DID YOU DECIDE TO START A BUSINESS?
I wasn't always planning on taking over my father's business. After graduating from college, I went home to work for the summer and help out my family. It only took me a year to realize I wasn't going anywhere. I created Sola Bee because I wanted to develop a sustainable way of packaging and producing our raw honey. By applying modern values and practices to what my father had already laid the foundation for, we created Sola Bee Farms.
HOW DOES YOUR PROCESS WORK?
We keep our bees in very distinct regions of Northern California. They visit the flowers and blooms in their area, and produce different varietals according to the season, region and weather. What you get in our jars is directly from bees to you. No additives, pasteurization, or changes to their work.
Distribution and getting into new markets. Sola Bee is mainly managed by my fiancé Claire (she's also a part time high school teacher). She does all the work from labeling to honey to getting it on shelves. I'm very busy keeping our bees healthy, ensuring we have good places to house them, and communicating with the landowners who allow us to place our bees on their land. Claire and I have our hands full.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE BUSINESS?
I love being outside, working in agriculture, and visiting different beautiful places. I love being able to provide our customers with a high quality, sustainably harvested honey from the bees my father and I have devoted our lives to.
AMAGANSETT SEA SALT
Steven & Natalie Judelson
ON FOOD AND CHILDHOOD
Food in Natalie’s childhood was all about big extended family meals. Mine was about smaller, family meals made by my Home-Ec-teacher-mother, who banned salt from the kitchen after my father was diagnosed as hypertensive. But mealtime for both of us always meant family time. We were exposed to a variety of foods, taught to respect ingredients, were expected to participate in meal preparation and were encouraged to experiment.
HOW DID YOU LEARN TO HARVEST SEA SALT?
We've been into sea salt for a long time. Perhaps it had to do with our proximity to and affinity for the ocean, but I think it just had more to do with the realization that salt was magical – a tiny bit makes everything taste better. On several trips abroad, we stumbled upon sea salt ponds. Fascinating – so simple and so unchanging! We took these experiences home and – mostly out of curiosity – tried to make sea salt ourselves. We tried almost every imaginable method (boiling, drying, solar evaporating) in almost every possible container. We finally got pretty good making something we liked, and would make tiny batches for use in our own kitchen.
WHEN DID YOU DECIDE TO GO INTO BUSINESS?
Natalie and I had made the decision to slow down at work – our law practices as well as my real estate development work – with the intention of enjoying life, our children and the beach. But, I got a bit fidgety and began to get on Natalie’s nerves. She suggested that there may be a business opportunity from our 13 years as hobbyist salt makers. I took up the challenge and, after LOTS of trial and error, we came up with a method that was scalable and up to our standards for taste and texture.
HOW IS YOUR SALT MADE?
Our raw ingredient – sea water – comes from the Atlantic. We collect it by hand from the beach in Amagansett, NY, which is about 12 miles from the tip of Long Island. We first subject the sea water to a bunch of tests to confirm purity. Then, we wade out into the ocean and collect 100 to 150 gallons of water per outing. We take the seawater to our sea salt farm, which is also located in Amagansett, and entirely outdoors. Clean air is as important as is clean water and affects the flavor. Clean water, clean air, clean salt.
Back at the farm, we put the water through a series of steps to remove silt and other organics, then it is “planted” in a series of “pans” where it evaporates in the sun and wind. We work in batches of approximately 120 gallons of seawater, which produces about 15 pounds of sea salt. The sea water becomes more concentrated. We monitor the evaporation carefully, frequently covering and uncovering the pans to keep out rain and condensation and, when necessary, to slow down the rate of evaporation to produce the type of crystals we want. Eventually, we’re left with a highly saturated brine, and salt crystals start to form. When they’re ready, we harvest the salt crystals by hand. We mound the wet crystals on outdoor drying screens where the sun, wind and now gravity dry out the crystals. Once dry, we bring the salt in and put the crystals through a hand mill to fracture them into the proper size.
Weather. We constantly battle weather. Too hot, too cold, too humid, too windy, too much rain, too much snow. Unlike tides and waves that are too strong or too big, none of these are life threatening, they just affect evaporation so that constant attention is needed. Salt that is left to dry too long is bitter and hard. Salt that is harvested too soon lacks the complexity of flavor. Getting it just right is tricky.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE BUSINESS?
The creativity, and the chance to work together. Our sea salt business has also been a wonderful opportunity for us to meet and get to know an entirely new batch of hardworking and creative people in all stages of the food business. We knew many of these people as consumers, but now, being on the producer side, we have a new understanding and respect. We are enjoying the ride!
BISCOTTI DI VECCHIO
Danielle Di Vecchio’s story of her first encounter with biscotti is dreamy....
“My paternal grandmother was an amazing cook and baker. Fresh pasta, homemade sauces – and always cookies, cookies, cookies! I was visiting her in Chicago one summer when I was 14 or 15 and I asked how to make biscotti. It was really hot, she had no air conditioning but a table fan blowing on us. She took out the flour and dumped it on the Formica counter, made a well in the center, cracked the eggs, added pats of softened butter and started to mix the dough with her hands. No measuring cups or spoons. She added almonds, sugar and the other ingredients, never breaking a sweat! Before long, she was rolling out logs, showing me how to brush them with milk and sprinkle with sugar before putting them in the oven. Her secret ingredient? Whiskey. When the first “bake” was done, she took them out and sliced them while they were hot. I remember her handling the hot logs with her hands and not flinching. She sliced them and returned them to the cookie sheet for the second “bake”. My brother and I couldn’t wait for them to be done. She'd pour us tall glasses of milk and the three of us sat at her kitchen table to eat. They were beyond delicious.”
Years later, Di Vecchio found herself working in New York City as an actress, though baking was still a passion. Finally, in 2003, tired of the highs and lows that inevitably accompany a career in acting, she decided to listen to what friends had been saying all along about her baked goods ("You should sell these!").
Clearly this was meant to be. “I drew up an order form on a Word document, got a free fax number and sent out an email to the 300 people on my email list. No Facebook. No Twitter. After an hour, I had 25 orders.” For the next few years, she kept the business as a side project, mostly seasonal and relatively small-scale. Working as an actress, she would often bring her cookies as a treat for the cast and crew. “I working was on The Sopranos, playing Tony's sister, Barbara. Terry Winter, one of the head writers, was writing an episode in which Barbara was coming to an event with what the script called for as a "box of pastries." He called me to ask if I could bring in a bag of Biscotti di Vecchio instead resulting in BDV's television debut!”
After this brush with stardom, the biscotti really began to take off. Danielle registered the LLC in 2009, began to pursue wholesale accounts and focus on recipe development. However, every batch is still hand made, hand cut, hand packaged. Zero preservatives and nothing artificial – she even roasts her own hazelnuts.
“I am lucky to have a great team who are passionate about what we do. But as the owner of a small business, I have done practically every single job necessary to make it work. There is nothing – NOTHING – that I haven’t done, from budgeting to making deliveries to mixing big batches late into the night.”
Danielle is excited to push further into the community of local artisans, especially after partnering over the most recent holiday season with another NYM maker, Charlito’s Cocina. “The endless creativity and the empowerment of producing a quality product that people enjoy and get excited about has been a truly lovely gift that has come out of all of this.”
PULSE ROASTED CHICKPEAS
ON FOOD AND CHILDHOOD
My parents were refugees of the Khmer Rouge. When they immigrated to the U.S. they were met with an abundance of food – especially processed foods – that they were not familiar with. As my parents assimilated, this included adopting not-so healthy-eating habits because fast, convenient food was a priority. When I was about twelve, I began to read articles about health and nutrition. To me, it’s as simple as trying out different foods and seeing how it makes you feel. Rather than theorize, just put it to practice and see how it changes you physically and mentally.
HOW DID YOU LEARN TO MAKE THE CHICKPEAS?
It was after a workout with my regular gym buddy that I was first introduced to roasted chickpeas. I was starving after one of our workouts and he pulled out a bag. They had a dense texture and soft crunch. I had never had anything like it and was impressed by the nutritional value, iimmediately zeroing in on the amount of fiber and protein in each serving, 5g each. That was my ah-ha moment. I began experimenting in my kitchen, considering the roasting process of the chickpeas and how I could play with heat to arrive at the airy and crispy roasted chickpeas that I have today.
HOW ARE THEY MADE?
My ingredients are all organic and I currently roast the chickpeas at WhedCo, an incubator kitchen in the Bronx. I usually roast 100lbs one a week. It is an all day event, 8 -10 hours depending on what flavor I’m roasting. Then packaging is another full day. It is a physically demanding job.
Right now I’m a one woman show, in charge of everything from the production process, setting up sales meetings to running demos and other miscellaneous things. It’s hard to find free time to do anything else. I’m in this transition period where I am working alone, but need to start hiring people so I can scale.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE BUSINESS?
I love that everyday is different. I’m never bored. I love to see the positive reaction people have when they try my products and walk away knowing that they are eating something good and good for them!.
Brendan Donovan, ON FOOD AND CHILDHOOD
Sunday dinner was a big deal. With work and school, it was the only time for my parents, my three brothers and I to all get together. We had this long oak table where we ate that’s been in my family forever. It has seen many a great meal. My parents recently sold my childhood home, and now I have the table in my home.
HOW DID YOU LEARN TO MAKE PICKLES?
I always wanted to do something personal – something I could be proud of and share with others. I suppose my passion for food is what led me to this. I'd been a chef for a long time and wanted to go into business for myself. I was always experimenting - my apartment was a laboratory of sorts until I was finally able to rent kitchen space.
HOW ARE THE PICKLES MADE?
Where do I start? Without giving up to many secrets, I make seven different products, each in small, 10-gallon batches. Every vegetable is sliced, diced, and cut by my own hand; each jar is packed, filled, and labeled by hand, too. When it comes to spice, I love Terra Spice from Indiana, but every other ingredient is sourced locally in New York.
Unfortunately I’m not an Octopus, I was only born with two hands. I have seven different SKU’s to be made with one man in the kitchen. Me!
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE PICKLE BUSINESS?
At the warehouse today, I was putting together a mixed pallet that was being shipped to a new distributor in Canada. Knowing that I personally cooked, hand packed, and hand labeled all 1680 jars in just a few days was very rewarding. Watching my hard work leave the warehouse is always humbling to me.
KLARA'S GOURMET COOKIES
ON FOOD AND CHILDHOOD:
Food has always been an important part of my life. When I was a little girl, my Grandmother worked for a local bakery in town. She was very skilled and when she was baking for the family she always let us be a part of the process. Playing with the bread dough, making cookies, getting covered head-to-toe in flour. Very happy memories.
I got into making our product because our family would always get together at the holidays to make Christmas cookies, and I mean LOTS of Christmas cookies. We would bake for days! We would package and share them with all of our family and friends. Sort of like a cookie exchange, but on steroids.
HOW DID YOU DECIDE TO START A BUSINESS?
When I was working at a restaurant in Hillsdale NY, I met my husband to be. I did not know how to express myself to him, so I baked him our Vanilla Walnut Crescents. Those are some tasty cookies, and my intentions were clear. He is actually the one who originally said that we should look into producing our products on a larger scale.
HOW ARE THE CRACKERS MADE?
We attempt to source as many local ingredients as possible. Many of the best ingredients are not produced near to us, but we do try. We work in small by wholesale bakery standards. For example, Tate's (a cookie brand) makes about 1 million cookies a week, and we do about 1 to 2 percent of that, or about 10-20 thousand.
That we are up against are the volatility of food pricing as of late, but we still want to charge a reasonable price for our products. That is a struggle.
FAVORITE PART OF THE BUSINESS?
The reaction we get when sampling our cookies. My husband calls it the "time machine". People will say "my grandmother or aunt or sister used to make cookies like this" and we can see that they are transported to a really happy memory. We think that's pretty cool.
Dandelion was founded by Todd Masonis and Cam Ring. We spoke with Alice Nystrom, who has been with Dandelion since almost Day 1, originally as a chocolate maker. Now she works mainly as a customer and community manager while Todd focuses on their cafe and Cam manages the production.
ON FOOD AND CHILDHOOD
I've certainly always loved food, especially chocolate! I didn't have a very refined palate as a kid, but came to love food later in life through making it. I'm also an artist, and love making things to share with others. I started to think of food in this way and found myself making chocolate shortly thereafter!
HOW DID THIS GET STARTED
Todd and Cam are the Dandelion co-founders. Before making chocolate, they were in technology. A few years ago, they started tinkering around with cocoa beans and machines, stayed in the garage phase for a year or so, and I joined them then. There was so much to learn, to try, and to figure out. San Francisco used to have an Underground Market (the same one that launched many a New York Mouth favorite!) – guests paid $5 to try offerings from new food companies without health permits. In the Bay Area, there are so many fantastic new companies who can't afford to pay for a commercial space because rent is so high here. The market allowed us and others to test new products in the market. When people tried, liked, and bought our chocolate, we started to think about really going into business.
HOW IS THE CHOCOLATE MADE?
We make small-batch chocolate from the bean. Our bars have only two ingredients, cocoa beans and cane sugar. We work hard to source beans directly, when possible. We travel to the source as much as possible and meet potential growers. Once we have great beans, we process them ourselves in our space in the Mission district of SF. Our batches our still very small. Our roaster works with 5 kilos of beans at a time, our melanger holds 30 kilos, and our chocolate tempering machine holds just 60 kilos.
Because chocolate manufacturing equipment is generally designed for an industrial scale, we have to work hard to find machines that will work with our process and small batch-size. We've built, tinkered with, or totally overhauled each of the machines in our factory – none have worked for us right off the shelf. In addition, we don't use emulsifiers in our chocolate so it's very thick, which poses another set of challenges. All told, we have to get creative!
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE BUSINESS?
The people who come into our factory. People wander into our cafe every day. They're often confused at first, because they haven't seen a chocolate factory and cafe before. When they linger and watch, it's fun to watch them light up with excitement.
WHAT LIES AHEAD FOR DANDELION?
I hope that the cafe takes off and that customers will start to learn more about bean-to-bar chocolate through their experiences here. I hope that we can find a strong following for craft chocolate in general. The category has a lot of potential to grow. If it does, we will too. I'd love to have factories, cafes, or small shops around the world.
Interview with Cesar Sanchez
Tell us about food and your childhood?
My love for cooking and food really didn't develop until I was in my mid-20’s, around the time I got married. Part of it because I got exposed to great food while I was working at design studios here in Dallas. Vendors would take us out to nice restaurants for lunch or dinner, so I got to try a lot of great places.
How did you get into making your salsas and deciding to go into business?
Just by making them at home. I started with simple salsas, and then got into more complex ones. I was basically just experimenting. I would always roast jalapeños on the grill and add lime juice and salt, as is very typical in Mexico. Then a close friend of mine brought me a jar of serranos in soy sauce from Mexico. I loved the flavor, but they were a bit salty and too spicy for me. I thought could improve them, so I would roast jalapeños instead of serranos, and serve them with lime juice and soy sauce. Friends and family enjoyed them so much that I thought why not try sell them. I create brands for a living so it was perfect in that it combined both my passion for food and for design.
How's the salsa made?
Well, I decided early on that without experience in the food industry, it was a dangerous proposition to invest in my own facility, so I found a local co-packer to help us. Our peppers come from Monterrey, Mexico. We usually do work in very small batches, maybe 50 cases at a time.
Many! One big one is simply not having enough time to manage my two businesses because I also own a design studio, which is basically our bread winner. My time at Zukali is limited. Funding can be stressful, too. It's really a one-man company, with the occasional exception of help from my wife and daughters.
What is your favorite part of owning a business like this?
I love coming up with new unique salsa recipes and I have really loved building a brand from the ground up.
Interview with Sebastián Cisneros of Cocanu Chocolates
On food and childhood:
I was born and raised in the high altitudes of Ecuador, Quito to be specific. Chocolate has been magical for me as long as I can remember. My most vivid memory is from a family road trip to the Ecuadorian coast, where the pungent smell of cacao fermenting wafted in and overtook the car. When I asked about the awful smell, my parents laughed and answered “chocolate.” That such a thing was related to my beloved "chocolate" was mind boggling.
When I was just 17, I moved to Oregon for University. I was about to graduate with a degree in Economics from the University of Oregon when I began to tinker with possible ways to put my efforts into chocolate. I had many dreams, but no idea how to ignite them. A job offer moved me to Portland, where I found myself sitting at a desk just few short blocks away from Cacao, a local specialty chocolate store. My first visit was quite intimidating because here I was at the epicenter of my chocolate dreams, and didn't know what to do with myself. I bundled my courage for a week and upon my return I was greeted by a "We Are Hiring Sign". Five years later I gave my notice to my mentors, employers and friends, Jesse and Aubrey (Cacao’s owners) as it was finally time to focus all my attention on Cocanú.
How did you learn to make chocolate?
Before I was hired at Cacao I knew that someday I wanted to embark on a chocolate story of my own. Aubrey and Jesse were very open and taught me a lot about fine chocolate, to understand its circle of life. Months later, some major events in my personal life gave me a clearer vision. Chocolate was not only a way to improve my customers’ well-being, but it could also be a way for me to communicate personal experiences, dreams, or peculiar observations about my surroundings.
How did you decide to start a business?
I felt that Cocanú had to come alive, and I was set on making it happen. Cacao (the shop) had shown me the principles of chocolate, but actual technique and practice were things I had to learn myself. I taught myself how to temper in my kitchen on a stone slab. Then I bought a small tempering machine and made the first 1.5lb batch. I designed the bar and made the molds myself with silicone. I brainstormed night and day about the packaging, and I was ultimately inspired by three things: Euclidean geometry, Ecuadorian hayacas, and unsent love letters.
How's the chocolate made?
Once the dream of the chocolate bar comes to me, I turn my attention to finding the flavors to make it a reality. Perhaps it's as simple as going to the Dollar Store for Pop Rocks, or as far as an Ecuadorian desert for palo santo (a type of wood), or a short drive eastward towards Oregon's hazelnut orchards. I work in 10 lb batches with chocolate from fine chocolate makers in France, Sweden and Ecuador. I am easing into a new factory which I built in summer of 2012 that is inside a historic industrial laundry facility that is now a center for contemporary arts in southeast Portland.
Prioritizing ideas. My imagination gets tempted constantly, and it's a challenge to say no. I'm learning to silence them and store them for later.
What is your favorite part of the chocolate business?
Living chocolate every day. I feel fortunate to have found a beautiful element around which my world can pivot. Chocolate strings together family, new friends and old, creativity and curiosity. I find it amazing how this project requires me to listen and observe, awake or sleep. Staying sensitive to my surroundings has been vital for the health and creativity of the project. Also, mistakes! Cocanú has significantly grown from scraping beauty out of accidents.
interview with Leslie Kielson
Tell us about food and childhood!
Growing up Jewish meant that food always played an important role in our family. First and foremost, there must always be more than enough food. No one should ever leave hungry. So if you are planning to have 5 people for dinner, you make enough food for 9. Grocery shopping, especially at farmers’ markets, has always been one of my favorite things to do. I love to be able to feed my family, friends and now a whole host of people all over with Battenkill Brittle.
How did you get into making the brittle?
My wife and I are very active. Biking, hiking, skiing, gardening, we love it. We begrudgingly brought energy bars to fuel us through, despite the fact that they mostly don’t taste very good, and don’t work particularly well. Then, in the summer of 2010, we planned a 7 day bike trip through the Northeast Kingdom and Champlain Valley of Vermont. I had tasted something vaguely similar to what is now Battenkill Brittle and decided to try to make something like it for our trip. My wife, Liz, has low-blood sugar, so having a high protein snack is imperative for her. We were literally astounded by how well this new snack worked on our trip.It powered us up the many Vermont hills! Best of all, it kept Liz’s blood sugar really even. When we got home, I had others taste it and soon they were clamoring for more. I realized that perhaps I had created something that was marketable.
And the business?
Once I decided to produce Battenkill Brittle as a product, I was new to the food business, so I had a tremendous amount to learn. I began by perfecting the recipe, and coming up with a good shape and size for packaging. So many local, small food producers in Vermont were extremely generous with their time and advice. With their help, it took me about 2 months to put it all in place and secure my first accounts. Since then, the packaging and the process have evolved significantly. It is fun to look back at all the variations!
How's the brittle made?
When I first began, I was baking in the kitchen in my house, but that quickly became unmanageable. So I started working at a nearby maple sugar shack that had a commercial kitchen, and then moved to an even bigger space shared with a local granola company. Last spring, I decided to make the big investment and I put a full commercial kitchen in my basement, so now I work from there. I get my ingredients from various, mostly local distributors and the maple syrup is produced a couple towns away. Whenever possible, I try to get ingredients that are produced in the United States. I bake about 250 pounds of Brittle and Crumble per week usually over the course of 3 days, or about 24 pans per day. (Phew!) I am not anxious to get too big. I enjoy working mostly by myself, doing the baking as well as the marketing and running of the business.
What's your favorite part of owning the business?
My favorite part of this business is being able to provide a delicious and really healthy snack for people. I love talking to the customers who come to the farmers’ markets. It is so gratifying to hear that people appreciate having an energy bar that is not too sweet, and that really gets them through. It feels like I am sharing a part of myself with people which makes me very happy.
What role did food play in your childhood. Has it always been important to you?
My culinary journey started at a very young age in Casablanca, Morocco. As the oldest girl in a family of 10, I became the 'chef de cuisine' of the house at just 13. It has been a passion ever since, and later down the line, it became my career. I began by learning traditional Moroccan recipes from my mother, and when I was older, I studied in local cooking schools. I was married at 19 and was lucky enough to move to Paris for a year with my husband, where I studied French cuisine. After that, we were in Morocco briefly, and my husband and I decided to move to New York City where we settled down and I found myself working as a private chef, a career I very much enjoyed.
When did you start making Mina Harissa?
Harissa is the national condiment of Morocco, it's literally in every pantry. It was ubiquitous throughout my childhood, but when I was 16 I remember tasting my next door neighbors’ homemade Harissa and falling in love with it. I played with their recipe until I made it my own. I added extra virgin olive oil, a touch of vinegar and some extra garlic to the red chili pepper base for a unique tangy/hot flavor. I've always made small batches of harissa to use at home, or share it with friends.
When did you decide to turn it into a business?
When I retired from professional cooking in 2010, I finally felt like I had time to pursue a life long dream of mine ; launching a small Moroccan food line. My harissa was our first project. With the help of one of my sonsm Fouad, we launched Casablanca Foods. He surprised me and named the brand 'Mina' after me.
How's the harissa made?
Our harissa is carefully blended in small batches using only 6 ingredients; red chili pepper, red bell pepper, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, vinegar and salt. Our peppers are from a small farm in California that specializes in peppers only, and everything is as fresh as possible.
What do you love best about it?
We're a family-owned business. I work with my son and two daughters. Altogether we have 6 people working in our office at the moment but we're growing fast. It brings me joy to be able to work with my kids and introduce new people to something that is so special to us.
Robyn Raile, one of the co-owners of Monty’s Jerky, fills us in about life on the farm, and the happy life of a (super talented!) jerky maker.
Monty’s is a family business, right? Tell us more about that!
Yes! We are farmers. My husband Tim is the third generation to work on this land, and our son and his wife joined us last year in the operation so it is now a multi-generational farm. Wade, my brother, used to farm with my Dad, and now farms for himself and our mom. We raise wheat, corn, sunflowers, and some beans depending on conditions. Northwest Kansas is a dry, arid part of the country.
With all those farmers in the family, you must have grown up with lots of good food on your family dinner table.
I grew up in a household that enjoyed lots of strong flavor and trying new things. My Dad enjoyed experimenting with his smoker, grilling, and seasonings. We tease my brother Wade about being the snack king. He is always looked for great tasting unique snacks. That’s actually how we got into the jerky business. Monty himself was a college friend of my brother’s wife’s father (did you catch that?) and developed the recipe for himself, family, and friends. He had a little store in Denver and my brother Wade was visiting. He really liked the jerky, so he approached Monty about buying the business and bringing it to Kansas. Luckily, Monty was up for it.
And you all went into business together?
My brother, husband, and I are business partners. Wade and my husband Tim have full time farming operations so I am day to day manager at Monty’s. Our mom Sherry is a full time employee; we don’t know how we would do it without her. Several years ago we started talking about a business model that would fit into our lifestyle as well as something that would complement our agriculture businesses. Jerky has been a perfect outlet!
How's the jerky made?
Making jerky is a basic process. With such a homemade product, though, the challenge is consistency. Our meat is sourced from ranchers that follow strict guidelines: the spices are non- irradiated and there are no added preservatives. We smoke the meat over hickory chips then vacuum seal it. Our basic goal is to keep it simple, to make a jerky that is easy to chew and very flavorful. The entire process takes several days. Mondays we trim and slice the meat that we’ll use that week, and pop it in the marinade. Tuesday we smoke the meat, and marinate what we’ll smoke on Weds. Wednesday, we do a little smoking, and begin to package the jerky that is ready. And I find time in there somewhere to keep up with all the paperwork. Everyday involves a tremendous amount of sanitation, of course, too. In addition to the three of us, we have 2 employees, both moms that have school age kids. We all get along famously, and it’s really a joy to come to work.
Every day is a new learning experience, which is very challenging, but also rewarding. We find that the biggest challenge is getting customers to taste the jerky. Once they taste it, they’re sold. We want to grow the business a little, because we’d love to be able to create more jobs in our small town of just 450 people. Also exploring new flavors is a big thing for us – we are always looking for seasonings that speak to us.
For Andrew Garrett, making food that people enjoy eating is its’ own reward. “I just want to see those happy dances.” Garrett has been cooking his whole life, professionally since early adulthood. Growing up on a farm in Sonoma, CA, his habanero-growing, spice-loving dad taught him to hunt and fish, to respect food and to use every part of the animal. He also passed down a deep love of hot chiles! When Mom would work her double shift in the ER, teenaged Garrett would cook dinner and deliver it to her and the ravenous co-workers. “It was their appreciation, the happiness that meals I had prepared gave them that threw me into cooking. That's when I learned what a gift a meal can be.”
Garrett had the chance to travel through Europe with the Army, where he expanded his palate. He wound up back in the states working in fine dining restaurants. He loved the work, but had frustrations. “I noticed many chefs don’t use hot peppers to their full potential, to bring out the bright fruity flavors. I began to experiment with making my own hot sauces. They aren’t just hot to be hot, they have body and character, they’re meant to allow you to taste the nuance of the peppers themselves.”
Friends and family began bugging Garrett to bottle them, and soon enough, he found himself taking around his bottled sauces to local retailers around Portland, OR, where he’d been working as a chef. They were an instant hit. “The outpouring of happiness my sauces have garnered is beyond what I ever could have imagined.”
Garrett makes the sauce in 40-gallon batches that begin with a simple roasting process. The roasting is apparently the key to depth. “The natural starches turn to sugars and give our sauces layers of flavor. You'll notice the heat of the peppers are actually at the back of the palate rather than the front like most hot sauces. I worked hard to create this effect, so you’ll experience a full range of flavors first, then a very light burn.”
He initially worked in a shared kitchen called KitchenCru but has grown so quickly that, within a year, has moved to a local co-packer. Garrett hopes NW go wide and is successful enough to allow him to open the (surely chile-focused) restaurant of his dreams. “So far the biggest challenge is just keeping up with demand. It has been a whirlwind. Transitioning from the fast pace of a restaurant to the slow and methodical hot sauce process has also proven difficult. It's a more relaxed environment, and I am learning to be patient.”
The pure existence of Wondermade is a bit of a happy accident, with a hint of Christmas magic thrown in for good measure. A few years back, Nathan Clark – a.k.a. Wondermade’s Chief Marshmallow Agent – gave his wife Jenn a candy thermometer and a recipe for marshmallows.
Why, you ask? “It just seemed like fun. But our first batch was an eye-opening experience. We immediately realized we'd been shortchanged on what a marshmallow should be! We started working with different flavors, trying other recipes. The thing with marshmallows is that you cook them in batches, so we always had more around than we could eat on our own.”
You probably can fill in the blanks from here. Nathan and Jenn started giving away all those extra marshmallows to friends and family – test batches, extras, new flavors – so they wouldn’t go to waste. Soon enough, folks were asking if they could place orders. The Clarks knew they’d stumbled into something big and dove into nearly a year of what Nathan calls “marshmallow R&D” (we’d call that heaven). after recipe testing and streamlining the process so as to ensure consistent perfection, they were ready to launch Wondermade.
Wondermade works only in small batches, each producing just one dozen boxes of marshmallows. While they’d like to work in larger quantities, they haven’t found a way to do so without compromising quality.
How do they like being in business for themselves? “There's not much about a small business that's easy, except delighting in the work of your hands. We'd love to give every person everywhere the chance to have a real marshmallow. It really is a mind-blowing experience and we LOVE being a part of it.”
BUTTER + LOVE
Inspired by family recipes, herb gardens, and all things delectable and lovely, Butter + Love is the handiwork of Alison Walla – avid baker and lifelong enthusiast of the Domestic Arts.
But just how did b+l come to be, you ask? Well, she blames her mother, naturally.
You see, Alison grew up in the Midwest where her mother taught her at an early age that when one goes calling on one’s neighbors, one must always bring a little something along, and usually this “something” was deliciously homemade and thoughtfully packaged.
So when Alison settled into the charming neighborhood of Fort Greene, Brooklyn (after years spent living all over Manhattan and Queens) and began calling on her new urban neighbors, well, she simply couldn’t help herself - she showed up, baked goods in hand, each made from scratch item drawn from family recipes, carefully wrapped in parchment and tied with bits of twine or ribbon.
It didn’t take long for the recipients of her cookies (pies, tarts, cakes, whathaveyou…) to suggest that she sell her goods about town. It did, however, take a few months to convince her to take them seriously. b+l is the happy result of that convincing, and she couldn’t be more pleased to be able to share her deliciously homemade “somethings” with you.
Jessica Koslow has been many things. Figure skater, line cook, TV producer, and now, masterful jam maker. One taste of the jam and you'll be sure she’s found her true calling. Koslow had an idyllic childhood in LA – growing up on the street where Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was filmed, and working hard in her free time on the ice rink. She was first introduced to the art of preservation at Bacchanalia in Atlanta, where she took a job after having a (literally) life-altering meal. Working in the pastry kitchen as a line cook, one of her main tasks was making preserves for the evenings’ desserts.
After a stint as a producer on American Idol (seriously, this girl has done it all) she found herself back in LA, where California’s abundant produce inspired her to try her hand at preserving again. She works with local farms – nothing more than 350 miles from her canning kitchen, including the pectin, which she is dedicated to making herself. She uses rare fruits and varietals as much as possible, resurrecting sweet, forgotten treasures. Each batch is cooked “low and slow” in heavy copper pans, which ensure that heat is evenly distributed and fruit is cooked gently.
Now she’s focused on moving Sqirl forward with a new shop in Silver Lake where she serves her preserves in a myraid of preparations. Her creations shine, and she shares images and torturous (for those of us 3,000 miles away in New York) descriptions of her latest lunch specials on twitter and instagram, truly inspiring. As Jessica says, “Sqirl --- it's the jam.”
Coulter Lewis is a child of the South, meaning food was always a delicious part of family life and always (well, almost always) fried. “It wasn’t always healthy, but it did bring the family together.” As he and his brothers got older, they began to help out around the kitchen and by the time they were in high school, Coulter’s brothers had become so handy that they’d landed jobs cooking in restaurants. And probably for the best ; “These days, my mom enjoys the company while the three of us cook.”
Lewis’ love for food didn’t initially translate into an occupation. In his pre-Quinn days, he worked as an engineer, and Kristy - Coulter’s wife and Quinn co-founder - worked for a music systems company. Nonetheless, food was a passion, and healthy food in particular. The two (grudgingly) gave up microwave popcorn after reading the nutrition and ingredient labels. “I grew up on it, so over time, I really started to miss it. I assumed someone would eventually fix it, but it never happened. When my son Quinn was born something just clicked, and I started full force on a mission to clean up microwave popcorn.” It began, as it so often does, in the Lewis’ home kitchen ; lots of popcorn and flavor combo trial and error. Coulter was on the phone with suppliers and farms by day, popping kernels by night.
“Finding good ingredients from suppliers that shared our vision turned out to be quite a challenge. It took a year of phone calls and meetings, but now we have a very close relationship with all of our suppliers. Every ingredient is non-GMO, the corn is organic, even the cheese is rBGH-free. We’re very proud to be able to say that.”
Working in small batches, and maintaining such high standards for their product means that it’s difficult to keep Quinn affordable, but the Lewis’ know that’s important, too. “It’s a challenge. On an average day we are slowly chipping away at building a self sustaining food company, but every once in a while ,I pick my head up and realize what we have done. Making food is so fundamental and and we are on the leading edge of major change in our food system. It's just so rewarding!”
“Food was an extremely important part of my childhood. My memories of home are located either in the kitchen or at the dinner table (or in the lunchroom, selling the turkey sandwiches my mom lovingly made for me).” Despite this food-centric upbringing, Danny Cohen didn’t cook much himself, and never really enjoyed baking (not a shocking bit for a teenage boy!)
Cohen became interested about 13 years ago, when he came home for Passover and asked his mother why she never made macaroons for the holiday. She said she didn't really know, but that if he wanted them, he should go ahead and do it himself. As you may know, macaroons are really, really good, so after that first batch – well, the rest is coconutty history!
Experiment became tradition, and Danny made macaroons for his (lucky) family for Passover for the next decade. At the 2010 seder, his uncle's mother-in-law (follow that?) suggested that the macaroons were tasty enough to sell. Danny had just left a job in sports media, and was trying to figure out what his next move might be. “As fate would have it, I was sitting in a coffee shop a few weeks later that had no food. I decided to bring them my macaroons to see what they thought. Lo and behold they decided to buy them. And now, here I am!”
Since that fateful day, Danny has become a fixture of the NYC indie food world. His deliciously sticky cookies use coconut that is as 'local' as possible, meaning...coconut processed by a company based in Jersey. In the early days, Danny used a hand mixer, Pyrex bowls, and spoons from his own silverware set to make tiny batches of 24. Now he goes through about 40 pounds of coconut a day, using much larger equipment. He and his small crew turn out about 1000 macaroons each day, still in smallish batches of about 96, a few of which we’re lucky enough to sell, and you (if you’re smart) are lucky enough to taste!
Charley and Jesse Wheelock came to Portland from New York City eight years ago, seeking a calmer, a simpler life. After a few years as a struggling industrial designer, Charley decided it was time for a big change. He and Jesse wanted a family business, something that would allow them to be home to spend more time with their two young children and with each other. They quickly zeroed in on chocolate. “It all happened really fast, we decided and then we were immediately all in. We bought a $600 bag of beans, and some basic equipment and just dove in.”
Within a few months, Charley – a complete chocolate novice – traveled to UC Davis to study chocolate (yes, that’s a thing) and to Costa Rica with cult chocolatier (and crazy-talented guy) Steve Devries to see cacao harvest and fermentation in action. Armed with a brainful of cacao dreams, Wheelock came back and began to apply all he’d learned. Their friends (and ours!) over at Olympic Provisions loved the first batch, and sold them in their own increasingly popular storefront. Soon, Charley and Jesse outgrew their home-kitchen where they “constantly had to take everything out of our fridge to cool” and found a simple space to create their current ‘manufactory.’
Woodblock begins with exceptional cacao carefully sourced through friends in Ecuador, Madagascar and Venezuela. Stacks of burlap bags brimming with beans greet you as you walk into the white-washed, spare, Wonka-smelling workspace. Next to the bags sits a beautiful, old-timey roaster, and after a pass through that, the beans shake in a winnower, which shells the beans and transforms them into nibs (very small bits).
Here’s where it really gets good. Behind a heavy wood-and-glass door sit three metallic tubs called conches. The bottoms are made of heavy stone and Charley pours the roasted, chopped beans into the conche, where they’re ground until they're liquid. It’s a magical process, and the smells that waft through the air as it happens...well, let’s just say it’s a transformative olfactory sensation.
Charley pours the chocolate into simple metal containers to cool, then the bricks are labeled by origin and date, and left to age for about 3 weeks.”The chocolate has gone through a lot of transformation, and the grinding process especially introduces air and heat. It needs time to settle. Someone once told me something about letting the ‘tannins mellow.’” When the Wheelocks are happy with the way the chocolate tastes, it is melted, tempered and carefully wrapped for the world to gobble up!
Charley and Jesse are true visionaries, on the forefront of the bean-to-bar movement, but you’d never know it. It’s abundantly clear that at the center of their business is that they’re simply happy to have found something fun to do together. And the fact that their kids think it’s pretty cool? Well that’s just icing on the...chocolate bar.
At the heart of the seemingly ever-expanding Pok Pok empire of Thai restaurants (or should we say nouveau Thai?) is restauranteur Andy Ricker.
Since opening a small Thai street food-inspired food cart in Portland, OR in 2005 that specialized in super sticky rice, burning-spicy papaya salad and simple roasted chicken, Ricker has grown Pok Pok into a nationally known brand with two outposts in New York as well as the original location (plus a few offspring) in Portland.
Ricker’s background is diverse. While he’s worked as a chef in such Michelin-recognized kitchens as Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir Aux Quatre Saisons, he’s spent just as much time traveling the world, and Southeast Asia in particular – tasting, smelling, looking, learning. These journeys are reflected in his food, and his drinking vinegar is the ultimate expression.
It's grown out of cooling health tonics of Thailand and Southeast Asia, as well as the more western-style shrub (an oldey-timey fruit vinegar-based drink).
JUNE TAYLOR JAMS
British-born June Taylor is a keeper of the old ways. A perfectionist. And thank goodness for that. In her workshop in an industrial neighborhood of Berkeley, California (yes, even Berkeley has an industrial area), Taylor transforms fruits at the height of their sweetness into floral, bright, and positively delicious treats. Her marmalades, made with uncommon citrus fruits like rangpur limes or the so-coveted, bitter bergamot, are storied and sought after. Her candied peels are glistening shards of winter bounty, artfully preserved and never overly sugared.
Working directly with farms, most of which are in Northern California, Taylor sources mostly organic fruit, and always the very best for use in her preserves, seeking out heirloom and rare varieties. “We hope to revive the tastes of our collective pasts. These fruits, once commonly grown and available, are now rare and almost extinct. Supporting the farmers who grow them helps to ensure that these varieties of fruit will not be lost.”
The precious fruits are then hand-sliced and cooked on a stove top in small copper pans that yield batches of just 8 to 10 jars. She adds minimal amounts of sugar and never any commercial pectin. Leftover peels are candied, so there is almost no waste.
Fruits are treasured in June Taylors’ world, evident with each bite. “Capturing these tastes is the craft of our business.”
The ladies of Liddabit are familiar faces in the Brooklyn indie food scene, and their etheral, homey, artfully made treats are the unofficial official sweet indulgence of those in the know. Rightly so. Liddabit manages to straddle the line of artful and small batch and total, kid-in-a-candy-shop indulgence (ahem, ex. A: the King Bar).
Liz Gutman and Jen King met in pastry school at New York City’s French Culinary Institute and quickly bonded and knew they wanted to open their own business together. Thinking it would be fun to reverse-engineer a big, super mass-produced candy bar, they created the Snack’r bar and started selling in at the Brooklyn Flea. People were thrilled to be able to eat a grown up version of the trick-or-treat bag favorite (not shocking!); Liddabit was off and running. They came up with more and more bars, and a few rather enticing caramels. The list keeps growing.
The team is small – just five people – and their batches are, too. Their number one priority is making candy that is delicious, but using local ingredients is clearly a close second, as most of their ingredients come from local farms and dairies. Of course, we think you should taste the real thing and get yourself a few Liddabit bars, but if you’re feeling crafty, pick up a copy of their new book, The Liddabit Sweets Candy Cookbook, so you can channel your own inner Wonka.
FOX HOLLOW FARM
Phillys Fox loves food, as anyone who has tasted her mustard can tell. “I’m all about food with a face, and food with a place.”
She began cooking seriously nearly 40 years ago, when pregnant with her first child and living in New York City. It began with a cooking class here and there, but quickly developed into a full-blown passion. She was eating seasonally and locally long before those words were part of anyone's vocabulary.
The Fox family outgrew the confines of New York City and eventually relocated to a sprawling piece of land in Hanover, NH, known affectionately as Fox Hollow Farm. Though not technically a farm, good things have certainly grown there, like Phyllis’s fantastic mustard, which she invented in 1981. Initially just the happy outcome of some fun in the kitchen, Fox quickly realized she had a killer product on her hands.
In the beginning, batches were small – seven jars at a time, canned by Phyllis and labeled by her young children in the basement of a local restaurant. Now, more than 30 years later, she works with a small local co-packer to help her handle the demand for her one-of-a-kind mustard. The recipe has not changed once along the way, she is committed to both quality and consistency. Though the mustard has a following world wide, Fox is happy to remain somewhat small. “Everything runs through me, but it’s streamlined now, and runs smoothly. I just love doing it.”
Clark Bowen is a lifelong peanut fanatic, and CB’s nuts is a reflection of precisely that. He vividly remembers eating them as a child because they were a healthy snack his mom allowed him to help himself to, along with pumpkin seeds and a few other nuts. His peanutty passion carried over into adulthood, though as he grew up, it seemed that the peanuts on the market were less and less fresh and evenly roasted as the legumes of his childhood. He finally decided to start the company a few years ago when he wound up with season tickets to the Mariners games, his motivation being twofold; fresh roasted peanuts for snacking on that were up to his standards, and a little extra cash for game-day beer. (can’t argue with that!).
During that time he met his now wife, who jumped into the nut business with Clark. Soon, a local Washington state football stadium approached them to do private label peanuts for their games, and CB’s began selling to many Seattle-area breweries as well. By 2006 they were in local grocery stores like Whole Foods, and life in the nut business was good. Peanut butter was never really in their initial plans for the business, but it was clearly meant to be (try it!): “Our peanut butter started as a mistake. We were roasting in-shell peanuts for our local Whole Foods when our supplier mis-shipped an order and we received shelled peanuts. Instead of returning them, we got a small grinder and started grinding peanut butter in our retail shop. After a while we decided to start jarring it out of our small grinder just to see if the market would bear a more expensive and tastier jar of peanut butter. Sure enough, it developed a following. In 2011 we received a Local Producer Loan from Whole Foods to purchase commercial peanut butter equipment and started wider distribution of jarred peanut butter.”
Clark and Tami Bowen are devoted to using only American-grown peanuts for their nut butters, and use organic when possible. (the 2011 crop of organic peanuts was ruined, but they’re hoping to be fully organic again soon). With two young children in tow, the struggles of owning a small business can be a big challenge, but the Bowens’ are clearly up to the task; “We feel so lucky to be doing what we love every day. Even through the struggles we get to make our own decisions and we are creating our own destiny.”
DAELIA'S FOOD COMPANY
Maria Walley grew up in an Italian American family, aka a family of amazing cooks. Mother, Grandmother, uncles, cousins ; great cooks all of them. “I loved helping out. I read cookbooks for fun. I baked more than I cooked because my Mother made the meals in our house, but a dessert made by me was always welcomed.”
As an adult, Walley gravitated towards work in the food world. Working for a British cheese exporter by day, Maria was spending her nights baking, specifically perfecting a cracker recipe. “I was never very satisfied with the crackers that were on the market, and Ithought it was fun to experiment. I originally made the Beer Flats out of spent grains, but ended up liking them better with the rye/wheat flour combination that we use now.
In early 2009, the cheese exporters closed their American office and Walley found herself without a job. Rather than get bogged down, she saw the change as an opportunity ; “I had always wanted to sell my crackers, and I figured this was the perfect chance to give it a go.”
Using all American-grown ingredients, and a proprietary blend of flours, sweet butter and craft beers, they are committed to creating a reliably super high quality cracker. One batch produces about 150 boxes, which is quite small compared to similar commercially made snacks, but working in such small batches allows the level of quality control that Walley insists on. “It is quite expensive to use fresh sweet butter and craft beers, and baking in small batches makes for a lot of man hours. But from recipe development to even branding and packaging I love what we do.”
Self-taught chocolatier Elizabeth Montes is an artist, no question. Maybe a little mad-scientist mixed in for good measure, too. We’re convinced that no mind but hers could’ve come up with something as wildly original and knee-bucklingly delicious as her KA-POW coffee bars. A reflection of Montes herself, it's a complete original.
Montes has lived around the world – a year in Mexico, a few in Spain, a childhood in Southern California – but her love of chocolate didn’t blossom fully until the mid-'90’s when she found herself living in New York City. The New York Times ran a little piece about specialty chocolate shops around town and she decided to work her way through them, sampling their stuff. Affection grew into deeper love, and she began to play around in the kitchen.
When she came to Portland in 2001 because of her soon-to-be husband’s job, she began to sell her gorgeous truffles at the Portland Farmers Market, and finally in 2005 opened a small shop.
A few years later, inspired by Portland’s abundance of amazing, single origin coffee roasters, she created the KA-POW. “When people appreciate the flavor, it’s because the beans are roasted by incredible masters who are all around me here.I was never much of a coffee drinker, but in Portland you can’t escape it.” Her process is a bit of a secret, but the bars are made totally by hand by Montes herself in her little chocolate studio, always using the very best coffees Portland has to offer. These days, she’s gotten so busy with the popularity of her KA-POW bars, she’s transitioning into wholesale, and we’re thrilled to be one of the first places to get her fantastic stuff.
All kids dig candy, but Whimsical Candy’s Chris Kadow-Dougherty loved it just a little bit more than most. “When I was three I packed my little pink suitcase and tried moving to the candy store. True story.” This particular sugary fantasy didn’t happen (Mom and Dad just didn’t understand) but she jumped into the wide world of sweets from an early age, teaching herself to make candy out of the Betty Crocker cookbook as soon as she could reach the counter – everything from lollipops to caramel corn to gumdrops!
It took some years to realize that the passion could also be her life’s work. She took a more traditional day job, but time off was all about food. “I would use vacation time to make cheese, host elaborate dinner parties, you name it.” Finally in 2006, it hit her that she wanted to make her love into a career and she enrolled full time at the French Pastry School in Chicago.
She'd always dreamed of opening a small business devoted to the classic European candies that she’d grown to love in school. “I invented the swirl that would become La-Dee-Dahs on a whim. No matter what else I tried, family and friends always asked for the swirls, so I knew I had something.” Working from a nougat base – hers is a cross between the fluffy, airy stuff we’re familiar with here in the states and more traditional European style – she focused on classic flavors and quality ingredients, like high quality dark chocolate for enrobing, and a simple, buttery caramel filling.
Shelf life presented a bit of an issue, but she learned eventually that the right packaging and sealing process helped. The cost of shipping (especially during summer) was another hurdle, but she says “As with anything, we just get better at it the longer we do it. It’s a big learning process.”
In her adult fantasy, La-Dee-Dahs will become a household name, a nationally known and loved confection. For now, she’s just excited to be opening a small retail shop in her native Chicago, and enjoying the ride.
“I love when people ask what I do. I get immediate smiles. A child understands what a candymaker does.”
Tammy Fahey has been an adventurous food lover for as long as she can remember. “I grew up in Iowa, land of steak and potatoes, but my mom was always trying to expose us to different foods. I rarely had a PB&J in my lunchbox. Instead, she’d send liverwurst with potato salad and applesauce. I loved things like pickled herring and even sardines.”
Years later, when Tammy had her own kids, she followed in mom's footsteps and encouraged her own children to love and embrace the wide world of food. “People were amazed when my 8-year-old would ask if we were having sardines before dinner or if we were going out for oysters! Food is definitely a pleasure in life for me!”
The business itself is only a two years old, but Fahey has been making her signature vanilla caramels for a very long time, mostly as a handmade gift to give to friends at the holidays. “I noticed they were requesting the caramels year round, so I thought I’d just take them by a local farmers market and see what people thought.” Sure enough, they were a hit, so she built a website and created Suss Sweets.
Tammy knew she wanted to keep the caramels themselves simple, from the packaging to the shape of the pieces themselves. “I love the simplicity of the caramel roll. It's like going to Grandma's.”
The making of the caramel (the trickiest part of the process) is still done by hand in very small batches. “Growing with the business as quickly as it wants to grow is a challenge. Good problems to have!”
What Tammy loves the most is to see how much people enjoy the caramels. “I have always loved cooking for others for that reason. I love knowing that I brought a smile to their face.”
Yes, that David Rosengarten. If you’ve been interested at all in food or wine in the past 25 years, you’ve probably read one of David Rosengarten's articles in Gourmet, Food & Wine, or more recently, Saveur, where he is currently working as Wine Editor.
Or perhaps you caught him on the Food Network, either judging “Iron Chef America." or on his own show, “Taste,”a program about principles of good taste in food and wine.
Rosengarten’s love of food runs deep, stemming from a childhood filled with simmering pots and happy memories. “I was born in Brooklyn and grew up in Queens. On weekends, while most kids in my neighborhood were helping dad fix the car, I was helping dad fix lobster fra diavolo. It was the center of my life.”
Despite this delicious head-start, it would be many years before he came to understand that food wasn’t just a passion, but a true calling. Rosengarten first pursued a doctorate in theater then taught at Skidmore College for many years. During this busy academic time, he began to teach cooking classes at a nearby shop on the weekends.
What began as a side gig quickly became his main focus, and he moved back to New York to pursue a career as a food writer. Within a year, he was penning a monthly food and wine pairing column for Wine Spectator. In the mid to late '90's, he landed every food lovers dream job – working as the restaurant critic for the dearly-departed Gourmet Magazine.
In 2001, he began publishing his own food focused newsletter, the Rosengarten Report, which would go on to win a coveted James Beard Award.
We’re honored to partner with David Rosengarten on his incredible find; this exclusive hot chile extract from the Shenandoah Valley’s Henry Family Farm.
A vegetarian and mostly-raw foods devotee, Caleb Simpson has come a long way from a childhood spent hiding his vegetables in a vase on the table, to be thrown away as soon as his mother wasn’t looking. “For a really long time I wasn't a healthy eater, but I got into rock climbing and cycling, which led me to switch to a vegetarian diet, high in raw foods. It truly refined my taste buds and my health.” His ‘bearded bro” (brother-in-law, if you want to be technical about it) Chris is just as active, and they share a love of the outdoors and health food.
Chris and Caleb, needing healthy fuel for their super active lives, had been making raw, organic bars for a long time, but nothing quite as mind-blowingly delicious as what they came up with when they decided to start a business. “We knew if we were going to start Bearded Brothers, our bars were going to have to be awesome. We thought about our favorite flavors, and what foods had great nutritional benefits and began experimenting. They presented eight initial flavors to friends at a taste test and launched the company with the four faves. (Considering how intensely good these four are, we’d like to taste the rejects, too!)
A year and a half later, the guys are still hands-on, though they do a have a few people helping out in the kitchen. “We mix the dough in a giant food processor, press it into molds, and roll it flat with a pastry roller (hello onset carpal tunnel).” It’s been a struggle to grow the business and stay as involved in the physical production as they are.
The bars themselves and all the positive reactions have made all the hard work worthwhile. “Chris and I are both passionate about health, so for us to be able to bring a product like this to market and share it with the masses is an amazing feeling.”
THE UNCOMMON PICKLE
The San Francisco Bay Area is more than just home to the boys behind The Uncommon Pickle, it's the inspiration for all that they do.
Christian was born and raised in Sonoma (aka paradise) whereas John came to California as a college student and was wow-ed by the food scene. “There are all these amazing things going on here, seasonality is so huge, and that was totally new to me. We went to some of these underground markets in the beginning of last year, and tasting all these delicious products. We thought ‘we could totally do this!’ and decided to focus on finding vegetables at their very best and then use pickling to freeze them in time. We make things that are interesting and beautiful – and we’re always thinking what they might pair well with.”
They may be humble about their inventive recipes and the development process itself, but once you get these boys talking about flavor, they really come to life and it's clear why the young company already has quite a following. “With the pickled cherries, they are ripe in May, so of course that’s when we make them. But really the season to be eating them is fall, as far as the time it takes for them to be ready and in terms of the food that you want to be eating them with. Food that is autumnal, like duck or venison.”
Both John and Christian have stuck with their day jobs (wine buyer and a cook, respectively) in addition to managing all pickle production themselves. “It’s homespun. We process about seven jars at a time right now, and we work out of a restaurant kitchen.” Small is good, though, and while they hope to expand into their own kitchen someday, they’re leery of too much growth.
“Our goal is not to conquer the pickle world, but to open peoples minds to new flavors.We have a unique opportunity to make people think about seasonality and interesting flavor combos. It’s all right there in the jar, there’s a story right there.”
Tim and Summer Parsons quite literally grew their hot sauce business by accident. Raising their family in the Kīhei area of Maui, the two had chosen to home school their children, and part of the curriculum included starting a small garden. Given the tropical climate, hot peppers were a natural edible to plant, and before they knew it, there were more jalapenos than they knew what to do with!
In an effort to, well, use them up, Tim began to experiment with homemade hot sauces. Soon, family and friends were begging for a share of the liquid fire, and during meal time, the Parson family could easily (and often) go through a whole bottle.
The young company is very much a family affair. They grow most of their peppers themselves, but have started to source some of the peppers from neighboring backyard farms and a few local farmers to supplement their own crop.
Production is completely done by the couple. Tim cooks and bottles, while Summer handles the cleaning and sanitizing of the bottles, and they work in batches ranging from 6 to 224 gallons, depending on the crop yield. The kids are right in the mix too, helping with packaging, sorting, de-stemming, and, of course, getting good and dirty in the garden itself.
While the super freshness of the tropical peppers is partly responsible for how tasty these sauces are, we’re also convinced you can literally taste all that love in every single bottle.
HENRY FAMILY FARM
Operated by Bob Henry and his father, the Henry Family Farmhas been growing chiles for more than 30 years in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.
For most of its existence, the farm has been a side business for the Henry family, more of a hobby. They began with habaneros, and have since expanded to more exotic pepper varietals, such as the infamous Naga Jolokia (also known as a Ghost Pepper), supposedly the hottest pepper on earth.
Henry Family Farm peppers are vine-ripened, hand-picked and their flavor is extracted within 24 hours of harvest in order to capture and do justice to their exquisite flavor.
Papabubble is about magic - pure and simple. Their minimalistic, laboratory-esque shop on Broome st. in Manhattan – one of twelve Papabubble outposts worldwide, and the only one in the US – is a shining beacon of play and artistry, not to mention all things sugar. Chris Grassi and Fiona Ryan opened the small shrine of sweetness in 2008 after studying under the masters at the original Papabubble in Barcelona.
The store itself is glossy and pristine, as much a showroom as retail space. Visitors can watch Fiona and her crew hand-make batches of candy all day long. Only one small machine comes into play during the candy-making process, a simple contraption that scores the nearly finished strings of hard candy to ensure evenly sized pieces. From the pouring of molten sugar, to swirling in the bright colors and flavors, to rolling the python-sized ropes of sugar into tiny candies, the work is clearly as physically demanding as it is mesmerizing.
Their mission is a simple, almost philosophical one: “We reinvent our sweets everyday, reinterpreting the traditional manufacturing process in order to turn it into a sensory show. Our desire is to revive the beauty of authentic hand-made candies.”
And the very best part? The candies are just as delectable as they are stunning.
Wesport, CT based maker Jerri Graham is completely commited to making her snack bars a step above every other bar on the market – and whatever you do, don’t call them granola bars. After being disappointed by all the commercial snack bars on the market – sticky sweet, made without organic ingredients and with almost nothing other than oats – Graham set out to make her own.
With super-nutritious, whole organic oats as her blank slate, she jumped into the kitchen and got cooking. She created bars plentiful with raw nuts, dried cherries, cranberries, lemon zest, ginger, lemon oil, and anything else you might imagine. “I just kept playing around in my kitchen, sometimes through the night. At one point I had 69 different flavors of bars.” Clearly she’d found her medium, but needed a little help streamlining.
Enter Steven Laitmon, a fellow Westportian, who tasted the bars at a cafe one day and immediately offered to help her grow the company. Since then, they’ve pared the collection down to seven bars (give or take, there’s always wiggle room for seasonality and creativity) and they’re even in talks with La Pain Quotidien to create a special line just for them.
“It’s really about putting some quality into what you’re doing,” says Graham. “I believe in karmic repercussions. When people spend their money, they should get real quality in return. That’s really where the name Nothin’ But came from. There’s nothing but good stuff in there.”
Owning and running Bonnie’s Jams is a second career for Bonnie Shershow. However, rather than a 180, the switch from a desk job to a life of fruit and jam was more of a 360, back to childhood. “I grew up in Southern California in a house in the middle of an orange grove. I would just pick fruit from our trees and eat it right then. I took it for granted that fruit always had this wonderful taste. My mother made jam and would use it with lots of our meals, sweet and savory both. When I moved to the east coast, I realized how unique my upbringing had been, and how rare great fresh fruit is. When I make jam, I try to get back that flavor that I grew up with.”
Bonnie steers clear of pectin so the depth and sweetness of stone fruits and berries can truly sing. “What the sun does, as fruits ripen on the tree, is increase the sugar content. With jam-making, a little sugar and a little lemon juice does that same thing.” Not only can pectin mask the flavor of the fruit itself, it also can cause the jam to gel faster, hence jams made with it retain a higher water content than jams made without. Jams made without pectin also require a longer cooking time and more stirring (to prevent burn). But Bonnie is zen about the stirring. “You have to stop, enjoy the moment, and enjoy the colors as they change in the pot.”
For a long time, jam-making was a therapeutic hobby of sorts for use as a solitary, meditative, calming thing to do at the end of a long day of work. Then, about 13 years ago, Bonnie began making it commercially for a Boston cheese shop, Formaggio Kitchen. For nine years, Shershow managed to keep the scale small so that one-day-per-week production was enough. “I started selling the jams at Zabars and got more attention. Then, we got mentioned in the New York Times and Food & Wine. I enjoyed making the jams, and I actually enjoyed the business side, too. It was really fun learning a whole new industry. I enjoy the jams beyond simply making them; I like the packaging, I like selling them, I love the relationships with people who buy and sell them.”
Her flavors are inspired not only by memories of her mothers’ creative concoctions, but also by her extensive travels – a year in Italy, a month in the South of France, and lately, a lot of time spent visiting her son who lives in Shanghai. “In Europe especially, I noticed that they used jam and fruit more in food & cooking than I’d ever seen before. And a lot of my jams are made with the idea of pairing them with food, and cheese specifically, from my time at the cheese shop.”
In 2009, realizing that the demand was there, she decided to grow. Now, she rents space in a commercial kitchen, where she’s trained a crew of workers to make her jams. She is present every step of the way, tasting and tweaking. “I make the jam in batches of about 500 lbs at a time, which takes about two hours. I still stand there and taste each batch, because each crop of fruit is a little different.”
A true jam-vangelist, she also hopes that people come to see jam as more than just a toast-topper. “Jam is really good with cheese, and the peach and apricot jams make great glazes for chicken or fish. A little bit of jam in rice or salad dressings to just give it a little hint of fruit & sweetness is lovely.”
Putt Wetherbee’s family has been growing pecans in Georgia since the late 19th century, so we’re pretty sure his veins flow not with blood, but with pecans. “My ancestor that settled here was named Francis Flagg Putney. In 1895 he bought his sisters’ boys down and they were the 2nd generation of growers. They were part of the largest commercial pecan planting in Georgia, and we’ve been farming that land ever since. I grew up in this business. I took about twenty years off, but I found my way back.”
Wetherbee job-hopped a bit, got an MBA in business, and found time somewhere in there to get married and have 3 children. Then, a few years ago, the company he was working for in Florida was purchased by a huge multinational company. He knew it wasn’t a good fit; it was time for a change. “I didn’t set out to end up back here, but fate steered me back”
The business has transformed a lot over the years, but their total devotion to producing the perfect pecan has not. Putt’s father was a pioneer in this business. "One thing I remember vividly is that we had the second mechanical harvester in the entire state. It was a big investment for him. We were also part of the first privately owned pecan co-op in Georgia. At the time, our shelling plant supported 14,000 acres of pecans from nearby farms.”
In 1977, the Wetherbee family made a deal to purchase the Schermer’s pecan company. As growers, the Schermers had been their biggest client, and the couple who had originally founded the company were looking for a way to retire. “It was a pretty natural next step for them and for us. Their name was already established, so we just kept it. People knew that we were the shellers and the growers. Everyone already knew who everybody was, and who did what.”
Today, the company manages over 2,000 acres of pecans in addition to running a cleaning facility nearby. The nuts are sent over to a shelling facility just down the road in Glennville, GA, where they are shelled, roasted and salted. Though the plant processes many pecans from all over the area, the Schermer pecans are kept completely separate to make sure they remain untarnished by sub-par nuts. “We use the very, very best in-shell pecans and we want to be sure that if we start out with the best that we end up with the best, too.”
As for his favorite thing about being back in the family business – a lot of the satisfaction comes from the wonderful people that Putt interacts with on a daily basis, especially happy customers. However, his affection for the work goes even deeper. “The fact that it’s a family business, and now I’m a part of it, it’s really great to be invested again. Nobody really knew what was going to happen, nobody was involved for a while there. Being a person who cares a lot about family history, you kind of look at it there, dying on the vine from afar, and think that it’s going to go away someday. There’s a lot of satisfaction in seeing that it’s going to carry on.”
Down the line, Putt hopes to grow to the point where the Schermers name is synonymous with pecan perfection all over the world, but he doesn’t want to branch out much beyond that. “There are other companies out there that kind of do what we do, but most of them have 100 different kinds of nuts done a 100 different ways, but you’ll never see a pistachio or cashew come through us. In the short run, I think that’s probably going to stifle our growth a little because we can’t be more things to more people, but I think in the long run, it’s the right thing to do. Instead of starting small, we started out big – too big. I would like to tell our story, have people know all the care that we put in, and the family history. I think people are more interested in that than they used to be, and I can tell this story honestly because I’m here on the ground everyday and we’re very sincere about what we do.”
BIG SPOON ROASTERS
Mark Overbay, the brains (and palate) behind Durham, NC’s Big Spoon Roasters, has been a lifelong lover of all things edible, but especially the humble peanut. Though he, like most Americans, grew up eating peanut butter, his conception of the lovable spread was transformed in 1999 when he found himself in Zimbabwe, working as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Living in a rural farming community, Overbay was awed by a local staple - freshly harvest peanuts, roasted over an open flame, hand-ground and salted. In other words, the absolute freshest peanut butter imaginable.
When Overbay returned to the US, he was disappointed to find that there wasn’t a single brand of PB on the shelves that even came close to matching this taste memory. However, it would be 10 years before he turned his frustrations into the deliciousness that is Big Spoon. “I devoted the next decade of my life to promoting the connection between nutrition and health, advocating for a more just and sustainable food system, and marketing direct-trade coffee.” Not a bad way to spend his time, of course, but here at NYM HQ we’re certainly happy that he found his way back to what is obviously his true calling; Peanut Butter.
In January of 2011, he at last launched Big Spoon Roasters so that he (and everyone!) could once again enjoy fresh roasted PB as addictively tasty as he remembered from that little Zimbabwean village. Overbay incorporated lessons learned from his work in food and health advocacy, using only the best nuts from around the U.S. and never adds palm oil or any sweetener other than pure, wildflower honey to his perfect peanut butters. “We source ingredients from only trusted, transparent farms and producers that share our philosophy, and we buy our nuts locally and regionally when possible. Peanuts are a tremendous agricultural resource for the American Southeast, and North Carolina is ranked sixth in terms of peanut production. We are thrilled to be able to work with local and regional peanut farmers and to be a positive market force for sustainable peanut agriculture and transparent marketing.” Jars are hand packed, while the nut butters are still warm from the grind, and the freshness of his final product is simply unparalleled.
The company is named for Mark’s father Gary “Big Spoon” Overbay, who was so called because of his tendancy to eat PB straight from the jar. a practice we are solidly in favor of.
MAKER WEBSITE : www.bigspoonroasters.com
With an American father and French mother (and thus the lucky holder of two passports), food in Michelle Lewis’ childhood home was all-important. So important that it was quotidien, not exactly an afterthought, but certainly a given. When it came time for her to go away to school, it never occurred to her that food was something to study or pursue professionally. Lewis pursued her interest in Asian languages, which, after college, lead her to live abroad for more than 6 years in China and then Japan (perhaps the inspiration for her drop-dead perfect sesame caramel?) Upon her return, she enrolled in art school in Philadelphia before finally taking a gallery job and settling in NYC in 1999.
“I worked there for 13 years, but the gallery was a block from ground zero, and after 9/11 it was gone. Creative positions like that were gone. I had to completely shift gears.” A long-time dog lover, she edged her way towards the food business by starting a small dog food company focused on fresh dog foods. “I guess I was a little ahead of my time. It was prior to pet stores having fridges, so it just flatlined for the 5 years that I ran it, but i learned so much.”
In 2010, she found herself inspired to make the leap into people food. A batch of caramel sauce made for friends at Christmas was all it took. “I was giving it as gifts and it just sort of made sense to me – there weren’t many good, pure, salty caramel sauces. The market was there.”
Super hot sugar is a tricky thing and in the months that followed, Michelle weathered her share of burns and mishaps. In addition to the flavors she’s perfected so far, she dreams of creating a terrific fruit-infused caramel but that testing process has been tricky – apricot too sweet, citrus too strong and best balanced by a hint of black pepper.
She recently hired two fabulous helpers and feels nearly ready to grow. “We work out of a commercial kitchen in Sunset Park right now - weekend shifts, 8 hour days, 15 cases in a shift. My long-term dream would be to have my own kitchen, to make the production side completely my own. I want to stay in Brooklyn, and I’d like to build up a great core team of people around me because I’m not good at everything.”
Michelle knows she has found the work she is meant to do. “I don’t always know what drives me, but I know that I need to be doing this. It’s the daily learning, the challenges, not knowing what I’m going to have to do tomorrow. To say ‘Yeah! I’m in those stores!’ Stretching myself everyday.”
EMPIRE MAYONNAISE CO.
Considering how completely beautiful their stuff is both inside and out, it should come as no surprise that Empire Mayo is the brainchild of Elizabeth Valleau and Sam Mason, a graphic designer and chef, respectively. If they sound like an odd couple, it’s simply because that’s just what they are, and like so many other great odd couples, they were set up by a mutual friend. “This friend heard me say I wished there were fancy mayos on the market. I’m not a chef, but was interested in getting out of advertising and into the food business. This friend introduced me to Sam, and I was completely starstruck.” Foodworld fangirl that she was, Elizabeth knew Sam right away from his work at New York City’s own temple of molecular gastronomy, WD-50.
The two hit it off, discovering a shared love of comforting, familiar foods (aka all things mayo). Seeing a hole in the market, they moved quickly. Elizabeth designed the bold, colorful, impossible-to-miss packaging and Sam called in favors all over the city. “We tested recipes in Wylies’ kitchen at WD-50, we tested at The Vanderbilt, we called everyone we could. Sam took a lot of time to tinker, and what we discovered is that the best method for us was cold infusion. The method sets us apart. It allows our flavors and colors to be so completely brilliant and bright.”
They debuted at Smorgasburg and Brooklyn Flea the summer of 2011, and discovered that there was indeed as much demand as they’d guessed. “Smorgasburg and the Flea are such great brand incubators, we sold out every single week from Day One.”
Because of the demanding process – Sam still makes every single batch by hand – they needed their own kitchen, which is what ultimately lead them to build their crazy-adorable storefront in the Prospect Heights. “This little store is actually our commercial space and Sam makes them all by hand in a walk-in kitchen. Nobody expected a store devoted to mayo, but it’s awesome to be here, to meet our neighbors. But the real impetus was to have ideal working conditions for the cold emulsions. Which was really impossible to do in a shared kitchen like so many of our small-batch colleagues do.”
Working with such a perfectly blank slate, they pull flavor inspiration from all over the place. “Within this amazing New York City food community, we’re always talking about flavor. Sam has a particular style that perhaps comes from his pastry background – sort of an unexpected merging of sweet and savory, with rare and unusual combinations.”
Business is flourishing and the two are clearly thrilled at the progress. They’ve even begun to daydream about expanding the 'Empire' to include other products. But at the moment, the fancy mayo business is keeping them quite busy, and happily so. “We’ve made something out of nothing! That’s a great feeling. It’s great to be an innovator, to start a business with people we really like and do it exactly the way we wanted. We basically sit in the shop for hours every week talking about flavor. The whole process is just too much fun.”
MAKER WEBSITE : EmpireMayo.com
SAUCY SARA'S SALSA
A Texas native who grew up on Tex-Mex cuisine, Sara Marshall moved to New Jersey in 2000 and quickly discovered she'd have to fulfill her craving for original Tex-Mex salsa by creating her own. Soon, her New Jersey friends and neighbors started requesting jars for themselves, and the Saucy Sara's brand was born.
All that cooking doesn't mean that there's no play time! Sara's other passions include playing darts in the Hoboken dart league and the Jersey City/Hoboken/NYC art scene.
The mission of Saucy Sara’s Salsa is to be the consumer's first choice for Tex-Mex Red Salsa and Salsa Verde, delivering a product of the highest and freshest quality for the lowest price.
Daniel Teboul is one of our more matter-of-fact makers. As a Frenchmen, he somehow pulls off being at once extremely exacting and blasé about the whole business (and we love him for it). He’s also one of our most experienced makers, making charcuterie since his teenage years. “I grew up in the French Alps, and I still go back every summer to ski on a glacier in a very remote village. It’s kind of a necessity for me. It keeps me sane. In lots of those little towns people make meats for themselves, and that’s how I learned. It was a hobby. As a kid, I would travel with my family to the mountains, where we had friends whose families made their own cured meats. I learned by watching people.”
Teboul spent 25 years working as a professional photographer, but the rise of digital media and move away from actual film drove him slowly out of the industry. He decided to turn his hobby of curing meat into a full-time gig. “Like a lot of Frenchmen, we like to cook but I had never thought to make a living with it.” He makes his sausages in the same way he did when it was just a side project, using the very same techniques he remembers from childhood. This means no strange chemicals, no added phosphates or unpronounceables. Just the very best meat he can buy, salt and celery powder, which acts as a natural nitrate during the curing process.
One of the biggest challenges of working with charcuterie in the U.S. are the super-strict USDA regulations about raw food and fermentation. He works in a USDA inspected plant with other people who are doing similar work with aged, dry-cured meats. The process is a slow one, and he still does almost all of the work himself. The 5-week process begins with a 48-hour fermentation. “Some people do it in 12, but it’s not the same quality. I like to do a slow fermentation. Then it goes in the drying room which is computer controlled with humidity and dryness and ventilation. It’s a very important element. Then 4-5 weeks of drying time. You have to watch it carefully. If it’s too dry it develops a crust. Not dry enough – it won’t take shape.” This careful watching and waiting, dedication to producing the perfect final bite, is where his mastery, his artistry, truly shines through.
Finding great meat is another hurdle, but Teboul approaches the issue with a principled pragmatism. “In the food industry, there is so much bad meat. It’s very cliche, but the treatment of the animal, the carbon footprint, when you think about it, it's really important! To buy the meat locally, to produce a good product. The pigs I buy from a very small farm only 150 miles from New York City, they’re happy, they walk around outside. It’s not easy. I can’t always get the meat that I want because they are small. If i can’t get the meat then i have to wait. I would rather not have any product than give someone a lesser product.”
For now, the company is still young, and Teboul is just happy to be doing work that he loves and believes in, though someday he hopes to have these hiccups smoothed out. Quality is his priority, an obsession in the best possible way, and one we’re proud to support. “Most important is to give people quality food. If i can keep that going I’m sure it will grow. I enjoy doing it, and as long as I do, I will produce it. Food is the most important thing, it’s what people put in their bodies! I would rather do a lousy business than compromise.”
Started by Michelle Cairo, Tyler Gaston, Nate Tilden, Martin Schwartz and Elias Cairo back in 2009, Olympic Provisions is one of the U.S’s few USDA-approved salumerias.
Elias calls himself a “Salumist,” meaning he crafts American Charcuterie using local (Oregon and Washington-sourced) meats for wholesale to grocery stores, restaurants and wine bars around the country.
Working within the mediums of pork fat and the delicate craft of meat fermentation, Cairo is a true artist. Many of his fat-marbled, lovingly aged works are inspired by time spent in Europe during his early days of chefdom.
A greek-inspired salami is flecked with garlic, cumin, and a touch of orange zest, while a garlic-and-pepper spiked saussicon sec tastes of pure French bistro, begging for a glass of vin du table to wash down its’ indulgent richness.
All of their fantastically inspired salumi is prepared and aged in their one of a kind meat curing facility, which is located in the historic Olympic Mills Commerce Center, a beautifully restored cereal mill and a landmark in Portland’s Southeast industrial neighborhood.
Maker Website: http://www.olympicprovisions.com
ISH PREMIUM HORSERADISH
Carolyn Gutierrez’ father was a man obsessed. Obsessed with finding the perfect red horseradish, one that would be worthy of his Mother-in-Laws’ passover specialty, Gefilte fish. He quickly gave up on the store-bought and spent years fine-tuning the homemade. After every seder, he would hand out jars of his beloved condiment to friends and family. People went crazy for the stuff and before long he was making over 200 jars a year. “In Chicago, Dad became a bit of an urban legend, people loved it so much. But he’d always refused to turn it into a business. It was a hobby to him.”
Then, a few years ago, Carolyn and her siblings were talking to their father about retirement. He’d been running his own company for over 50 years, and they wanted him to take a break. “Be the next Paul Newman!” they pleaded but he refused. The idea was on the table though, and Carolyn, who had just left a job in marketing and was on the hunt for something new, jumped. “I’m a total foodie. I thought, how cool! To do this thing that could be a legacy to my father. He completely supported me taking it on, but he can’t believe how it’s taken off.”
Once she decided to launch ISH, Gutierrez tapped into her professional background. She knew she wanted to keep things light and fun. “I want to bring excitement to the table, and it’s so easy! People get lazy, but if you open your mind to new flavors, it’s just neat & fun. That’s really our mission -- to inspire people to get creative.”
As for the nitty gritty of the horseradish-making process, turns out that ‘nitty gritty’ is an apt description. The roots themselves (horseradish is a root!) come from one of two places. Either from the mouth of the Mississippi river, Collinsville, IL (described matter-of-factly by Carolyn as the “horseradish capital of the world”), or Tulelake, CA, a volcanic region. "It’s all about the soil.”
Production is no cakewalk – these gnarly roots demand some serious wrangling. Carolyn has been making the stuff for years now, but hasn’t found a way around the processes physical challenges. In fact, she makes it pretty much the same way her father did, armed with ski goggles and the knowledge that she must work fast. “Once you break the skin, the root emits heat. Even with the goggles, I can hardly breathe. You have to work quickly, because as the root is exposed to air, the bite lessens. I work with a co-packer in Kingston, NJ but I’m right there with them making it because my process is very meticulous - freshness, timing, texture. It’s just the nature of the beast.”
The payoffs are huge and ISH is here to stay. Since launching this past spring, she has found that her favorite part of the business is simply sharing with people, giving tastes, and watching the reactions. Even dad is into it. “On Father’s Day this year, he came out to visit. He’s 81, and he came to Smorgasburg with me. It was so cool, he loved it. He just loves to see people enjoying it.”
Maker website: http://premiumish.com
Duncan Adams was the lone vegetarian in a house of omnivores. As a teenager, he was left to fend for himself, and a lifelong passion emerged. In 2004, he left his native Virginia to take a line cook job at Westville, a small cafe in NYC's West Village where he met Josh Mizrahi, also working the line. It was a challenging job and neither stayed long, but the two remained close.
The thought of opening a small restaurant or food truck together was never far from their minds. The idea for the vinaigrette, though, was pure happenstance. Duncan threw a party to celebrate his girlfriends’ graduation and Josh, good friend that he is, brought home-pickled ramps as a gift – instant hit. Duncan ended up using the ultra-flavorful brine as a dressing for salads in the week that followed. “Ramps are special, ramps are cool! We kind of knew right away that it was the perfect first product for us.”
Spring of 2011 came around and with it another ramp season. The boys made their first test batch (check out play-by-play pics on their Facebook page!) for friends to taste. Said friends found the dressing to be “right tasty,” as Duncan’s mom would say, and a company was born. The next year was spent getting all their ramps in a row so that by the time they rolled out again, they'd be ready. At last, in the summer of 2012, Right Tasty made its’ official debut at the Brooklyn food paradise known as Smorgasburg!
The company is still a side project for Josh & Duncan, who maintain day jobs, respectively, at Enid’s (a restaurant in Brooklyn) and as an editor at a film production company though they hope to someday make it their full time gig. During ramp season, they recruited help from their (very sweet) significant others’ and pickled around 150 lbs of ramps in preparation for the coming year. They plan to make and bottle the vinaigrette itself on a more as-needed basis and hope to add a few new dressings to the line-up. Meyer lemon vinaigrette is already a go, and smoked heirloom tomato is in the recipe-testing phase. “The growing season for Meyer lemons is so much longer, so we’re really excited about it. Ramps are great, but the window is so short it makes production really tricky.”
Working full time jobs means that the biggest challenge right now is finding time to work on promoting the business, but they’re pretty happy with the way things are unfolding. “It’s a slow burn kind of thing. We’re not looking to go national overnight. If we break even our first year, we would consider that a success. And of course, one day, it would be great work for ourselves full-time.”
For now, they’re keeping it small and super friendly, and staying focused on enjoying the process. “ It’s a blast. I recently got a few days off work and jumped right back into the kitchen. I went to Smorgasburg, which I love. I spend my work days in a small, dark room in midtown, so just being out in the sunshine, eating all that great food is the best. Everyone is friendly. Our friends are helping us out - a good friend did our label, another one did our packaging – it’s so cool to include everyone. People really like our vinaigrette. It’s gratifying to see that, and just to make something really tasty.”
Maker website: http://www.righttasty.net/
GORDY'S PICKLE JAR
Washington DC is known for many things. Partisan politics. Sensible shoes. Indie food? Not so much. But if Sarah and Sheila, founders of Gordy’s Pickle Jar, have anything to say about it, that won’t be true for long. After meeting at a friends’ brunch a five years ago, the two were drawn to each other immediately. “We both just love food” says Sheila, who has worked in the service industry for a long time, and still moonlights as a bartender at DC’s popular Marvin. “We both have an entrepreneurial spirit. I have a knack for playing with flavor, and she has a really strong business background. We knew kind of right off the bat we’d do something like this.” Both were huge pickle fans and aware of the lack of great pickles coming out of DC, so they decided pretty quickly that the pickle business was for them. “It’s the rebirth of an old craft, a way to work with local farmers, to make a product that reflects the bounty of the mid-Atlantic.”
In the summer of 2011, after 4 years of daydreaming, they zeroed in on the idea of simply making the classics (ie. Bread & Butter, Pickle Relish, Pickled Jalapenos) but making them better, and they put their palates to work. “We wanted to use natural sweeteners, focusing a lot on balance and creating really dynamic brines. For the Bread & Butter Chips, it was important to add a savory element, which we achieved by using plenty of garlic and ginger.”
Launch time came with a friends’ wedding at the end of that summer. They customized their hand-stamped labels with the newlyweds name and wedding date and the jars were handed out as wedding favors. (Jordan almonds, your days are numbered). The pickles were a hit, so Sarah and Sheila were inspired to send their just-perfected Bread & Butters to the International Pickle Festival and wound up taking second place.
In December, Whole Foods DC noticed some of their social media efforts and the girls were invited to meet with a buyer. Eight weeks later, Gordy’s Pickles were on the shelves. By June of 2012, Sarah quit her day job and devoted herself to pickling full time. Sheila hopes to do the same soon. “Making pickles is fun! We love our customers and forming relationship with farmers. It’s a hectic endeavor, but we thrive off of the adrenaline. You have to be resilient, responsive, and willing to do whatever it takes, at any hour. But when you make it work, there is nothing more rewarding.”
This year, they hope to ramp up production a bit, but they never want to change the fact that they make the pickles themselves, in tiny 72-jar batches. “Our pickles have a really good crunch, and that’s huge for us. We’re extremely detail-oriented. While we want to grow, it’s really ultimately about the love, the joy of pickling and preserving. We were attracted to the idea of preserving the seasonal. We can take a cucumber grown just 100 miles from where we live, and by pickling it, we’re able to enjoy it year round.”
Gordy’s is undeniably one of the District’s indie food shining stars. “It’s definitely under-represented, but that’s beginning to change. I see more and more people establishing roots here - DC has that reputation as a transient place, but I think that’s changing too. We have great produce - Lancaster County has one of the highest rated soils as far as nutrient density goes on the entire east coast. We admire and look to other cities for inspiration but we’re excited to have it here in our own community and we’re all trying to help each other out. We definitely hope that our success helps other artisans.”
Maker website: http://www.gordyspicklejar.com
Bra, Italy. A small town in Piedmont, a region that has given the world such gastronomic greats as Barolo, Barbaresco, Taleggio, Gorgonzola, and (much more recently) the Slow Food Movement. It is only appropriate that Renato Sardo and Dario Barbone of Baia Pasta hail from such a gastronomically overachieving part of the world - perfect food, artfully made and imbued with terroir, is their birthright.
When he was a child, Sardo’s father ran a small warehouse business, selling local charcuterie and cheeses to shops and restaurants around town. Along with Carlo Petrini, his father was also one of the original co-founders of Slow Food Movement. When Renato was old enough he joined the family business” working his way up at the movement’s headquarters in Bra. He met and fell in love with a co-worker, an American woman from San Francisco. They married, and in 2005 the decision was made to pick up and move to the bay area to be closer to her family. “I’d always wanted to live somewhere else, but I moved without any real plan. I’d always worked in food, and been so inspired by friends who were starting food companies and I was longing for a job where I would do things with my hands.”
Sardo had noticed long ago that even the finest Italian dried pastas – a daily staple of his childhood diet – were made with flours from North America. He realized that the artisanal Italian pastas being sold in Bay Area specialty stores had probably made two trips across the Atlantic before making it to the shelves, and the idea for Baia Pasta was born. “It was time to switch from theory to practice. A lot of people are part of, or at least aware of, the sustainable food movement, but there aren’t many who actually produce. There are more cheese producers within a small radius of my hometown in Italy than there are in all of California. But those are old, family businesses that have been passed down over generations. Here, it’s not that easy. Since I’m sort of an idealist, I like the idea of starting from scratch.”
Renato began by finding a great, local semolina producer. Next came the purchase of a large brass pasta extruder, which lived (much to his wife’s chagrin) in his Oakland home. For the first six months, he spread the word by simply making his pastas for underground foodie events around Oakland, usually in tiny batches of no more than 100 lbs. In February of 2012, he wrote his first rent check for a work space in Oakland’s Jack London Square. Then, in April they began to sell at Farmers Markets, and now he does 6 markets every week. All the pastas are still made entirely by hand by Renato and Dario, and other than perhaps the addition of an apprentice, there’s no plan to change that.
“Right now, we produce 900 lbs a week, and we know that we need to get up to 2000 to survive, but there is that demand so things are going really well. My next big goal is to be fully traceable, to have the farmers’ name on every box. Central Milling, where 90% of our flour comes from, is working with us on that. Their main mill, which opened in 1867, is in Utah but all of the flour comes from the west coast.”
Renato hopes to collaborate even more with local farmers to grow lesser known varietals of Italian grain for his pastas, and to move into...long noodles. “We’re definitely a work in progress, but we’re learning the challenges, and the demand is there. We would love to be like the great pasta makers of Italy. We’ll get there.”
Maker website: http://www.baiapasta.com
Charlito is Charles Wekselbaum, but the nickname given by Spanish-speaking friends and family has long eclipsed his birth name. He was working at his Cuban-born father's hardware store by day, and moonlighting as a culinary student by night. Studying under a master charcutier at New York City's French Culinary Institute, he was able to dive deep into the old world wonders of cured meat to discover a real passion.
After graduation, instead of a more typical externship, Charlito headed to Spain to stay with familly in Salamanca and Extremadur – known to cured-meat lovers as the promised land, the land of Serrano ham and the (until recently) forbidden fruit, the one and only, Jamón Iberico. “My cousins are really old school country mountain men. They cure their own olives, chorizo, make their own wine in their own home, just as the family has been doing for generations.” Charlito learned technique, process, and the importance of paying attention to every last detail when making these old family recipes.
How Wekselbaum managed to pull himself away from all that gustatory bliss, we’ll never know. But we’re glad he did, because he clearly inherited the family gift. He wasted no time – Charlito’s Cocina was up and running by early 2011. “I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be cool someday to have a little inn or restaurant that followed the business model of a microbrewery – bar in the front, wholesale business in the back. Wouldn’t that be awesome to do that with charcuterie?” Did we mention how happy we are that he returned to the states?
The business runs out of Long Island City, though Charles makes sausage itself in a larger facility in St. Louis, MO. The 100% pasture-raised, heritage-breed Berkshire Pig is mixed with hand-harvested fleur de sel and other spices in small 200-pound batches (larger producers uses industrial machinery that mix 500-1000 pound minimums). Then, it is stuffed by hand into all natural beef casings and tied one at a time before hanging up to dry for a minimum of 6 weeks. For the vegetarians, Charlito's also created a very special 'sausage' of dried black mission figs that holds its own on any cheese plate.
Note: The name Wekselbaum might sound familiar to you if you've been reading our Meet Your Maker series thoroughly! Charlito's mother is none other than Nancy Wekselbaum of The Gracious Gourmet. So, if you pair Charlito's sausage, some cheese and The Gracious Gourmet's Spiced Sour Cherry Spread or Artichoke Tapenade on a big platter, it's a true family affair.
A&B AMERICAN STYLE
“We both love heat. We actually like to eat just raw chili peppers. Straight.” Thankfully, Brian Ballan and Ariel Fliman appreciate that not everyone’s palate is up to that level of assault. And, though they love heat, they love food and flavor even more, which is why they built their super-small batch hot sauce recipe on the back of a particularly fruity and full-flavored chili pepper known as the Red Fresno. “The whole point was to make something with a manageable kick. Something less painful, more tangy.”
Brian and Ariel have been pushing their tastebuds to the limit together since the 5th grade, but A&B American Style is their first foray into making a business of it. A few years ago, Brian left his corporate job with dreams of turning his foodie obsessions into a full time gig, beginning (baptism by fire!) by working the line at NYC’s ultra-swank Buddakan. The pair then devoted their free time to making a hot sauce recipe that would do justice to their passion – heat. After a year of hard work, they finally nailed down the formula and A&B American style was born.
For now, with Ariel working as a lawyer and Brian finishing up an MBA at Columbia, A&B remains a part-time project for these guys. But every chance they get, these heat-loving BFFs can be found elbow deep in the spicy stuff at the Long Island City commercial kitchen they share with a group of other like-minded small food entrepreneurs. Each batch of the sauce takes about eight hours total, from chopping to simmering to straining, bottling and finally hand-labeling.
They say the sauce is an especially natural fit for any and all things seafood – shrimp, oysters, even chowder – or anywhere you’d use Tabasco or cocktail sauce. Perfectly bright, hot and balanced, we say it’s great on any and all things anything.
MAKER WEBSITE: www.abamerican.com/
Marc Murphy grew up in Milan, Paris, Villefranche, Washington DC, Rome and Genoa — “and that’s before I turned 12,” he notes. This dizzying list of hometowns served as an excellent education in French and Italian cooking, although kitchens were not really his passion as a kid. When the reality hit that he didn't have the funds to become a professional racecar driver, Murphy followed his brother to the Institute of Culinary Education. Everything about his life (including caramel) flows from that fork.
Marc was lucky to land at Michelin one-star Le Miraville in Paris. It is there that he first learned to make a version of the caramel. Fast forward through many more places (France, Italy, Monte Carlo, New York), restaurants (Le Cirque, Layla, Cellar in the Sky, La Fourchette) and mentors (Terrance Brennan, Alain Ducasse, Sylvain Portay, Joseph Fortunato), in 2006, Marc opened the first Landmarc in NYC's Tribeca. Met with rave reviews, he went on to open Ditch Plains (a beachy West Village eatery) and another Landmarc in the Time Warner Center.
Marc always remembered the caramels, and thought they would be a fun, memorable schtick at Landmarc. At the end of every delicious meal, a plate full of caramels arrives. It has become a tradition, a treat for diners and an appropriate souvenir to remember an excellent meal.
Heavy cream, honey and sugar are the main flavors with a background note of Tahitian vanilla beans. The mixture is watched on the stove (verrrrry carefully) until it is a medium amber color. Butter is then swirled in and the batch is poured, cooled, cut before being wrapped individually by hand.
Marc's busy, busy, busy these days with new locations (like Ditch Plains in Brooklyn Bridge Park and on the Upper West Side) and appearances on the cooking show circuit with a regular role as a judge on Chopped, but he's wanted to jar the caramels for a long time. Now no one has to travel far to enjoy this reknown chef's masterful creations.
Maker website: http://landmarc-restaurant.com
GRADY'S COLD BREW
Grady Laird worked at GQ in production and wrote a blog for them about grooming. After GQ ran an article a few years ago about DIY cold brewing, Grady tried it, perfected the perfect cup, then realized that, due to most people’s laziness, people would buy it. And become addicted.
Grady and his partners, Dave Sands and Kyle Buckley, brought it to Smorgasburg (the Brooklyn Flea food market on the Willamsburg waterfront) and people did just that – buy it and become addicted. "Smorg really made the evolution happen," says Kyle, "It really is the perfect launching pad for any new food product. You don't need to quit your job or put down a ton on money, just show up on Saturday and see if people like it. Lucky for us our coffee was a hit." Grady’s Cold Brew Concentrate is now a full-time gig for the three of them.
Here’s why cold is better: When heat is used to brew iced coffee, it releases acids and oils that are intensified when coffee is cooled down in the refrigerator, resulting in a bitter brew with a short shelf life. Cold brewing, on the other hand, produces an intense but smooth flavor that lasts two weeks in the refrigerator. And chicory (the root of the endive plant) gives it extra mellowness and that signature New Orleans style flavor.
The boys source their Ethiopian beans from NYC coffee institution Porto Rico Importing Co. Back in their Williamsburg ‘BrewCo’ (otherwise known as 'Camp Cold Brew') the grounds steep overnight with chicory in cold water for 20 hours, then are twice-filtered and poured into handsome amber-bottles the next day. Each has a “born on” date so you know exactly when the batch was produced. Dave has said, “They are like little breakable babies to us, so we definitely dote on them.”
Kyle runs around most days making deliveries in their awesome diesel truck (which has a name – Riggins).
The trio – who describe their brand as “leisurely, unpretentious and crack-like” – admits to their own evening addiction: Grady’s Night Coffee (coffee, milk and vodka).
maker website: http://gradyscoldbrew.com
Jesse Lomax Floyd comes to Brooklyn by way of Pittsburgh, PA and Greenville, SC. Her unique culinary aesthetic was cultivated at grandmothers Louise and Pauline's elbows, colored by her mother’s kitchen, and refined by her own fascination with the science of the natural world, art, and history.
Jesse studied Biology in college with a focus on Botany and Evolutionary Ecology. She worked with AmeriCorps, providing hands-on urban environmental education and leadership to high school students. Then she continued to hone her passion for food, people and policy during a stint as nutrition educator at a food bank. When she moved to New York City in 2005, Jesse began an underground blog to record her experiments with baked goods and to create a forum for her interests in cooking, history, and paper-crafts. She quickly gathered an audience of readers and slowly began taking individual orders for some of the recipes featured there. Lomaxine was born.
Jesse is passionate about baking and likens it to time spent in the biology lab. "There's a lot of prep work and details, but you also have to be able to see the whole picture." She is currently working out of a shared entrepreneur space in Long Island city, with long days spent chopping fresh ginger or zesting oranges. Some of the cookies are made icebox style – rolling the dough into perfect tubes and then slicing them to perfection before they go into the oven.
The varieties are based loosely on recipes she's been baking for years with family, like the ginger cookies, but taken to a whole new level after experimentation (i.e. adding fresh ginger – why not? she thought). "Most importantly, the cookies I wind up making are flavors I like to eat – strong flavored stuff with a point of view"
Jesse's a self-described packaging freak and has really enjoyed developing her signature look. The company emblem – the buffalo – represents strength and beauty in the unexpected. Her cookies are indeed beautiful, bold and unexpectedly, almost shockingly, good.
She hopes enough people agree so she can move on from her day job at an architecture firm and bake full time in her own kitchen.
Maker website: http://lomaxine.com
Sigmund's is a pretzel bakery run by Lina Kulchinsky in the East Village of New York City. She's a former lawyer turned pastry chef, and a veteran of Jean-Georges and Bouley.
Sigmund's pretzels are made in the most traditional way, the way pretzels were made for centuries in Germany. The dough is fermented overnight, rolled by hand and baked fresh daily. But the flavors and texture are very NY 21 century – influenced by The Mediterranean, Latin, Russian cuisines, and not bound by tradition whatsoever!
Whatever is not sold is then sliced, seasoned with garlic oil, salt, pepper and smoked paprika and toasted till golden. All flavors of soft savory pretzels go into the mix.
Lina finds it amazing that people like her still go into the food business – fully aware of the long hours, low chance of financial security and crazy competition. "It's outright silly, funny and life affirming!"
Maker website: http://www.sigmundnyc.com
EMMY'S PICKLES AND JAMS
Most college students don’t think to seek out little roadside farm stands to buy fresh produce. But, while her classmates filled up on frozen pizza and cafeteria food, Emmy Moore was busy seeking out the good stuff. Growing up in the bay area, food - cooking, eating, and buying directly from local farmers - had been a central part of her family dynamic. “It was really just a hobby, I went to college in New York, near a lot of agriculture. I started canning as a way to preserve the bounty. There’s just so much at the height of the season. I was studying art, basically learning about how to make things in a variety of ways, and teaching myself to can was a similar challenge. It’s a cool way to eat locally year round. I like to think of the jars as a little time capsules.”
After college, Emmy found her way back to California, taking a job with the biggest organic produce distributor in California. Seeing first hand just how much produce goes to waste because it spoils faster than it can be eaten was just the push she needed. “Not only did it really drive home my interest in food, it showed me how much there is this need to put the produce somewhere. It also connected me with local organic farms, and really bulked up my understanding of the local agricultural systems.”
In 2009, Emmy’s Pickles and Jams was born. Thanks to some local (now defunct) underground farmers markets who bent the rules a bit about selling products made in an uncertified kitchen, Emmy was able to experiment with the business a bit before pouring too much into it. It was an almost instant success, and by 2010 she was able to leave her job with the distributor, rent space in a commercial kitchen, and devote herself to the company full time. “My partner was able to quit his job, too. We’ve been able to focus on the business and it’s grown way faster than we ever expected. It’s good! But it’s keeping us very busy.”
Looking towards the future, while Emmy is thrilled that the business is thriving and healthy enough to support her and her partner fully, growth isn’t a priority. “I hope to plateau soon, and to continue to have my hands in every part of it. I find it really meditative, working with food. I never want to give up working in the kitchen or selling at the farmers markets, so I would like it to stay pretty small. ”
Emmy has weathered the stresses and challenges that come with navigating the world of owning a small food business with help from local small business support networks like the Women’s Initiative and of course fellow SF makers. She and her partner have just hired their first employee, and the three of them make all of the pickles and jams by working two 12 hour days a week in the commercial kitchen space that they share. At the height of the summer season, they process up to 600 lbs of local, organic produce. “We pick up everything at the farmers market in the morning and process it that same day. A lot of the quality comes from how much energy we put into sourcing REALLY REALLY high quality produce. We don’t just buy organic and sustainable, but we buy from farmers who chose the best seeds and treat their crops in the best ways possible. The farmers really inspire me, being able to support what they do inspires me to work hard.”
Maker website: http://www.emmyspicklesandjams.com
How does a woman who was born in Shanghai, graduated from UC Davis in finance and international relations, and worked for Bank of America on the foreign exchange trading floor, become the maker of a line of fine caramels?
“As a currency trader, brokers took us to the most amazing restaurants. It opened up a whole new world for me,” Cassandra Chen recalls. “I realized that, even though my family’s expectation was that I would stay in my successful professional career, it just wasn’t for me.” On a whim, Cassandra walked into Vertigo Restaurant and asked for a job in the kitchen. She was hired on the spot and told to “stage” (kitchen lingo for “trail after the cook and work the line”). Given a pair of chef’s pants to wear, she had to use Saran wrap to keep them from falling off. “I worked the pastry line that night, slipping and sliding as I raced around, working like crazy, and loving every minute. There was more energy in that kitchen than on the trading floor! I guess they liked my enthusiasm.” She had found her calling. “I realized that I loved food people. The staff in fine restaurants loves food so much, they will answer any question you ask. You can learn at an amazing rate.”
Cassandra then went to work at Jardinière on the pastry line and met her husband, Manuel Guzman, who at the time was the floor manager and assistant wine sommelier. “I knew nothing about wine, so he taught me about food and wine pairing, another new world.”
The next changes were a move to Marin County, Manuel’s starting a computer business consulting with restaurants, and the birth of the couple’s children. “I stayed in touch with all these great food people, through our business. Jardinière, Boulevard, Chez Panisse, Spruce, are among our clients.”
Ready for a new venture when her youngest son started pre-school, Cassandra decided to take the caramel corn she had been making for family and friends to the commercial level. “When I was making pastry at Jardinière, I discovered that working with sugar is just plain fun – in spite of the fact that it’s like 350 degrees of molten lava! If it sticks to your skin, you get a bad burn.”
This risk did not stop her. “I love caramel over chocolate, and I couldn’t find one that I felt was really good quality. Our caramel candy, caramel sauce and caramel corn are all made with ingredients that are locally sourced. For instance we use organic yellow popcorn from the Sacramento area, and the almonds come from a valley grower we know.”
The owner of Arlequin Café and Wine Bar wanted to sell CC Made caramel products in the Café. Another friend who owns the Tyler Florence gourmet store wanted to carry the products as well. Dean and Deluca ordered. Soon the reputation of the products spread. “Just as important to me as my recipes are the people who make the products. We have a great group. The handmade touch is simply special.”
MAKER WEBSITE : ccmade.com
In the early 1960's, Colleen Clancy went to boarding school in Ireland, where many of the students came from Asia, Africa and Central America. Each came with spices from their homeland and used copious amounts to liven up the boiled and bland Irish fare. It was then that Colleen began to experiment with bold, powerful flavors.
In the mid-to-late 70's, Colleen found herself in Ann Arbor, Michigan, a place where the culture of natural foods, independent stores, and gourmet food passion came together. Clancy's Fancy was first introduced at a vegetarian potluck. Colleen was trying to create real-tasting tofu pepperoni and mixed together the perfect blend of ingredients in an exceptionally delicious sauce. It was an immediate hit! First, friends started asking for that fancy sauce that Clancy makes.” Then, local store owners and restaurants wanted it. Eventually, it grew into a high-demand business, and the sauce was still made the way it always had been – by hand with quality ingredients.
MAKER WEBSITE : ClancysFancy.com
THE JAM STAND
Sabrina Valle and Jessica Quon are every bit as bubbly and quirky as you’d expect people who invented rum-infused banana jam to be. Their recipes are born out of a shared curiosity about pretty much everything, and a friendship that feeds it.
The Jam girls had spent most of 2010 traveling in South America. Like so many 20-somethings, they came back to the States, Brooklyn specifically, to face the dreaded What am I doing with my life? “We always liked to cook and do crafts together. If we found something new that we wanted to try out we would call each other, dive in together and just learn.”
Sabrina had encountered and happily eaten a lot of jam during her South American travels (who knew?), so one afternoon she suggested they give it a whirl and they handed out a few jars to friends. People loved it. “From there, it all happened very naturally. It was like ‘neither of us are working this afternoon, let’s make some jam!’ This fun, part time thing. Then one day, we put something our website just saying we’d sold out of a batch and if you wanted to order some more send us a message. We got flooded.” By the Spring of 2011, the girls were full time jammers.
The company has been based in experimentation and fun. They rely on traditional jamming techniques but want their recipes to be totally out there, flavor-wise. “We want to be silly, to push people to do fun things with our jam. You don’t have to just put it on toast. Put it on pancakes, ice cream, whatever! Play.”
The first flavor was born out of the difficulty of making jam in winter. With no ripe berries around, they made lemonade out of lemons – or rather, Drunken Monkey out of rum and bananas. Now, they have four signature flavors, each with a story. Razzy Gabby is named for a friend who placed a rather specific order for raspberry-jalapeno jam. Blueberry Bourbon was inspired by coffee cake that Sabrina tasted on a mother-daughter trip to San Francisco. Onion-wine jam came about when the girls did made a special jar for a Brooklyn Winery event. “All the flavors happened really with us just playing around in the kitchen. A friend of mine who lives in China came to visit and brought all this tea, it was literally spilling out of my cupboards. That lead to Tea-rrific Strawberry jam.”
The actual making of jam is a bit less breezy. They describe the process “extremely grueling.” A typical day in the Red Hook kitchen they share with La New Yorkina begins at 4:30pm and lasts until midnight on a good day. They’re committed to process, and though working in 5-pound batches isn’t the most efficient thing ever, it is the only way they can ensure quality.
Sabrina and Jessica have overcome a lot of challenges and continue to adapt as the company grows. They love doing the farmers markets, but now realize they'd rather focus on wholesale, because it allows them to spend more time on recipe development. “We just take it one step at a time. It’s extremely rewarding. We look at our jam it’s like our babies. Going to a store and seeing our babies on the shelf – it’s a moment when those 18 hour days really pay off.”
GREEN HOLLOW PRESERVES
Rishi Das and Adam Steinhorn met in college. Actually, as they’re hesitant to admit, they were in the same fraternity. Adam was a senior when Rishi joined, though, so (other than a little light hazing, we’d assume) their paths didn’t cross much. A few years later they wound up living blocks apart in in the Cow Hollow neighborhood of San Francisco. Both working in finance and hating their jobs, the two became fast friends. When Rishi told Adam he was throwing in the towel – leaving the world of finance in favor of culinary school. “In finance, there’s nothing you can hold in your hand and say I put my blood, sweat and tears into this. I wanted to create something tangible. Cooking fed that desire I had to make something.”
After culinary school, Das landed a coveted spot working the line at Nopa, but quickly left, describing his thought process as only an ex-financier could: “As soon as I knew didn’t want to be a sous chef, I had to move on. There are diminishing returns if you’re not totally committed to that track.” When imagining what his own little company might look like, condiments quickly emerged as a natural fit. “My parents grew up in India, and my mom always made fresh chutneys and pickles at meals. Whenever they go to India they bring back the flavors they miss in the form of their sister’s pickled peppers or a friends’ tamarind chutney.”
Rishi began to play with recipes. Knowing Adam was burning out hard in the finance world, Rishi approached him about going into business together. Adam pounced. “My grandfather was actually a butcher who made his own pickles, and my great Grandfather on the other side was a pickler, too. When I started doing this, my Grandmother almost fell over she was so thrilled. She had no idea what I did when I was a hedge fund manager, but now we’re making pickles, and she couldn’t be happier. Who doesn’t want to make their grandmother happy?”
They quickly settled on a moniker – Green, for the street they both live on, and Hollow, for their neighborhood, which had originally been farming community! “It was just happenstance. Maybe it’s a little later, maybe we’re not driving our tractors down Lombard street, but it’s an area that was historically committed to these ideals that we’re upholding now. That’s very cool to us.”
Green Hollow Preserves sold their first jar of pickles at a small artisans market called New Taste Marketplace. “With small food companies, it’s so easy to feel like you’re operating in a vacuum. At New Taste, we felt part of a community. Even now, we’re struck by how unbelievably nice everyone in this city is.” Now, their production facilities are located in Emeryville, just across the bay from SF, where they rent space in a shared kitchen, pumping out 80 lb batches with help from a fellow corporate-world refugee.
Unlike many of their pickling compatriots, production is an year-round process for Adam and Rishi. “I love the acidic flavor, that tang, that you get with pickles. I get that the history of preserving is about being able to eat tomatoes in the winter, but I’m not motivated by that. I’m just excited about taking fresh produce, and giving it a totally different flavor profile. We’re in the kitchen every week and we’re pickling year round. We think it results in a really fresh, crisp product.”
As for their hopes for the future, the boys don’t miss a beat. “World domination.” They claim to be kidding, but we’re not so sure – would a world run by small-batch pickle makers be so bad? Though Adam and Rishi do hope to grow the company, what they're most committed to is heart. “Making pickles for a living is so old school, and it just feels good.” says Adam. “A friend of mine buys them pretty regularly. He recently had a BBQ at his house and I wandered into the kitchen. I see him over at his fridge and he’s drinking the brine right out of the jar, with a little sheepish grin. Like, if he’s sneaking around drinking our brine in his own house, my job is done.”
Neither Katie nor Jesse Hancock had ever been particularly into food. But, when they met (being the two youngest employees at a small office was the ice-breaker) they found that learning to cook together became a favorite pastime. Considering their only ‘instructor’ was a small collection of cookbooks, it must’ve been in the blood.
About four years ago, Katie and Jesse found themselves in Portland, happily married but looking for a way to spend more time together after work. So, when their small vegetable garden had a particularly productive summer, Jesse called his mother for her pickle recipe, and Unbound Pickling was born. “We had so much fun, we thought ‘This is it!’
Artisanal-pickle-wise, we saw this huge gap on the West Coast and it just evolved from there.”
After doing some homework about what was already going on in the small-batch pickling world, and a lot of tasting
, they were ready to launch. Portland, OR, with its super indie-vibe and hyper-local ethos struck them as a natural home for the business and in 2009 they sold their first pickle at the Portland Farmers Market. “We honestly thought we’d just make pickles in Portland and nobody would ever notice. But there are all these people out there – not just in Portland, but all over the country – looking for new things and they DO notice. That was a big surprise. You get noticed.”
With products like Bacon Pickles, which actually get their bacon-y flavor from liquid smoke and paprika (vegan friendly!), or French Quarter Beans, whose brine is heady with over 20 different spices, it’s no surprise that Unbound Pickling struggled to keep up with demand from Day One. “For our first big order, I mapped out a tight pickling schedule. We were going to make 800 jars in 8 hours.” As it turns out, pickling has some hidden time-guzzlers (like waiting for water to boil) and eight hours became 24 loooong hours. Three years later, they’ve learned a lot about streamlining, like to only tackle reasonably-sized batches. The most the two of them process in one day is 500 – impressive, considering that in their spare time (spear time?), Jesse still has a day job in IT and Katie’s hands are full at home juggling two kids.
Clearly, these pickles are a labor of love, an old-fashioned family-business-in-the-making. And the physical work of preparing the pickles (which by the way, is still done entirely by the Hancocks) is Jesse’s favorite part. “It’s sort of mindless and incredibly relaxing to just sit there and cut vegetables. To put the cold, fresh, local produce in the jar, pour the hot brine and let it bubble away in the water bath. I just love it.”
"Our brand is centered on the notion that healthy living and gourmet cooking go hand-in-hand with environmental awareness and strong social conscience," explains Javier Livas, founder of Mexiterra. "Our olives are harvested by hand from orchards in the Peninsula of Baja California, creating jobs for local communities. The olives are cold pressed within hours of harvesting without heat or chemicals. We wanted a package that would protect our olive oil, our planet and provide an unmatched value proposition for our customers, without compromising our gourmet roots."
The Peninsula of Baja California is a predominantly mountainous landmass in northwestern Mexico that separates the Pacific Ocean on the west from the Sea of Cortez on its eastern coastline. It's a winter getaway destination, but what most people do not know is that certain areas of Baja present ideal growing conditions for the olive tree and the production of extra virgin olive oil due to the Mediterranean climate (warm to hot, dry summers and mild to cool winters). Many olive groves are nestled in remote valleys that receive just the right amount of sunlight year-round. In fact, the best olive growing areas in Baja California have a climate that is reminiscent of that in Sicily or southern Greece.
HOSKINS BERRY FARM
Jim Fullmer wears many hats. Farmer, family man, vinegar maker, and Executive Director of the U.S. branch of Demeter, an international organization devoted to biodynamic agriculture. To hear him talk about life and work, though, one wonders if his true vocation isn’t more metaphysical – a trait that many biodynamic farmers seem to share. “The value of our land has actually quadrupled since we first bought it back in 1987, but we would never sell. Land is something that you never actually own. You care for it and pass it on. Biodynamic agriculture is about the idea that a farm is a self-sustaining system that generates natural resources rather than depends on them. It’s about healing the earth. Period.”
Though he grew up New York and New Jersey, Fullmer comes from a long line of Midwestern farmers. In the late 70’s, he headed west to pursue his interest in the burgeoning organics movement. “I worked on a lot of farms all up and down coast. I learned biodynamic techniques on a Montana dairy farm. There was a horrible recession and Oregon land prices were ridiculously low, so we bought these 30 acres and had a family. We’ve been here ever since.”
At first, the family was able to make a living simply selling their Oregon berries wholesale to large organic buyers. But by the early 90’s, Big Agro saw there was money to be made in organics and bought up the wholesalers that Hoskins Family Farm had been working with. Soon, cheap organic produce from Asia and South America flooded the market, and there was no way for a small family farm to compete.
The family needed to solve two problems – recapturing farming costs and dealing with a crop with limited ship-ability (as you may have noticed, berries squash easily). Jim stumbled into a brilliant solution. “One day I took a really ripe bunch of marionberries and just smooshed them into buckets. I added the mother from a bottle of Braggs and set it aside to ferment just to see what would happen. It was delicious! After that we would always take a portion of the crop and make vinegar. Now we pretty much devote all of our harvest to vinegar.”
And yes, to this day they’re still using the same mother that he started more than 10 years ago. “Fermentation is one of the earth’s ancient processes, so we don’t manipulate it. We just smoosh fruit with the skins and stems, and the natural yeasts cause it to ferment. It happens pretty much the same way every year, with small nuances of the seasons. Our vinegar is a terroir-driven, vintage-driven product – a real expression of place.”
The berry vinegar is still a family affair, made entirely by Jim and his wife (with a little help lately from his 12 year old). Even though his work with Demeter keeps him busy in a desk-job sort of way, Fullmer makes a point to leave time for the farm. “The farm used to be our living, now it’s my escape. It’s my idea of a vacation to go out and weed. Just the mundane stuff. Real good time for imagination, grounding yourself and thinking about the future. I just want to honor good food, and get it to people. That’s about it.”
THE GIRL & THE FIG
Sondra Bernstein (the ‘girl’ of the Girl & the Fig) talks about her Sonoma restaurants as a “mixed media collage incorporating and engaging all five senses at once.” We have to know, where does such a wonderful world view come from? “I was lucky in that my family traveled a lot, so I grew up very curious and open. I was always on a journey of discovery, and my business reflects that.”
As a kid, Bernstein’s family rituals were centered around food. Sunday kicked off with bagels and ended with Chinese. She inherited her family’s travel bug, which led her to gastronomic greatness in Europe, where even the most rustic meals were a revelation. “I’ve just never lost that bug. I love tasting new foods, visiting the open air markets and just people watching. I could spend all day in the Boqueria in Barcelona, smelling, tasting, watching.”
Sonoma was a later discovery. Sondra had been living in LA and on a whim decided to drive up to wine country with her boyfriend. While he explored the local Irish pubs, she soaked up the wineries and markets. “I was just like “how can I not be living here”? Food, wine, nature, beauty!” Three months later, she packed up and quickly landed a job at Viansa, a winery and marketplace with a heavy Italian influence. There, she absorbed everything she could about marketing, branding, food and wine, about gourmet food products and catering. After four years, she was ready to strike out on her own. “I thought, if I am going to work this hard, I want to work for myself.”
She took her limited funds, poured them into a small space in Glen Ellen, and the Girl and the Fig – named simply for her complete adoration of figs – was born. It was 1997, when the food and wine culture of Sonoma was dominated by a heavy Italian influence. Knowing that the climate of the Rhone region of France was somewhat similar to Sonoma, and knowing that a few local wineries had begun to branch out into Rhone varietals, she embraced a concept that married the two. “Eighty percent of our customers were tourists, here for the wine. We felt like were were adding this element of discovery. Chardonnay was king, and we were opening it up a little bit. We knew could always add more familiar wines if we needed to. We never did.”
Fig vinegar came around a little later, along with a host of other “fig foods,” as Sondra calls them, inspired by her deep love of the uniquely sweet, plump and delicate little fruit. Soon she opened a little shop called “Figaments” devoted 100% to all things figgy. Vinegar production began, it was popular from day one"Our whole idea was just that people if they loved their meal they could take home a piece of it, a piece of this place. Making money obviously wasn’t our primary goal.”
Now she is proud to be both wholesaler and retailer of the fig vinegar and many other products. When not tasting wines, meeting with local winemakers, building a menu, or catering an event, Sondra’s probably busy self-publishing her latest cookbook, Plats du Jour. “I don’t sleep a whole lot. If you dream big and you really mean it, well, be careful what you wish for. This is a much bigger business than I ever thought I would own. But, I happen to love what I’m doing. I like making a difference in people’s lives, whether it’s for 2 hours, or for 10 years.”
Bernstein isn’t sure what's in her future, though she knows she’d like to slow down a bit. “I’m kind of living in the moment. There’s part of me that wants to travel more, but I love my home. It’s been so much fun. Our roots here are good, we’re just really lucky.”
Benjamin Ahr Harrison, Tobin Ludwig, Eduardo Simeon and Jomaree Pinkard are old friends who all share a love for tinkering around behind a bar. They're also all lucky enough to have flexible-ish, freelance-ish day jobs (from filmmaking to acting to web production to financial consulting) which allow them to pursue this passion for making bitters and building a brand from scratch.
Hella Bitter was founded in Williamsburg, Brooklyn – but its heart in the Bay Area where a few of them grew up. In 2007, Ben and Eduardo were roommates and decided to make their first batch of bitters – 6 bottles. This remained a side hobby for a few years until the team was inspired to launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise enough money to make 50 bottles of citrus bitters. They wound up raising more than double their goal, and with that inspiration, Hella Bitter went from being a weekend project to a serious pursuit of the delicious. And just in time – bitters are sort of enjoying a 'moment' in cocktail culture.
The team produces the bitters in microbatches at Hot Bread Kitchen's incubator space in Harlem. Ingredients such as spices and bittering agents are sourced from their 'spice guy' in Pennsylvania; citrus is hand-selected in local markets (in quantities that often shock the shopkeeper!). The process the follows is called 'cold maceration.' Fruits and the spices are added to a high proof spirit (like 160 proof vodka – the higher the alcohol content the more efficient it'll be in pulling out the flavors of the ingredients). Spices that are super strong like green cardamom or cinnamon stick need to be controlled carefully; the team likes bundle them in cheesecloth so they can remove it easily before they overpower the recipe. Nature is variable and sometimes things take longer – they really go by taste and not precise timing during maceration – though, in general, Citrus takes about one month and Aromatic a little less, about 2 weeks.
Sugar is then caramelized, which brings not only the sweetness but also yet another rich flavor layer, as well as natural hues. Finally, there is the filtration process which can be timely but leads to the beautiful color and clarity immediately noticeable. It's worth observing that many other bitters come in dark bottles but Hella is proud to show off everything in clear glass bottles (and a cool one, at that).
The foursome is having a blast getting this company off the ground. Tobin was particularly proud (and amused) when his brother randomly went into a liquor store on the west coast and freaked out from the huge display of his brother's Hella Bitter – one of the newest stores to carry the brand.
Hella Bitter wants people to use their product to make their drinks a little bit bitter. And they're eager to educate about how bitters can be used creatively in food preparation, too. As they put it, "We’re starting small, and we’re dreaming big."
MAKER WEBSITE : hella-bitter.com
ROAMING ACRES FARM
Todd Appelbaum likes to say that “Ostriches can be divas. They’re difficult and they’re picky.” But he loves them.
Todd worked in construction for about 15 years. Inspired by what he saw as a lack of farm-to-table availability, he started Roaming Acres Farm in northwestern New Jersey. Yes, he raises ostriches in New Jersey, about an hour from Manhattan.
Depending on the season, Todd raises 300-600 ostriches who are fed mostly alfalfa hay. The farm sells about 50 eggs a week and harvests about 350 birds annually.
He really tries to use every bit of the bird, and makes things like pet treats and leather goods in addition to the jerky and the meat. His ostrich has developed quite a following, since it is low in cholesterol and calories, like poultry, but has more of the flavor of beef. It's become a favorite with NYC chefs.
Todd loves working the green markets (usually you can find him at Union Square on Wednesdays) and watching people's reactions as they taste the jerky.His customer is someone who likes red meat and doesn't like fat," Todd says, "There's a learning curve, but once they try it once, they typically try it again."
MAKER WEBSITE : roamingacres.com
CHERITH VALLEY GARDENS
CHeRiTH VaLLeY gardens is a family-operated business, committed to creating the finest unique products using the best local produce.
In 1986, Alan Werner was a principal in an independent oil company, which funded, drilled and operated gas and oil wells in West Texas. After the stock market plunged in October 1987, the company collapsed and Alan felt a strong desire to “return to the land.” He began gardening in order to produce vegetables to feed his family, all of whom participated in preparing the soil, planting, weeding, watering, harvesting and canning.
Gifts of the family’s canned goods, developed from generational recipes, were really well-received; the family was encouraged and in 1993, they officially produced the first CHeRiTH VaLLeY gardens product.
They’ve since won loads of foodie awards, especially for the two jars of deliciousness that we’re offering here on New York Mouth – Garlic Salsa and Pickled Garlic. They’re simple ingredients turned into something unique and wonderful. They offer a hot ‘n spicy line of pickled vegetables, salsas, hors d’oeuvre jellies, spirited fruits, grille and dipping sauces, and assorted condiments. The products are hand-packed with no artificial preservatives, colorings or flavorings.
MAKER WEBSITE : CherithValley.com
When Meg Grace and her business partners first bought a bar, they knew they wanted to offer patrons a little something to nibble while they sipped. Keep people in their seats, sell more beer – a pretty essential equation for any young business. One day, they were joking around and someone threw out the name “bacon peanut brittle.” Meg “decided to try and figure out what bacon peanut brittle was, exactly.” Her first batches were much more like a traditional brittle, but about 20 versions later, they were morphed into the perfect porky peanutty bar snacks they are today.
The Redhead restaurant itself grew up slowly around the bar. In the beginning, Meg only cooked dinner on Thursday nights, treating diners to Southern-inspired foods. Finally, in the summer of 2008, they began full dinner service and became an almost instant success, even receiving a star from New York Times' Frank Bruni. Bacon peanut brittle, served in a small Ball jar, remained a staple. “We discovered that people really wanted the jars to take away, and then we were featured in a Time Out gift guide. I called my brother and asked him to throw together a website, and we were off!”
These days, production happens at a rented space within Danny Meyer’s catering company’s production kitchen, but it’s still made and packaged totally by hand. The bags are stamped with batch number, and a “bet you will eat by” date (here at NYM we go through the brittle too fast to bother with that bet, though). Though she admits that consistency is a challenge now that the batches have to be a little larger to meet demand, Grace is keeping the brittle as perfect and tasty as ever.
Scaling is a common issue for small producers, but Meg sites a far more unique problem as her biggest hurdle so far. “Not everyone is willing to allow us the creative license with the name. We’ve gotten more than a few long, emphatic emails alerting us that we are not making actual peanut brittle. Of course, we know that it isn't traditional brittle. Pretty funny.”
She hopes to bring production back in-house at some point soon, and possibly even open a devoted store front for the brittle and a few other products that she has in mind. But for now, she’s content. “The people I work with are amazing. I’m still in a place where I love cooking every day.”
MAKER WEBSITE : theredheadnyc.com
Prue Barrett is a private NYC chef who believes that people don’t have the time or money to spend on a list of ingredients “that would cost as much as the foreign debt of a small country and still be sitting in the kitchen cupboard when they move house in twenty years time.”
Some more thoughts from Prue: "I never tire of cooking. I love great produce, fine wine and fabulous cheese. But more than anything, I love that food, for a brief moment in our days, has the ability to slow us down. To make us stop for the smallest of seconds and enjoy a taste, a texture, a temperature…it connects us back to ourselves and to the people around us. I grew up in Australia. My Dad’s Mum, Chrissie was a sensational cook, making us pies with our initials on them in pastry, baking everything from scratch, even her presentation was beautiful. Nana, made the best comfort food, custard, Irish Stew and pea and ham soup. I got schooled very early on, in profound ways, about the power of food. It was traveling and working around the world for twelve years that further educated me in taste, flavor, technique and seasoning."
MAKER WEBSITE : www.agrodolceforfastfoodies.com
PURE BLISS EATS
Nicole Culver’s husband hated breakfast but then would complain later about being hungry all the time. Nicole’s 4th grade students in New York City were constantly showing up to class with loads of junk food. So, after school in her small Queens kitchen, Nicole began to tinker and research and play until she came up with delicious muffins and granolas that might appeal to her 2 constituencies. It worked.
It was Nicole’s sister Christine who said “Hey you’ve got something great here, you should do something with this!” Something clicked. Nicole planned ahead, went back to school, and now she’s using that degree from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition to work as a holistic health coach. And has launched Pure Bliss Eats.
Nicole still develops the recipes in her home kitchen, using mostly organic ingredients and natural sugars (honey, maple syrup, agave, etc.) along with some super foods (chia, flax). “I’m a no fuss baker. I tend to just throw things in a bowl and mix. I know some bakers must cringe at that. After it’s mixed and baked, the nuts are added so they stay raw.” Once the chief taster (husband) signs off on each recipe, Nicole moves the operation to a commercial kitchen in Long Island City called The Entrepreneur Space.
Nicole is a baker with a mission – to unleash healthy snacking into the world, helping people live longer and better. “Eating well doesn’t mean boring or cardboard-like taste.”
MAKER WEBSITE : pureblisseats.com
SAUCY BY NATURE
Saucy by Nature is founded by a duo of travel-obsessed foodies, former wine marketing executive and chef Przemek Adolf and attorney Monika Luczak, who have eaten their way through a big chunk of the world including Southeast Asia, India and Nepal, all of Europe, the Caribbean, South America and Africa. They were inspired by the uniqueness of regional cuisines, the food stories of the people they shared meals with and the ingredients that made up the dishes.
The pair wanted to share their food adventures with friends back home and got to thinking about recipes. Instinctively they knew that the key to producing the best tasting food was using the freshest local vegetables and fruits and combining them with the highest quality ingredients like extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and fresh ground spices. Their thought was – what better vehicle to elevate any meal than with sauces and condiments.
As kids, they grew up eating with the seasons and wanted to create a product to celebrate every harvest. They took a trip up to meet the farmers selling at the Hunt's Point greenmarket in the Bronx, and were inspired by the fresh ingredients the hard work each farmer put into their produce. Przemek believes that “everyone can benefit from the incredible energy you get nourishing yourself with wholesome foods and supporting local farmers."Using this pool of farmers as an amazing resource. they began handcrafting small batches of sauces inspired by travel.
They continue to cultivate relationships with farmers to get the best tasting ingredients growing right on our doorstep and preserve each season’s bounty jar by jar. The passion for real food and authentic flavor extends to only preserving foods naturally and in the tradition of their grandmothers, the ultimate purists when it comes to taste.
"We're both Polish," says Przemek. "These are our comfort foods...I want to inspire people who may be new to cooking to get creative in the kitchen."
MAKER WEBSITE : SaucyByNature.com
Ellen Daehnick's friend Sy came over to watch a movie but instead of “All About Eve,” she brought cream, butter and a sea salt caramel recipe she'd seen. After much tweaking later, they had a master recipe for salted caramels and were making them for family and friends who couldn’t seem to get enough.
Ellen didn't start out in the food business, although she worked as a waitress when she was a teenager. A political science major, she became a demographer, then got an MBA and became a consultant.
Her husband told her back in 2010, "You know, you ought to sell those caramels!" And something clicked. Within four weeks, she was up and running!
Helliemae's was born: big flavors that don't hesitate or apologize – rich, dark, buttery salted caramels, made in small batches. She starts with a great foundation: natural cane sugar, fresh butter and cream, pure vanilla. Whenever possible, ingredients are sourced locally. Sea salt and spices come from nearby Denver's Savory Spice Shop. Butter and cream come from western dairies and are hormone-free and organic. Ellen's working hard right now to source all the dairy products from organic producers in Colorado.
These ingredients are transformed into salted caramels in tiny, four-pound quantities. It takes hours of individual tending to get the best possible result.
Ellen's attention to detail extends to packaging: her brown kraft boxes are 100% recyclable/compostable, and the logo is stamped by hand.
What's 'Hellimae' mean? When Ellen was growing up in Houston in the 70s and 80s, she used to watch reruns of The Beverly Hillbillies and people used to call her Ellie Mae. When she was trying to figure out what to call these caramels, "Helliemae just seemed right: a handcrafted sensibility with a touch of post-punk DIY." It just felt like her.
MAKER WEBSITE : saltcaramels.com
Mary Woltz was keeping bees for the The Hamptons Honey Company, and then was inspired to start her own business with just 100 hives. As she puts it, "Honestly the bees taught me everything I know. The name 'Bees Needs' reflects the need of the honey bees for their own honey, because often in commercial operations the bees' honey is removed and the bees are fed sugar water or high fructose corn syrup. My goal is to always care for the bees’ needs first. I take whatever surplus they produce to sell."
The hives are a matriarchal society with all the girls doing all the work. Each has her own name, with as many as 50,000 bees acting as one large community. Each individual is ready to sacrifice herself for the defense of the hive. (Remember: A honey bee dies when it stings.)
Mary believes bees have been taken for granted for a long time. "Not until bees started to disappear and get sick that people said, 'Oops, they are important.' It is at our peril. We have treated them so poorly. We have taken their generosity for granted. It has gotten to the point where we are damaging and threatening their well being in how we keep and treat them."
Mary likes to talk about the innately gentle nature of bees. Apparently it's US who fears them, but they're actually pretty un-aggressive (unlike the wasp). They only sting as a last ditch defensive move, and the males don't even HAVE a stinger.
Each season, Mary offers the amazingly pure, sweet, and fragrant honey which her bees produce in 15 different locations all over the east end of Long Island, north and south forks, east of the Shinnecock Canal.
KINGS COUNTY JERKY
Chris Woehrle and Robert Stout are friends and neighbors who love to cook. Chris was an art director for many years in the music industry and was feeling unsatisfied, but wondered – how do you change careers in your late ‘30’s? Robert was a fashion photographer who was also looking to make a change. As Chris says, “If I had to go on another rock shoot or he had to shoot another girl in a bikini…”
The two prepared braised short ribs with craft beer and porcini mushrooms for a Brooklyn food event and won first place. They then spent about a month doing experiments in the kitchen, which led them to Home Depot, where they bought supplies to make their first batch of jerky – a few air conditioner filters, a box fan and some bungee cords. They made up a recipe for a marinade, put the meat between 2 filters, bungeed it to the fan and let it dehydrate on Robert’s terrace for 12 hours.
The next step was to buy a smoker and experiment with various marinades. They entered ‘The Next Big Small Brand Contest' and, while they lost in a tie-breaker, it motivated them to keep going because they saw a huge void in the market.
Now they’re jerking around full time. The meat is delivered to them straight from a New Jersey farm, where the cows are100% grass fed then handled by a family run, organic butcher. Chris and Robert begin with only the leanest cuts of meat and goes through each individually to trim extra fat with a flexible knife (aside of making a healthier product, fat also would cause the jerky to go rancid). Each cut is then run through a meat slicer, marinated for a few hours in signature recipes, then laid out on racks (a crazy task Chris describes as working on a complicated puzzle). The racks are put into a professional dehydrator for about 5 or 6 hours.
The job has its risks – Robert nearly lost his thumb in the slicer. They now make sure to a metal chain glove for protection!
There's no time to jerk around. They are literally working around the clock in their Bushwick kitchen, given the huge reaction to the all-natural jerky. “When people try it, they freak out about how good it tastes. And whenever they taste it, they buy it.” Chris adds that while they expected guys to dig it, they’ve been most surprised at the reaction from women who just LOVE it. They’re buying jerky for themselves (it’s a great low carb, high protein snack) and they’re also buying for their boyfriends, husbands, and fathers.
Chris and Robert have tons of new ideas in the works, including a pastrami jerky (this is Kings County, after all) and a Portobello mushroom jerky (for you vegetarians).
We can’t wait. These guys are no jerks offs.
MAKER WEBSITE : kingscountyjerky.com
Brooklyn Slate Company is a collaborative effort from Brooklyn graphic designer Sean Tice and Parsons graduate student Kristy Hadeka. After visiting Kristy's family slate quarry in upstate New York in the spring of 2009, the two grabbed a few pieces for use as all purpose boards back home in Brooklyn. They used them as trivets for tea kettles and hot dishes to coasters for beers - and began gifting pieces to friends. The response was so positive that the two struck out to produce a line of slate products.
They now make regular trips to the family quarry in upstate New York to hand pick the best pieces of black and red slate. Some of the slate is sourced from the quarry "graveyard," or collection of odd shaped pieces that were ultimately destined to be ground for use as road cover or baseball diamonds.
They then transport the pieces to a studio in Red Hook, Brooklyn, where they do additional cutting and clean the stone so it is food safe. In order to achieve the rough, unfinished look, the edges are chipped with a slate cutter and other tools.
They finally assemble the packaging in small batches. Every single piece of packaging - from the envelope to the burlap bag - can be repurposed for other uses.
The end result is a product completely unique in cut, shape, color, and overall presentation.
MAKER WEBSITE : BrooklynSlate.com
Tumbador Chocolate is under the direction of Jean-Francois Bonnet who worked at New York's restaurant Daniel. His former boss, Daniel Boulud said that Bonnet had "the technique of an artisan and the creativity of an artist. He combines it with simplicity and respect for delicate flavors and textures."
While that was said over a decade ago, his company reflects that description. Tumbador creates a huge range of delicious chocolates and other sweets and snacks made with great ingredients. They also have a very special and diverse staff, many of whom are given a second chance through community based programs such as Strive, Goodwill and The Fortune Society.
Every ingredient used in Tumbador®Chocolate is certified Kosher OK. They make both dairy and non-dairy products, produced in separate facilities in their Brooklyn factory.
MAKER WEBSITE : tumbadorchocolate.com
THE DP CHUTNEY COLLECTIVE
The DP Chutney Collective is essentially Drake Page, who fell in love with Indian cuisine while cooking in a restaurant in London. And little jars were not unfamiliar to him, after growing up in the South where a pickle/condiment tray is the typical center of most tables.
For years he'd been making chutneys for gifts for friends and family. After leaving banking in NY in 2009, he launched The Collective as a way to express this love through flavor.
Everything is handmade in Greenpoint. He sources ingredients from local, sustainable farms and small businesses. The apple cider comes from a Green County orchard. The honey from an apiary in the Finger Lakes. The jars are from Roebling Street. In fact, 75% of his ingredients come from within a 90 mile radius of New York City, many in Hudson Valley or New Jersey.
Why is it a collective? "I am fortunate to have a wide network of supportive taste testers and helpers with very creative suggestions and strong opinions."
Drake's dream? To see chutney along side salsa in every kitchen in America.
The original Blue Hill restaurant, opened in 2000, is located in Greenwich Village. Hidden three steps below street level, the restaurant occupies a landmark "speakeasy" just off of Washington Square Park.
Blue Hill's menu showcases local food and a wine list with producers who respect artisanal techniques. Ingredients come from nearby farms, and guests can choose from the regular menu or opt for the "Farmer's Feast," a five-course tasting inspired by the week's harvest.
In spring of 2004, Blue Hill at Stone Barns opened within the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, an 80-acre four season farm in Pocantico Hills, about 25 miles north of NYC. Dan and Laureen Barber helped create the philosophical and practical framework for Stone Barns Center, a working four-season farm and educational center just 30 miles north of New York City, and continue to help guide it in its mission to create a consciousness about the effect of everyday food choices.
Sourcing from the surrounding fields and pasture, as well as other local farms, Blue Hill at Stone Barns highlights the abundant resources of the Hudson Valley.
Dan, executive chef and co-owner and food-scholar, puts it this way: “The menu is dictated by the farmers. Stone Barns Center grows what is best for this locality and raises the animals the pasture can support. It’s a wonderful way to cook and a wonderful way to be involved in food. For our guests, this type of eating is not only delicious, it’s participating in the farm—and that is the whole point.”
Dan says, "I’m a Union Square kind of guy, but I love the Grand Army Plaza greenmarket in Brooklyn. I think, though, a secret gem is the upper West Side 97th Street market on Fridays- that’s my secret go-to place that I don’t ever talk about. It’s tiny, but filled with terrific stuff.
Barber, who in 2009 received the James Beard award for America's Outstanding Chef, and was named one of the world's most influential people in Time’s annual "Time 100" list, often wears pajama pants and waffled long-sleeve shirts in the kitchen.
MAKER WEBSITE : bluehillfarm.com
THE GRACIOUS GOURMET
Nancy Wekselbaum has been passionate about food since she was a kid. "When I was 9 years old, my parents went out and I baked an angel food cake. When they got home, they thought I had set the house on fire! The cake was a flop and my mother told me 'Never cook again!' But I didn't listen to her."
For years, Nancy's love of cooking mostly benefited her family and friends. One night about 6 years ago, during a particularly rough storm, the power went out as it often does in her small Connecticut town. She called a neighbor who lived alone and said, "Come on over, we have a generator, I'm making steak." Nancy served that steak with a delicious homemade chutney and the friend raved that it was so good Nancy should sell it. This set off sparks at this particular moment in Nancy's life. She launched into action, came up with a plan, and, after 9 months of research and experimenting in the kitchen, The Gracious Gourmet was born with about 6 different products.
She laughs about the first time she ordered apples in a large quantity - 75 pounds worth. As she looked into the huge barrel, she realized she'd be peeling and coring apples all night.
The Gracious Gourmet now sells about 20 products. Nancy's goal is to keep food healthy – all are lower in sugar, salt and oil than most dips and spreads. She still develops the all recipes in her home kitchen and hopes her products can be used to make cooking at home easier. "People love good food but no one has time to cook anymore. My products can help people prepare dinners that are delicious but use short cuts."
Nancy's tapenades and spreads are produced in small batches to maintain their integrity. And it's worth noting that Nancy's Spiced Sour Cherry Spread won a Sofi Gold Award at the 57th Summer Fancy Food Show in Washington, D.C.
MAKER WEBSITE : graciousgourmet.com
Rick and Michael Mast are indeed brothers. As they say, "We've been brothers our whole lives." The bearded siblings are putting out some of Brooklyn’s finest organic, fair-trade chocolate.
The beans are imported directly from South America or the Dominican Republic. And sometimes they go to get the beans themselves. “We chartered a 70-foot schooner to pick 20 metric tons of beans up from the Dominican Republic. We figure why not limit our participation in the industrialization of food. The same people who grew the cacao from the La Red co-operative delivered the shipment to the boat.” The boys paid a fair price along with some good beer.
Back in Williamsburg, the beans are roasted on trays the size of a home cookie sheet in small convention ovens, which gives them more control. “We know it’s ready by taste.” They use machinery custom-made by fellow New York Mouth chocolatier Cacao Prieto (a former aerospace engineer) to remove the hulls and grind the beans into nibs. The chocolate-making machines are powered by granite wheels that macerate and smooth the roasted beans and sugar for several days. The chocolate is then ‘aged’ in metal bins.
Each bar is hand-wrapped in distinctive paper. “We originally just wrapped our chocolate in butcher paper, in hopes of doing anything we could to communicate the message that chocolate is food — not candy. We soon realized that the packaging needed something more so we tried to retain the feel of butcher paper but with beautifully designed patterns.”
The papers are indeed beautiful – each flavor is wrapped in a signature pattern from paisley to gingham to whimsical modern graphics, all designed by the owners, their crew or family and friends. People want in! Artists from around the world have submitted their own potential patterns to the brothers, but they’ve decided to keep it in the family.
The brothers are truly trying to build a community in their Williamsburg factory, not just make chocolate. “Nothing substitutes for people coming in, meeting us, and seeing our place. We want to have a place where people walking by eating ice cream can pop in and discover how chocolate is made.”
MAKER WEBSITE : MastBrothers.com
FAT TOAD FARMS
Fat Toad Farm is a small, family owned and operated goat dairy run by husband and wife Judith Irving and Steve Reid and their daughters Calley Hastings and Hannah Reid.
This is a committed, loving family farm. They raise the majority of the food they eat themselves – everything from dried corn for cornmeal to raspberries for jam. They also barter milk, pork, eggs and cheese for products they product like syrup or honey.
Right now the focus is on the goats, who Judith describes as “wonderful friendly animals, very smart, very inquisitive…and full of mischief.” There are about 4 dozen goat does very busy making milk.
Judith’s the ‘caramel master.’ The process takes about 4 or 5 hours – the fresh goat milk is poured into pots to simmer for about 3 or 4 hours, then strained, poured into jars, and labeled – all by hand.
This is a family who loves Vermont (who doesn’t) and is committed to conserving resources. They recycle, reuse, and are currently working on developing a system to capture the heat produced in making caramel.
So what’s Fat Toad? The family noticed a significant population of well-fed toads hanging out in the gardens, barns and orchard. Toads are very sensitive to their environment – they are known as an indicator species and would be the first to flee unhealthy soil or water. This seemed like a good omen – hence, Fat Toad.
MAKER WEBSITE : fattoadfarm.com
BROOKLYN HARD CANDY
Danny Mowles and Nathan Panum, both chefs and grads of London's Le Cordon Bleu, were having a drink one night and talking sweets. "We saw everything moving towards local. We knew we wanted to do something sweet, but everyone was doing chocolate. After that it was just finding the right type of sweet that we could make our own."
It was a hard task. Literally.
Neither of them had made hard candy before, a process which involved loads of late night reading, research and tons of trial and error. Mowles says "the candy making process is 75% science and 25% art."
The sugar is cooked to a 'hard crack,' flavor and citric acid are added, then it's rolled (as opposed to pulled, which traps air) into long strands. Then the sweet mixture is poured into a custom-designed cutting machine to get that unique bite-sized shape. All of the ingredients are sourced from the U.S, including a secret one that's added to each of their flavors (wish they'd tell us what it is!). The two are still working day jobs, so right now the process involves getting time in big kitchens at night, working off hours to create as many vats as possible.
The packaging is exquisite and plays into a whole modern/vintage sensibility (we love). It's also where the company is the greenest (because after all, candy is candy). The bottle's recycled glass, the stopper is cork, the label is recycled paper.
It's not hard to love Brooklyn Hard Candy.
MAKER WEBSITE : BrooklynHardCandy.com
RUBY BAY SEAFOOD
Greenpoint's own Ruby Bay Seafood, part of Acme Smoked Fish, was stared in the early 1900's when Harry Brownstein came to New York from Russia and found a job as a 'wagon jobber,' picking up fish from a smokehouse, loading it on to his horse-drawn wagon, and hand-delivering to small city grocers and appetizing stores. Eventually, he started smoking his own fish and built a business which has been lovingly passed down to his son-in-law Rubin Caslow, then grandsons Eric and Robert Caslow and Mark and Gary Brownstein, and now great-grandchildren including David Caslow and Emily Caslow.
Grandson Robert Caslow reflects: “When I came into the business 37 years ago, there were maybe 10 big smokehouses in Brooklyn. We were just one of them, trying to make a living. Now we’re the only big player left. I really believe that our family’s cohesiveness, and our collective attention to detail have been the driving forces behind our success. All of us come to work every day, and it sets a certain tone for our employees.” Emily Caslow points to Brooklyn: “Greenpoint is where our roots are, and our proximity...allows us to stay close to our customers and distribute goods to them on short notice.” Great-grandson David agrees: "We’re a close knit group, we work very well together. In my family, it’s what every body does."
The family goes to great lengths to make sure all their products begin with the freshest, finest quality, raw fish. After being cleaned and filleted, the salmon is cured for up to a week with ingredients like salt and sugar and seasonings for the various flavor profiles. Then it's cold-smoked over wood chips at temperatures around 72°F for 8 to 24 hours.
The Wild King Salmon Jerky is a brand-new product launched in 2012, made from wild-caught Alaska king salmon which has smoked slowly for hours using cherry and alder woods giving it an “intense, aromatic and mildly woodsy taste.”
The family is excited to get it out there and raves that it's “a delicacy ideal for foodies and adventure seekers on-the-go. King salmon jerky is naturally high in omega-3 fatty acids, protein and vitamin D."
They're right – we love it.
MAKER WEBSITE : rubybayseafood.com
Morris Kitchen was started by brother and sister, Tyler and Kari Morris.
Tyler has been cooking in restaurants for thirteen years, including stints at Craftbar and Breslin Bar & Dining Room – he's now the chef of Louisville, KY's new Rye. Kari worked in restaurants for three years while studying painting at California College of the Arts, then came to New York to organize art fairs and teach kids about healthy eating. The two collaborated to throw organic supper club dinner parties and thought a lot about how they could work together to create something of their own.
Kari was spending time with friends in the south of France and noticed a mysterious bottle on most kitchen tables – ginger syrup. She thought about the gingery cocktails she was seeing on bar menus everywhere and came home inspired. Experiments led to a first small batch of 40 bottles which sold out immediately at a local greenmarket.
Kari's now working on 3 syrups, 350 bottles at a time, full-time in a Williamsburg kitchen. She's passionate about sharing simple ingredients (apples, ginger, lemon) which can be rediscovered creatively. How does she describe the process? "Procure-clean-juice-strain-boil-skim-bottle-cool-label-stamp-deliver and repeat."
Kari pays attention to small but lovely details that set her syrups apart. Apothecary-style amber bottles combined with modern typography on letterpressed labels creates en elegant, accessible, and inspired vessel which contains the deliciously pure, syrupy elixir.
She's constantly evolving and trying out new ideas and loves working among other like-minded crafters in the Brooklyn food scene.
MAKER WEBSITE : morriskitchen.com
Daniel Preston is still a scientist. He’s still overseeing a complicated operation. He’s still managing a lot of parts and people. But now, instead of planes and parachutes, he’s dealing in beans and bars.
Daniel invented a life-saving satellite parachute system that allows the military to drop cargo from as far as 5 miles high and 30 miles away, using planes that autonomously are able to land within 2 meters of their target. This technology formed the base of the aerospace company he founded and ran until selling in 2009.
Around the time of the sale, Daniel was visiting his family in the Dominican Republic and “caught Cacao fever.” The family farm, called Coralina, grows heirloom cacao trees that can be traced back to Columbus. Daniel is now revamping and expanding a huge operation, which requires hiring up to 1600 people this year, building a city for employees complete with schools and social services, in addition to constructing a brick factory, lumber mill, a biogas power station, among others. He’s also subsidizing about 200,000 trees a year to other farms to help poorer farmers and also protect the island's biodiversity.
“This is the side of the business which is changing my life. As an engineer I never thought I would be so excited to be a farmer, never realizing just how much science is required to architect a truly self-sustaining farm.”
And, with his team of organic chemists, plant molecular biologists, geneticists, and a master chocolatier in his Red Hook factory, Daniel is able to vertically control every step of the process resulting in a wonderfully fragrant and luxurious chocolate with the highest antioxidants possible.
“I am someone that loves chess and strategy. I didn’t expect how to architect a self-sustaining farm and change the organic chocolate industry would be such a good chess game.”
MAKER WEBSITE : cacaoprieto.com
Edible Communities is a publishing company that creates editorially rich, community-based, local-foods publications in distinct culinary regions throughout the United States and Canada. They're able to connect consumers with family farmers, growers, chefs, and food artisans of all kinds. They strongly are committed to the idea that every person has the right to affordable, fresh, healthful food on a daily basis and that knowing where our food comes from is a powerful thing. And they're passionate about sustaining the unique local flavors and economies of the communities. These people live, breathe and literally, eat these values.
The owners of Edible Brooklyn are, indeed, neighbors. Brian Halweil, a researcher and writer for a local food think tank, works from his home in Sag Harbor. Stephen Munshin, who's worked in restaurants on both coasts and also has his own clothing company and honey business, now collaborates with Brian in what he thinks is 'an opportunity not to be missed.'
Craig Kanarick, an entrepreneur in the early days of the internet, was visiting the design firm of a friend who had a breakfast cereal client. The conference room was set up with huge boards. Breakfast cereal of every size, color, texture, grain, etc were glued onto the boards in neat grid-like rows. It was a complete taxonomy of cereal, which Craig found shockingly beautiful.
On his way back to the office, Craig stopped for some candy and took a closer look a the tiny, jewel-like objects. He thought, someone had the job of deciding how big to make a gummy bear's ears.
He started obsessively researching candy, ordering candy, finding out more about how candy was designed - and asked a photographer to take some still-life photographs...but it was too expensive. So the photographer told him what to do - buy a light box, some lights, a new camera lens. And Craig began transforming hand-picking candy, much of it from Holland or Japan, into fine art.
A few friends loved Craig's art so much that they became his first collectors. Word got out to Dylan's Candy Bar, which then displayed 30 original pieces at the already-colorful 3rd Avenue store in Craig's debut gallery show.
If you hadn't realized it, Craig's our CEO at New York Mouth, and for us he's created a line of cards using pieces from the collection, only available here.
Craig's favorites treats are candies with tiny little balls on the outside - non-pareils, German raspberries, etc. He loves crunch followed by something that gives.
SPICY N SWEET
Featured Recipe: Chop-Chop Ratatouille
About the Maker
Great design comes in many forms – from furniture to fonts. Michael Marino, a furniture designer, brought his partner, Jorge Moret, home to Staten Island one Sunday for a typical family feast. Jorge, an advertising art director, fell in love with the cooking of course, and now the two are busy designing in a whole new format for the ultimate Creative Director – mom.
Mom is Nonna Carolina. Nonna (which means ‘grandma’ in Italian) credits her training from her own Nonna Fuda back in Calabria, the southernmost region of the Italian boot. Michael and Jorge have put nonna to work in the kitchen, where she supervises every step of the process.
The creative team starts with a simple concept: take delicious, vine-ripened New Jersey tomatoes and other locally-grown herbs and combine with curated, imported ingredients such as olives, capers and extra virgin olive oil. Texture and color and flavor are carefully layered in the pot and then jarred by hand one small batch at a time – and, as Michael says, “with Nonna you better keep up!”
Michael and Jorge are passionate about this new project and are also the brains behind the brand’s packaging, photography and social media. Mostly, the pair is loving the wonderful feedback they’re getting from the ultimate focus group – friends, family, and fellow foodie fans.
maker website: www.spicynsweet.com
Christian Wolffer, a German businessman, bought a South Fork potato farm in Sagaponack, NY in 1987 as a weekend getaway but a few years later he was growing grapes. He courted Roman Roth, a winemaker from Baden and not long after that, Wolffer Estates established itself as one of the best and most beautiful wineries in the state, with a Tuscan style tasting room and Bordeaux inspired grapes.
Roth now oversees 55 acres that produce about 15,000 cases a year! The rich wines are made using old world and sustainable practices in the tradition of the best European vineyards. But the Hamptons earth, just a few miles from the Atlantic, brings about a distinctly local character in the grapes.
The vines are thinned out annually just as the fruit is beginning to ripen, which allows for a stronger vine and a fuller fruit at harvest. These unripe grapes do not go to waste – they are pressed and cold-filtered into a delicious, versatile green juice called…‘verjus.’ This is an amazingly special and versatile ingredient which you can even drink as a substitute for champagne or with seltzer (as Roth’s daughter likes it!).
Wolffer is still going strong despite the death of Christian in 2008. Roth is now experimenting with something stronger as well, and has – intentionally, not by accident - put out his first, exceptional aged rose vinegar.
We love both, and will think of Christian on summer Friday evenings at Wolffer, where we love stopping by for a glass of wine, cheese plate and free music. Until then, we’ll just stock up on some verjus!
MAKER WEBSITE: wolffer.com
Tom Donigan, Scott Fiesinger, and Matt Levey were on a Vermont ski lift last year, chewing on jerky they’d just picked up at a local place that sold not much more than beer, guns and jerky. It was so tasty, they wondered why they’d never had anything like it before.
The answer, which they found out once they got down the hill, has to do with water – the more water in jerky, the better the flavor, the more likely it is to spoil, the less likely it’ll get USDA approval (hence, Slim Jim). The friends decided to develop something better.
Jerky is one of the oldest methods of preserving food (as early as ancient Egypt). Field uses high-quality top round lean beef sourced within 150 miles of NYC, sliced into large strips, marinated and rubbed with seasonings in a vacuum tumbler. The strips are laid out on a rack and placed into a dehydrator. The finished product is chopped up and bagged.
So now this lawyer, business development manager and private equity manager are staying up all night, trying to balance their day jobs and build the brand. On weekends, they ride their bikes around signing up new accounts (like us!), checking on their stores and hosting tastings.
They have been particularly blown away by the response from the ladies, who are not the typical jerky fans, but Field is different. Perhaps it’s the high-protein low-insulin no-nitrates no-MSG recipe along with the distinctive flavor – a great between-meal snack for everyone.
MAKER WEBSITE: http://www.fieldtripjerky.com
BLACK AND BLANCO
Steve Blanco grew up loving all of his Moroccan mom’s homeland recipes. When he brought his girlfriend, Heidi Karlson, to visit mom in Florida, she recalls that mom “greeted me with this plate of cookies, and they were so good. Traditionally, they’re made with refined white flour and vegetable oil, and so we thought, why not try making them with healthier ingredients?” (So they could eat them all the time!)
Back home in their tiny one-bedroom kitchen, the jazz pianist and actress got to work translating this shortbread cookie (called ‘ghoriba’ in Moroccan). All mom’s standards were swapped for organic whole dark rye flour, coconut oil, evaporated cane juice and sea salt. The couple was able to create a ‘sandie’ that…wait for it…rocks.
Why rye? Apparently, it ferments in the stomach to produce important nutrients (who knew?), in addition to the grains’ fiber, prebiotics, low gluten, iron, calcium, zinc, vitamin E, B aplenty. Why coconut oil? Known as the ‘energy fat,’ it’s a pure, whole food, with no trans fatty acids and an equally long list of beneficial properties.
The baking duo now works out of a shared Long Island City kitchen and hope to expand to other products in their own factory some day.
When they head south to see mom (and maybe build some actual castles of sand), they love bringing their NYC sandies. Steve says his mom is excited about it: “I don’t think she realizes that all of this is because of her cookie.”
MAKER WEBSITE: www.blackblanco.com
Jennifer Lazzaro loved cooking at her family home upstate in Canandaigua, NY with her sister Mary Pat and another relative named Grannie Lu. Then she started meeting the local farmers in this Finger Lake community who inspired her to think about a way to “take a chance and turn a hobby into more than that.”
The favorite family sauce was the answer, and Grannie Lu got to work teaching the saucey secrets. Jennifer was able to source ingredients from new local friends, like honey from The Backyard Honey Company and year-round hydroponic tomatoes from Intergrow Greenhouses. Grannie Lu showed how to combine these 2 ingredients with just a few simple others – onions, vinegar, sugar and hot peppers – to form the most amazing ‘everything sauce’ called Honey Heat. Jennifer loves it on eggs, in salad dressing, in a quick stew, or on anything right off the grill. It’s got a fruity sweetness with a great spicy kick.
Jennifer loved jarring so much she quickly moved on to other vegetables. Sweet Beets and Sweet Heat Pickles were natural next steps – both with that signature heat and sweet. She now lives by the motto: Let’s just can it and try it. Jennifer really strives to keep the integrity of each batch. “You do not have to use a lot of ingredients to make a tasty product!” She started off and is still part of a community of local food makers in Greenpoint and Williamsburg who trade suggestions and offer support.
Jennifer now actually does the canning out a kitchen in Katonah, NY but also keeps her day job in HR. Nothing gets her more excited then positive feedback from just a single customer.
MAKER WEBSITE: cheshirecanning.blogspot.com
It’s hard not to feel happy when you come across a sunflower.
John Stoker’s family has owned a dairy and crop farm Cazenovia, NY for over 100 years. In 1986, after his father died of cancer, the farm made a heart-felt decision to go organic because they felt passionately that it was a healthier, safer option. John and his wife Jennifer, who is also a schoolteacher, run the farm and started marketing the oil along with Jennifer’s brother Michael Taylor (who has a background in retail).
Sunflower seeds are cold pressed then allowed to sit for a few days so the natural sediment can settle and separate before being filtered. The family presses in small batches year round so oil is always fresh with a smoke point of 400F (which is important in terms of cookability).
The color of this oil is burst of gold you see when driving by a field of sunflowers in the country. Happy. And it smells and tastes, yes, shockingly like sunflowers.
Nutrition geeks will appreciate that sunflower oil is 84% monounsaturated, which makes it a good alternative to olive oil, which is also touted for its high monounsaturated fat health benefit. Also, it is organically grown in New York and registered as a Pride of New York item. Most olive oil is grown elsewhere and needs to be imported and only a few of those are organic.
What also brings the trio happiness is not only working together but also putting such a healthy product into the world.
MAKER WEBSITE: www.stolororganics.com
Anton Nocito, a chef and butcher who worked in some great restaurants, started mixing his own soda syrups from natural ingredients in 2009. They were so yum, his wife Erica talked him into selling some at the Greenpoint Food Market. Things started bubbling and in 2010 Anton quit his regular job to focus on soda making full-time.
Anton makes and bottles everything by hand in small batches. Fresh fruits get juiced, zested, steeped then combined with sugar to transform into syrup. All his ingredients are pure and organic, such as the spices and hibiscus from Mountain Rose Herbs or the Hawaiian ginger, even the sugar.
So, when you read Anton’s labels, you can actually understand what soda is made from (as opposed to the mystifying list on the back of a regular can). Speaking of the labels, his are designed by Erica who owns a letterpress card company, Pumpkin and Honey Bunny (P&H soda – ah, now we get it).
“Soda should be special,” Anton says “Coke and Pepsi killed it for everyone.”
Anton’s dream is to own an old-fashioned soda fountain luncheonette. In the meantime, he’s trying to produce more beverage “without the bad stuff.”
maker website: www.pandhsodaco.com
What’s a wine biscuit? A biscuit eaten with wine? Or a biscuit made with wine?
What’s a beer biscuit? A biscuit eaten with beer? Or a biscuit made with beer?
Both, says Mary-Lynn Mondich, the maker. And we agree. We like them all ways!
This Culinary Institute of America grad spent a decade in Manhattan test kitchens, tweaking for magazines, cook books and Weight Watchers before rediscovering a family recipe that no one else made, everyone loved, and would change her life.
The first year of production (1990) she baked, packed and shipped from a rented apartment kitchen. Now, each wine or beer biscuit is handmade in Long Island City by a kitchen staff of seven. They're hand-rolled, hand-sliced, hand-baked. Not one machine involved, except an oven.
The biscuits are addictive no matter what your drink.
MAKER WEBSITE: www.americanvintage.com
It’s been a long road to Z.
Keith Pollack was a recording engineer and wife Pam a graphic designer. In 1980 they started making specialty pizzas from home in Cobble Hill, which sold well at places like Zabars and Dean and Deluca. The two and their pies were going strong as “The Savory Pie Company” by the end of the decade.
Pam and Keith started messing around with their signature pizza dough which is made with cornmeal and bran. They rolled it out ultra-thin, put on various schmears and baked ‘til crisp. They couldn’t stop eating these crackers, and wound up stopping all pizza production by 2007 to devote themselves to Z Crackers full-time.
Why Z? Keith’s French stepmother owned an inn and asked for a vanity license plate that said “THE INN.” Instead, she got “Z INN.” It was cute, memorable and simple. Pam used her design background to create a bold identity for Z packaging.
But most of their time is spent in the kitchen. "We're constantly reading, cooking, and experimenting," Pam says, "It's a passion."
Living Z life.
MAKER WEBSITE: www.zcrackers.com
What makes Jerky Slant?
1. A guy (Joshua Kace) with a “passion for meat treats.” 2. A Jersey City post-college apartment literally slanted at a 10-degree angle. 3. Nine under-employed meat lovers. 4. A dehydrator. 5. Late night kitchen jerking…around.
Joshua, Lev, Alexander, Christian, Douglas, Elizabeth, Caryn, Lea, and David work in diverse fields (from engineering to PR to banking) but reunited to form Slant Shack, which partners with a Vermont farm called Highland Cattle Co. (Joshua loves to snowboard, so that works out well.) The beef is both grass-fed AND grain-fed. There are 60 off-kilter flavor combinations, some even glazed with sugar (candy jerky, however, was scrapped).
COO David would love to see Slant Shack sold in gas stations across the country. But the Jersey City shack will never change it’s friend-ly, slanted model (even thought Joshua has upgraded to a place where nothing rolls but business).
As Joshua’s said, "It's very much just us getting together and having fun."
WEBSITE HOMEPAGE: www.slantshackjerky.com
“Mom” gets a lot of props from many of our makers and Saucey Sauce Co. owes her a big hug.
Sister and brother Toan and Ken Huynh came to the U.S. when they were little kids. Mom would stir together a little Vietnamese garlic dipping sauce for after-school snacks.
The two, both now Brooklynites, were hosting a dinner party using some of mom’s recipes. When guests asked if they could take home containers of the sauce, the sibs realized they were on to something. Techies by day, 'sauciers' by night, Ken (who works for a virtualization software company) and Toan (who does cloud stratagy consulting) spend their free time making, bottling, and selling sauce.
In their Brooklyn kitchen, they pound chiles, slice ginger, peel lemons, add dried, salted fish, then ferment everything for one year before filtering to remove impurities. Ken points out, "The best stuff is more translucent, with a much cleaner taste."
Ken tells us "Fish sauce (known as 'Nam Pla' in Thailand or 'Nuoc Cham' in Vietnam) is the ketchup of Southeast Asia, literally on everyone's kitchen table. The best stuff is translucent, with a cleaner taste. We also use local, all natural and organic ingredients to create flavors for those looking for a little 'kick in the pants...um on their plate, of course!'”
Saucey Sauce Co.’s products are great with French fries or sushi, in salad dressings, or as a marinade. Ken likes to cook the sauce down with a little brown sugar and serve it over fish.
The sauce has a huge fan base in Brooklyn, Manhattan and beyond. Hugs, Mom.
MAKER WEBSITE: www.getsauceynow.com
Marisa Wu’s stretched herself by leaving a career in TV and film production to work in food, at places such as Meat Hook, Rockaway’s Veggie Island, Four and Twenty Blackbirds and Liddabit Sweets. A few summers ago, she stretched herself again – literally.
Some friends with a beachside organic produce stand in Far Rockaway were hoping to sell salt water taffy, so Marisa decided to try her hand. And arm. As she says, “it was love at first pull.”
The process requires a lot of time and physical force, as the candy mixture is boiled, cooled, flavored, salted, hand-pulled, cut and wrapped. “My arms get stronger and stronger!” Marisa loves classic flavors like vanilla (with whole vanilla bean scraped into every batch) and is proud of the out-of-the-box bergamot. She’s experimenting with fruit purees, which change the texture of the candy. And, yes, there is actual salt in her salt water taffy!
The taffy is nothing like the bland touristy standard you’ve brought back from the Jersey Shore. It has an almost ice-creamy texture with an intense, addictive flavor.
And we can’t help it – we’re crazy for the turquoise stripes.
MAKER WEBSITE: shop.thesaltyroad.com
Rhonda Kave was “bored out of her mind” as a stay-at-home mom on Long Island. She and a friend took an Adult Ed class in candy-making, which was relegated to side hobby for 25 years. When the kids grew up, Rhonda and her husband moved to the city, where she worked at the Coalition Against Domestic Violence while getting an NYU degree in sociology. For a final research project on greenmarkets, she found herself wandering around Essex Street. It’s amazing where school can lead.
Something in Rhonda stirred as she walked through the collective of food and other vendors that has been going since LaGuardia’s New York of the 1940’s. She spotted a newspapered-up space for rent, and thought, "If I don’t do this now, when will I do it?”
The company, probably most famous for dipping bacon into chocolate (“Pig Candy”), uses the same name and logo as Rhonda’s mother’s children’s clothing shop.
Now Rhonda works alongside a sit-com-worthy deadpan assistant Michelle to layer flavors – she’s inspired by foreign groceries as much as she is the Union Square Greenmarket – and use chocolate as an ingredient. “It’s not the end, it’s the beginning.”
Her formula: Salt/Sweet/Fat. Nothing boring about that.
maker website: www.roni-sue.com
Everyone seems to be pickling something in Brooklyn.
Shamus Jones grew up locally in a working-class family with the following ethic: Doing it yourself is always better.
Shamus was a vegetarian chef in Seattle before moving back home to cook at Café Blossom, where he earned his stripes (spears?) in seasonality, sustainability, and experimentation. He also observed that every dish usually had some kind of preserved ingredient because certain items are only fresh a few weeks each year.
So what’s in Brine? New York State apple cider vinegar, sea salt, organic garlic and spices such as mustard seed, caraway or chili. And of course, the best vegetables he can find from upstate New York, Vermont and Pennsylvania. His jars range from eclectic (fennel beets or lavender asparagus) to classic (deli cukes).
Shamus loves being part of the borough’s pickle scene. “There is a movement now of bringing things back to the smaller scale, like being able to walk down the street and say, ‘That’s my pickle maker, that’s my butcher, that’s my milk man.’”
Pickling often requires 16-hour days in the Gowanus factory. Along with his eight-person staff, he’s now producing 1200 jars a day! Shamus loves Brooklyn Brine and hopes to open his own storefront at some point, but sure would like to see more of his skateboard, cat, and girlfriend.
maker website: brooklynbrineco.com
Rick Field spent summers in Vermont, where he would pickle with his mom while listening to Red Sox on the radio. After studying English at Yale, Rick worked in TV (VH1 and Bill Moyers), but would spend weekends continuing the tradition in his NYC apartment. It wasn’t long before Rick decided to pickle full time.
His pickles are now made in the Kingston, NY and in Amish Country, PA, using old-fashioned techniques of home-canning. Each jar is hand-packed in a time-consuming process using premium spices and seasonal produce from local farmers. Rick uses a minimum of salt and sugar in order to let the taste of the fresh veggies shine through.
Rick’s Picks offices are located in the historic ‘pickle distric’ of the Lower East Side, near “gastronomic temples” such as Katz’s Deli, Russ and Daughters and Yonah Schimmel’s. The father of two almost 2-year-olds daughters still finds time to man his usual station at the Union Square Greenmarket on Wednesdays. And to test new recipes at his own stove.
"I love the heat, the steam, the music, the beer,” Rick says. “My favorite sensation that occurs during home pickling is when you dump out the huge pot of boiling water at the end. The steam gives you a free facial.”
maker website: rickspicksnyc.com
Jordan Silbert was hosting a dinner party in his Fort Greene, Brooklyn backyard and, when his teeth started feeling sticky, glanced at the label of the tonic water he’d been mixing with top shelf gin all night. What he saw was the number 25 – as in 25 grams of sugar, as much as in a can of Sprite. He mused about the idea of creating a beautiful top shelf tonic.
Jordan slaved over the recipe while attending business school and mixed a tonic from hand-picked Peruvian cinchona bark quinine and organic Mexican agave. He says he became “that guy” who’d show up at a dinner party with a bag of bark ready to boil into homemade gin and tonics.
His friends loooved the tonic – they could actually taste the gin. So Jordan decided to make a few hundred cases and post about it on Chowhound. A guy named Jim responded – “Yeah, bring it down to the Tavern.” Gramercy Tavern. A tonic was born.
What Jordan loves about living and working in Brooklyn is that “it feels like Manhattan used to, with different types of people doing different things, everybody incredibly intense about what they are doing.” He finds it invigorating to be a part of a community that is putting “a real value on VALUE.”
maker website: qdrinks.com
NUNU on Food Curated
Justine Pringle was trained as a scientist and worked in waste management and healthcare when she started making chocolate. “Nunu” is an affectionate nickname Justine’s mother called her during her childhood in Africa and now it’s the name of her thriving chocolate shop and kitchen on Atlantic Avenue in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn.
For Justine, the love of chocolate comes second to the scientific process of making it. She loves that it’s sensitive to temperature, sensitive to humidity. “You think you can control it and you can’t. You have to manipulate it.”
Nunu uses a single-origin cocoa bean derived from a Trintario and Criollo hybrid that she sources from a sustainable, family-run farm in eastern Colombia. It takes about an hour and a half to make a salt caramel. Once the caramel has cooled for another hour, it’s cut into cubes and hand-dipped in tempered chocolate and sprinkled with fleur de sel.
Musician-husband Andy handles the business and communications side of the business and is there to answer when Justine inevitably asks, “How would this taste dipped in chocolate?”
Justine’s motto: The best way to enjoy our chocolates is to eat them. This is not a stamp collection.
maker website: www.nunuchocolates.com
NEW YORK NATURALS
Illustrator Amy Hamberry stopped into Park Slope’s New York Naturals for a juice and wound up marrying the owner, Joe Orr. The couple couldn’t find a decent kale chip, so started experimenting on their own using toaster ovens and home dehydrators. With feedback from friends and customers, they tweaked the chips until arriving at the most addictive/deceptively-not-unhealthy snack in town.
Demand for the raw, vegan, crispy chip became so great they shut down the store and opened a factory in a 120-year old warehouse in Crown Heights. There, thick kale is washed, cut and spun dry. Sauces (a cheesy-tasting mix of cashews, cayenne, red peppers and lemon juice) are hand blended and spread – by hand onto each kale leaf. Then everything goes into custom-designed dehydrators to air dry at 115 degrees for 15 hours.
New York Magazine calls them: "Doritos for health nuts.” New York Times raves: “The Rorschach allure of the dark, leafy shapes have you admiring the crisp kale chips before you nibble…some magic makes than taste fried.” Health.com adds: “These veggies taste like regular junk food, but contain about half the calories and double the vitamins of their crunchy counterparts.”
And, just in the time it took to write this, we’ve consumed half the package. Can’t get enough. Take it away. Oh, wait, it’s….kale.
maker website: www.nynaturals.com
Two McClure brothers spent summers learning from their grandfather how to make Great Grandma Lala’s pickles. They’re now making vats of pickles, relish, and Bloody Mary mix just outside of Detroit and producing small batches for research and development in Brooklyn.
Joe just finished his doctorate in physiology, is a classical musician and oversees large-scale production in Michigan. Bob’s an actor, comedy writer and manages new product development and brand management in Brooklyn. The business also includes Mike (Dad), a veteran of the grocery/retail industry who loves to ‘put ‘em in the jar’ every day, and Jennifer (Mom), who started making this recipe at age 5 and, in addition to working as a massage therapist, handles all things pickle-related.
Every cumber is hand-sliced, every jar hand-packed. Most pickles use cold brine (requiring less time for fermenting), but McClure’s uses a hot brine of peppers and garlic and ferments the cucumbers for four to five months! The result is a pickle with kick.
“I love talking to the farmers to see what’s coming in,” Joe says, “I like getting my hands dirty.”
maker website: www.mcclurespickles.com
New York City’s filled with coffee and cycling freaks. You know who you are.
So a few 20-something friends and former barristas were hanging out in the park one day and were all ‘How amazing would it be if someone biked up with an espresso machine on a bicycle and was just making us coffee?’
Now, Aaron Davis, Neal Olsen, Pete Castelein and Ben Schleif share more than just a passion for bikes and brewing – they are Kickstand Coffee.
The Kickstanders live in different areas of Brooklyn (Williamsburg, Bushwick and Brooklyn Heights) and meet in the middle at Café Grumpy – home base and brewing station. There the boys brew and filter Grumpy’s Guatemalan and Nicaraguan beans for as long as 24 hours, a process that gently extracts flavor and results in coffee that’s nuanced and full-bodied. On weekends, they hop on carts that Ben designed and pedal the beautiful hand-stamped bottles to like-minded obsessives.
Dilute with water to your own liking – mild, medium or bold – then ride up the West Side Highway to the Palisades.
And did we mention that our New York Mouth team particularly loves the logo? Check out that awesome K.
MAKER WEBSITE: kickstandbrooklyn.com
Jacques Torres was a pioneer in the Brooklyn artisanal food scene. Raised in France, after a star-career as pastry chef for Le Cirque, he opened his first workshop to Dumbo, Brooklyn when it was just a fledgling neighborhood in 2000. It was his dream.
Now, when he sees people coming in, young to old, all with a smile on their face as they look around, smell, taste, he thinks “It’s just a happy job and I love it.”
Mr. Chocolate likes all forms but prefers darker earlier in the day, and milkier as evening approaches. He uses African beans for deep flavor without too much bitterness or astringents, the kind of flavor he’s learned Americans prefer.
The myth that women are the biggest chocolate fans has been debunked in his Brooklyn store, where boxers from Gleason’s Gym come in regularly for a little treat after training.
Everything Jacques makes is fresh and hand-crafted using only premium ingredients, with no preservatives, additives, extracts, oils, or essences. He works closely with his teams to oversee and manage the conveyor belts, massive chocolate tempering machines, and other equipment that churn out his delicious confections.
Jacques often spends nights on his boat docked in the Hudson River. Maybe sneaking a 72% cacao just before midnight.
maker website: www.mrchocolate.com
Everyone remembers their first. Not everyone names a ketchup after it.
Theresa Viggiano rented a Griggstown, NJ farmhouse with three fields. Field #1 had a bonus crop of Jersey tomatoes. But she and her roommates could eat only so much panzanella.
So her then-boyfriend-now-husband, Patrick, an investment analyst, started playing around in the kitchen with his mother’s recipe for a chutney-ish ketchup she liked to serve with holiday meat pies when he was growing up in Canada. The pair started experimenting with different types of organic tomatoes, tweaking the amount of vinegar, sugar, onion, spices, salt and oil until arriving at the perfect sweet and tangy balance.
Now Patrick and Theresa (who’s getting her doctorate in medical sociology) have turned this into a pretty juicy side gig. Early mornings before work or school, you’ll find them out in the tomato fields and then back again at night, farming by the light of car headlights. They also teach canning classes and are committed to growing as many of their own ingredients as possible, bringing back the full four-season cycle of sustainable agriculture from ‘seed to spoon.’
A labor of love, first love.
maker website: first-field.com
FINE AND RAW CHOCOLATE
Daniel Sklaar quit his job as a NYC financial analyst to work as a raw chef in Arizona. He returned to New York City to live out his dream to make luxurious fine chocolate using raw organic ingredients. Or, restated more simply: Fine and Raw.
In his Brooklyn chocolate lab, Sklaar starts wtih only the highest quality ingredients – raw, fair-trade cacao powder; Mexican agave nectar; Malaysian virgin coconut oil; Himalayan sea salt – and combines them using low heat to maintain both flavor and nutrition.
He might get crazy and throw in some ‘yacon,’ a crisp sweet tuber from the Indies. Or add a bit of tocos, a rice bran with a cappuccino flavor. None of his products contain white sugar, none contain dairy, none contain toxins or chemicals, and none are heated over 118 degrees (so they qualify as ‘raw’).
Sklaar loves the creativity that comes with his newfound career. “I get to play and experiment. It’s uncharted territory.”
Sklaars mantra: Save the world through silliness and chocolate! For a good life, follow his prescription and, for 5 minutes every day, store one chocolate on your tongue.
maker website: www.fineandraw.com
David Carpenter’s first attempt to produce syrup occurred at age 9. He tapped some trees on the family farm, built an arch for boiling and got to work. But he couldn’t control the heat in the sugar shack, so he convinced his mom to let him do the final finishing in her kitchen. The syrup came out great – but after 4 days of steam, the kitchen wallpaper peeled right off the wall.
DOC’s is named for David Olin Carpenter, who was the 5th generation to own the Woodhull, NY farm where DOC’s Maple is now produced. Doc’s wife and children now run the business in his honor.
How does syrup happen? Maple trees are identified, taps are set, and the family waits for the magical moment in early spring when sap begins to run. The sap moves through the lines and makes its way to the sugar shanty where it is boiled to make syrup. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of sap = thousands of gallons of syrup. A sweet gift from the trees, and above.
Doc’s Maple is loved by many New York City chefs, including Marc Murphy of Landmarc and Ditch Plains.
maker website: www.docsmaple.com
NEW YORK SUPERFOODS
Catherine Mangan and Jason Walsh were sick of eating one tasteless energy bar after another. They’d pause at the corner deli to read the ingredients on the back of these wrappers and think – there has to be something better.
So the couple started researching superfoods, a special class of natural foods thought to help maintain weight, fight disease and live longer. They learned that ancient Mayan warriors ate tiny black and white chia seeds to prepare for battle. Rich in protein, omega-3’s, and fiber, chia seeds also absorb and retain up to 9 times their weight in water, making them perfect for runners.
Catherine and Jason spent a few months fooling around in the kitchen to create the first chia energy bite they named the Chia Charger. This led to granola. This led to nut butter spreads. All soy free, dairy free and 100% vegan.
Catherine and Jason figure if chia was good enough for the Mayans, chia is good enough for the NYC marathon. And who wouldn’t want a CB&J sandwich packed in their lunchbox?
MAKER WEBSITE : nysuperfoods.com
BOURBON BARREL FOODS
Matt Jamie was studying for a masters in exercise physiology when he realized what he really wanted to do was cook. So he became a chef instead. One day, in a bar drinking beer and eating oysters, he got to thinking about the artisanal olive oil and coffee trend. And something hit him: soy sauce! Now he’s making the only small-batch micro brewed soy sauce made in the U.S.
Jamie uses Kentucky-grown, non-GMO soybeans, soft red winter wheat from a downstate farmer (the kind used to make bourbon), yeast, and limestone-filtered spring water. This mash ferments and ages for a full 12 months in barrels repurposed from local distilleries (legally, they can only use the barrels once to make bourbon). Then it’s pressed, filtered and bottled in his old converted Louisville factory. Jamie’s father Ken handwrites the batch and bottle number on every label – nice touch.
The soy sauce has a meaty, brothy flavor with added hints of oak and charcoal. He didn’t intend for his bottle to become a Bourbon Country souvenir or famous with national chefs, it just happened.
Jamie’s take on local: “I live in Kentucky, so why not use what’s here?”
maker website: bourbonbarrelfoods.com
ANDREW'S LOCAL HONEY
Winnie the Pooh put it best: The only reason for being a bee that I know of is making honey...and the only reason for making honey is so I can eat it.
Like Winnie we can’t stop eating Andrew’s honey.
Andrew Cote’s great-grandfather started keeping bees in the 1800’s in northern Ontario. Now all the beehives are located in nearby Norwalk, Ct. where Andrew works with his father Norm and sons Michael and Andrew, Jr. to continue this family tradition.
Andrew’s honey is literally untouched by human hands. He removes it from the hives while it is in the frames, uncaps it from the comb with a knife, spins it out of the comb using centrifugal force, filters it through cloth to avoid wax particles, and bottles it. The honey is exactly as bees have been making it for millions of years – 100% pure, local, raw, and kosher.
Andrew points out that one out of every three bites of food we take has been pollinated by a bee and is committed to making sure bees do not suffer extinction. So, in addition to tending the hives and teaching collage literature, he's also founded 2 non-profit organizations. Through Bees Without Borders, Andrew promotes and teaches beekeeping as an income source for poor communities from local (East New York, Brooklyn) to far-flung (Iraq, Uganda, Nigeria, Haiti, Ecuador). And through his New York City Beekeepers Association, Andrew offers beekeeping workshops and all-around support for fellow urban bee lovers.
Einstein was more blunt than Winnie: Without the honeybee, in four years, there would be no mankind.
ANARCHY IN A JAR
Laena McCarthy and her mom used to jam in Woodstock.
The two would grab fruit and herbs from the backyard, hit a nearby farm for what they didn’t grow themselves, and created a concert in the kitchen.
Laena soaked it all up and now has turned professional “Jamarchist.” When she’s not working as a professor and librarian at Pratt, you’ll find her boiling and jarring local, seasonal fruits, adding only enough sugar to preserve and bring out the best flavor. Or maybe you’ll spot her riding around Clinton Hill on a bicycle named Bluebell, delivering her eclectic blends to restaurants and shops that love to jam, too.
And, just to clarify, since we’ve always been a little confused about this: Jam is made with fruit pulp or chunks and sugar. Jelly uses juice (no pulp). Marmalade is citrus-based with pieces of the fruit suspended. Conserves are jams made with mixtures of fruits and nuts. Got it?
Laena finds jam-making therapeutic. As she’s said, “It’s fun to cook something down, and to play with fruit. It’s very simple as well, with simple ingredients. Also, it’s endless – you can have endless flavor combinations and endless experimentations with different fruits and how they mix together. What I find fun is the discovery of constantly coming up with new recipes and finding new ways to experiment; it keeps it interesting for me.”
Keep your shrink, though – just buy some Anarchy.
maker website: www.anarchyinajar.com
THE GOOD BATCH
A Dutch boyfriend gave Anna her first and it’s been love ever since. Stroopwafel, that is.
Fort Green resident Anna Gordon took months to obsessively perfect her take on the classic Dutch waffle cookie. A yeast-based dough gets pressed into a specially-designed iron, cut into a perfect circle, split in half and filled with hot caramel – sweet but not the kind of disturbing sweet that makes us sick. It’s the kind of sweet we can’t stop.
Anna says she’s drawn to pastry because it’s scientific and creative – with a bit of magic. “What’s really cool about the stroopwafels, at least for a pastry geek like me, is that although general ingredients are known, there is really no published or solidly tested recipe to be found. So, I had to figure it out on my own, which was a fun challenge.”
Anna is proud that The Good Batch is one of the few handmade stroopwafel companies in the States and that her stroops have developed such a following. Her workplace smells good too. “It’s like the smell of happiness.”
maker website: thegoodbatch.com
Doug Cullen dug out some old hippie cookbooks about 7 years ago at his home in Port Washington, and started experimenting with a food processor, dried nuts, seed, tahini, honey, and his hands. "I had no concept that I wanted to turn it into a business. I was making them for friends, and I thought, 'What would happen if I wrapped this...printed a sticker, and took it to my local coffee shop?'" People bought it.
Now Doug runs Luminous Kitchens and handcrafts the “notoriously delicious” Grassroots Graonla Bars out of a small Bronx Kitchen with a few helpers.
He’s committed to using only the best stuff in his bars: mosty organic whole grains, barley malt, honey, brown rice syrup, etc. with no preservatives, hydronated oils or processed soy.
Doug digs his new life, and the “laid-back approach to health and good living.”
maker website: grassrootsgranola.com
NEW YORK MOUTH
We love food.
We love New York.
New York Mouth lives at this intersection.
Our mission is to foster the art and craft of small-batch, artisanal food making.
We are constantly searching out and meeting with the best, most passionate local makers in and around New York. Our desks are overflowing with awesome stuff we're tasting and debating and tasting again (yes, it's a pretty fun job). And we're hoping you'll like what we've chosen.
We got started in early 2011 and this website is still very much a work in progress. We'd love to hear what you think.
Slovenian-born Tin Dizdarevic was working as a chef at New York City’s CraftBar when he needed some mustard for a charcuterie board. He played around in the kitchen and came up with a recipe that “worked right out of the gate. Everyone who tried it encouraged me to sell it.”
We all need a deadline, right? Tin had a chance to participate in Brooklyn’s initial Smorgasburg market, so he quickly teamed up with brother Jan (a marketing guy) and friend David Ostroff (a creative professional) to produce enough jars to get started. “It was an amazing launching pad.”
Tin describes his mustard as somewhat straightforward in terms of flavor. But what he feels sets it apart is texture. “The seeds crunch and pop when you bite them, like caviar.”
To Tin, mustard is not just a condiment. It’s a necessity.
maker website: tinmustard.com
HOT BREAD KITCHEN
Jessamyn Waldman is a baker with vision. She’s worked around the world with NGOs, governments and the United Nations in the areas of human rights, education and immigration. She also is a New School Master Baker and the first female baker hired by Daniel Boulud.
In 2007, she won a grant from designer Eileen Fisher and blended her passions into Hot Bread Kitchen, a thriving non-profit bakery which pays low-income immigrant women to bake and also learn the skills needed to move on to their own enterprises. Hot Bread Kitchen has trained bakers from Morocco, Mali, Mexico, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Chad, Tibet, and Ecuador.
In the kitchen right now: Antonia from Mexico who juggles 2 jobs and cares for 4 children; Bouchra from Morocco, who rolls baguettes at Restaurant Daniel when she’s not making M’smen (an irresistible flatbread); Lutfunnessa from Bangladesh, who also holds a degree on Political Science; Fatima from Morocco, a master at lavash.
“Bread is such an elemental food, and it’s eaten everywhere,” Waldman has said. “It seemed to me that a bakery was the right way to help women entering the country.”
maker website: hotbreadkitchen.org
What's Tamarind? Find out here...
Alex Crosier started making granola when a friend started raving about how good his girlfriend’s was. Alex thought – I can make granola too!
A neuroscience major in college (before a last minute switch to French), she was excited to notice the connection between cooking and lab work – that the kitchen can be a place where, through trial and error, delicious things are perfected. Hence “Granola Lab.”
Though her business is really a one-woman show, Alex now mixes in the company of other small food business makers in a huge, light-filled group kitchen on the top floor of a Sunset Park, Brooklyn warehouse. She’s willing to put up with some minor turf wars in exchange for the inspiration and connections that come with sharing a communal space.
The oats, nuts, seeds and most of Alex’ ingredients are all organic, which costs more but she believes is worth it. Her favorite ingredient is coffee – she’s addicted to the smell (who isn’t?).
She’s hoping to eventually turn this into a full-time business, but, in the meantime, Alex keeps her day job as part-time librarian and adjunct at NYU.
A librarian who makes granola – how much more granola can you get? Love that.
maker website: www.granolalab.com