A Touch Of Earl Grey

Earl Grey Tea (photo by Sebastian Stabinger)
Earl Grey Tea (photo by Sebastian Stabinger)

I recently had a cup of cold brewed Earl Grey iced tea from Kee’s Chocolates. Besides the fact that I am caffeine sensitive and was up all night, it inspired me to think about how many recent products are using Earl Grey as a flavor. Infused ice cream and desserts seem to be the most popular applications.

Bergamot is a main component of Earl Grey and it is also often used in fine fragrances.  I happen to like it as a flavor and fragrance ingredient, but for those that don’t, it’s because Bergamot is often described as “perfumey.”

Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream offers Earl Grey Tea Ice Cream while Handsome Dan’s hand crafts Earl Grey Snowcones. Little Baby’s Ice Cream, which sources its dairy products from Trickling Springs Creamery, mixes the flavor up and features an Earl Grey Sriracha ice cream.

TC Paris Bakery bakes Milk Chocolate & Earl Grey Tea French Macarons and Brooklyn’s Dough is known to feature a seasonal Earl Grey Chocolate Doughnut. Chocolate Earl Grey cupcakes are one of Seattle’s The Yellow Leaf Cupcake Co. 200+ flavors and similarly Decadent Desserts & Confections in British Columbia makes Chocolate Cupcakes with Earl Grey Buttercream.

Earl Grey is trickling into spirits, lollipops and even pancakes. EG – Windsor is a spirit that “captures the tart and tangy caffeinated notes of the bergamot and orange that have been masterfully coaxed from organic, aged Earl Grey black tea blended with freshly harvested organic California sage.” Pandora’s Pop has a Fifty Shades of Earl Grey (black tea and bergamot) lollipop under its Aphrodisiac Lollipops range, which the company claims is made to “Spice Up Your Love Life!” LA’s JiST Café offers Earl Grey Crème Pancakes.

What unique Earl Grey flavor combinations have you seen lately?

Sensory Gems in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

A Day in Williamsburg Scent by Takasago
A Day in Williamsburg Scent by Takasago (photo by Dan D’Errico)

As a board member of Women in Flavor & Fragrance Commerce (WFFC), I recently organized our sixth annual sensory trend excursion with my colleague Jeanine Pedersen of Takasago. We chose Williamsburg, Brooklyn. In my industry career, this by far was the most challenging tour to design. The biggest obstacle was finding local retailers to participate. For more details, read my recent Fuhgeddaboudit! post.

However, the five retailers that did participate are gems! Without a doubt, add them to your must do list when visiting Williamsburg.

Fabiane's Homemade Yucca Cake & Iced Tea (photo by Dan D'Errico)
Fabiane’s Homemade Yucca Cake & Iced Tea (photo by Dan D’Errico)

For our first stop, 29 attendees gathered outside Fabiane’s Cafe & Pastry. Fabiane greeted us as we delighted in an iced coffee or tea and homemade Yucca cake, a gluten free pastry made with Yucca, coconut milk, milk, sugar, eggs, and coconut flakes. Fabiane addressed each guest and discussed her Brazilian background with her French culinary training and gave a little background about her cafe. Additionally she surprised us with a bag of granola as a parting gift, which took her 10 years to perfect the recipe.

Juice Press Samples - Almond Butter Cup Smoothie, Watermelon Super Cleanser, and Mother Earth (photo by Dan D'Errico)
Juice Press Samples – Almond Butter Cup Smoothie, Watermelon Super Cleanser, and Mother Earth (photo by Dan D’Errico)

We mosied on over to Juice Press, a growing chain of cold-pressed juice bars; this location was brand spanking new, it opened in May. Liz shared the company’s history and explained the cold-pressed process. Then we sampled the Watermelon Super Cleanser, Mother Earth, Dr. Green, and Almond Butter Cup Smoothie, all which only contain “organic calories.” The Watermelon was the group’s darling and my personal favorite. It tasted just like you placed a straw in a fresh watermelon. The Almond Butter Cup Smoothie was tasty with a creamy, nutty banana flavor and hint of cinnamon, but some couldn’t get past the gritty texture. The two green drinks were more of an acquired taste, a bit bitter and astringent, but nonetheless fresh, flavorful and healthful.

Exploring Woodley & Bunny (photo by Dan D'Errico)
Exploring Woodley & Bunny (photo by Dan D’Errico)

Moving to the fragrance side, our third destination was Woodley & Bunny. If you like niche, hard to find beauty products, look no further. Devon, Zeek, and Summer graciously hosted us as we explored, smelled and tried a variety of fragrances, skin care, bath and body care, and hair care products as well as candles. An aside, I often read and write about indie brands, but because of limited distribution I don’t always get to experience them. I’ve never seen so many products that I’ve read about or written about in one place. It was like a curated, indie beauty emporium.

WFFCAllswell Menu
WFFC Allswell Menu (photo by Dan D’Errico)
Flatbread with kale fried egg
House-made Sourdough Flatbread with Ricotta, Kale & Fried Egg (photo by Dan D’Errico)

By now our group had worked up an appetite, so we headed to Allswell restaurant. Based on the farm to table concept, the menu changes daily and is dependent on what’s in season and locally available. If you’re looking for a quaint, comfortable and warm restaurant with fresh food you’ve come to the right place. We started with a Ginless Wonder mocktail crafted with fresh squeezed lime, honey syrup, ginger syrup, club soda, cucumber, fresh strawberries and Oro Blanco. I learned that Oro Blanco (white gold) is a type of grapefruit. Let’s see if this becomes a trend. For a starter, we feasted on homemade olive bread with house-made Ricotta cheese and a crisp, hearty beet salad. For lunch I had their signature crispy chicken sandwich. Others enjoyed their proprietary burger made with Vermont Quality Meat or their homemade sourdough flatbread with Ricotta, kale, and fried egg. As if we weren’t full enough, we concluded our meal with a strawberry rhubarb slab pie with fresh whipped cream. Delicious!

Mast Brothers Chocolate (photo by Dan D'Errico)
Mast Brothers Chocolate (photo by Dan D’Errico)

The perfect finish to our sensory excursion was a final stop at Mast Brothers Chocolate. The overwhelming, raw smell of chocolate wafts through your nostrils as you approach and enter the artisan shop. Meghan explained that the shop only uses two ingredients – cocoa and cane sugar; hence the wide array of dark chocolates. We sampled the limited edition Vanilla Smoke and Maple Cream bars as well as other flavors such as Olive & Sinclair Sea Salt, Stumptown Coffee and Chile Pepper. I’m a sweet, cheap chocolate fan (Oh Henry candy bars are my favorite) and my palette is not sophisticated enough to get past the bitterness of the dark chocolate to taste and appreciate the subtle sweetness nor the smoke of the vanilla and maple flavors. My personal favorite was the sea salt. That combination worked for me because the salt alleviated some of the bitter flavor. Regardless of my preferences, for chocolate fans, this shop is a no-brainer.

Our WFFC guests experienced a truly unique sensory trend excursion in North Williamsburg where their senses were engaged and tickled as they left full and satiated.

A very big thank you to all of the retailers who participated! I look forward to returning; I know I’ll be back and I’m pretty sure others will too.

Fuhgeddaboudit!

Fuhgeddaboudit
Brooklyn

I am organizing a sensory trend excursion in Williamsburg for a large group of people and I recently called a few independent coffee roasters with retail shops and bakeries to arrange a store visit.  I wanted to purchase an iced drink and a pastry for 25 people and have the owner speak about the history of the shop and what makes it unique.  One would think this is a great business opportunity; a shop owner could introduce interesting products to potential new customers.

To my surprise, apparently I was wrong. Not 1 but 7, independent retailers in Williamsburg, Brooklyn turned me down. I’m still shaking my head in disbelief that they walked away from guaranteed business.Their reasons were:

  • “We can’t accommodate you since we cater to our local customers and it would be disruptive to our shop.”
  • “We can’t accommodate you; it just doesn’t work.  Our local customers get upset if we reserve tables.”
  • “We can’t accommodate you. It will interfere with our business flow and we are not staffed for that many customers, but you can come in and order independently.”
  • “We are too small and we can’t fit you.”
  • “We always keep the focus on our loyal clients and maintaining their shopping experience and don’t want to detract them.”
  • “We work very hard to accommodate and please our neighbors and it is not in our capacity to be able to please the market.”

I thought for sure in this economy and competitive business environment, finding an independent retail store to accommodate us would be an easy task.  I’m not sure what the store owners’ long term business growth strategies are, but from a business perspective, I think these store owners are shortsighted for multiple reasons:

  • I am guaranteeing the shop business for 25 people without the business owner having to chase business or market their company; I came to them.
  • The shop has a captive audience of 25 people for twenty to thirty minutes.  The business owner has the opportunity to talk about their business and show their products.
  • Their business is being exposed to people who have no idea their business exists.
  • Business 101 – we all know word of mouth travels, good and bad.
  • Although it may inconvenience the store’s local customers and be a little more disruptive than normal for thirty minutes, it’s a short finite period of time during a week day. In the big picture it’s thirty minutes out of a full day and will not negatively impact their business.
  • Additionally, one would think that local customers would be happy and supportive to see the store is doing well and attracting business.
  • If locals pass the shop and see a large group of people, their curiosity might be piqued and they might want to stop by to see what’s going on. Bonus, more customers.
  • I understand these indie shops aren’t designed to fit a large group of people at one time, but work with me.  I suggested taking shifts and having half the group go in and the other half wait outside and then switch.

I believe these stores have missed an opportunity and are thinking small.  Think small and be small. Although I am intrigued by their store concepts and executions, I’m disappointed in their customer service.  I’m not inclined to rush back to support their local businesses nor recommend them. I think I’ll fuhgeddaboudit!

Not So Krazy for Kale

Fresh Kale

Kale, the new superfood darling, is a cruciferous vegetable member of the cabbage family.  I remember when it was that green, curly vegetable that restaurants used as a garnish to decorate the plate.  I’m not a big fan and haven’t been converted yet.

According to Starchefs.com “chefs take note of kale for its bold appearance and complex flavor.” It’s so popular it’s being eaten raw, juiced, sauteed, baked, blanched, steamed, fried etc. High in fiber and nutrients, kale is reported to have anti-cancer health benefits. Raw foodists have been juicing and eating it for years, but it’s now going mainstream.

Get juiced…

Organic Avenue recognized the benefits of kale early and offers a variety of kale products including the Green Monkey Smoothie crafted with banana and kale and Green LOVE* super juice features pear, lemon, kale, Swiss chard, spinach, parsley, collard greens and romaine. Swiss chard, Tuscan kale, spinach, cucumber, ginger, Kohlrabi, and fresh herbs are all in Good Means Go juice from newcomer Creative Juice. Kale Me Crazy will join the juice bar trend and launch in March in Atlanta. For those who prefer an alcoholic drink, there’s the Garden Variety Margarita with Blue agave blanco tequila, ginger & kale juice, lime juice, agave nectar and smoked sea salt from The Wayland.

Eat it raw…

Pure Food and Wine serves a Tuscan Kale with Shaved Fennel and Orange salad with orange blossom scented honey, fennel pollen, and candied almond crumbs while Fatty ‘Cue offers a Kale & Chicory salad with cincalok and green peppercorn dressing. Just Salad offers Winter Crunch Superfood made with Iceberg-Kale-Red cabbage, multigrain croutons, apples, wheatberries, broccoli, and shaved Parmesan. You know kale has hit critical mass when restaurant’s like Cheesecake Factory add it to their menu and serve Fresh Kale Salad.  Watch out, because according to The Globe and Mail, the French are beginning to embrace it.

Some like it hot…

Red Medicine serves a Young Turnips with roasted banana, banana vinegar, fermented black bean, creme fraiche, and kale while Scampo offers Norwegian salt cod ravioli with roasted pork belly and Tuscan kale.

Snack attack…

Brad’s Raw Food sells a variety of kale chips such as Vampire Killer-Leafy Kale and Nasty Hot-Leafy Kale and Earth Chips has Cheezy Kale and Chocolate Kale flavors.

The future…

The Chicago Tribune’s Food trends for 2013: What’s the next kale? article suggests that “vegetables will continue to move to the center of the plate” with kale being the current superstar. QSR supports this trend and sees ‘More fruits and vegetables’ as 10 Trends for 2013, and foresees kale “becoming more popular as a healthful option at some fast-casual restaurants and on college campuses.”

Is kale a fad or is it going to be part of our diet for good?

P.S. Watch as this leafy green trickles into beauty care products like Dr. Alkaitis’ Universal Organic Mask and Mor’s Emporium Black Collection Kale & Watercress.

Sunchoke What?

Jerusalem Artichokes tubers by Christian Guthier
Jerusalem Artichokes Tubers (photo by Christian Guthier)

What exactly is a sunchoke? A sunchoke is most popularly known as a Jerusalem artichoke and is a tuber vegetable.  It’s not from Jerusalem, it’s native to North America and it’s rich in inulin. As part of the Sunflower family, it derives its name from sun(flower) + (arti)choke. According to Food Network, the sunchoke is described as “nutty, sweet and crunchy” and looks like a ginger root.

Sunchoke is the ‘it’ vegetable emerging on restaurant menus.  However, it is not a new ingredient.  Over the last few years it comes and goes in and out of favor during the fall and winter months. I can’t remember the last time I’ve eaten a sunchoke or for that matter if I’ve ever eaten one. Regardless, here are a few places sunchoke has been seen…

Christopher Kostow of The Restaurant at Meadowood prepared a Sunchoke “granola” for Bon Appetit’s Do Your Part Dinners event on December 6, 2012. Lil Mikey from Chowhound enjoyed Ari Taymor of Alma’s “earthy sunchoke purée over a perfect egg yolk, and a salad of artichoke, grapefruit slivers, and baked wheat berries.” Gwynnett St. features Sunchokes with hazelnuts and Alpine cheese. ISA in Brooklyn, has been known to use it in dishes like Tartare – Sunchoke, Flax, Creme Fraiche and Sunchoke Cream with Espresso and Dust. StarChefs.com chose the Sunchoke Soup, Potato, Shrimp, and Truffle Essence dish from Chef Chris Nugent of Goosefoot in Chicago, as one of the Top U.S. Dishes of 2012. Julia Moskin of The New York Times predicts that ‘Sunflower Power,’ which includes sunchoke, as one of the 10 Trends for 2013. Let’s see if sunchoke catches on this time.

Have you eaten any unique sunchoke dishes or prepared any unusual sunchoke recipes?

What’s Ahead? 2013 Culinary Trends To Watch For…

Out with the old, in with the new. It’s a new year and here is a list I compiled of some interesting predictions for what food & beverage trends are ahead in 2013. Let’s see how accurate they are…

Technomic’s Take: What’s Ahead in 2013?

National Restaurant Association Food – What’s Hot Food 2013 Chef Survey? and What’s Hot Alcohol 2013 Bartender Survey?

Sterling-Rice Group Cutting-Edge Dining Trends of 2013

McCormick® Flavor Forecast® 2013

Nestlé Highlights Top Food & Beverage Trends to Watch in 2013

Eater Trendwatch 2013: Food Media Predicts the Future

The 2012 StarChefs.com Trends Report

Time Top 10 Food Trends of 2012 and more

 

Who Dat? New Orleans Style

I was invited to a high school friend’s wedding in the French Quarter, New Orleans last weekend.  When my husband agreed to watch the kids for the weekend I booked my ticket before he could change his mind. Who can pass on a girls weekend away in an eating capitol?

I often tell my clients to find inspiration and to facilitate creativity you need to be in tune with your senses at all times. When traveling, one must absorb the culture, observe the different behaviors and taste the local ingredients.  Well I proudly followed my own advice and ate, drank and danced my way through New Orleans.

I love oysters – raw, cooked, fried, you name it. My trip began with a visit to Drago’s known for their Charbroiled Oysters.  Like no other oyster I’ve had, these were succulent, salty, buttery, garlicky, cheesy, and delicious.  It was the perfect combination of textures and tastes. As if that wasn’t enough, we ordered a dozen raw oysters to follow and they were fresh, cold, crisp, and briny.

After dinner, the festivities began and we met the bride and groom to be and our high school friends by the Riverwalk and Spanish Plaza. We worked our way to The French Quarter and had cocktails at French 75 Bar (attached to Arnaud’s). It had an old school atmosphere with the bartenders in tuxedos, funky monkey lights with crystal tassels and a variety of specialty drinks.  I settled on the Caibiscus crafted with Cachaca, Falernum, Hibiscus tea, Grenadine and Lime Juice.  Our evening continued with a few cheesy bar stops along Bourbon Street – I had to pass on dancing at The Beach and drinking Tropical Isle’s Hand Grenade cocktail.  However, a visit to Bourbon street wouldn’t be complete without a final stop at Pat O’Brien’s. I don’t particularly like the Hurricane cocktail, but the saying goes “when in Rome do as the Roman’s do,” so I tasted it. I was craving dessert and ordered a White Russian or two instead.

French 75
French 75

Another must do, was Cafe Du Monde, which was our final destination at 1:00 am.  The beignets were fabulous…not too hot, not too cold, not to fluffy and not too dense, all just right, drowning in confectioners sugar. I’m still raving about them to the point where my second grade daughter told me “Mom, why don’t you just write a small moment about them.”  There is a reason Cafe Du Monde is an institution and open 24/7.  Even though they sell their signature beignet mix, I’m convinced you can’t recreate the same experience at home. Whenever you try something for the first time and really enjoy your experience, the next time you try it you’re chasing the high. There’s got to be a science to it…the difference in water, frying oil (assume it’s been used multiple times), the actual shape & size and the heavy handed use of powdered sugar. That’s just the physical aspect of the beignets, but the waiters and waitresses with their white paper soda jerk hats and black bow ties hustling about, all create a memorable experience. I have the same theory for NY bagels and Philly pretzels.  BTW – my black dress didn’t stand a chance, I was covered in powdered sugar, but it was worth it!

Cafe Du Monde Beignets
Cafe Du Monde Beignets

Saturday morning began with a quick jaunt to the the Audubon Aquarium. Had time permitted, I would have liked to visit the Insectarium – oh well next time.  Eating was essential and we had to grab a quick bite before the wedding so we met our friends at Killer Poboys in the back of the Erin Rose bar.  They only offer a selection of five poboys that are all “internationally inspired and chef crafted.”  Although I’m not a big fan of cilantro or coriander, the Coriander Lime Gulf Shrimp (with marinated Daikon and carrot, cucumbers, herbs and the house special aioli) piqued my interest.  It was delicious!  The coriander was perfectly balanced and not overpowering, the shrimp were plump and fresh and I loved the doughiness of the bread with a hint of crisp, flakiness.

Clownfish & coral
Clownfish & Coral

Our adventure continued as we headed to the French Quarter Wedding Chapel, which on their website states “Please do not come more than 15 minutes before scheduled wedding time it could cost the couple.”  Keeping this in mind, it was no surprise that when we arrived I felt like I was in a Quentin Tarantino movie…dollar bills hanging from the chapel ceiling, Tiffany lamps haphazardly arranged, an old boom box, a few pews, a couch, four living room chairs, folding chairs and wedding knick-knacks randomly placed. Elvis’ appearance was an added touch, but I had a hunch he’d be there. When I first received the wedding e-vite to attend a “chapel” wedding, I mistakenly thought it was going to be held in Las Vegas and expected Elvis. The bride in jeans, with a white blouse and flip flops and an unshaven groom in jeans – both holding Styrofoam cups filled with a cocktail, seemed perfectly suited for the setting. Vows were exchanged with Elvis singing/asking the groom if “he would take the bride to be his hunka-hunka burning love?” As we toasted the newlyweds with champagne, we were beaded and given white handkerchiefs.

Ceiling of French Quarter Chapel
Ceiling of French Quarter Chapel
Dragonfly Tiffany Lamp
Dragonfly Tiffany Lamp

For a real New Orleans experience, we gathered outside the chapel and to our surprise there was a 2nd line brass band. With a police escort, 35+ guests practiced their “woos” and waved their handkerchiefs high in the air as we paraded and danced through the French QuarterTourists and on lookers watched as we threw beads at the crowd and drank from our red solo cups, which the reverend allowed guests to generously fill as he drove his electric wheel chair with a cooler attached alongside the parade. We paraded for a mile and ended at Mojito for cocktails and appetizers. We sipped on housemade mojitos, snacked on crab cakes, listened to the band, and enjoyed the wedding celebration.

2nd Line
Wedding 2nd Line
Traveling bar
Traveling bar

At 6:00 pm it was time to eat again and we needed our grand finale, hurrah meal. The night before I had asked the local Pat O’Brien’s bartender to recommend her favorite restaurant and off we went to Jacques Imo’s in Uptown. This restaurant did not disappoint… I was fond of the watermelon mojito. As they say the rest is history.

It was a whirlwind two day weekend, but the most unique, non-traditional and memorable wedding I’ve ever attended. I truly appreciated being a part of the moment.

Opulent Saffron Making A Comeback

With the growth of the beauty industry in the Middle East there have been a slew of spicy, oriental and woody fragrance directions emerging, some of which are specially developed for this market. Estee Lauder’s Aramis Perfume Calligraphy and Estee Lauder Wood Mystique are two current examples.

Perfumers and marketers continually look for inspiration and new ingredients. Following the trend to spicy and woody scents, saffron, the most expensive spice in the world, is making a comeback, particularly in fine fragrance.  There have been quite a few new launches that highlight the luxury ingredient such as Byredo Black Saffron, which I mentioned in my Black is Still Black post, and Byredo Bullion.

Rose an already popular flower in fragrance, seems to be the trendy combination of choice. The Fragrance Kitchen introduced fifteen exclusive fragrances, two of which feature saffron – War of the Roses and Scent In A Bottle. Grossmith London recently launched the Black Label Collection and Saffron Rose is one of four scents, which is described as a “wonderfully rich and opulent scent.”

Although not in the fragrance name, saffron is also appearing as notes in fragrance creations such as Bond No. 9 Manhattan, which uses “worldly saffron” and  Viktor & Rolf Spice Bomb is made with “incandescent spices.”

In flavors, saffron has long been used in cooking and gives food the golden yellow-orange hue.  Lior Lev Sercarz of La Boite Biscuits & Spices uses saffron in six of his forty-one different blends – N.19 Salvador, N.20 Dali, N.21 Moruno, N.25 EscabecheN.30 Mousa and N.33 Mishmish.  Cat Cora’s Kitchen by Gaea is a new line of five Greek, saffron-based herbal teas.  The flavors are Greek Herbal Tea with thyme, rosemary and saffron; Greek Green Tea with ginger, licorice and saffron; Greek Herbal Tea with honey, orange and saffron; Greek Herbal Tea with mint, lemongrass and saffron; and Greek Herbal Tea with cinnamon, cloves and saffron. Saffron has even trickled into vodka. Saffron Vodka by Sub Rosa Spirits is distilled with eight spices – “toasted cumin, lemony coriander, a hint of ginger, and just a touch of heat and the aromatics of saffron.”

Keep your eyes peeled as saffron emerges in new flavor and fragrance products.  Have you noticed any new products with saffron? Tried any new dishes from chefs using saffron in unexpected places?