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.

Get Gellin

Gel manicure after 9 days
Gel manicure after 9 days

To prepare for my family vacation to Mexico, I decided to treat myself to a pedicure. I wasn’t going to bother with a manicure because I rarely leave a nail salon without a smudge or a chip and I’m lucky if it even lasts for a week.

With the amount of sunscreen we use as a family, the chlorine from the pool, sand from the beach and the general use of my hands, there was no way a manicure would last and be worth the investment. The manicurist talked me into a gel manicure for $30. With little convincing I agreed. I’ve known about the gel technology for the last few years, but had no good reason to try it.

The mass market and professional nail care market has been growing at an exponential rate driven by the technological advances, including gel. According to Packaged Facts “The Nail Care Market in the U.S.” report, dollar sales of nail care products in the mass market will reach $2 billion in 2016. Kline’s “Professional Nail Care: Global Market Brief,” reported that the professional nail care category grew by over 25% globally in 2012. According to Kline, the introduction of over 30 important new gel products in the past two years helped spur the market’s strong performance. Gel products grew nearly 30% in 2012. Nail care is so popular, there’s even a new magazine Nail It! dedicated to the category.

With all of these nail stats and my need for an enduring manicure, now was a good reason to try it. I chose an iridescent, sparkly light pink color, similar to what I would have chosen for a regular manicure. However, there were less color choices. The process was similar to a regular manicure, except they make you wash your hands before they apply the specific gel polish, they don’t apply cream or massage your hands, and they wipe your nails clean with nail polish remover. In addition, the drying time is quicker because they use the uv light. Overall the experience was pleasant.  My nails had a nice, smooth finish and seemed stronger than after a regular manicure.  I left wondering if the manicure would survive the trip to Mexico and live up to my expectations.

Coincidentally when I arrived in Mexico, I noticed that the woman at the concierge desk had the same color nail polish as mine.  I asked her if it was the gel manicure and how she liked the product.  It was the same product and she was very happy with it.  She explained how she cleans with Clorox and how the manicure holds up for at least two weeks, sometimes three.

To my surprise, the gel manicure held up and exceeded my expectations. It’s been over a week and I sufficiently challenged the technology…I dragged luggage through airports and in and out of airplanes and cars; I repeatedly applied sunscreen and zinc oxide to myself, two kids and husband; I waded in chlorinated pools and salty, ocean water; I frequently washed my hands and my kids’ hands; I hand-washed my fair share of dishes; and I bathed my kids nightly.

I’m very happy with the outcome. I’m definitely a convert and I’m not sure why I would opt for a regular manicure again.  Now the burning questions are “how will I remove it?” and “what condition will my nails be in after?” Until next time…