New food companies are innovating in similar ways: bold and intriguing flavor combinations and alcohol.
By Linda J. Mazurek
When I was researching the second batch of new food companies participating in Boston Public Market’s CR[EAT]OR Market later this month, it immediately struck me that they had two things in common: bold and intriguing flavor combinations and alcohol (except for one company). I mean, who puts beer and wine in cookies or chardonnay or prosecco in jams? Some really creative food-preneurs! These would make terrific one-of-a-kind holiday or hostess gifts or stocking stuffers. Read on!
Heather Yunger has to be one of the most creative cookie-makers I’ve ever run into. She turned a passion, for hockey, of all things, into a successful cookie business whose bestsellers include Sam Adams.
“I had gotten ahold of some black cocoa around the same time I had kind of developed this pre-game superstition of bringing cookies [later dubbed Black & Golds] to The Fours before Bruins home games,” she said. “So I wanted to add a gold element…peanut butter chips seemed to have a look that worked. I brought those cookies to the Fours every home game that season (even some away games) and the Bruins won the Stanley Cup, so I decided to quit my job and start a cookie company.”
She founded Top Shelf Cookies in 2014 in Dorchester and creates handcrafted artisan-style cookies, ranging from classics, like chocolate chip, to several alcohol-infused cookies – and one that includes Alex’s Ugly Sauce! (I told you she was creative…..)The cookies that include beer are Boston Lager Chocolate Chip and the Short and Stout, a chocolate cookie with Guinness and white chocolate chips. The Merlot Cocolate has been less popular, but as Heather says, “Merlot Chocolate just kind of came from having a chocolate Merlot wine and thinking, let’s make it a cookie. It wasn’t as big of a hit as I thought it would be, but we try things and hope people will like them.”
But why put beer in cookies?!
Jennifer Glanville, brewery manager for Sam Adams, was part of the pre-game crowd at The Fours. “At one point, I had mentioned to her that I might want to make cookies a job. She told me to go for it, they would help me. Sam Adams has a program called ‘Brewing the American Dream,’ and it helps small food and beverage businesses get loans and practical business coaching,” explained Heather. “A couple weeks after we launched, I got a call from someone at the brewery asking if I could make two hundred pumpkin beer cookies for an event in two days. I hadn’t made two hundred cookies yet, and I certainly didn’t have a recipe. But I took a stab at it, and it was fun! Since then, we have always offered at least one Sam Adams cookie. I think, at this point, we’ve made 17 different recipes using their beers. Boston Lager pairs nicely with chocolate and since the chocolate chip cookie originated in Massachusetts, it made sense for us to include it!”
And the hot sauce? “Sometimes you have to borrow an ingredient from your neighbors, and lucky for us, our neighbor [at CommonWealth Kitchen in Dorchester] is Alex’s Ugly Sauce,” said Heather. “Alex (Bourgeois) asked, so I thought it would be fun to see if it worked. Alex inspires me with his passion for his sauce and the knowledge of different peppers, so I wanted to really give it an honest effort. We infuse the sauce into the melted butter, and then we put that in a chocolate cookie with some semi-sweet chocolate chips, and we round it out with a little cayenne powder. People love that cookie!”
Heather will bring several of her cookies to the BPM on Saturday, December 16, and Sunday, December 17: Hazel’s Chocolate chip, Peanut Butter Toffee Treasures, Raisin Healthys, Cocoverdose, and Chocolatte. Detailed descriptions are on her website. She’ll also bring some holiday flavors: ChocoMint Madness, Ginger Chews, White Chocolate Crantastics, and, of course, one made with a Sam Adams beer: Merry Maker Gingerbread, made with Sam Adams Merry Maker Gingerbread Stout. Cookies are sold in packs of two (for $4, or three packs for $10) or six ($8). (And if you want to meet Alex Bourgeois or sample his fiery sauces, he, too will be at the BPM that weekend, as well as the weekend of December 9.)
“We really view ourselves as a craft cookie company. We find quality ingredients and try to figure out how to use them in a cookie through well-crafted recipes,” she stated. “I always say we want to bring Boston a better cookie, and I believe we do that.”
Another company pairing alcohol with sweets is Hacienda Del Sol Food Artisans, founded by Ana Leonardo. Since 2016, the company has been making high-quality fruit preserves, jams, and marmalades in small batches using a combination of fresh fruits, mostly passionfruit from their plantation in the Dominican Republic, along with locally grown fruits from New England farms. Ana once received a passionfruit preserve as a gift, and her love affair with this intoxicating fruit was born. Her company often pairs the fruit with wine and spirits from around the world.
“Our process takes around two or three days to have one small batch ready. We use the old method of maceration to prep our fruits, by soaking them in sugar for up to 24 hours, to allow the fruits to soften and release their essence,” she explained. “We are also one of the few companies that uses a traditional French copper pan to cook our jams, which contributes to our preserves’ delicate and sophisticated aroma and flavor.”
Why add wine and spirits to what is essentially a breakfast food? “It is fun and delicious! Our products are not just jams, they are culinary experiences,” stated Ana. “I like to quote one of my favorite compliments from one loyal customer: ‘Your products are an exhibition of intelligence and good taste.’ Or this one: ‘symphony of flavors.’ Our fruit preserves are creative mélanges of bright tropical flavors, New England fruits, and French-inspired cooking techniques.”
Among her unusual flavor combinations are Pear, Passionfruit, and Chardonnay; Apricots, Passionfruit, and Amaretto; Raspberry, Passionfruit, and Prosecco; and Mango, Passionfruit, and Rosemary, all $12. Ana says they are very versatile, and can be used as glazes, or served with prosciutto on a water cracker, over mascarpone cheese or vanilla ice cream or baked brie, or slathered on a croissant. Hacienda del Sol will be at the Market the weekend of December 9.
Another spicy company, also coincidentally owned by a woman and also coincidentally located in Dot, is Lyndigo Spice. Celeste Croxton-Tate, its founder and CEO, started watching cooking shows on WGBH when she was 11 years old. She was raised in Roxbury, where she was surrounded with a melting pot of cultures and cuisines: Caribbean, Asia, Cape Verdean, Latin, Italian, Irish, and Greek.
She began as a caterer, in 2006, but when the recession hit, taking a toll on that business, she branched out into specialty foods, notably chutneys. “I began making the pineapple chutney to cool down the heat of my Jamaican Jerk Chicken that I would make for my clients, but not everyone can handle jerk! So they would always ask if they could purchase my chutney,” explained Celeste. “Now, several years and many recipes later, I have created a line of chutneys, relishes, fruit spreads, and a spice blend for you to enjoy!”
Her chutneys include the famous Pineapple as well as Fennel and Fig, and Smoky Peach and Cherry. She has three relishes: Spicy Red Pepper, Savory Red Pepper, and Roasted Mango; and one fruit spread, Ginger Blueberry.
“The Fennel and Fig Chutney combination intrigues folks, and once they taste it, they love it,” said Celeste. “It was also featured as a ‘must-have’ pantry staple in the April 2017 issue of Boston Magazine.”
“I created a low sodium spice rub for my husband Joe, who loves BBQ but has hypertension. It’s a smoked paprika-based rub, and most of the spices in it are smoked as well,” she explained. “We put it on – and in – everything! It’s great on meats, fish, vegetables popcorn, roasted chickpeas, and sliced apples, too!”
All sell for $10, except for the spice blend, which is $9. Celeste will also be at the BPM the weekend of December 9.
And finally, a cocktail beverage company – Bootblack Brand based in Warren, Rhode Island – will be at the market the last weekend, on Saturday, December 16. The company began, as many do, with dissatisfaction with the status quo, in this case, with the quality of cocktails. According to Paul Kubiski, founder, “Built on the premise we do not eat or drink anything inferior, I started experimenting with classic flavor profiles, with a twist, using natural ingredients, including fresh produce, herbs, and spices. We’ve created complex syrups which are deeply layered with ingredients that are a balance of sweet, savory, and citrus – the holy trinity to creating a great cocktail. Take one part Bootblack Syrup, two parts spirits, and three parts seltzer, and you’re on your way to making a well-balanced drink!”
Bootblack sells three syrups: Ginger Cardamom Lime (their flagship), Cranberry Jalapeno Lime, and Classic Citrus Tonic (the newest), all costing $19.99. A three-pack is available for $54.99.
So you can see, between my first article about this exciting new holiday venture, and this follow-up, that there are still plenty of passionate folks creating exciting new foods – and drinks – for our consumption. Santé!
Linda J. Mazurek is an award-winning communications professional, with more than 25 years of writing and editing experience. Blending this with her passion for food, she has written more than 90 articles since late 2006, published both online and in print, including nine in The Boston Globe’s food section.