By Lorrie Baumann
Kendra Coggin and Baron Conway were looking to do more with their lives than answer to their corporate bosses in 2013, so they started making pickles. Just two years later, and just six months after the pair attended their first Fancy Food Show, their Pernicious Pickling Company’s Ginger & Spice Pickled Carrots are among the finalists for a sofi Award. “It’s what we wanted, but we never expected it would happen,” Conway says. “We were very, very surprised.”
In 2012, Coggin was a graphic designer, sitting at a computer all day and creating digital marketing materials for exciting entrepreneurs. Conway was working in advertising and marketing too, but his area of expertise is in business development and strategy. Both of them were infected by the ideas and energy of their clients, and they started thinking about going into business for themselves. They wanted something that would be creative, that would allow them to control their own destiny and that they could feel passionate about. “We wanted something where you don’t mind working 60 or 80 hours a week to create something that impacts people in an interesting way,” Conway says. “It’s about the food they love and the joy they get.”
They’re both food lovers, and, for both of them, pickles were part of their family history. “My family has always had a very strong relationship with pickles, particularly savory, while Kendra was more familiar with the sweet hot flavors of the South,” Conway says. “At some point, we looked around and saw that there were no artisanal pickle companies in southern California.”
The two started making pickles and serving them to their friends, who were enthusiastic, so they decided to do some research into what it would take to start a pickling company. A year of work went into the business plan and the licensing that was necessary before they could sell their product. “California has very strict rules about shelf-stable pickling. You have to have a cannery license, commercial kitchen, regular inspections from the California Food & Drug Bureau and keep meticulous production records. All of these things are required to sell, whether it’s in a Whole Foods Market, a mom and pop grocery, or at a farmers market,” Coggin says. “Even the recipes have to be submitted to the state for approval, along with samples for pH testing. It took us close to a year to get everything together. Then once you’ve received your cannery license and begin production, you have almost monthly inspections from the FDB to test your product and confirm records. This experience is certainly a far cry from the home canning we did growing up.”
All those complications could help explain why there are not many people making and selling shelf-stable pickles in Southern California, even though there’s a lot of excitement in the market about pickling, she muses. The two of them launched their business in October, 2013 with 10 products. Yes, 10.
“Out of the gate, we had these 10 products, and we decided, the hell with it, we’ll just launch with all 10 of them,” Conway says. “We saw an opportunity, a gap in the market, and we decided to jump in and see if we could take advantage of it.”
The 10 products include the Pickled Carrots that were Finalists for a 2015 sofi Award, Fashionably Dill Pickled Red Beets, Sweet Hurry Curry Pickled Cauliflower, Sweet ‘n Sour Pickled Red Onions, Lean ‘N Mean Pickled Beans, Sweet Mustard Bread & Butter Pickles, three kinds of dill pickles and Pucker Up Hotties Sour Garlic Pickles. Of the 10 varieties, the Fashionably Dill Pickled Red Beets and Lean ‘N Mean Pickled Beans are actually the company’s best sellers, so it was a little surprising that it was the Ginger & Spice Pickled Carrots that caught the attention of the sofi Award judges. “The carrots are kind of this underdog, so it really surprised us,” Coggin says. “Inspired by the rich cultural diversity here in Southern California, we wanted to take the classic spicy mix of carrots, onions, and jalapeños you receive at Mexican restaurants, and add an Asian flair by making them with rice vinegar, to have a more mellow vinegary flavor, crushed red pepper, ginger, Thai chile. When you bite into the carrot, you get the sweetness of the carrot and the ginger, followed soon afterwards by a tinge of heat.”
“With all of our pickles, we try very hard to create a balanced, layered flavor profile,” Conway adds. “So it complements and extends the food it’s paired with.”
They’re both taking joy in what their business is bringing to others as well as themselves. “People love pickles. There is this force that draws people to us when they see we have pickles,” Coggin says. “It crosses all ages and genders. Little kids come up and want the spiciest pickles, or they want to try the pickled beet because it’s bright pink.”
“Pickle people are happy people,” Conway adds. “When folks eat pickles, they have a smile on their face… They want to share memories about pickling with their grandmother or a favorite pickle dish experienced abroad – we’ve received more than one old family recipe in the mail. It’s really quite emotional at times, and it’s been an unexpected joy to see. We started Pernicious wanting to create pickles that people would love to eat, yet we didn’t quite expect the happiness, nostalgia, and community pickles would bring to us.”
Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine kicks off its 10th anniversary season with new picnics, sandwiches and salads, plus small production wine and beer pairings that have all been thoughtfully selected and created to celebrate summer in Chicago. Pastoral’s new summer offerings are available at all three store locations and also include cheese and charcuterie plates-to-go, plus a selection of handcrafted sides, sodas, locally made sweets, confections and accompaniments which can all be enjoyed on-the-go or at Pastoral’s al fresco dining patios open now throughout the season. Pastoral’s picnic offerings are ideal for two people to share, and designed with Chicago’s summer concert season and outdoor festivals in mind.
“This summer marks Pastoral’s 10th anniversary in business, and we took this milestone as a chance to create our favorite summer menu to date—picnics, sandwiches, salads, cheese plates, drink pairings and more that showcase some of Pastoral’s most delicious offerings and favorite culinary producers that have worked with us since we opened in 2004,” said Greg O’Neill, Co-founder and Co-proprietor of Pastoral and Bar Pastoral. “Every menu item reflects our commitment to bring customers the best small production and specialty products available from the most wonderful and talented culinary producers near and far. We want guests to taste this effort in every bite and sip from Pastoral this summer.”
Pastoral’s new picnics are designed for two people to enjoy together, and all include a wine or beer pairing recommendation from Pastoral’s team of experts. New picnics include:
Decadent Picnic (Heirloom Tamworth Prosciutto (Iowa), indulgent Brillat Savarin triple crème (FR – cow), smooth and seasonal Snowfields (Wis. – raw cow), rich and complex 5-Year Gouda (NL – cow), pate de fruits Jugglers (Ill.), rich and fair trade Madecasse Mini Bar (MG), handmade caramels from Katherine Anne Confections (Ill.), plus soft and delicious cookies house-made at Pastoral);
Bavarian Picnic (tangy house-made pimento cheese featuring two Wisconsin cheddars (cow), fresh and creamy Quark (Wis. – cow), Alsatian-style Saucisson d’Alsace salami (Ore.), La Fournette Bakery’s original recipe soft Bretzel (Ill.), plus Pastoral’s house-made toastettes, pickled cauliflower and grainy mustard);
Francophile Picnic (country-style Pig and Fig Terrine (Ind.), buttery Spring Brook Raclette (Vt. – raw, cow), herbed Prairie Fruits Farm chevre (Ill. – goat), fruity and bright Zingerman’s Manchester (Mich. – cow), single varietal Ames Mini Honey (Minn.), Pastoral’s house-made artichoke tapenade, cornichons and grainy mustard);
Quesophile Picnic (buttery Spring Brook Raclette (Vt. – cow, raw), Pecorino Fioretto (IT – sheep), tangy Clock Shadow Creamery chevre (Wis. – goat), Salemville Blue (Wis. – cow), smooth and seasonal Snowfields (Wis. – cow, raw), traditional and award-winning 1655 Gruyere (SZ – cow, raw), Pastoral’s own house-made spiced almonds and fig preserves);
Taste of the Midwest Picnic (Borsellino Salami (Iowa.), silky smooth Mortadella from Smoking Goose (Ind.), creamy and slightly funky Aged Widmer’s Brick (Wis. – cow), subtly smoky Marieke Smoked Cumin Gouda (Wisc. – cow, raw), tangy Clock Shadow Creamery chevre (Wis. – goat), shallot confit and dried Michigan cherries);
Carnivore’s Feast Picnic (dry-cured Salametti (Calif.), spice-cured aged Coppa (N.Y.), intense and rich Jamon Serrano (SP), silky smooth Mortadella (Ind.), Pastoral’s house-made pimento cheese featuring two Wisconsin cheddars (cow), cornichons, pickled vegetables and grainy mustard);
Grand Picnic (smooth and silky Prosciutto San Daniele (IT), Dodge City Salume from Smoking Goose Meatery (Ind.), fruity and complex Prairie Breeze (Iowa – cow), buttery and rich Brabander Gouda (NL – goat), bold and nutty Maxx Extra (SZ – cow, raw), smooth and lemony Driftless (Wisc. – sheep), single varietal Ames Mini Honey (Minn.), sweet and salty Effie’s Mini Oatcakes (Mass.), Pastoral’s house-made spiced almonds and a duo of handmade truffles from Chicago’s own Katherine Anne Confections.
Vegetarian options are available for select Pastoral picnics. All picnics are $39.99 with the exception of the Grand Picnic which is $69.99 and features some of Pastoral’s most indulgent products.
All Pastoral’s picnics are eco-friendly with biodegradable packaging including plates and utensils made from potato starch, recyclable paper bags and napkins. Additionally, many of Pastoral’s wines, beers, ciders and spirits focus on organic, biodynamic or sustainably produced selections that are both food- and earth-friendly.
The Pastoral team is available to help customers pair a bottle of small production wine, craft beer or cider with their picnics from the shop’s thoughtfully-selected collection of wines, beers, ciders and spirits. Pastoral’s beverage director, Mark Wrobel, has selected his favorite bottles for summer 2014, most of which feature a screw top or champagne-style stopper⎯no corkscrew required⎯making these selections ideal for summer concert and festival season.
By Lorrie Baumann
As Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern are fond of pointing out to their television audiences, you can learn a lot about a society by tasting its food. Case in point: the Orthodox Jewish community in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y. If you find yourself in Crown Heights, or even if you are just wondering about kosher food, Benz’s Food Products will be happy to serve up an education in what it means to be both “kosher” and “gourmet.”
Benz’s Gourmet, the brick and mortar shop that is the retail face of the family-owned kosher grocer, opened 11 years ago in Crown Heights, a neighborhood that has since become known as a case study in gentrification. As rising real estate prices have forced middle class families out of Manhattan, they have fled in large numbers to Brooklyn neighborhoods served by an efficient public transportation system that provides easy access to the island. The population shift has generated the concerns and conflicts characteristic of any rapid cultural change.
For Benz’s Gourmet, the changes in the neighborhood have created an opportunity to serve both the neighborhood’s native Orthodox Jewish residents and ex-Manhattanites with gourmet foods that meet the strictest of kosher requirements but also the educated tastes of adventurous eaters. Aside from a few staples that are carried as convenience items, every item in Benz’s Gourmet must pass both tests: it must meet the strictest of kosher standards, and it must be a gourmet product.
“If you’re looking for a gourmet dulce de leche that’s strictly kosher, you come to Benz’s. If you’re looking for a kosher goat yogurt, Benz’s carries it. If you’re looking for truffles, Benz’s carries it. We also offer a large assortment of imported cheeses, imported olives and beers. Of course, all strictly kosher,” said Dobi Raskin, the daughter in the family that owns and operates Benz’s. Dobi does some of pretty much everything that has to be done in the store and the wholesale operation that stands behind it. “Just because you’re kosher and Orthodox doesn’t mean you don’t want a truffle mac and cheese. Just because you keep kosher shouldn’t mean that you don’t get to taste the finer things in life.”
The business was started in 1976 by Dobi Raskin’s father, Benz Raskin. Benz is still active in the business along with Dobi’s mother and her three brothers.
Benz started out making classic frozen gefilte fish logs, distinguished from competing products by the high quality of a product made with only fresh fish and fresh produce when other companies were making it with frozen fish. “We started really small, making small batches,” Dobi says. At first, the product was sold only to local families, with Benz delivering it himself in a little red pickup truck. “We’re in Brooklyn, the home of many Orthodox Jews,” Dobi says. “We ourselves are Orthodox Jews.”
As the Benz’s gefilte fish became more popular, Benz started selling it wholesale to institutional buyers serving the Orthodox community. He then began adding more groceries to his product line. Today, the business sells groceries through the Internet as well as in a brick-and-mortar store, and the company’s patriarch has become a mascot for the neighborhood. The shop is only about 20 feet by 100 feet, so it’s not hard to find him when he is there. “Our hearts are bigger than our store,” Dobi says. “He’s sort of an icon. People come in just to say hello to him. He loves it.”
Benz started the business because he saw that the people in his neighborhood were becoming more interested in some of the gourmet food products that they were hearing about from the Food Network and other influences. They wanted to try the new specialty foods, but they were not interested in abandoning religious requirements for how food is to be raised, processed and served. “That’s where Benz saw the need,” Dobi says. “It requires a lot more research and care to make sure that the products are up to the kosher standards of the community, since there are many different kosher certifications. If there’s a product with a kosher certification you don’t recognize, you have to do due diligence to make sure that it’s something we can carry … Just because something has a symbol doesn’t mean that it’s going to fly with us.”
Benz’s now carries a wide variety of refrigerated and frozen products, dry products and other specialty groceries, all with the endorsement of rabbinic authorities that it has been produced according to strict kosher law. Dobi does a great deal of the research herself to be sure that each product meets the company’s standards. “It’s quite astonishing how much time it takes to establish that a product is kosher, and if so, under which certification,” she says. “That’s what makes us unique, that we take the time.”
When customers ask for an item that’s not in the shop’s stock, Dobi seeks out suppliers who can provide a kosher gourmet product. “If you’re looking for strictly kosher goat yogurt, Benz’s will find it and bring it in. If it’s a popular item, it becomes a regular. We’ll stock it,” she says. “If it’s available on the market, we’ll try to bring it in for you.”
Finding a gourmet item with the proper kosher certification can be a challenge, and Dobi is particularly proud that she was able to find truffle products in response to a customer request. She now gets them from an Israeli company that sources them in Europe, and Benz’s now offers minced truffles, truffle sea salt and even truffle oil. “We were able to bring in the product line. That was a good one,” Dobi says. “You keep the customer happy. They keep you happy. It’s a nice cycle.”
In their eagerness to try new gourmet products, Benz’s customers have not forgotten the traditional foods they grew up with. The company still sells its classic frozen gefilte fish logs and still takes great pride in offering a gourmet product that meets customers’ dietary needs. “The fresh fish and fresh produce that goes into the product put it a step above its competitors, Dobi says. “Just because we eat gefilte fish doesn’t mean it has to taste like cardboard.”
Benz’s also imports trays of herring from Europe and offers them both in the tray and in almost 30 different preparations that combine the herring with ingredients like wasabi, scallions, jalapeños and habanero peppers. Some customers like to buy the herring already prepared, and some like to buy the plain filets and take them home to experiment with new flavor combinations. Either way, Benz’s is ready to serve.
“Our herring filets are probably the best on the market. The quality just can’t be beat. It’s just nice, buttery, good texture,” Dobi says. The herring filets are, like Dobi herself, named after Benz’s mother, so customers come into the shop and ask for Dobis. “I’m pretty famous now, I guess,” she says.
The Dobi case is a popular gathering spot for the community as they come into the store to shop for Sabbath meals, and the various preparations for the herring have become a running topic of discussion among the Orthodox community, where you can often tell which synagogue an individual attended last week by what kind of herring they’re talking about, Dobi says.
“People are expanding their horizons. The market is so vast and there are so many options that people are able to eat a gourmet diet and still adhere to the strict kosher requirements,” says Dobi. “There’s a young community here that’s blossoming that wants the better things in life, and we appreciate that we’re able to offer it to them.”
Bolder Beans produces crunchy, pickled green beans and other pickled vegetables that are a healthy snack, a perfect addition to a Bloody Mary, or even a great gift. Pickle people enjoy Bolder Beans right out of the jar as a good, healthy snack. In fact, Bolder Beans are sugar-free, fat-free and even gluten-free. There are less than 100 calories in the entire jar and each serving has only 1 carb. In addition, there is nothing artificial added and all ingredients can be pronounced. Simply open up a jar and start snacking on these crunchy, tasty treats that are full of flavor and won’t make you feel guilty if you happen to eat the whole jar.
Bolder Beans started as a wonderful addition to a Bloody Mary. Just add a couple pickled green beans instead of a piece of celery, and your Bloody Mary is transformed. These spicy, pickled beans add a lot of flavor and kick up the zip in any Bloody Mary. Owner of Bolder Beans, Rogue Edwards, stated, “I first tried a pickled green bean in a Bloody Mary in New Orleans. When we returned home to Colorado, we couldn’t find anything we liked, so I decided to make my own!”
Whether for a healthy eater or a Bloody Mary lover, Bolder Beans make a great gift. A single jar is perfect for a hostess gift, a teacher appreciation item, a pot luck dinner, or just a simple thank you. Purchase a jar online at www.bolderbeans.com or custom order a gift box that will really stand out. Multiple jars can be selected and added to a gift box complete with a bean fork and a ribbon for that special touch. Prices range from $8 a jar to $30 a gift box depending upon the items selected.
For the Bloody Mary lover, a Bolder Beans Bloody Mary gift set is really unique. This special gift box includes a jar of Bolder Beans, Bloody Mary concentrate mix, rim salt, a bean fork and even a pack of beef straws! Just add the vodka, and it is a complete set that will make any Bloody Mary lover smile. All gift boxes can be ordered online at www.bolderbeans.com or call 720-578-BEAN for more details.
Bolder Beans come if three tasty flavors: mild, medium and hot. The mild beans have a big, bold, dill pickle taste that are crunchy and zesty without the added heat. For the medium flavor, a jalapeño is added to the jar to give it a big, bold kick with a peppery jalapeño taste. A habañero is added to the hot and gives the bean a sweet heat. Enjoy all three of these flavors for a different taste with just the right amount of heat. Whether they are chopped up in a salad, added to a Bloody Mary, or eaten right out of the jar as a good snack or an easy appetizer, they are sure to please any pickle person.
In addition, Bolder Mushrooms, Bolder Garlic and Bolder Mix-Up are tasty treats for those who love pickled foods. Bolder Mushrooms are mild with an earthy mushroom taste that complement the pickling flavor to produce the perfect texture, tenderness and taste. Add Bolder Mushrooms to omelets, pizzas, salads or even a martini for a zip that will awaken your tastebuds.
Bolder Garlic is the perfect treat for the garlic lover. Each jar is filled to the top with individual garlic cloves that have been pickled to perfection giving each bite a mellow garlic flavor with a punch of pickle flavor and the heat of a jalapeño. Use them wherever you use garlic, or eat them right out of the jar. Just make sure that others eat them with you!
Finally, Bolder Mix-Up is an easy “appetizer in a jar.” This combination of pickled veggies includes green beans, carrots, cauliflower and mushrooms. It is the perfect addition to a relish tray and each veggie has a bold, pickle taste that is available in mild for everyone to enjoy!