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H & H Midtown East Bagels Launches at Retail

By Lorrie Baumann

Boxed Bagels Variety - Resized2H & H Midtown East Bagels has been making its crunchy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside bagels in its Manhattan location at the heart of New York City for 43 years. Famous among the bagel-loving cognoscenti, the H & H Midtown bagels have won more top scores on local “best bagel” polls than Owner Jay Rushin can recall right off the top of his head, but he’s confident that New Yorkers who’ve moved away from the city that never sleeps will greet with enthusiasm the national launch of H & H Midtown bagels into the retail market.

“The number one complaint from retailers is that they can’t get a great bagel where they live. Everyone complains that they just can’t get a great bagel, and we are the answer to that,” said Mark Weinberg, H & H Midtown’s National Sales Director, who’s spearheading the drive into the retail market. “I don’t want to sound over confident but … the reality is that we are different, and a lot of customers who demand the best request H&H Midtown Bagels by name.”

Some of that confidence comes from the success of the H & H Midtown East Bagels in the foodservice channel, and some of it comes from the company’s online retail sales. “People are already ordering bagels online from all over the country,” Weinberg said. Those online sales reflect the migration of New Yorkers from the city into some of the biggest growth markets in the country, including California, Florida, Texas, North Carolina and Colorado, according to Weinberg. “They move to different states, and they settle down, and nobody can find a decent bagel,” he said.

The bagels that are now being offered at retail are the same sold at the company’s Manhattan retail store, made by Baker David Figueroa who started with the company when he was just 16 years old and has been there now for 25 years now. He’s using the same recipe that’s been used at H & H Midtown East since the business started and much of the same equipment, although the ovens and mixers were recently refurbished, Rushin said. “We still follow the old-fashioned way of making bagels and we use the finest ingredients money can buy,” he said.

The flour used in the bagel dough is one of the most expensive on the market, he added. “All that combines to make a classic New York water bagel,” he said. “We still use the kettle to boil the bagels, and we still use the burlap-covered boards to bake them.”

His personal favorite bagel is the classic plain bagel, and for him, the combination of taste and texture offered by the H & H Midtown bagel means that it doesn’t have to be topped with anything at all. He said, “You can make a cheaper bagel or a quicker bagel, but that shows in the quality.”

The H & H Midtown Bagels are offered for retail sale in six-packs that retail for around $3.99. “I truly believe that being in the retail stores, it’ll be a home run for anyone who carries our brand,” Weinberg said. “We can provide signage, we have the demographics, and, most important, we have the demand for our world famous brand!”

Cheese Shop Finds Foodies in Des Moines

By Robin Mather

For a while, C.J. Bienert thought that he’d love to run his own cheesemaking company. Then he went on a year-long “cheese sabbatical,” as he calls it, and learned something important about himself.

“Cheesemaking is really about washing a lot of dishes,” he says. “I learned that while working at cheese companies in that year. One day someone asked me what I wanted to do and I was surprised to hear ‘I want to open a cheese shop’ come out of my mouth.”

So, after a year of working “when I could” and interning “sometimes for free” with various cheesemakers around the United States, C.J. returned to Des Moines, Iowa, and opened The Cheese Shop of Des Moines in 2011.

IMG_6159The shop, with storage and production in a 600-square-foot basement and a retail space of about 550 square feet at street level, specializes in artisanal American cheeses and domestic charcuterie, he says. It’s located in a strip mall called The Shops at Roosevelt in the Historic Roosevelt Cultural District. “It looks like a standard strip mall,” Bienert says, “but it’s really food-centric.”

The mall is also home to specialty grocer VomFASS, which sells wine, spirits, specialty oils and gourmet foods; and to La Mie, a long-time Des Moines artisanal bakery and cafe. “Most of our employees live within two to four miles of the shop,” Bienert says, “and many of our customers also live in the neighborhood. Each of us (the other food shops) brings in customers for the others, so it works really well.”

The shop is open Tuesday through Saturday, so Bienert and his six-person staff can enjoy a full two days off each week. “We’re a family business,” he says. “I believe we all need time off to reenergize.”

That’s particularly important for Bienert, who with his wife, Kari, has two children: 2-1/2-year-old son Solomon and infant daughter Coral, who was born in early June — the same week that the Bienerts opened Cheese Bar DSM, a 3,000-square-foot 70-seat cafe that offers more seating for customers than the original Cheese Shop can provide.

C.J. met Kari when he was selling cheese in a gourmet shop and she was working in the store’s wine department. “She’d been in organic farming,” C.J. says, “and she’s definitely a foodie, so we had a lot in common.” Today, Kari juggles the company’s bookkeeping and payroll duties while staying at home with the kids. “I don’t think she’d like to hear me refer to her as a ‘stay-at-home mom,’ “ Bienert quips. “She’s probably feeding the kids while she does payroll right now.”
 Bienert credits ZingTrain, the business development company in the Zingerman’s family of businesses, with much of his success, he says. “We wouldn’t be here, probably, if it weren’t for ZingTrain.” He calls himself a “servant-leader,” and encourages his staff to develop their potential.

“Like I did on my cheese sabbatical, I encourage my employees to take the time to find out what they really want to do,” he says. “I say, ‘If you want to take the summer off to go intern at a cheese plant, you can do that.’ I keep a current list of cheesemakers seeking interns available at all times.”

Bienert qualified for the American Cheese Society’s Certified Cheese Professional accreditation a couple of years ago, he says, and he’s encouraging his staff to pursue that, too, if they’re interested. “I have some staff people who’ve been with me for five years, and some of them came to me with no cheese experience, but now they’ve fallen in love with cheese. I’ve been in the business for 16 years, but I like to be a good ‘servant-leader’ and lead by example. The accreditation has definitely opened some doors for me.”

Bienert got his start when he was just 19, working for Barbara Horn at her Des Moines shop, Wine Experience, which closed in 2006. “The shop was ahead of the curve and it had a great cheese counter, but in those days, there wasn’t a plethora of web sites or cheese information out there like there is today,” Bienert, now 34, says. “Barbara said then, ‘This is a growing industry.’ And today I tell my employees the same thing — cheese is a growing industry.”

Bienert enthusiastically works to help Des Moines help the cheese industry grow. Classes and samplings at Cheese Shop aid in the growth. “We do classes at the cheese shop once a week, on Mondays,” he says. “They’re themed — things like wine and cheese pairing, cheese 101, cheese 2.0, comparing wine vs. beer for pairings, things like that.” Somewhat to his surprise, the classes have become much more than he expected. “When we first started six years ago, we thought the classes would be just marketing, but they also promote revenue. We seat 25 people, oftentimes sell out and sometimes have people standing for the whole class. We make money on our classes.”

His customers have been appreciative, he says, and that keeps his own enthusiasm revved up. “It excites me that people are that interested in good cheese,” he says.

He recognizes that his store occupies a very special niche, but that’s part of its strength.

“I used Europe as our model and travel to Europe annually. We visit cheese shops and independent retailers, and they have a niche that larger stores can’t provide,” Bienert says.

As examples, he says, “Our main competitor would be grocery stores, but they don’t have our relationship with producers. We’ll drive nine hours to pick up a cheese from the producer on our day off, turn around and drive nine hours home again, just so that cheese will be in perfect condition when we get it to the shop.

“We also do products from La Quercia,” Bienert says of the Iowa company that produces prize-winning domestic prosciuttos and other salumi. “Large stores have a hard time doing things like the hand-carving of a full prosciutto with the hoof still attached, and then giving it proper care. But again, that’s something we can do. It’s not only theatrical and looks cool, it’s also tasty.”
There’s no other shop in Des Moines like his, Bienert says, “but I feel there will be more, and I encourage the competition. Again, we’ll rely on our connection with our producers.”

Take a Look at Products Debuting at the Summer Fancy Food Show

By Robin Mather

Nashville, Tennessee, producer Mod Squad Martha was among those introducing new products at this year’s Summer Fancy Food Show with the launch of Chive Jive and Bluebird Vinaigrettes, as well as Music Row Moroccan Salmon Marinade and Rub. The company contributes a portion of sales to Crossroads Campus and Bonaparte’s Retreat, two 501(c) charities founded by singer-songwriter Emmylou Harris to strengthen the human/animal bond.

Chocolatier Valrhona unveiled Blond Orelys 35 Percent, chocolate lozenges sweetened with muscovado sugar, to the company’s Blond Range of chocolates.

US Wellness Meats, the Canton, Missouri-based retail purveyors of Heritage Pork, Grass-Fed Beef, Bison and Lamb, Wild-Caught Seafood, plus poultry and rabbit, sampled its sugar-free pork bacon and other products. Boone County Organics sampled its organic chocolate-covered freeze-dried aronia berries, one of the newest trending superfoods, from the US Wellness Meats booth.

Wella Bar, which produces organic nut-based protein bars, showed off four new flavors, including Hazelnut Cacao, Almond Sour Cherry, Almond Blueberry and Almond Cacao. The bars gain their protein boosts from whole milk and egg whites. A portion of the company’s sales benefit the Bee Kind initiative, which Project Apis began.

Everton Toffee introduced a line of butter-toffee covered pretzels, in Original Toffee, Toasted Pecan and Roasted Cashew flavors. The company, nearly 300 years old, also showed off its new gift tins, which feature charming Dickensian cartoon characters, each with his or her own “life story.”

Angelic Bakehouse, producer of sprouted grain breads, showed its new sprouted bread crisps in 7 Grain with Sea Salt, Honey Wheat with Raisins and Sea Salt, and Rye with Sea Salt flavors. Like its other products, the crisps are Non-GMO Certified, Kosher and feature fully transparent labeling.

The Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery sampled its new natural cheddar cheese curds in individual 2-ounce packages, and announced that it will soon add frozen breaded curds to foodservice and retail outlets.

Plocky’s Fine Snacks introduced its Protato Crisps in Original with Himalayan Pink Salt, Spicy Honey Barbecue and Peppercorn Ranch flavors. The chips combine potatoes with plant protein for additional nutrition and are available in three-ounce bags.

Alexian, producers of all-natural pates and specialty meats, revealed their new Specialty Crackers in Olive Oil & Sea Salt flavor, made with just three ingredients. The crackers are Non-GMO Project verified, vegan-certified and kosher.

Dockside Market, a Key Largo-based longtime producer of tropical-flavored cakes, introduced its new Breezer cookies in Key Lime with White Chocolate Chips, Coconut Crunch with Chocolate Chips and Pecas, and Honeybell Orange with Chocolate Chips flavors. The bite-sized cookies come in a resealable bag.

Organic Prairie, a farmer-owned company, introduced its Mighty Beef Grassfed Organic Jerky and Beef Sticks. The jerky comes in Teriyaki, Original and Peppered flavors, while the beef sticks come in Teriyaki, Original and Spicy Jalapeño flavors. All are gluten free, nut-free and non-GMO certified.

Organic Valley introduced its Cream-on-Top Grassmilk Yogurt in a new 6-ounce serving cup, including four new varieties with organic fruit.

Jake’s Nut Roasters introduced five new flavors of its California-grown dry-roasted almonds, available in 5-ounce pouches, 7-ounce cans and four-pack gift sets. The flavors are Mesquite-Smoked, Bleu Cheese with Cracked Pepper, Bloody Mary, Barbecue and Maple.

Lotao showed its three flavors of Coconut Blossom Sugar (Ginger Kiss, Java Kiss and Oriental Kiss) and its line of organic rice and legume products, including Curcuma Sun Golden Rice, Oriental Sensation Smoked Rice, Glam Wedding Pink Rice, and Royal Pearl Black Rice, and Carillas Ahumadas, Caviar de Los Huertos and Tolosas de Leon beans and lentils.

Karoun Dairies unveiled four flavors of its Mediterranean-style labne, a yogurt-cheese spread in Lite, Original, Tzatziki and Spicy (with spicy red pepper, garlic and parsley). The company also introduced Blue Isle yogurt dips in Tzatziki, Masala and Hummus flavors.

Cypress Grove, makers of the iconic Humboldt Fog and other fine cheeses, announced its plans to produce individually-sized portions of many of its popular cheeses.

The Italian company Terra d Tuono showed its “Ballsamic” sphere ― a golf ball-sized sphere of solid balsamic vinegar, made possible by a patented new process. The sphere is designed to be grated over many dishes, including pasta, meat and fish, vegetables and salads, cheeses, and fruit, ice cream and desserts.

Biscotti Brothers, makers of traditionally twice-baked biscotti, revealed new packaging for three of its best-selling flavors ― Cranberry Pistachio, Classic Almond and Double Chocolate Chunk. The resealable gusseted bags provide a nine-month shelf life for the biscotti.
Ines Rosales, makers of the traditional Spanish olive-oil tortas, has introduced individually packaged traditional cinnamon cookies, baked with high-oleic sunflower oil. The cookies are light and crisp, sodium free and low in saturated fat.

Sierra Nevada Cheese Company sampled its new Russian-style fresh “farmer cheese,’ with live probiotic cultures. The company suggests using it as a filling for blintzes or in lasagna or filled pasta, cheesecake and other deserts, or simply to spread on toast or bagels.

Marich Chocolates showed its new holiday-flavored cookies and caramels. Candy Cane Caramels offer dark chocolate cloaked in the company’s signature candy cane coating, while its Dark and White Chocolate Gingerbread cookies are covered in white chocolate and dark chocolate marbling.

Sweet Shop USA introduced two new three-ounce chocolate bars in Spicy Peanut or Dark Goji Berry. Both are organic. The company also now offers boxed and individually wrapped singles in Salted Butter Rum Pecan Cluster, Fudge Love Truffle, and Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Carmel, Milk Chocolate Bourbon Caramel, Dark Chocolate Mint Sticks, Milk Chocolate Peca Praline, Milk Chocolate Almond toffee and Dark Almond Sea Salt toffee flavors.

Olli Snacks has introduced new snack packs of Genoa Salami and Calabrese Salami, both including cheese and crackers, and sliced 2-ounce chubs of both Genoa and Calabrese Salamis.

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