Travel Eats: New York City

I’ve spent a lot of time in New York over the years. My trips tend to be hurried, though: I’m in and out for a meeting or there for part of a weekend. Friends who live in New York have gotten used to emails like this: “I’m coming to NYC next Wednesday! Free after 10 PM or before 8 AM on Thursday. Does that work?!”

I gotta hand it to my friends: they’ve made a lot of crazy logistics work. But I’ve been itching to spend some quality time in NYC, so I booked a proper vacation for the end of April. My boyfriend and I spent 5 nights in the city, with a very simple agenda: see friends and family, wander, eat.

I’ve done a pretty good job trying NYC eats over the years, even when it meant running around like a crazy person. Like the time I detoured to Zucker Bakery between meetings, or when I met a friend at Clinton Street Baking Co. for dinner so I could finally try their pancakes, or when I dashed to Dominique Ansel for a frozen s’more on my lunch break.

This time I had the luxury of 5 whole days and a trip buddy who humors my need to try ever pastry in sight. Before we went, I made a list of restaurants and bakeries by neighborhood. Super Type A? Yes! But also very helpful while wandering around!

So without further ado: here are the top 10 things I ate on my last trip to New York City.

IMG_3895Tahini French Toast at Bar BolonatWhen I was researching for our trip, I fell in love with the brunch menu at Bar Bolonat. I couldn’t stop thinking about how awesome Tahini French Toast must be. It was indeed pretty incredible! The french toast itself is nutty, with a somewhat chewy texture. It’s complemented by halvah threads on top, plus a tahini maple syrup and fresh berries. We loved everything at Bar Bolonat, but this was my favorite. The service was fabulous, too…wish I knew our waiter’s name!

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Pine Nut Citrus Babka at Arcade BakeryI was so sad when we finished our slice of Pine Nut Citrus Babka, and wished we’d bought two! This babka was a bit more like a brioche dough, light and airy inside. The mix of citrus with pine nuts was pretty much revelatory, and I’ve been searching for similar recipes since we got home!

IMG_3907Sweet Corn and Pepper Macaron at Confectionary: We stumbled on this chocolate and pastry shop while wandering the East Village. Such a good find! They had a really interesting set of macaron flavors, and I simply had to try this corn and pepper combo. The macaron shell tasted like sweet corn but had a bit of a lingering kick from the peppers. The filling was just the right amount of sweet. I looked up this spot later and learned their treats are vegan!

IMG_4026Beef Hummus at Dizengoff Hummus: I’ve read a lot about Zahav, an Israeli restaurant in Philadelphia, for years. So I was delighted to learn that its chef opened a casual hummus outpost at Chelsea Market. The Beef Hummus was the best hummus I’ve had in a really long time: creamy texture, incredible richness, perfectly spiced beef, chewy pita to dip in there. It tasted different from most hummus I eat, but I couldn’t pinpoint why. So I did a bit of research, and learned that many people attribute the distinct flavor to lots of high-quality tahini. Two more points for tahini!

IMG_4033Tahini Goat Milk Ice Cream at Seed + Mill: While we’re on the topic of tahini, let’s talk about this Tahini Goat Milk Ice Cream from Seed + Mill, also in Chelsea Market. Goat milk makes the ice cream taste fresh, while tahini lends a subtle nutty flavor. I got mine topped with bits of halvah, a sesame confection. It was a really refreshing and flavorful treat.

IMG_4071Spicy Lamb Cumin Noodles at Xi’an Famous Foods I’ve gone out of my way to eat at Xi’an Famous Foods many times over the years, and wanted my boyfriend to learn the wonders of these noodles. They’re perfectly chewy, hand pulled noodles, dripping in chili oil and topped with incredibly flavorful lamb. My boyfriend loved the noodles too, so now we’re determined to find something similar in San Francisco.

IMG_3917Kasha Knish at Yonah Schimmel BakeryThis place is a true gem. Yonah Schimmel has been selling its knishes on the Lower East Side of Manhattan since 1890. 1890!!! Their knishes are a satisfying snack: perfectly cooked, generous on fillings, and a firm exterior.

 

IMG_3961Bird’s Nest at Damascus Bread and Pastry ShopWe happened upon this bakery as we strolled west down Atlantic Avenue toward the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. It’s packed to the brim with breads, pastries and cooking ingredients. I loved the Bird’s Nest, a type of baklava filled with pistachios and drenched in a sweet syrup. We also got delicious spinach pies here.


IMG_4093Beet Lox Bagel at Black Seed Bagels
I’m not a huge bagel person, but that’s largely because they tend to disappoint. A friend had tipped me off to Black Seed a while ago. We made it to their Nolita shop on the last day of our trip, and I’m glad we made it happen! The bagel had a crisp exterior and perfectly chewy interior, and the lox and other toppings were super flavorful.

18121522_10101383003526672_1971040716930476426_o.jpgBlack and White Cookie at Dean and DelucaI’ve tried MANY a NYC black and white over the years, but the cookies at Dean and Deluca always take the proverbial cake. Which is fitting, because the cookie is just the right kind of cakey, with icings that are perfectly balanced (not too sweet, not too bland). I forgot to write down the name of the bakery on the cookie’s label so if you know who sells these to Dean and Deluca…please tell!

And some non-edible recs for your next trip to NYC:

  • Stop by Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks in the East Village. She has an amazing assortment of cookbooks, vintage menus and old signs. Plus, she was a delight to chat with!
  • As we wandered Alphabet City one night, we heard jazz from the sidewalk…and had to check out its source. Rue B is a small bar with awesome live music. We happened upon a jazz jam session, and loved every second of it.
  • The Wyndham Garden Chinatown was a great find. We’d wanted to stay on the Lower East Side but didn’t find a good option that fit our budget. Chinatown is super close to the LES, plus it’s just a hop, skip and jump from Nolita, SoHo, Tribeca, etc. The hotel was clean and well-maintained. It also has a “sky” bar with an incredible view, which was an unexpected bonus!
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My San Francisco Favorites

People often ask me about the best bakeries and ice cream shops in San Francisco. Friends joke that I’m like a walking encyclopedia to San Francisco’s best desserts: name a neighborhood or dessert type, and I’m sure to have a tip. I’m always happy to help other people experience SF’s best. So after quite some time of planning to do this but not actually doing it… I finally built my own San Francisco Treat Map.

This handy map plots out my top picks for baked goods, ice cream and coffee. You’ll find a mix of celebrated gems and places that don’t seem to get much press–but should. You can find the full map at the bottom of this post or over on its dedicated page. Click on the map markers to see menu tips and other notes.

And just in case you don’t feel like clicking all over a map… here’s a quick guide to my San Francisco favorites:

Where to find the best…

Cookies: Nob Hill’s Batter Bakery is my go-to for delicious cookies with a great texture. I love the cherry ginger, and they’re directly responsible for getting me hooked on herbs in cookies (their lavender sea salt shortbread is incredible). They’re known for their “sand angel,” a sort of molasses/snickerdoodle hybrid. Bonus tip: they do a cookie happy hour every day from 3-6 PM.

Croissants: Neighbor Bakehouse is one of my favorite 20160327_105821bakeries in the city, and their croissants are incredible. Imagine layers of the perfect buttery croissant dough, complemented by flavorful fillings. My favorite is the pistachio, which also includes a layer of blackberry jam. Their savory tarts are incredible too. (Review here)

Scones: Arizmendi is a co-op with locations scattered around the Bay Area. I’m particularly partial to their scones: they have the best crusty top and fluffy interior. Their mixed berry scones are my #1 pick. Their menu rotates, so if you’re lucky enough to visit when they’re offering chocolate cherry sourdough, make sure to scoop it up!

IMG_1957.jpgSticky buns, morning buns, etc: Marla Bakery is one of my favorite spots in the city thanks to their delectable baked goods, laid-back atmosphere and stellar brunch. Start your brunch with a sticky bun, or whatever morning pastry is on offer that day. (Review here)

Cake: Alright, my answer here depends on what you’re looking for. Seeking slices of American cake-and-frosting classics? SusieCakes is your place, and you should get the Celebration Cake or red velvet. Looking for more of a Euro-style cake that pairs spongey cake with denser fillings (jam, pastry cream, etc.)? Go to Moscow & Tiblisi Bakery and pick up the Sunshine Cake. And for cupcakes, make your way to Sift Dessert Bar in Pacific Heights, where the almond cupcake makes me swoon.

10474609_10100721491442192_1525715483481751452_nIce cream: Swensen’s opened at the corner of Union and Hyde in 1948. They’ve since expanded into an international chain but this location is the classic, and way old-school. My favorite flavors are the Swiss Orange (chocolate orange) and the peppermint that appears during the holidays.

Gelato: Lush Gelato has a few locations around the Bay Area. Their gelato tastes very fresh and you can tell they use high quality ingredients. They offer a range of classic and edgier flavors. I especially like their cheese flavors: mascarpone, ricotta and the like.

Macarons: Chantal Guillon, without a doubt. They offer everything from chocolate to Persian rose to seasonal flavors like yuzu hazlenut. The shells have just the right amount of crisp, and all the fillings are balanced and delicious.

Bread: The Mill, which gets extra points because their lead baker’s name is actually Josey Baker. Mondays and Wednesdays are pizza nights, so you can grab tonight’s dinner and tomorrow’s bread in the same fell swoop.

IMG_3047.JPGCoffee: I spend a lot of time at coffee shops, and Contraband Coffee Bar is my favorite. I get the Black Market every single time–it’s a medium dark specialty drip. Friends go gaga for their espresso. Contraband also gets bonus points for being the first place I tried a Neighbor Bakehouse pastry!

Avocado toast: Avocado toast is a strangely contentious category in these parts, and my vote goes to Cafe St. Jorge near Bernal Heights. Wheat toast is topped with a generous helping of smashed avocado, chili and lemon. Mmmm.

Spin on s’mores: Yes this deserves its own category, and the honor goes to Dandelion Chocolate in the Mission. Their version includes a homemade graham cracker, marshmallow and chocolate ganache. They toast it to order, too!

Think I’m missing somewhere special? Drop me a line at culturecookies@gmail.com.

The 2016 Baking Roundup

2017 is fresh out the gates! But before we kick off a new year of Sugarsmith, let’s take a look at what happened in 2016. Every year I write an “annual report” to sum up key facts and stats. I started doing the same thing for Sugarsmith last year–except here, it’s all about baking. Since I keep a super detailed log of everything I bake, it’s pretty simple to pull the numbers.

In 2016, I baked 68 times, including 60 new recipes. When I looked back at my 2015 report, I was sort of shocked that I only baked 39 times in 2015. That’s a 74% increase year-over-year! I wondered when all this baking happened, so I took a closer look at the dates in my baking log. Sometimes I bake in spurts: for example, I made 7 recipes for my birthday. But usually, I make one recipe at a time. How did that add up to 68?

Well, up until August I made 33 recipes. From August-December, I made an additional 35. That means I seriously picked up the pace in those final 4 months. And it makes total sense: I switched jobs in August and stopped traveling for work. Of course! If I’m home more, I bake more.

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My baking always skews to cookies and bars, because they’re easiest to transport and easiest to share. Every year I declare I’m going to make more breakfast and more cakes–but then it just doesn’t happen. Let’s hope for a step-change this year, at least.

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I was surprised that my cakes trended toward non-chocolate flavors. But then I remembered those amazing strawberry cupcakes, and the stellar buttermilk cupcakes I still haven’t shared with you (sorry!). I’ll never say no to chocolate in a cake… but I definitely don’t need it, either.

Top Posts on Sugarsmith for 2016 

My Personal 2016 Favorites

2016 Fun Facts 

  • Baking-related events I hosted: 3
  • Times my log mentions bringing baked goods to a social event I was NOT hosting: 17
  • Bags of chocolate chips currently in my cupboard: 10 (whoops)
  • Recipes made where I stuffed one thing into another thing: 10 
  • Baking fails recorded in my log: 6 (that’s 9% of the recipes I made!)
  • Favorite bloggers I got to interview: 1 (Molly Yeh, and it was awesome)

2017 Baking Resolutions 

  • Master my newly acquired springform pan (thanks, Jen!)
  • Play with matcha as an ingredient
  • Stop pantry loading specialty ingredients before I really need them (Only because I lack an actual pantry. If you have one, I strongly encourage pantry loading.)

Thanks for a wonderful year, dear readers! 

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Recipe Round-Up: Pumpkin

Pumpkin is one of my favorite things to bake with. I didn’t even know I liked pumpkin until college, when I started trying all the pumpkin baked goods on menus around town. From pumpkin gooey butter cake to pumpkin pancakes… I was hooked. I fell madly in love with a Pumpkin Pie Concrete at the local frozen custard stand too. Imagine a slice of pie blended INTO smooth vanilla frozen custard. Oh how I miss easy access to that great treat!

I stumbled into a Google rabbit hole yesterday and discovered a lot of canned pumpkin is actually not quite what we imagine. Apparently, some brands use a form of squash that is better for canning and baking, but not exactly the standard “pumpkin” we think of. It appears to be a bit contentious whether these squashes should be classified as “pumpkins” or not.

Squash, pumpkin, whatever the right word: I’m digging it. There’s just something so delicious about the texture pumpkin adds to baked goods, and the hint of flavor. Pumpkin itself is actually not that strong of a flavor in baked goods on its own, so spices usually help elevate the flavor profile to the type of taste experience you expect to have. Below are some of my favorite pumpkin recipes I’ve made in the past… and I already have a ton of recipes lined up for this year!

Oh, and if you’re curious about baking with other kinds of squash: I highly recommend it! I loved these Butternut Squash Cupcakes when I tried them, and have been itching to try this Squash and Cheddar Bread for a realllly long time.

My favorite pumpkin recipes (so far!)

20151031_205653Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter Blondies: This is one of my top recipes on Sugarsmith. It’s basically a simple blondie recipe… but with the Trader Joe’s special edition Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter blended into the batter.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars: One of my perennial fall favorites–I break my “don’t repeat” rule for this one. The perfect blend of spices really makes the pumpkin shine.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding: Having people over for a fall-ish brunch? This bread pudding is super simple and really delightful. You can make your own pumpkin spice mix or buy it at the store to save a step.

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Mini Pumpkin Oreo Pies from Just Jenn. This is her picture, because I made these before I even had a baking blog (!!!!)

Mini Pumpkin Oreo Pies: I made this for Thanksgiving a couple years ago and it was a hit! Muffin tins are lined with an Oreo crust, then you pour a pumpkin filling on top. It’s a great blend of chocolate and pumpkin!

Pumpkin Cookies with Brown Butter Icing: The brown butter icing makes these pretty rich, but it’s a great complement to the soft pumpkin cookies below.

Pumpkin Cornbread: If you’re looking for something more savory, this pumpkin cornbread will hit the spot. It’s a really nice accompaniment to stews or you could even eat it for breakfast!

Have pumpkin recipes you think I should add to my baking to-do list? Let me know below!

Travel Eats: Portland

I’ve found that one of the best ways to reset my brain is to wander a new city or neighborhood. Wandering provides the perfect mix of adrenaline, curiosity and relaxation. As I explore, my brain is so wrapped up in discovery mode that it forgets stressors and to-do lists.

I switched jobs recently and wanted to reset my brain a bit before heading into something new. Portland, Oregon has long been on my mind as a potential vacation destination. I’d heard such good things about its scenery, its people… and of course, its food. So when I realized I’d have a few days between jobs, I booked a rather last-minute trip and finally got to see what Portland’s all about.

We spent 2.5 days wandering every neighborhood we could, and sampling every dish we could. We also rented a car so we could drive to Multnomah Falls, the second highest waterfall in the U.S.

I’d compiled our list of “must dos” based on lots of advice from friends, websites like Eater and a bit of Yelping. We found so many delightful spots on our trip, but today I’m just going to share the very top eats. This was supposed to be a top 5  list… but I couldn’t narrow it down to 5! So, here are my top 8 places to eat in Portland:

1. Chizu 

IMG_0636 Chizu focuses on cheese, and its menu is mighty impressive. You can pick cheeses by the ounce to make your own plate or order “omnikase” style and let the staff pick cheeses on your behalf. We ordered $20 of cheese plus some duck charcuterie and were incredibly pleased with what we got. The platter included an awesome mix of hard and soft cheeses, served with accompaniments like honey and dried fruit. The staffe explained the back story for every single cheese we ordered. Plus the staff was super friendly and chatted with us about recommendations for our stay.

2. Hat Yai

IMG_0870Hat Yai is all over the “best new restaurant” lists for Portland right now, and the hype is definitely substantiated. We loved our meal of meat skewers, curry, roti and grilled corn. Everything was so flavorful, and so satisfying. We stopped here on our way back from the Falls and it was the perfect post-hike dinner!

 

3. MÅURICE

IMG_0907Maurice calls itself a “luncheonette” and is only open until early evening, so make sure you stop here for lunch! It’s adorable inside, and its food is simple but delicious. We got a wonderful shaved carrot salad, delicious scones and yummy open face sandwiches.

 

 

4. Shalom Y’All

IMG_0632.JPGThis recommendation came from my mom (hi Mom!). I love falafel, and Shalom Y’Alls take on falafel was truly incredible. Spiced with sumac, accented by the unusual additions of walnuts and feta – this falafel sandwich keeps calling to me in my dreams. I usually find falafel options disappointing and really wish I had a Shalom Y’All in the Bay Area! The PDX location is in a “food hall” with several other local favorites.

5. Nuvrei

IMG_0900This Pearl District bakery has the most beautiful display of varied pastries and croissants. I opted for the Kare Pan, a brioche bun stuffed with Japanese-style curry. This thing was SO GOOD.

 

 

 

 

 

6. The Meadow

IMG_0939This shop specializes in salts, chocolates and bitters. So in other words, it’s a foodie’s dream. I snapped up awesome saffron salt, and resisted the urge to buy every kind of chocolate they had in stock. There are two locations in Portland and one in NYC, plus an online store!

 

 

 

 

7. Cheese & Crack Snack Shop

IMG_0783I found this shop by Yelping “pickles” and man, am I glad we visited! We stopped here for snacks on our way to the Falls. We got a “cheese plate to go” that had a great selection of cheeses, crackers and spreads like honey and mustard. We ended up eating this overlooking a vista point. Turns out that cheese + vista points = the perfect combo.

IMG_06148. Simple Local Coffee/Sterling Coffee Roasters

Ok, I’m cheating a little, but both these shops serve the same brand of coffee. First we bumped into Simple Local Coffee, a charming shop downtown that serves Sterling Coffee. A couple days later, we sought out Sterling’s own shop over in the city’s Alphabet District. I drink my coffee black, and loved their flavorful roasts. Fun fact: there are remnants of an old tunnel in the lobby adjacent to Simple Local Coffee, complete with old tools. Pretty cool!

 

 

Here are just a few more snapshots of our wonderful trip. If you’re ever headed to Portland, let me know. I’ll give you all the dirt on different neighborhoods, eats, etc.!

 

(This entry is cross-posted on my other blog, Culture Cookies

Neighbor Bakehouse (San Francisco)

This is another story of my coffee addiction fueling a new bakery addiction. One of my favorite San Francisco coffee shops is this little place called Contraband. It’s in a cozy corner of Nob Hill, and it’s the type of place that just oozes a community vibe. It’s small, but always feels lively, and has huge windows bringing in some of the city atmosphere. My boyfriend and I spend quite a bit of time there- in fact, I’m nursing their delicious Black Market blend right now.

A year or so ago I tried one of their pastries and was so wowed by it, I immediately asked where it came from. It was this delicious savory tart, with the perfect blend of vegetables and cheese on top. They told me it came from a place called Neighbor Bakehouse in the Dogpatch neighborhood. I added Neighbor to my San Francisco “to do” list… but somehow never made it there. Fast forward to last year, when I moved closer to Contraband and started going there more. My boyfriend has gotten hooked on their ham and cheese morning bun, while I’m hooked on seasonal iterations of that delicious savory tart. And so last week we decided it was time to right a wrong, and finally made it to Neighbor.

We planned an entire Sunday Funday, with Neighbor slotted as the first stop. Between us, we got 5 different things: the Everything Croissant, the Twice-Baked Pistachio Blackberry Croissant, the Ginger Pull-Apart, the Mushroom Tart, and a croissant that had smoked trout/cream cheese inside. Yes, 5 pastries for 2 of us- we’re such diligent researchers!

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Inside the Pistachio Blackberry Croissant

We thought everything was wonderful, but we did have some favorites. My favorite was definitely the Pistachio Croissant. It had this great crunchy texture on the outside, but perfect buttery layers on the inside. Most nut croissants have pastry cream inside, so I expected a pistachio cream but was actually pleasantly surprised to find that the filling was more like a paste. The employee we spoke to explained that they mix the pistachio cream with a type of flour, so it creates a distinct texture. They then lather in blackberry jam, too. It is the perfect treat: a standout croissant plus this unique blend of nut flavor and fruit flavor. We couldn’t stop raving about it the whole day after we finished!

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The Mushroom Tart and Smoked Trout Croissant

My boyfriend’s favorite was his Mushroom Tart. Neighbor does base doughs so well. And while that may sound like a given to you, it isn’t- a lot of bakeries disguise mediocre base doughs with lots of add-ins or other flavors. You can taste the quality in these pastries, because every bite tastes outstanding. Whether you get a bite with Mushrooms or just the pastry base, it wows you. I realize this sounds very hyperbolic but trust me- you have to try their flaky doughs to see what I mean. I think I liked it more than Arcade in NYC, actually.

After finishing our pastries, we walked 5 miles wandering around San Francisco. Let’s just say that makes up for eating 5 pastries, ok?

If you’re ever in SF, I recommend checking out Neighbor. Make sure to plan ahead: they’re only open Wednesday-Sunday, and they close by noon. Their space is more bakery than cafe, so they only have benches outdoors rather than indoor seating. We enjoyed sitting there on a lovely SF morning, and found it very relaxing. Neighbor is actually really accessible by car and transit here, so if you’re visiting, you could definitely make it work. I suggest going there for an early breakfast, and then spending some time exploring the pleasant residential/commercial streets nearby. You can also walk all the way north on 3rd until you hit the ballpark; then take Embarcadero the rest the way up toward downtown. By the time you get to Market Street you’ll be ready for lunch- and then the goodies at the Ferry Building are perfectly positioned for your next meal!

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So much more to try…

We will definitely head back to Neighbor to try more of their great assortment of savory and sweet items. In the meantime, since we couldn’t make it there today… we got a morning bun and croissant at Contraband! The combo of Neighbor pastries and Contraband coffee is a marvelous way to start your day.

Info: Neighbor Bakehouse, 2343 3rd St. San Francisco, CA 94107

Hours: Wednesday-Sunday, 6:30 AM – 12 PM 

Fun facts: If you’re worried they will run out of something specific- order ahead. You can email orders of any size to pick up, as long as you give 72 hours notice. We didn’t end up doing this but I did consider it since I really wanted to try that Pistachio Croissant! 

Baking Inspiration from the Fancy Food Show

I had the joy of attending the Winter Fancy Food Show last week. This biannual trade show is produced by the Specialty Food Association, an industry org that connects manufacturers, buyers and food professionals. Officially, I was at the Show for my day job as a brand strategy consultant. I work with many packaged food clients, so I always try to stay on top of industry trends. Of course, as a food geek, I was downright giddy about getting to attend a trade show. The show featured a mix of newer and established brands, spanning everything from mayonnaise to pasta to gourmet honey. Some of the products were basically what we’re used to seeing, e.g. potato chips. And then there were products that are just now breaking into U.S. markets, like edamame pasta and cricket chips.

I only saw one teeny section of the show, but even in that small sample I noticed a marked shift in what’s on offer for American consumers. There is a good writeup of the show’s macro trends here on the Specialty Food Association’s website. I agree with their takeaways and also noticed a big shift in how people are talking about their products: lots of allusions to “better for you,” implying improved versions of something we’re already used to (e.g. chips made from alternate grains). Lots of “controlled decadence” verbiage labeling bite-sized or single-serving desserts (e.g. 100 calorie brownies). And, of course, numerous references to “small batch,” “artisanal” etc., which is the basis for a different blog post I plan to write.

Today, I want to talk about something more personal: how the Show affected my baking scheming for 2016. So without further ado, here are some notes on what I saw, and how I expect that to trickle into my baking this year.

20160120_064012.jpgBolder flavors and unusual combinations: The U.S. market has seen great growth in “innovative” flavors over the past several years, and it’s going to keep growing. I have always been a sucker for “intriguing” flavors in my desserts and am so excited that these bolder flavors are going more mainstream. I tried a delicious Bourbon Pepper Caramel Corn from The Art of Caramel and now am brainstorming ways to meld those flavors in a balanced baked good- I’m thinking cookies might be the right fit. I grabbed a sample packet of the Spice Hunter’s Coriander Lime blend, which is probably going to make its way into a quickbread of some sort. I also have been thinking up ways to use Salted Caramel Fig Spread and Guava Jam (I’d already been thinking about guava since I went to Brazil, but trying the delicious guava paste from Guayeco Foods made me think about it more!)

20160120_064105.jpgTurning up the heat: Spicy and hot flavors have been growing in popularity the last few years. I saw many products that incorporated Sriracha, chili and peppers. I actually can’t handle spicy food- you should see my face when I try to eat spicy Indian curries. But: I love a spicy kick to my baked goods and really enjoy things like chipotle as a spice in my cookies, brownies and cakes. I am determined to find a way to bake with the Smoked Chili Honey I picked up from Gran Luchito. I also grabbed a delicious spicy chocolate bar from Wild Ophelia, which inspired me to bake with actual peppers.

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From the Specialty Food Association website

Flavored oils and sugars: I saw a lot of flavored oils and sugars on offer at the show. Much more than I see at the grocery store, which makes me hope these sorts of products will be coming to mass supermarkets in the coming years. I was particularly inspired by the Blood Orange Olive Oil Brownie baking kit I saw from Sutter Buttes. Personally, I’ll pick up a bottle of their Blood Orange Olive Oil and try a from-scratch brownie recipe rather than using the kit. Still, I love and appreciate their baking kit line, because it brings unique flavor combos to home bakers of all sorts and stripes. Olive oil is great in baked goods and I am excited to see what added flavor comes from their flavored oils.

Veggie substitutes: I noticed a TON of snacks riffing off vegetables (and fruits, too). My favorite sample was actually from a line made for toddlers: simple snacks made from real fruits and vegetables with just a slight amount of oil, and some light frying to crisp it up. But I also saw “veggie versions” of adult snack foods like chips and snack bars. I keep saying I’m going to bake with more vegetables but haven’t actually fulfilled that pledge. Let 2016 be the year that I put veggies in my baked goods!

That’s it for now- even though I could write pages and pages about what I saw at the Show. Keep an eye out for recipes stemming from this inspirational trip!

Note: this post is cross-posted over on my other blog, Culture Cookies. That blog tends to focus on marketing and cultural themes so if you’re interested in those areas, check it out!