Meet & Eat: Liz Gutman and Jen King of Liddabit Sweets
What do you get when you cross two pastry chefs, high quality local ingredients, a dash of creativity, sugar, and chocolate? Liddabit Sweets. Liz Gutman and Jen King have been taking some of the finest foods in the New York food world and incorporating them into irresistable tasty treats. If you haven't had one of their Beer & Pretzel Caramels yet, read on and find out where to get them—we promise you'll be hooked!
How did the two of you meet and decide to start Liddabit? We met in the French Culinary Institute's pastry program; we became friends, and then realized we were a very efficient team in the kitchen. As far as Liddabit goes, it was more or less by accident. We had this idea of starting a business together—maybe a cafe or bakery—someday, meaning five or so years in the future. "Five or so years" turned into "now" once we came up with the ideas for the candy bars and started selling at the Brooklyn Flea.
You use predominantly local ingredients. Tell us about some of the purveyors you work with. We're so incredibly lucky to be where and when we are right now. Everyone in the food scene, especially Brooklyn—but really all over the Northeast—is insanely generous and open to new ideas. We work with Brooklyn Brewery, Salvatore Bklyn, Ronnybrook, Martin's Pretzels, Taza Chocolate, Andrew's Local Honey, and Warwick Valley Winery (makers of Doc's Draft Hard Cider)—along with various CSAs, other local purveyors, and various friends in restaurants, catering and bakeries. Where else could we go to cheesemakers who just say, "You're going to put it in a caramel? Cool. How much do you need?"
What were some of the first products you ever created? The Snacker was the catalyst for the whole thing. The idea was to reverse-engineer a mass-produced candy bar—mostly just to see if we could do it. (We're gluttons for punishment like that.) Luckily, the result was delicious, and we came up with a couple original ideas ("The King," the Lime-In-The-Coconut), and unearthed and tweaked a few classic recipes (honeycomb candy, brittle)... and we were on our way.
What are your top sellers? The Beer & Pretzel Caramels and the Sea Salt Caramels, easily. We weren't even going to do a sea salt, since we assumed people would think it was really boring; but back in the day, there was a batch of Snacker caramel that set up before we could put the nuts in, so we just sprinkled some salt on it, cut it, and wrapped it. It sold out in a couple of hours. Out of the bars, "The King" still reigns supreme.
Do each of you have a personal favorite?
JEN: I love the beer and pretzel, mostly because I don't make them. I also love the stout-gingerbread caramels; and nothing beats a freshly made King bar.
How do you come up with new ideas? It's really difficult for us not to come up with new ideas. All we do is come up with new ideas; we just don't have the time to make all of them. An article recently came out that mentioned about seven new things we just happened to be talking about at the time, like we always do; we were sort of horrified when it was printed, because now we feel like we actually have to make all that stuff! It's tough to find the time for serious R&D. That reminds us—we're always looking for interns.
Tell us about where we can find your goodies. Any plans for your own store in the works? All the info is on the website (www.liddabitsweets.com), where our online store just launched; but you can also find us at in Williamsburg at Marlow & Daughters, Bedford Cheese Shop and Spuyten Duyvil Grocery; in Fort Greene at Greene Grape Provisions; in Manhattan at Northern Spy Food Co. and Lucy's Whey in Chelsea Market; and in Cambridge, Mass at Formaggio Kitchen. We're also selling through Christmas at the Brooklyn Flea's holiday market, Gifted, which is on East 4th and Lafayette in Manhattan. We'd love to have our own store at some point! Ice cream and baked goods will definitely happen once we find a space; we're hoping to start looking soon.
Does working around sweets make you lose your sweet tooth at all?
LIZ: Hell no! I have a gnarly sweet tooth. Jen is constantly giving me older product to "give away" to my roommates and my friends; most of it doesn't make it that far. When we used to store everything in my apartment, I was constantly making up excuses about the missing candy bars.
What are your favorite local hangouts or places you might be considered a regular? The staff at La Superior makes fun of us, we're there so often. It's almost exactly halfway between our apartments, so we meet there whenever we can for amazing quesadillas, gorditas, and agua fresca. And serious business talk, of course.
Best late-night eats? Snacky, on Grand between Driggs and Bedford. They're open till 1 or later every night, and when we get done with a long day of production you can almost certainly find us there, slurping down udon with beer and sake chasers. Zero pretension; solid, cheap food; and oftentimes a Miyazaki film playing on the TV over the bar.
Last dessert or confection you tasted that knocked your socks off?
JEN: Hmmm... I guess that would be the champagne granita with pineapple foam at Per Se.
LIZ: I recently had a lovely chevre cheesecake with Concord grape sorbet at Dressler. Simple, just goaty enough, not too sweet.
Everyone has a go-to person they call for restaurant/bar recommendations. Who's yours?
LIZ: Honestly, Jen. She always has about five suggestions for any possible place and occasion.
What's the best recommendation she has given you?
LIZ: Jen suggested Brooklyn Star for dinner a few months back; now I'm hooked on the fried pig tails.