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Food Artisans: Empire Mayonnaise

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[Photograph: Elizabeth Valleau]

A disappointing fish dinner saved by the delicious lime mayonnaise that accompanied it sparked a business idea for chef Sam Mason and designer Elizabeth Valleau. "There was no really delicious, fancy, gourmet mayonnaise company," Valleau says. And now there is. Empire Mayonnaise launched earlier this year, and rather than start out slowly, they hit the ground running with a rather staggering 25 flavors.

The most popular flavors include smoked paprika, black garlic, red chili, lime pickle, and lemon extra virgin olive oil, which Valleau says is the closest flavor they have to "regular" mayo—though, since the lemon is infused into the oil prior to emulsification, it's extra lemony. Other options include curry, fennel, yuzu kosho, wasabi, black cumin, and harissa. In addition, they offer limited-edition premium flavors, incorporating exotic or expensive ingredients like white or black truffles, or substituting eggs from emus, ducks, ostriches, or quail for the "happy local chickens" whose eggs are used in the other flavors.

"It's exciting how passionate people are about mayonnaise," Valleau says; "I love it when people tell me they never knew mayo could taste so good."

Mason adds, "We try to give our customers little tips on how to best use the flavors. For example, bright flavors like chorizo or pistachio stand up well to tuna salad or in deviled eggs. More delicate flavors like chervil or tomato are really special with chicken or raw vegetables."

Both Mason and Valleau welcome what she calls "the opportunity to show people how delicious mayonnaise can be," an opportunity that will be broadened with the next planned phase of the business: a retail space. Valleau confirms that they're looking for a storefront, though mayo fans are left guessing for now about when and to where to plan their pilgrimage.

For now, though, find Empire Mayonnaise at Smorgasburg on Saturdays and the Brooklyn Flea in Williamsburg on Sundays, or anytime at EmpireMayo.com.

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