It was only two years ago that Nafi's Condiments and Sauces was launched in New York City, but the journey that led to Nafissatou Camara's jumpstarting her business began many years before.
'food artisans' on Serious Eats
Impressed by the texture and nutritional value of her workout buddy's roasted chickpea snack, Linda Kim began experimenting with making her own. Eventually, she started a company, Pulse, to sell them.
Since the last time Bridi's charcuterie was featured in this column, Scott Bridi says Brooklyn Cured has shown a steady increase in business. "We have systems in place," he says, "We're ready to do more."
Hariclia Makoulis came to the United States from Greece as a young adult, but her culinary heart remained in her homeland. So when she started a company to sell her granola in 2000, she named it Ambrosial Granola after the mythical food of the ancient Greek gods.
When Sara Marshall moved from Texas to New Jersey in 2000, she was disappointed by the Mexican food options available in the Garden State. So she started making her own, and got into the habit of bringing Tex-Mex style salsa with her to parties and giving jars of it as gifts. Soon after, her company was born.
When Ann and Janet Chung were growing up in Texas in the '70s, "being Korean was unusual." So the sisters are thrilled that Korean food is gaining a foothold in mainstream food culture. "When we see kimchi in an American supermarket, it just knocks our socks off," Ann says.
The idea for the Right Tasty vinaigrette company was born when Josh Mizrahi pickled some ramps and one of his coworkers, Duncan Adams, used the pickling liquid to dress his salad. They decided to develop a ramp vinaigrette, and launched the product at Smorgasburg.
After spending time in Thailand and Japan, Nayana Pornchewangkul, and Victor Yee returned to the States and started looking for a good source for the fresh, unadulterated soy milk they'd enjoyed in Asia.
"I use our harissa on everything and anything savory," says Mina Kallamni of Mina Harissa. She's created a special kind of the pepper paste for the American market, one which is ready to be used as a dip or sauce straight from the jar.
Scott Ketchum and Steve Gonzalez were trying to raise money to open a pasta restaurant and market when they realized that few New York-based companies were making dried pasta for the retail market. So they started one.
After a German friend complained about not being able to find good soft pretzels in New York, Alexis Faraci decided to make them herself. Now she works out of a commercial kitchen on City Island to sell her goods to the pretzel-starved masses.
Greenpoint Trading Co. got its start when Evan Hoffman got a job cold-calling for a bulk wholesale spice company. Eventually, he transitioned into sales, then started his own wholesale spice company, Brooklyn Spice Co., with Kimmee Arndt.
Among the fifty-some local food artisans I talked with in 2012, there were some real standouts, products I purchase again for myself and as gifts. Some of them are straight-out-of-the-package delicious, while others play a shining supporting role in preparing other foods, but they're all pretty spectacular.
"People like things that are done illegally," Diane DiMeo says of her decision to name her pickle and condiment company Bootleg Farms.
Meghan Daly of Daly Pie attributes the popularity of her pie crust to two things: she uses all butter, no shortening or lard, and she does everything by hand, with no help from a food processor or mixer. That way, she says, it's easier to make sure there are different size bits of butter in the dough, which is what makes the crust extra flaky. "It really has that handmade quality," she adds.
Whether you're looking for an office grab-bag gift or a substantial present for someone you adore, there's something from New York's food artisans that'll meet your needs.
With smart variations on old family recipes, Butter + Love makes cookies primed for gift season.
Three weeks later, how are New York's food artisans recovering from Hurricane Sandy? Some are getting back on their feet, but for others there's still a long road to recovery.