The Life of Spice

Cara, Honey Road, and the new Cara Blend!

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This month we sit down with Cara Tobin, owner of Honey Road in Burlington Vermont, to find out more about her and her Cara blend, which we are proud to now offer at retail!

Thanks again for taking the time, can you tell us a bit more about your journey? How’d you end up where you are today, and what are a couple steps along the way that had the biggest impact on your life?

Oh man, my journey…my culinary career has been a 20-year adventure that started in a pizza restaurant in Hanover, NH, and has taken me across the country and all over the world. I grew up in California but moved east when I was in high school. I got my first job in a professional kitchen, on the hot line, at 17, and never looked back. The adrenaline rush of it really hooked me. When I was young, cooking was a big part of my family. Everyone either cooked or talked about food. So the thought of it being something I could do as a profession was awesome and felt natural.

Growing up and cooking in California gave me a great appreciation for fresh local produce and in some ways a more Mediterranean style for cooking, though I didn’t really realize it at the time. It wasn’t until I started working at Oleana in Cambridge, Ma with Chef Ana Sortun that I started learning about and appreciating Mediterranean cuisine, especially the eastern side of the Mediterranean, and the use of spice. I was fascinated with the flavors, the traditions and the culture. I started traveling so I could try the dishes in their original form. I went to places like Turkey, Morocco, and most recently Lebanon. It blew my mind! When I started forming the ideas for my restaurant, Honey Road, I knew that these were the flavors and ideas that I wanted to cook with.

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Gil Avital – Wine Classes @ La Boîte

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This month we sit down with our friend Gil Avital to hear a bit more about his background and a new class here at La Boîte, An Introduction to Wine and Spices.

Thank you Gil, can you please tell us a little bit more about yourself; how did you become an expert on wine?

First, I don’t think of myself an “expert” on wine. I fell in love with wine when I tasted my first red Burgundy back in my 20’s. Wine combines everything I love and enjoy about life: The good people who make it and their unique family history; The good people you share a glass/bottle with; and the good food you drink the wine with. Aside from taking a Sommelier course in order to learn the basics, my wine education came from learning on the job as a wine buyer and educator, and working in top NY restaurants alongside great chefs. I learn something new everyday through reading, visiting wine regions, vineyard sites, listening to growers & winemakers, and most importantly tasting, tasting, tasting!!! Knowledge is important but accepting we’ll never know everything is what makes it fun and exciting for me.

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Michael Laiskonis – Recolte Desert Bar

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It’s been 3(!) years since we last caught up with our friend Michael Laiskonis. His newest venture is a dessert bar on the Upper West Side at Récolte.

© Hon Tung

1. Congrats on opening the dessert bar at Récolte, can you let us know a little bit more about the concept?

Thank you! I’ve always loved working in the medium of fine dining level plated desserts, and although some of the consulting projects I’ve been involved after leaving Le Bernardin touch that world, I liked the idea of getting back into the scene and doing it under my own name. We’re essentially turning the retail space over in the evening after the bakery closes, creating a different atmosphere for a seated three-course dessert experience. We wanted to offer a high-level product in the plate, but in a relaxed, casual environment. Most of all, it gives me a fun opportunity to both play with new ideas and to bring back some personal favorites from my past repertoire.

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Primonition and Primo’s Peppers

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Troy and Kara are the duo behind Primo’s Peppers, creators of the 7 Pot Primo pepper and Primonition, a new verde style hot sauce made using La Boîte spices.

© Romero & Romero Photography

We’re excited to talk with you as you’re the first hot sauce maker we’ve supplied spices to. What had you choose us?

Several years ago my wife and I had the pleasure of meeting Lior here in Lafayette, Louisiana. In the 11th hour, our friend Toby Rodriguez (Lache Pas Boucherie, “Cajun Country” No Reservations, “Mardi Gras” Parts Unknown, etc.) asked if he could bring thirteen or so folks and a film crew to our backyard for a pepper garden show and tell. You see, Toby is an absolute torchbearer for Cajun culture, and also somewhat of a Cajun matchmaker…he’s great at identifying the strengths, passions, and expertise of various “personalities” in Acadiana and sharing them with would be outsiders looking in. Since I’m known around here as the “local pepper aficionado,” I got pulled into the party…and the next day I ended up talking peppers and passion with a world famous Manhattan spice guru and executives from Tabasco and Popeyes Fried Chicken! Everyone hit it off….My wife and I were invited to the beautiful McIlhenny Avery Island Marsh House for dinner. The Popeyes folks were having a spice research and development retreat at this site. Toby and a few local friends cooked up some great Cajun-influenced chicken dishes…Louie and Andre Michot (Lost Bayou Ramblers) played Cajun classics on the fiddle and accordion…NOLA’s Poppy Tooker held court….the drinks flowed like the Mississippi!

With a mutual admiration and love for each other’s products and expertise, Lior and I have kept in touch ever since. Over the years we’ve sent our hot sauce and pepper jellies to New York, and he has sent his wonderful spice books, spice blends, and even a great Espelette pepper ristra from the Basque region….still one of the coolest gifts I’ve ever received. The short answer to your questions is: There is no one in our opinion that knows more about quality spices than La Boite…..Besides, when you know the folks running the company are also outstanding human beings, the choice for us is a simple one.

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