The Life of Spice

Vermont Spice with Courtney and Cara!

Events, News | |

This month we sit down with Cara Tobin and Courtney Contos, good friends and clients of ours up in Burlington Vermont. Later in May Lior will be joining them for a spice dinner at Honey Road and a spice blending demo at Chef Contos.

collage 1

Thank you two for taking the time. Can you each please tell us a bit about yourself and your business?

Cara – Totally! I’m the Chef/Owner of Honey Road Restaurant. We are an Eastern Mediterranean restaurant located on historic Church St. in downtown Burlington. We serve mezze style dishes that are inspired by the local produce, meats and dairy of Vermont. I started learning about eastern Mediterranean food while working at Oleana in Cambridge, Ma. I fell in love with the cuisine after my first trip to Turkey in 2011. It was life changing.

Courtney – Absolutely! I am the chef and owner of Chef Contos Kitchen & Store in Shelburne Vermont. We offer over 100 cooking classes a year and never repeat one. Named one of the best schools in the world by Food & Wine! The school is attached to a chef curated kitchen store that I always say is similar to William Sonoma’s rich aunt in Brooklyn!


Mishmish Cup by Karen Fu

News, Recipes | |

This month we sit down with Karen Fu, Bar Manager at Studio at the Freehand hotel here in NYC.


Congrats on the opening! We were excited to hear you are using one of our blends in a cocktail and wanted to hear more about it and about you.

Thank you! Honored and happy to answer questions.

The Mish Mish Cup is such an inventive riff on a sour. Did the blend inspire the drink? And were there any ideas that didn’t make the final cut but were still interesting?

The goal of the Mish Mish Cup was to create a whiskey sour that challenged the classic with a curveball, while remaining crushable. The arc of the cocktail started with Torres 15 Brandy and Tamworth Distilling Von Humboldt’s Tamarind Cordial which go great together. From there, I weaved the inspired theme of the Studio cocktail menu of color and fresh juices…together with the all-day eatery concept providing cold-pressed juices, gazoz, and delicious drinks that could seamlessly transition from day to night.  Yellow bell pepper juice for vegetal acidity and Jameson whiskey for the heather notes came into play, but it was difficult to reach a balancing point. Then I visited La Boîte, and was introduced to the Mishmish blend, which led to the addition of ginger, lemon, and honey to round out the cocktail, with crystallized honey and saffron spice notes on the rim for the ultimate finish.


Wow! Mind sharing the recipe in case people want to try their hand at it at home?

No problem here you go:

Mish Mish Cup

1 teaspoon Ginger Syrup
.75 oz Honey Syrup
.5 oz Lemon Juice
.75 oz Yellow Bell Pepper Juice
2.75 oz Mish Batch (.75 oz Tamworth Tamarind, 1 oz Torres 15-Year, 1 oz Jameson)

Method: Shake, Fine Strain

Glass: Leopold Coupe

Garnish: half-rim of Mish Mish blend: 1 part white sugar, 1 part salt, 1 part La Boite Mishmish No. 33 (Crystallized Honey, Saffron, Lemon)

Do you have a process for coming up with new cocktails and how do the parts come together? For example balancing the need to include a particular ingredient with the more literary goal of inspiring an emotion, place, or memory. Walk us through?

The process starts with a wireframe of loose objectives like classic cocktail category, ingredients, or the spirit that serves as the base.  The theme of this particular project was abstractly COLOR, so as to not be restricted by parameters as I tend to overthink things. I started with fresh juices, and then went from there. Our eight cocktails provide a range of low ABV to spirit forward old-fashioned and martini riffs that can easily translate from afternoon tipple to party time when the sun goes down. Definitely am inspired with flavors and spices from memory of memorable dishes, and definitely associate places with aforementioned inspirations. I don’t necessarily factor emotion into the creative process, as I believe a well-balanced, well-nuanced drink should provide guests drinking it with evocative memories from whatever slate they may draw from.  As far as all the other parts, that’s just playing around with research and development and application of technical processes like infusions, sous vide, macerations, etc.

Any other favorite cocktails that prominently feature spices or spice blends?

PDT’s Spice Plum with Bank Golden 7-Island Rum, Clear Creek Slivovitz, Averell Damson Gin, and Cane Syrup with the La Boîte #26 Spice rim with Demerara sugar is a favorite!  Also love using Aleppo pepper, sugar, salt blends for rims, along with anything that’s blended with smoked salt.

Describe a perfect day off.

A perfect day off consists of sleep, Fierce Grace or Bikram yoga class, spending time outside, a scrumptious meal, and watching a fantastic movie or reading an awesome book– simply getting lost in a relaxing yet stimulating day.

What’s a dream you have that you’d like to realize in the near future?

Reaching life-work balance after these few months dedicated to marathon opening hours.  Traveling to Taiwan, Corsica, or Oaxaca in the coming months. Taking a trip to Los Angeles and seeing if I could envision living there.  Coming up with a summer menu that is streamlined and easy in execution, but also is considered innovative and crushable.

What’s one of the best things you’ve done that you never want to do again?

Haha I have a few: recreationally dance pointe, hula-hoop on cinder blocks of a Chinatown rooftop for an hour for a Christian Jankowski art project, chronically twist my weak ankles, and anything to do with surgery that is complicated for the female reproductive system.

Nice! Thanks so much!

Follow Karen for more updates and go say hi over at Studio

unnamed (2)
instagramKaren Fu

Karen Fu is a Metuchen, New Jersey born,  now New York City resident of 15 years.  She took up bartending to supplement writing, inspired by the likes of Kerouac to sustain the lifestyle of both professions after attending Barnard College.  She struck lucky to be on the staffs of PDT and NoMad Hotel when on the receiving end of the James Beard Outstanding Bar Award, respectively, has bartended/managed at other excellent venues like The Happiest Hour/Slowly Shirley, Mayahuel, Donna Cocktail Club.  She is currently the bar director of newly opened Studio for Happy Cooking at Freehand New York.  When not immersed in the bar world, KFu is found practicing yoga, rediscovering hidden treasures in the city, and catching up with the feminist wiles of catpack. 

Voyager at Williams Sonoma

News | |

Together with Williams-Sonoma, chef Eric Ripert and La Boite’s Lior Lev Sercarz are bringing back their collaborative line of spice blends, the Voyager Collection, just in time for spring. This month we talk to Eric and Lior about them.


Thank you two for taking the time this month to sit down with us and share about the new direction your collaboration has taken.
Can you tell us a bit more about the blends that people can now purchase in store at Williams Sonoma?
Lior – After more than about 4 years we are very excited to partner with Williams Sonoma and share 5 of our voyager collection blends with cooks around the country. They can be used to elevate everyday cooking and give a fun twist to familiar recipes.
Eric – In selecting five blends to share with Williams-Sonoma, we want to give the home cook an exploration of our Voyager Collection and inspire them to play with the unique flavors to create new dishes to share with their friends and families.


Spice Dinner at Tertulia

Events, News | |

We’re having a four course spice dinner with our friends at Tertulia this month and participating in their En Rama series, which pairs small plates with beautiful sherries.


Hey Nick and Dana, thanks for taking the time to sit down with us this month! En Rama sounds like a great event and we’re happy to be collaborating with you guys.

First off, can you tell us a little bit more about the series? When did it start? What was the initial impetus for getting it going?
This series began in the summer of 2016 with partner Dana Staley at Tertulia, a few months after I visited Jerez for the first time. On the plane home I thought to myself, “I have to get involved. I have to work with this wine beyond just being passionate about consuming it! ” I played around with the idea of a sherry bar for years, and already had thought of a great name, En Rama. I then thought a pop-up would be more sustainable at this time in my life…it also is a concept that can be portable. I’m a touring musician as well, so the idea of traveling with wine and doing ‘tours’ or ‘gigs’ is familiar and appealing to me, and it’s a dream to combine both music and sherry. En Rama is my favorite style of sherry, and also thought that it not only describes a style, but embodies a philosophy both literally and figuratively that can translate to the world of hospitality and creativity: unfiltered, or, in other words, pure. Straight forward. Straight from the source. Elemental.