The Life of Spice

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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Custom Abe Fisher Spices

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It’s been 2 1/2 years since we last caught up with Yehuda Sichel, executive chef and partner at Philadelphia’s Abe Fisher. Since then Lior and Yehuda have cooked together at the inaugural Maccabi games culinary competition, and we’ve produced a line of spices just for Abe Fisher.

© Alexandra Hawkins

Thanks for taking the time to talk with us and share a couple recipes. Can you first let us know about the three blends and the inspiration behind them?

Of course! The Pastrami spice was inspired by our signature dish at Abe Fisher, the Montreal Smoked Short Ribs. We wanted to make a simple spice for making any smoked meat taste like pastrami. As for the the Goulash, that spice is three types of paprika and dried tomato. It’s actually kind of funny – I never ate goulash growing up. But when Mike, Steve and I went to Hungary back in 2011, goulash was everywhere. I took the experience to heart and started to incorporate that flavor into the dishes that I make here as soon as we got home and haven’t looked back. And then Everything Bagel spice – the “everything bagel” is the king of bagels. It’s the pepperoni pizza of bagels. We use it as everyday seasoning, and actually most often for seasoning fish.

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