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Eating healthy should still be delicious.
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by Kate Malin
Only two ingredients go into MixedMade’s Trees Knees Spicy Syrup: Grade A maple syrup and chili peppers. To create this syrup, MixedMade founder Casey Elsass hand selects barrels of organic maple syrup from Catskill Mountain Sugar House in upstate New York then infuses each batch with a balanced mix of fresh chili peppers. Everything is handmade by Casey in Brooklyn, New York and hand bottled by his small production team. The process may sound simple, but the result is a sweet and seriously spicy syrup that can truly be eaten on anything. Casey loves the smooth syrup poured over chicken and waffles, mixed into a spicy Old Fashioned, or drizzled onto fruit and ice cream.
MixedMade, which began as a business experiment, has grown by leaps and bounds since its launch in 2014. They have expanded from making just one product, Bees Knees Spicy Honey, to three products, and they have six more new offerings in the pipeline for the coming year. As the business grows, Casey and his team continue to turn out innovative, eye-wateringly hot sauces and syrups, free of additives or chemicals, all sourced from the best ingredients that New York has to offer.
MixedMade is a proud member of the Good Food Merchants Guild and a Finalist in this year’s Good Food Awards. The winners will be announced on January 15. Readers in the San Francisco area will have the chance to meet crafters, sample their products, and take home 80 of this year’s Winners by visiting the Good Food Awards Marketplace on Sunday, January 17. More information and tickets ($5) are available here. MixedMade Trees Knees Spicy Syrup is available at mixedmade.com and in stores across the country.
From her grassroots work at the Good Food Awards to her continued education at NYU’s Food Studies Master’s Program, Kate Malin brings an unparalleled passion for great food and good people.
More Good Food Finds:
Honey with Heat for the Holidays: Inside Bushwick Kitchen
Chances are if you’ve been around the neighborhood for a while, you’ve come across some of Bushwick Kitchen’s deliciously hot Bee’s Knees chili-infused honey on the tables and shelves of local establishments.
We’ve written about our love for this spicy stuff and its purveyors before, but with the holiday season and the coldest months of the year looming ahead of us, we thought it might be a good time to revisit the beloved project with this interview with Bushwick Kitchen founder Casey Elsass.
BD: How long has your business been in existence?
CE: Bushwick Kitchen started in February 2014.
BD: Have you always been a maker? Have you dabbled in any other careers or endeavors?
CE: I grew up in a family that loved to cook and had a thriving garden in the backyard. We always made meals based on what we had, rather than from a recipe, so I learned from a young age to be fearless and playful in the kitchen. I moved to New York after high school and that spirit followed me here I love to throw dinner parties and if I can make something myself—bread, cheese, condiments—I’m always excited to learn and experiment.
BD: What led up to the creation of your business?
CE: Bushwick Kitchen began with a question: Could we start a business from scratch in 30 days? We ran the experiment and successfully launched our first product. We hadn’t really thought beyond that moment because it was just for fun and we didn’t think we’d actually be starting a business. But within weeks, Bees Knees Spicy Honey was taking off like a rocket and quickly getting out of our control, so I left my job to devote myself to building the brand. I gave a speech at last year’s Bitten: A Food Conversation about what those first 30 days were like.
BD: How did you develop your business name?
CE: We actually started out with a different company name, MixedMade, but it never felt quite right. We talked for a long time about re-branding the business, and floated a lot of ideas. But the one thing we kept coming back to was our first night, when we sat down to plot out the 30 day experiment, with a pizza and a bottle of whiskey at my kitchen table in my Bushwick apartment. The name Bushwick Kitchen felt like a perfect combination of our origin and our ethos.
BD: What roles do you and others take on for your business? What kinds of products do you make?
CE: My partner, Ted, and I take a divide and conquer mentality. He runs the entirety of our wholesale business and manages all of our finances. I’m in charge of production, marketing and promotion, and ecommerce. Then in the Venn diagram of our responsibilities, we have the overlapping area where we develop new ideas, set goals, and solve problems together. He lives in San Francisco, so we have a standing call twice a week to talk about big picture things, and then we email, text, and Gchat all day about the smaller things.
Our original product was Bees Knees Spicy Honey. In year two, we added Trees Knees Spicy Maple and Weak Knees Gochujang Sriracha. In February of this year, we added Trees Knees Cinnamon Maple and Trees Knees Mountain Maple. In April we launched Bees Knees Salted Honey and Bees Knees Hudson Honey and we made Bees Knees Meyer Lemon Honey for Williams-Sonoma’s spring collection. And in September, we’ll be adding two more srirachas to the Weak Knees line before buckling down for the holidays!
BD: Tell us about the concepts behind your products.
CE: Bushwick Kitchen starts with quality ingredients and adds a creative twist to make outstanding condiments. Simple things can sometimes be the most impactful, so we keep our recipes uncluttered and straight to the point for clean, delicious products.
BD: Tell me about what goes into making your products–ingredients, the general process?
CE: We source everything locally whenever possible. Our honey comes from the Hudson Valley and I spend quite a bit of time up there helping to build, maintain, and harvest the hives. Similarly, our maple syrup is from the Catskills, and I keep my calendar clear in early spring so I can be there when the sap is flowing.
Our gochujang in Weak Knees Gochujang Sriracha is made in Flushing, Queens and we source our sea salt in Bees Knees Salted Honey from Amagansett.
Other times, we go to further reaches when the product is really great, like this amazing cassia cinnamon from a tree farm in Indonesia for our Trees Knees Cinnamon Maple or the proprietary chili blends we use in Bees Knees Spicy Honey and Trees Knees Spicy Maple. But quality rules above all.
Our kitchen, office, storage, and shipping facilities are all on the same floor in a warehouse in Bushwick, so everything—ingredients, printed bottles, boxes—arrives here and my team is able to infuse, blend, bottle, and ship all of our products from one location.
It gives us an enormous amount of quality control and allows us to flow our production to demand more dynamically than if we used a co-packer.
BD: How do you think being based in Bushwick influences, informs, contributes to your business and what you make?
CE: I’ve been in New York for 11 years and living in Bushwick for most of that, so it’s a place and community that I hold close to my heart. Brooklyn in general is exploding with young people forging their own path, in food or otherwise, and it’s very exciting to be in the middle of that and to have found a new community of makers who are excited to share ideas and experiences.
But it’s important to me that Bushwick Kitchen is viewed as a name only, not as a specific representation of Bushwick itself. With such a mix of colors and flavors, sounds and art, experiences and generations, there’s no way any one thing or person could embody the full spirit of the neighborhood I love so much.
Inkable Label Co.&rsquos
1. WILLIAMS HONEY FARM
FEED THE BEES AND YOU&rsquoLL FEED THE WORLD
Local beekeeper Jay Williams is a man on an extremely important mission. His remarkable journey&mdashfrom his endeavors in film studies, to becoming a professional firefighter, to ultimately learning about Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)&mdashhas shaped his passion and dedication to the preservation of honeybees and, by extension, the lush agricultural landscape of North America and Europe. And while his earlier inexperience led him importing a queen bee (now at six years old) to start his very own apiary (starting with only two hives), he has since then strived to cultivate wild, self-sufficient bees that are hardy against pests.
Williams Honey Farm&rsquos staunch philosophy of letting bees function and thrive in an environment that is natural, supportive, and caring means that they avoid synthetic growth hormones, medicine, and pesticides, and welcome nature and her omniscience to sort the strong from the weak. The result is the establishment of bee colonies having each feral member that may look smaller than average, but is definitely strong and up to the task. Each bee is considered a member of the family&mdashWilliams Honey Farm&rsquos mission is to simultaneously feed the bees in new and interesting ways while creating bee conservationists they affectionately call &ldquoPolleneers&rdquo.
Responsible apiculture also meant preserving and respecting the natural rhythm of bees: unlike other apiaries, they harvest the honey all at once, at the end of June and never earlier. This patient manner, waiting until the end of the flow, is by virtue of their understanding and genuine love for their bee colonies, insisting that bees should have their fair share before the season is complete.
&ldquo1 in every 3 bites you take is thanks to a honeybee. If you feed the bees then you&rsquoll feed the world. We are ready to do this one flower at a time.&rdquo
Operating in and around Williamson County since 2008, their raw, treatment-free produce include Wildflower Honey, Comb Honey, Cream Honey, Honey Flasks, Honey Straws, and Lip Rescue Lip Balms (made from beeswax of wild beehives that they rescue). The best part is that ultimately customers are assured that they enjoy honey products that are the fruits of sustainable beekeeping practices.
Their honey label designs and format aren’t contained to a single, unified set. Depending on the product and product extension, their packaging comes in either jars, tall and short vials, and plastic tubes. Each product has its own identity, and this is kept consistent with the beautiful bee icon. We especially love the lip balm honey label designs because they also feature the “bee story&rdquo (with no text) as well as remind customers of the advocacy of Williams Honey Farm and the humble beginnings of the honey products.
Photo credits: Logo and all images by Williams Honey Farm
If fries are already a regular item on your menu, it can be relatively easy for you to test and feature specials with some over-the-top options that pile on the cheese, bacon, sour cream, truffles and garlic—and more.
How about a topped-fries special tied to St. Patrick’s Day on March 17? Shake Shack has featured a limited-time St. Patrick’s Day fries special, topped with horseradish cream, scallions and Applewood-smoked bacon. Red Robin Gourmet Burgers & Brews has run a themed poutine fries special during Oktoberfest, but an item like this might have some appeal for winter-into-spring hearty eating. If it seems like a crazy, over-the-top, incredibly indulgent idea, it’s probably just about right for your topped fries.
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