In episode 6 of the Edible Potluck podcast we talk about Sexual Harassment with Sarah Henry and Maple Syrup with Edible Boston’s Sarah Blackburn.
Recommended Recipe: Muhammara
For more than a year, we’ve been inundated with stories of sexual harassment in the food world and across other industries. Celebrity chefs including Mario Batali and John Besh have stepped away from their restaurants in the wake of disturbing accusations. As the Me Too movement has empowered the victims of harassment to speak out, chefs all over the country have had to examine the type of environment they’ve created for their teams. In a recent issue of Edible San Francisco, regular contributor Sarah Henry wrote about how #MeToo is playing out in her city. She covers both the problems and the potential solutions, with a focus on what restaurants can do to make change happen and make restaurants safer for all workers. Henry is a freelance writer and the author of Farmsteads of the California Coast. She’s also the coauthor of The Juhu Beach Club Cookbook and Hungry for Change, for the Berkeley Food Institute.
Most of us have eaten plenty of pancake syrup–the corn syrupy stuff you buy on the cheap at the supermarket. If you’re interested enough in food to be listening to this podcast, you probably long ago upgraded to real maple syrup, with its dramatically richer flavor. But did you know you could level up again? In Boston, a small company called Cask Force is aging quality maple syrup in barrels to create complex layers of flavor that rise above the level of pancakes. The syrups were featured in a recent issue of Edible Boston and we’ve got editor Sarah Blackburn here to tell us more.
Sarah Henry on twitter
Joy Manning: I’m your host, Joy Manning, and this is Edible Potluck, a podcast that gives food lovers a taste of edible community’s magazines. Today, we’re visiting writer Sarah Henry to talk about how some restaurants in San Francisco are trying to end sexual harassment, then we’re checking in with Edible Boston editor Sarah Blackburn to talk about a very special aged maple syrup that tastes as complex as a fine wine.
Joy Manning: But first, I want to suggest a recipe for you, especially if you’re stuck in a hummus rut. I mean, I love hummus, but I definitely want to change it up sometimes. Have you tried Muhammara? It’s a roasted red pepper and walnut paste that also hails from the Middle East. You make it by combining roasted red peppers, homemade or store bought, walnuts, garlic, breadcrumbs, olive oil and lemon juice in a food processor, and blending it until it’s a slightly coarse puree. You can add as many hot peppers, fresh or dried, as you like. I like it spicy. A little drizzle of pomegranate molasses is great on top of the finished dip or just mixed right into the food processor if you happen to have it on-hand.
Joy Manning: You usually see Muhammara served as a dip with pita, just like hummus, but when you whip up a batch at home, you start to see its many other uses. One spoonful really livens up a batch of salad dressing. You can put it on a burger or inside of a grilled cheese for something a little extra special, and it’s a perfect dip for celery stalks or carrot sticks as a snack.
Joy Manning: A number of different Edible magazines have recently featured recipes for this dish, so I think there’s something about it that’s just in the air. I’ll give you a link in today’s show notes.
Sexual Harassment with Sarah Henry
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Stamping Out Sexual Harassment in the Kitchen: Rocked by #MeToo Revelations, the Restaurant Industry Seeks Solutions by Sarah Henry @lettuceeatkale Cover illustration by @danbransfield Additional stories by Celia Sack @omnivorebooks – @maggiefspicer – Andrea Riordan @wrybreadwriting – @shanna_farrell – @jodiliano – Recipes by @nicholeate of @kantinesf – Nik Sharma @abrowntable – @richtable #metoo #ediblesf #ediblecommunities
Joy Manning: For more than a year, we’ve been inundated with stories of sexual harassment in the food world and across other industries. Celebrity chefs including Mario Batali and John Besh have stepped away from their restaurant empires in the wake of disturbing allegations. As the “Me Too movement” has empowered the victims of harassment to speak out, chefs all over the country have examined the type of environment they’re creating for their teams.
Joy Manning: In a recent issue of Edible San Francisco, regular contributor, Sarah Henry wrote about how Me Too is playing out in her city. She covers both the problem, and the potential solutions with a focus on what restaurants can do to make change happen, and make restaurant safer for all the workers. She’s here with us today to talk more about this tough subject.
Joy Manning: Welcome to Edible Potluck, Sarah. Thank you for joining us.
Sarah Henry: Thanks for having me, Joy.
Joy Manning: So what made you want to write Stamping Out Sexual Harassment in the Kitchen for Edible San Fran?
Sarah Henry: So, I’ve been doing a series of cover stories for them over the years and working with the editor there, Bruce Cole. We’ve done a lot of stories that have looked at large industry issues that we thought that readers and diners would be interested in, we’ve done stories about minimum wage, we did a story about $4 toast.
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Burnt: The final word on $4 toast by Sarah Henry w/ photos by @alannahale and featuring @joseybakerbread & @shawliza – A Semi-autobiographical Guide to Cooking Like a Pro by @mollywatsonsf w/ illos by @aprilini – A Chocolate Life by @sodiumgirl photos by @stacyventura featuring @gatecommedesfilles – Back of the House by @danbransfield featuring Aziza – From Iacopi Farm to @nopalize Table by @theforestfeast – Simple Seasonal Recipes by @sladenburger with illos by @heather_diane – Crab 3 Ways by @kathleenkorb – Devil is in Details (Eggs) by @sfcooking
Joy Manning: Right.
Sarah Henry: We’ve done something on the line cook shortage, and so we felt like this was a huge issue that was very much on people’s minds, and we wanted to see what could we do to move the story along a little bit.
Joy Manning: It definitely made me realize how universal this is. I think of San Francisco as being a really enlightened progressive place, and so while on the one hand I was surprised to read that these problems are just as bad in your city as they are in mine. I was not surprised to see interesting solutions coming out of San Francisco, I’ll tell you that. I guess this is sort of the great equalizer.
Sarah Henry: Yeah, and I think it’s some of the solutions that are coming out. They’re very simple, they’re grassroots based, and they’re being generated by mostly women in the industry, which I think is interesting.
Joy Manning: Yeah, I mean not surprising but interesting. Now we’re definitely going to talk about that.
Joy Manning: I just sort of want to back up a little bit because Edible San Francisco and this podcast both are on a light and happy topic of food, and this sort of delves into something not so light, and I’m wondering why you think it’s important for food enthusiasts and restaurant lovers to know more about this issue?
Sarah Henry: It’s a good question. So to start with people typically don’t come to me for this you know, I don’t tend to do the recipe-driven stories, and even if I do a “celebrity chef profile” there’s usually some other angle that we’re working in that story, and I think our readers do care about these kinds of subjects. If Edible Communities folks care about how animals are treated for example, or where their restaurant food come from, or whether workers were treated fairly when their harvesting food or producing food, then I think that you know they also care about how the employees are treated in the establishments they frequent.
Joy Manning: When you talk to readers about your stories, do you find that some of these ethical considerations impact their decisions about where to dine?
Sarah Henry: Absolutely. I mean in San Francisco, but really across the country, there’s a certain type of consumer who votes with their pocketbook, right? And maybe for a host of different reasons. They may shun certain kinds of banks, and I think that also carries through on the food front for sure.
Joy Manning: Right. I think that, that’s important. I think that stories like yours do empower readers to vote with their pocketbooks I know. I try to take those kinds of things into considerations when I’m choosing where to spend money in a restaurant.
Joy Manning: Now, sexual harassment is not in any way confined to the restaurant industry, but it does seem to be particularly bad there. Why do you think it affects the restaurant industry so much?
Sarah Henry: I think it’s a couple of things, culturally, historically, it’s been a very hierarchical male-dominated workplace, so you’re coming out of that system. There’s also a culture of working very closely together under deadline pressure, in heat, in the heat of the moment, and so I think that’s also a factor. It’s a service industry, and different service industries tend to have a higher frequency of sexual harassment, so I think all those things come into play.
Joy Manning: You open your story with the sort of a case study of Cobrina Grieco, am I saying that right?
Sarah Henry: I believe so. Yeah, Cobrina.
Joy Manning: And she works at Josey Baker Bread on the $4 toast that we mentioned.
Sarah Henry: Yeah.
Joy Manning: And she had been through a very harrowing ordeal. It sounded like I read the links, and I googled some things about the backstory and I mean, it sounded like she has really been through a lot, and you write that she’s now trying to play a role in creating a safe environment and sort of changing the culture, and I’m wondering why did she feel like that was her responsibility and is it helping her feel better now? I mean is there anything else wanna say about that?
Sarah Henry: So one of the things that I was not interested in doing with this story was making people who had been the victims of sexual harassment or sexual assault relieves their trauma. I just you know I feel like that story has been well documented by a gaggle of great newspaper writers at The Times, in The Chronicle and New Orleans, but I did need real people to come forward and talk about what had happened to them. I just didn’t want them to relieve their trauma, I didn’t think that was necessary. I felt like, I really wanted to do something looking out solutions, ’cause I also feel like readers had some compassion fatigue to around this issue. I mean, we’ve been all hit across of lots of industries with story after story about these incidents being reported.
Sarah Henry: And I think for Cobrina and other folks who talked with me, it was really important that they didn’t have to rehash the details of what incidents had happened to them, the part of their healing process was, in fact, trying to make change and in their own workplaces, and to act as role models, those at the grass roots in their own workplaces and also for the industry as a whole.
Sarah Henry: And I wanna just be sure that I say that Cobrina would be the first to say that Josey Baker of Josey Baker Bread, and she’s worked with few years, there had never been an issue in terms of her work place which is San Francisco is a house in the same workspace as Four Barrel, and the incident involving Cobrina happened off site at a company holiday party.
Joy Manning: Yes. There certainly is a lot of information out there and you can read the whole story if you wanna get in to it, but I was wondering if you were still in touch with her, and if her efforts are first of all like working and if they are making her feel better?
Sarah Henry: Yes, I’ve been in touch and in fact one of the things that for me that was really important about the story regardless of reader response was. This was a tricky story to report, I did not want to re-traumatize these people or I didn’t wanna any kind of negative impact for them, speaking out again, and I think it was also healing for them, to talk about it, but to talk about it in a way of again, trying to work towards solutions.
Sarah Henry: I think that Cobrina feels like they’re doing everything that they can within their workplace to make sure that people understand what their rights are and what their responsibilities are, and so I think she feels good about the role she’s playing at her workplace.
Joy Manning: That’s really good to hear. Your story brought to light, the difference between sort of knowing the letter of the law, when you make employees watch training videos or sit through a talk and creating a company culture that discourages harassment and discrimination. Can you sort of tell us what makes the difference there? Can you give us some examples?
Sarah Henry: Sure. So I think one of the things that came out with talking with restaurant owners and in also talking with labor lawyers who do this anti-sexual harassment training, it’s not really enough to have a handbook and to sort of just go through the motions in these cases or in this workplaces. This is a one restaurant chef said to me, this is something I think about every single day and she’s been at restaurant for 20 years.
Sarah Henry: In the aspect, just like you think about paying your workers and all the issues that come up every single day for a restaurant. This is something that’s always on the fall front for her, in terms of being vigilant and making sure that all employees are aware, both workers and management about what is acceptable and what isn’t, and if somebody comes forward with a claim, how to handle that, what the procedure is in house, and it’s something that a restaurant workplace deals with on a regular basis.
Joy Manning: And who is that, that you’re referring to?
Sarah Henry: Gayle Pirie at Foreign Cinema with someone I spoke with, who was reported in the story. She was talking about how it’s just something that’s front and center for her all the time.
Joy Manning: So, it’s like we’re creating a culture that is meaningful is an everyday thing?
Sarah Henry: Correct, and I mean this term creating a culture comes up a lot and what it really boils down to is transparent, open, responsible, fair. You know these are just things that everybody wants in their workplace. Inclusive, respectful, that’s not something that just you talk about for two hours in the sexual harassment training and then you go about your business. That’s a goal to strive towards everyday you open your restaurant.
Joy Manning: And I think that’s definitely part of many of the solutions that you referred to in the piece, and I know that I have one particular program that I’d like you to talk about, but where there any that struck you with being really replicable or effective that we had talk about right now?
Sarah Henry: Sure. I feel there are sort of three that come to mind that are very organic, authentic that come from people who are in the trenches doing their work, and that they have very simple and even modest in their mission, and they’re not gonna completely reform a system across in a hurry, but they are actually, like people are trying to do, to implement change, one restaurant at a time and they’re eminently replicable which is why I wanted to include them in the piece.
Joy Manning: Yeah, I think that might be very useful for listeners no matter where they live and whether they work in a restaurant industry or outside of it. I was especially interested in the solution that Homeroom implemented.
Sarah Henry: Okay.
Joy Manning: And that was actually dealing with a part of harassment in the restaurant workplace I hadn’t thought about before although I should have because I’ve been a waitress.
Sarah Henry: Right.
Joy Manning: Which is harassment from the customers.
Sarah Henry: Yes, in Homeroom across the bay here in Oakland. They have this color-coded management system that they introduced very simple as you said came from a meeting with the owners and the staff, the impetus was, a customer inappropriately touching a waiter, and management, which was mostly male at the time, even the most of the employees were female at the workplace. Not really being sure about how to handle it and it’s a very simple color coded system. Would you like me to walk through it?
Joy Manning: Yes. Can you describe it?
Sarah Henry: Sure. So, what’s great about it is, it’s very clear in terms of what somebody reports, it’s an issue and how it’s handled that’s very clear, and the staff came out with this together. So, Yellow if you tell your manager, “I’ve got a Code Yellow happening on table two”, that means leering creepy behavior, and the manager will ask if you’d like to be removed from serving that customer and that’s the choice at that point is with the waiter whether they remain or not, but it’s a flag for people were watching that situation.
Sarah Henry: Code Orange would be unwelcome comments and that it means immediately the manager takes over that table, no questions asked. Code Red is for repeated Code Orange violations or inappropriate touching or of at least sexual comments and that customer is actually asked to leave the restaurant.
Sarah Henry: Very simple, very clear, and they’ve had a lot of success with that. They’d have some issues, and they haven’t had issues since they implemented the system, everyone’s on board and in fact Erin Wade told me that she’s getting a lot of interest for both other restaurants, but other service industries about how they implement in their workplace.
Joy Manning: It is very simple, but that no questions asked part of it, that’s I think the magical part of it because I think people hesitate to get into a big thing with their manager, and if you know that you’re not gonna be interrogated about an exchange or much more likely to report it. That’s what I thought was sort of this simple genius of it, and I really hope that, that’s spreads as an idea.
Sarah Henry: Absolutely and also like let’s be real, you’re in a restaurant industry, it’s busy, people are moving fast and this is a very quick convenient way when nobody has to explain themselves. As I said, it’s very clear about what’s going down and what needs to happen, and I think it takes some of the pressure off managers too frankly.
Joy Manning: Sure.
Sarah Henry: They’re not at the table, they’re trying to assess the situation in a busy work environment. So I think it works well, I understand for both sides.
Joy Manning: I’d certainly something that I wish I would’ve had when I was working in a restaurant.
Sarah Henry: Absolutely, right?
Joy Manning: Honestly, it was a long time ago, but it never even occurred to me that freedom from harassment from customers would be something that would be available to me as like a 20 something waitress, which is I’m glad that times have changed and that things like these exist now.
Sarah Henry: Exactly and I think any of us that have worked it the industry, we’ve all got stories about these situations and what I find really interesting that is the timing. This is all obviously all these reports have come out in the past year, a lot of these allegations were not new, people knew that there was behavior that was inappropriate.
Joy Manning: Right.
Sarah Henry: And I think that often its timing in terms of, whether people are willing to mobilize around an issue. Sexual harassment in restaurants, there’s no news in that. If I’ve pitched that story as a freelancer, I don’t know how many editors might have been interested in that, a couple of years ago even.
Joy Manning: Mm-hmm (affirmative) before it became such a big topic in the-
Sarah Henry: Correct. Yeah.
Joy Manning: … the nationwide conversation.
Sarah Henry: Exactly.
Joy Manning: Now there is one more thing I wanna cover today about your story, which is this topic of whether it’s possible and how it might happen that harassers can return to leadership position as chef and restaurant owners in the industry. You talked about a specific case in your article of the chef accused of harassment who actually who’s already gone on to open a new restaurant.
Sarah Henry: Correct.
Joy Manning: Can you tell us a little bit about what happened there and how the community is responding to it?
Sarah Henry: Sure. So I think this is the sort of fascinating next series of stories around, and there have been “Redemption stories” coming out very early on for several celebrity chefs who have been accused of this behavior and with very conflicted responses from within the industry and from diners.
Sarah Henry: In the case you’re mentioning Charlie Hallowell, who is a restaurant owner in Oakland. He had three restaurants was accused by 30 plus women in an excellent piece by Tara Duggan from The Chronicle and others reporting on what happened there. He was out of the mix for a year but at the time that he was accused, he had a restaurant that was being developed in Berkeley, neighboring Berkeley, which is recently opened.
Sarah Henry: And it’s been controversial to say the least, and it’s fascinating to watch how people are handling the situation and his initial sort of re-entry back into the community as it where it was at our local farmers market. There’s a Tuesday market in Berkeley that is frequent by lots of chefs from Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco.
Sarah Henry: And his presence there, caused something of an outcry was reported in The Chronicle with some people feeling like it was too soon for him to come back and then he also issued an apology and then he issued an apology to his apology because it seemed toned deaf to a lot of people, there was something about, there was gonna be a dunk tank where you could you know, behaved inappropriately or said stupid things, you could like dip in him water once a month. I think it was supposed to be a joke but it really didn’t go over well.
Joy Manning: It doesn’t sound too sensitive.
Sarah Henry: Correct, and so I think it really raises the larger issue and I think a lot about this because … and I don’t have the answer, I think it’s an ongoing conversation for people and again I think in the end people vote with their pocketbook. I know some people who will never frequent that restaurant. I know some that have already been and there are people who feel like somebody who was in a position of power who did these things or allegedly did these things, should not be in that kind of position, a power in the restaurant again. That would be one school of thought and then another might be, well, how do we rehabilitate? What kind of restorative justice are we talking about here? And then of course people argue of what about restorative justice that the 30 plus women who were subjected to his behavior.
Sarah Henry: So I think this is the story that will evolve over time. I will be interesting to see when this new restaurant is finally reviewed. We have a new food critic at The Chronicle, jumping on board in January. I’m wondering if she will review this restaurant, and if so, will this be part of the story.
Joy Manning: I’m glad it’s a woman. I feel like we don’t have enough women restaurant critics.
Sarah Henry: Right. It’ll be interesting. In fact, I haven’t seen a review of this restaurant as yet. It’s just literally opened, I don’t know, I would say in the last month. There have been stories of course about its opening and there are a couple of actually industry people on social media really going after whether people should frequent this restaurant and it’s gonna be an ongoing debate.
Joy Manning: Well, I’m looking forward to your follow up cover story on this issue and all your future stories. I don’t know what the next $4 toast in San Francisco will be, but I know you’ll probably write about it.
Joy Manning: And I really appreciate you joining us today, Sarah. Thank you so much. It’s been such a pleasure to talk to you.
Sarah Henry: Thank you for having me, Joy. Appreciate it.
Joy Manning: That was Sarah Henry, a freelance writer and author of Farmsteads of the California Coast. She’s also the co-author of The Juhu Beach Club Cookbook and Hungry for Change for the Berkeley Food Institute. We’ll share the link to her articles Stamping Out Sexual Harassment in the Kitchen and the show notes for this episode. Follow her on twitter @sjhenrywriter.
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Just call me “Sfoglina.” We all rolled pasta sheets with a pin 🙌 for tagliatelle Bolognese. Plus bonus Chris under an Emilia-Romagna loggia and the obligatory family gelato pics. On to #toscana! #ediblegoesontour #edibleboston #goaheadtours #immovinghereandnevercomingback #somebodypleasesendforthechildren #nationalpastaday 📸: @a.kappella
Maple Syrup with Sarah Blackburn
Joy Manning: Most of us have eaten plenty of pancake syrup. That corn syrupy stuff you buy on the cheap of the supermarket, but if you’re interested enough in food to be listening to this podcast today, you probably, long ago upgraded to real maple syrup with its dramatically richer flavor, but did you know you could level up again?
Joy Manning: In Boston, a small company Cask Force is aging quality maple syrup in barrels to create complex layers of flavor that rise above the level of pancakes. The syrups were featured in a recent issue of Edible Boston and we’ve got editor Sarah Blackburn here to tell us more.
Joy Manning: Welcome to Edible Potluck, Sarah. Thank you for being here.
Sarah Blackburn: Thank you so much for having me.
Joy Manning: So, I’m curious, how did you discover these syrups? They seem very interesting and different. Can you tell us how they came to your attention?
Sarah Blackburn: Yes. So, the Cask Force HQ is actually in my town, which is Wayland, Massachusetts, which is about 20 miles west of Boston, and it’s based inside a liquor store, which is called Post Road Liquors. It’s pretty unassuming from the outside, not really unlike most of our package stores here in Massachusetts. It’s got fluorescent lights, it’s got Doritos, it’s got the lottery, it has nips and Slim Jim’s, but once you take a really good look at their inventory, you’ll see that it’s not really a standard packy at all.
Sarah Blackburn: It’s got an exceptional selection of French wine, a burgundy section that is phenomenal, and a whole wall devoted to local craft beer and cider, and esoteric arts and liquor and local spirits collection.
Sarah Blackburn: So their main business is wine cellar curation, and they help stock customers, wine cellars where in sort of affluent area. So they do a lot of wine delivery, and they really fill up people’s cellars with hard to find vintages from all over Europe.
Sarah Blackburn: But the younger generation of this family business, which also owns two other package stores closer to Boston. One in a couple in Newton started this project. So it was Nick and Michael O’Connell, brothers, along with their cousin Dave and their wine buyer Taylor, who began cask aging liquor and that’s what Cask Force is.
Sarah Blackburn: They experimented by putting different liquors in different barrels to age and take on the flavors of what was there before. Like bourbon and porter barrels or a local hard cider in a whiskey barrel. So they reached out to distilleries in the US and in Europe and even in Japan for some whiskey barrels, to get flavor profiles that they felt that would really match the liquors that they wanted to age inside them, but it was Nick who started this Syrup Project, which is what you wanted to talk about today.
Joy Manning: Right. I read in your magazine and it was really fascinating look at the way something like maple syrup really could be made more complex. In the article, it’s described like a wine tasting, the way the syrups are sampled. Do you know why they decided to branch into syrup from spirits?
Sarah Blackburn: Well, it was a project that Nick had close to his heart. He had been traveling up to Vermont often to look for beer producers primarily, and he stopped that he loves maple syrup and stopped at this particular maple farm and he developed a relationship with them. He … Let’s remember like he’s a wine guy, right? So, taste and terroir are extraordinarily important to him. This particular maple farm is to him, the best producer of maple syrup in the whole country.
Joy Manning: And what’s the name of the farm?
Sarah Blackburn: I’m sorry, that’s one thing I don’t have. He does not advertise the name of it. He’s got this relationship with them because they’re large enough that he’s able to expand his business as it grows, but when I asked him about maple syrup in Massachusetts especially in our town, a town next door to us. There is a town subsidize, organic farm that collects sap from all over town from different peoples properties. It has a relationship with the middle school, The Sugar Shack is on the property of the Weston Middle School and the kids sugar off from the beginning of or as soon as the sap starts running all the way to the process of bottling.
Sarah Blackburn: So I asked him, “Why are you not using Massachusetts syrup?”
Joy Manning: That’s something I wondered too.
Sarah Blackburn: Yeah, and his response was, “Terroir, I love the high ledge forest, the taste of this particular syrup. I’ve never tasted syrup that I like better, and that’s why I use this syrup”. Simple as that.
Joy Manning: Well, that’s a very legitimate reason and it certainly, it’s not like Vermont is not a regional product for you all in Boston.
Sarah Blackburn: Correct, plus all of the value add of this product is occurring inside this package store on the Boston post road in Wayland, which I find really fascinating.
Joy Manning: So what does that process that they’re doing right there, the barrel aging. What does it do to the syrup which is so good to begin with it? It sounds like he really love the taste as it is. So what does the aging add?
Sarah Blackburn: So, the syrup will take on the unique characteristic of both the wood that the barrel has made out of and whatever was aged inside there before. So, it is the new ones that’s hard to describe without tasting it, to me it’s sort of like the essence of the liquor without the liquor, if that makes sense.
Joy Manning: That really appeals to me, and honestly one of the reasons this jumped out to me is, I stopped drinking alcohol myself a couple of years ago.
Sarah Blackburn: Oh, yeah.
Joy Manning: But I still love interesting beverages and as soon as saw it, I thought that probably a great tool in my non-alcoholic drink making.
Sarah Blackburn: Absolutely. So, I also asked him, “How do you know when it’s ready?”, “How do you know if the syrup has taken on enough of those characteristics?”. He puts a syrup into bourbon and rye for instance, and then, there’s another one which he puts into a single malt scotch barrel. That only ages for six weeks because the spicy or stronger flavor of the single malt, really it gets into the syrup faster than the bourbon and rye which takes about 10 weeks to develop.
Sarah Blackburn: So I said, “Do you taste it along the way?”, “How do you know when it’s ready?”, and he said, that he doesn’t, it was a guess at the beginning and he hammers the tap into casks that he can agitate and roll the cask around to really get all the flavor out of it, and if he just the rubber thing in there it would probably leak out everywhere. So, he doesn’t really know until he’s about to crack the cask to open it up and know and bottle it, that it’s really taking on the flavors that it can.
Joy Manning: And so you said that one particular type is only aged for six weeks. What’s the upper end of aging?
Sarah Blackburn: 10 weeks.
Joy Manning: 10 weeks, okay.
Sarah Blackburn: So six to 10 all together. It doesn’t take up particularly a long time and he has a few different barrels going all the time and he does it in a temperature control to environment in the back of the store.
Joy Manning: The article includes some really interesting examples of how people might use these syrups in their home cooking. So just a finishing touch on something like roasted Brussels Sprouts or drizzled on popcorn or even ice cream. Have you been using these syrups at home at all? And if so, how do you like to use them?
Sarah Blackburn: I have them, if I can get them out of the clutches of my children, who like to put on everything. So again, yes it is not an alcoholic product, it is totally okay for everybody to eat. I love it on Brussels Sprouts obviously, I drizzled it on top of an Apple Crostata at Thanksgiving. It’s fantastic on roasted duck breast with lot of garlic and thyme, but it’s also just a very special flavor on something as neutral as Greek yogurt or oatmeal with lots of butter on it. Anywhere where you would use maple syrup, and you wanna do something a little bit more special.
Joy Manning: That’s sounds like a real treat.
Sarah Blackburn: Yeah.
Joy Manning: Drizzled on Greek yogurt, something very simple. You could do that would feel very special. I love something like that.
Sarah Blackburn: Yeah and ice cream too. I mean, it certainly a dessert product but because it has some of those little other new ounces of bourbon or rye, it’s got some bitterness too. So, it works with savory things.
Joy Manning: Now because of it’s closed affinity for spirits and wine, because of the business owners and the way it’s produced, it must be popping up in cocktails around town and maybe even mock tails. Have you seen it being served?
Sarah Blackburn: Yes, it sure is and there’s one bar, in particular, The Hawthorne, which is in Kenmore Square near Fenway park which is one of our cities first sort of real craft cocktail lounges. They’ve been using not only the syrup, but they also a lot of the Cask Force liquors in their recipes.
Sarah Blackburn: And the second one a new bar called Shore Leave which is a tiki bar in the South End. The bar program is run by a woman named Gwen Hagerty, who we actually profiled in our most recent issue to Winter 2019 issue, and she is in one of her large format cocktails which is like a big punch made for four to six people, and she blends a bottle of champagne, some fig infused rum and cognac benedictine, the aged maple syrup and ginger, which sounds absolutely incredible and I can’t wait to get in there with a few friends.
Joy Manning: Not also sounds a real one of a kind flavored profile, something that you can sort of only sample there because of those two products that are aged.
Sarah Blackburn: Absolutely.
Joy Manning: It’s really interesting.
Sarah Blackburn: Absolutely and they also the syrup there too. So, you can taste it in the cocktail and then go buy a bottle and bring it home with you.
Joy Manning: That’s really cool. So, it isn’t just maple syrup that they’re aging in these casks I read. There’s also a local honey that is aged in Sauternes cask, have you sampled that?
Sarah Blackburn: I have, I have a jar of it on my counter actually right now, and I use it on my toast with butter.
Joy Manning: What does it taste like? What is it like?
Sarah Blackburn: So it has a little bit of a tang, a slight sourness to it, but just like Sauternes pairs so beautifully with blue cheese. As most dessert wines do, this honey is absolutely incredible on blue cheese. It’s not a dribbly honey, it’s a little bit crystallized, so I sort of wipe it on a piece juice before I put in my mouth.
Joy Manning: That sounds amazing.
Sarah Blackburn: It is. It is so beautiful and it goes really nicely with blue, local blue. I love it with Bayley Hazen Blue which comes from Vermont but then there’s a very stinky, sticky, wash wrenches out of Martha’s Vineyard from Grey Barn, which is called Prufrock and it just goes so perfectly with that honey.
Joy Manning: That sounds wonderful. I really need to try some of that. I’m a big fan of cheese and honey, and that just sounds like taking it to another level.
Sarah Blackburn: Right? It’s absolutely delicious.
Joy Manning: So has anything happen with Cask Force since the article was published? Are there any updates or things on the horizon for them?
Sarah Blackburn: So, there’s a couple of exciting things they’ve been doing. They’ve partnered with distillery on the North Shore who makes rum and ipswich, and they procure the barrel, a cognac barrel from France for them and they’re aging for three years, a rum inside that cognac barrel. So we won’t know for a couple of years, how that comes out I’m sure it will be incredible.
Sarah Blackburn: They also made a bourbon blended with actual coffee, not just aged in a barrel taking on the flavors of the barrel, this is actual coffee blended with bourbon from a local coffee roaster at a town on the other side of us called Sudbury which is Karma Coffee, and that’s bottled under the Cask Force label and it has the logo of both businesses at sort of like nice combination there. And then since recreational marijuana is now legal in Massachusetts their working on, Nick especially is working on a cannabis-infused maple syrup, so that will be within the next several months I believe.
Joy Manning: Really interesting stuff there. I guess I need to check back often to Edible Boston to see if you will have any further news there.
Sarah Blackburn: Absolutely and you can buy all of it through their website which is nice.
Joy Manning: Great. Yeah, I love to get a little taste of another town when I can’t visit to sort of travel with my taste buds, so to speak.
Joy Manning: Well, thank you so much for being with us today. It was really great to get sort of a more back story on Cask Force.
Sarah Blackburn: Thank you for having me.
Joy Manning: That was Sarah Blackburn, editor of Edible Boston. We’ll have a link to her article about Cask Force in today’s shows notes. You can keep up with Edible Boston at Instagram and Twitter @edibleboston .
Joy Manning: Thank you for joining us today on Edible Potluck. Our podcast producer is David Wolf.
Joy Manning: If you like this episode, please subscribe on Apple podcast or wherever you get your podcast. Please take a moment to leave us a rating or review, you know it helps other listeners find the podcast.
Joy Manning: Don’t forget to pick up a copy of your own local edible magazine. If you don’t know where to get one, find out at ediblecommunities.com. You can find links to everything we talked about today in the show notes for this episode at ediblecommunities.com/podcast.
Joy Manning: Until next time. Remember, eat local.
Sarah Henry photo: Nicola Parisi