Wednesday night at the Brooklyn Winery was the unveiling of the winner of The Next BIG Small Brand contest as hosted by The Rooster Design Group. This was a great excuse to get out of the apartment on a snowy evening to hang out with other foodie folks to support some of the hard-working, enterprising local food producers. Out of about 200 entries to the contest, five finalists were selected to compete for the grand prize and the People’s Choice Award.
For a small start-up food venture, this was a great package to win. Branding and design services from The Rooster Design Group, a vendor spot for a month at The Brooklyn Flea, and three months of free PR from First Press Public Relations could all be a huge boost to getting one’s product out there in the market and on its road to success. Karen Seiger, from Markets of New York City, and I went over there together to taste some of the food, talk to the contestants, mingle a bit with some of the other foodie folks whom we know, and to see who would be the overall winner.
Bombay Emerald Chutney Company (http://www.bombayemeraldchutneyco.com/)
Chutneys are not something that everyone keeps in their refrigerator here in the U.S., but they should be. The various flavors, textures, and spice levels in them are perfect for jazzing up leftovers or making plain dishes a bit more interesting. When I saw this company on the list of finalists and read a bit about them, I was really excited to see them and to try out their products. The Royal Mint Chutney was full of heat and flavor and really packed a punch. The Royal Tomato Chutney was on the other spectrum with a more tangy profile. The other fruit chutneys varied in terms of heat and spice and had great full, round flavors that would bring out the best aspects of any meal. I may have to pick up some of these to include in my pantry.
Brooklyn Cured (http://www.brooklyncured.com/)
I’ve sampled some of these products at the New Amsterdam Market and also just last week at the Foodshed in Brooklyn. The Country Paté (photo at left) is hearty and rustic, with a great flavor balance. If you like paté but want a bit more personality and substance instead of a super-smooth loaf of meat, you should definitely pick up some of this. Add some of their great Smoked Pork Rillettes (also in left photo) to the plate along with some cornichons, pickled onions, crusty bread, and a large dollop of the mustard that they had on top of it (one of their newest products), and that would be a nice comforting meal to enjoy, glass of red wine in hand, on the cold evenings we’ve been having lately. I also tried samples of their juicy Chicken Garlic Sausage and their very tasty Lamb Sausage with Black Olives. I’m going to have to add those to my shopping list the next time our paths cross at the market.
La Newyorkina (http://www.lanewyorkina.com/)
The mini ice pops that they had for this event were the ideal size for the venue and setup. It was possible to try a few different flavors or to cool off one’s palate after having just eaten the very spicy mint-cilantro chutney at a previous table. I tried the intriguing Avocado-Lime flavor pictured above. While I’m not sure I like my avocados in frozen fruit form, this could be perfect to have as a small, cool dessert on a hot summer’s day. I also tried the Hibiscus one, which was very juicy and sweet. The one that I think, from my unscientific survey, might have been the biggest hit of the evening was the Spicy Chocolate pop. That got several enthusiastic eye rolls when we asked folks if they were enjoying it.
Liddabit Sweets (http://www.liddabitsweets.com/)
I’ve been a big fan of Jen and Liz for a while and even picked up a bunch of their wonderful treats to add to the Christmas stockings for my family. For this event, they brought with them their addictive Caramel Corn (popcorn with caramel, chocolate, and honeycomb), some chewy-sweet Sea Salt Caramels, and, something new to me, The King bar. A smooth peanut butter-y, banana-y blend all covered in milk chocolate, it was creamy, sweet, and comforting all at once. I think I might have found my new favorite candy from these guys.
Sweet Loren’s (http://sweetlorens.com/)
As readers of this site know (and my family and friends benefit from), I love to bake so I tend to be a bit persnickety about trying other folks’ cookies and brownies and sweet treats. I don’t try to be mean or overly-critical, but I do have a certain flavor profile that I really like if I’m going to indulge. Turns out that Loren has the same high standards that I do, and you can really taste it in her ready-to-bake cookie dough. The Dark Double Fudge Brownies were all gone by the time I could even get close enough to the table to try one and to talk to Loren. Fortunately, there were still a few Heavenly Chocolate Chip and Chewy Oatmeal Cranberry cookies left. They were moist, full of flavor, and delicious with a slightly crispy edge, which is everything that I really want in a cookie. The bonus is that they are also made with all-natural ingredients, so you can feel all right about treating yourself to a couple of these every so often.
With all this wonderful food, as you can probably tell, it was difficult to pick just one vendor for my People’s Choice ballot, based upon the above criteria. I had to go with my heart on that one, but I won’t reveal my vote. The people selected Sweet Lorens as their favorite for her wonderful cookies and brownies. Turns out, when they announced the winner, the judges had also not had an easy decision to make; however, after much deliberation, they were able to come up with the food brand whom they thought was, as they explained it, at the stage and with the current positioning and product to benefit from the prize package.
The Next BIG Small Brand for 2011 is Sweet Lorens! Congrats to Loren and her wonderful product. Currently, it is available for sale on line or at the Columbus Circle Whole Foods. Watch out for her, as she might be in a supermarket closer to you in the future.