Getting to sit down with local craftsmen is always such a pleasure. To get to enjoy not only quality cocktails and appetizers, but quality conversation as well is one of my favorite aspects of my job. So to bring some of these fun moments, I partnered with Absolut Vodka to highlight some of my favorite local artisans and the delicious evening we shared. Absolut has a history of using local ingredients of the highest quality, with everything to make their vodka sourced from within a 75 mile radius of their Ahus, Sweden distillery. Inspired by their dedication to local quality, I reached out to Savour This Kitchen, a local pantry line started by brother and sister duo Marlene and Michael, to catch up over some seasonal Moscow Mules and chat about all things food, business, and following your passion.
How did “savour this kitchen” come about?
While Marlene was in culinary school she approached her brother, Michael, who was in his last year of college and asked if he would be interested in starting a catering company together. He said yes and Savour This Kitchen was born. Four years later the dynamic duo are going strong, still catering, selling their line of vegan sauces as well as salt free, sugar free spice blends to stores around the country and have, most recently, started a meal delivery service.
How do you develop your distinctive spice blends and sauces? What’s the inspiration?
Each product is different but generally we start with a single ingredient and build from there. We draw a lot of inspiration from Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food. We love all the big, bold, beautiful flavors.
How is quality important to you?
The integrity of our product has always been a priority for us. We wanted to create a great product, where people could read and recognize all of the ingredients on the back of the label. Because we choose quality, it has taken us longer to grow our brand but we are proud of the products that we have developed, since they have always maintained their integrity. People say you can really taste the difference because it is so fresh and we would have to agree.
What’s it like working together as siblings?
We couldn’t imagine not working together. We were very close as brother and sister before the business, and we are much closer now. We’d be lying if we said there isn’t rivalry or inner turmoil, but we share a vision and are appreciative that we have the opportunity to work together to see that vision come to fruition.
What’s the most surprising combination you’ve had with your products? (Ice cream etc).
We have had people make cocktails with our thai chile cilantro dressing (and it was bomb). We ourselves made a cream cheese frosting with our Merchant Spice Blend (which is on our website). What is amusing about this combo is that our Merchant is 50% turmeric, 25% cumin, but also has cinnamon and clove, lending itself towards sweet and savoury applications alike. One of our favorite combos that was not necessarily surprising, more so intriguing, was a man who marinades his chicken with our thai chile cilantro, and then adds more of the dressing onto his chicken, after it is done cooking. He really, really likes that sauce.
SPICED GINGER PEAR MULE
I don’t typically go for flavored vodka, but because Absolut uses natural ingredients and are dedicated to the quality of taste, I was immediately drawn to their pear vodka. It was the perfect addition to my fall inspired Moscow Mule, especially when punctuated with Savour this Kitchen’s Gypsy spice blend.
1/4 teaspoon Gypsy Spice Blend (or equal parts cinnamon, clove, and allspice)
1/4 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 lime wedge
1 teaspoon honey
3 to 4 oounes ginger beer
1 ounce pear juice (if using classic Absolut)
In the bottom of a cocktail shaker, muddle together all of the ingredients, except for the ginger beer. Fill a copper mug with crushed ice, strain the mixture over the ice, and top with ginger beer. Garnish with a slice of lime or a pinch of spice.
MARLENE’S ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH POLENTA TRIANGLES
For one dozen
4 cups vegetable stock
1 cup polenta (corn grits)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
1/4 cup goat cheese
3 tablespoons of brown butter
1 tablespoon of fresh sage, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of roasted anaheim pepper, seeded and finely chopped
freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/4 of a butternut squash, small dice
1 packet Pistachio Mint Pesto
12 ounces goat cheese
5 ounces arugula
Pre-heat the oven to 375F.
Cut butternut squash, toss in olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread the cut and seasoned butternut squash on a lined baking sheet and cooking for approximately 15-20 minutes until tender.
In a heavy saucepan, bring the vegetable stock to a boil over high heat. Add the polenta gradually, whisking constantly. Continue to whisk for 5 minutes as the mixture bubbles and thickens. Reduce the heat to low and cook, continuing to stir, for approximately 10 – 15 minutes. Add the Parmesan, goat cheese, brown butter, sage, roasted Anaheim pepper, salt and pepper. Stir to combine thoroughly.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the polenta over the parchment paper to create a ½ inch thick layer of polenta. Using your rubber spatula evenly distribute the polenta so it is flat. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
Remove polenta from the refrigerator and cut into triangles, Then heat the polenta triangles in the oven at 350 F until the polenta is warm. Once they are warm remove them and begin to assemble.
Place your polenta triangles on a plate and spread goat cheese on each triangle. Then place some arugula on top and dress it with your pesto. Finish it with your roasted butternut squash and serve.