Sunday, January 18, 2009
I believe it was my friend Drew that first recommended that I try the Stonewall Kitchen products at the Chef Shop in San Carlos. I can't remember if there was a specific product he recommended, a jam or a pancake mix or salad dressing, but I did remember the brand name and while wandering around on Laurel Street in San Carlos, I decided to give the Fig and Ginger jam a try. I love ginger. And I love figs. Who knew?
Breakfast the next day was amazing. The fluffy English muffins from Whole Foods were the perfect complement to the jam and I think within a week, I was at the bottom of the jar.
Next, I tried the Wild Maine Blueberry Jam, and as a longtime blueberry freak, I was amazed at both how many real blueberries were packed in there and how fresh and juicy they stayed. Ahh...no preservatives! And less syrupy blue stuff than other brands I've tried.
Last Christmas (2007), I gave most of my clinical team at work some variation of a gift package of Stonewall Kitchen products that included the Pumpkin Pancake or Banana Pancake mixes along with a SK spatulua, etc.
My readers know that I don't usually go into product endorsement mode on the blog. I probably wouldn't have if it wasn't for my experience yesterday.
Also on Christmas in 2007, Brad gave me a gift certificate for the cooking school at Draeger's Market. I love to cook when I have the time, but I'm self-taught, and I'm really wanting to learn the basics of cooking from a pro. So, in December of 2008, I was feeling guilty (and a little pressure from Brad) about not having signed up for a Draeger's class yet. As luck would have it, I received the cooking school schedule in the mail that week, and there on the cover was Jonathan King and Jim Stott, the founders/owners of Stonewall Kitchen, coming to the San Mateo store for a demo!
Yesterday was an amazing and inspiring event for me. Of course the food that they prepared was fantastic. Classic Down East Clam Chowder, Roasted Beet Salad with Fried Goat Cheese and Fig-Balsamic Dressing, Salmon Ginger Cakes with Orange-Miso Sauce, Mediterranean Orzo salad, Asparagus Bundles wrapped with Prosciutto, and Molten Chocolate Cake were demo'd and served to the class of about 50 of us.
The school itself is amazing with comfortable "classroom" style seating, high tech camera/HD screens for detail viewing and professional staff assisting with clean up and serving. There really wasn't a bad seat in the house and I can't wait to take the Basic Knife Skills class coming up this wednesday.
Having said all that however, what really impressed me the most was Jonathan and Jim themselves.
They struck me as real people who had a good idea and made something happen with it. Nothing's more inspiring than that.
Both are warm and funny in their own ways and it's clear that they love what they do. I'll even go a step further- I think they feel grateful for the incredible whirlwind that turned their little card table at the local farmer's market into a multi-million dollar business with 6000 accounts currently worldwide and producing 50,000 products a day at their main factory.
Using a combination of good taste, "ignorance" (as Jim jokingly stated during the demo) and plain old hard work, they took a passion and created something healthy and tasty that appeals to me not because of the promotion or packing but the simplicity, quality and comfort that goes into each product. They probably wouldn't sell something if they didn't like it themselves.
Jonathan hand-wrote every label on their first major order of 3000 jams from Crate and Barrell and it's still his handwriting printed on every label even now. Gives you the feeling that this stuff just came off grandma's shelf!
I think we all need a little inspiration during these rough economic times. Obama is one inspiration for me. These guys are another.