We’re Bite Society. Think gift baskets, but cool

ROUND TWO: Tattoo Artists vs. Branding Company in a Virtual Cage Match

Posted by Lendy Hensley on

In my last post, I told you a little about our history as Seattle catering giants...who got a little crushed in 2020. Cut to our heroes now sitting on the couch in April of 2020, grateful for a year's supply of flour and yeast, but getting a little restless. Even the dog was bored.

The idea of becoming a 300 year old British food company was still rolling around in the back of our collective minds. But how does one start a gift basket and food company with house made products that are wrapped in original artwork while the entire world is shut down? There are probably 300 ways to go about it, but we started in the kitchen testing recipes, dropping off samples with the neighbors and trying a whole lot of food. 

It was hardly a straight line from "Hey, let's do this" to making more than 40 products in the Bite Society line. We tried cookies while working on mustard. We spent a lot of time making fudge. I found a recipe for something called Penuche that is a regional favorite in New England and the South. We didn't know how to pronounce it until Katy's Wakefield, Mass Dad said, "Oh, Pen-ooo-chie." I went pretty deep into the Wellsley College origins of American fudge before we decided to table that product for a bit. (Confidentially, buttermilk fudge is dreamy.)

In addition to tasty products, we needed a direction for our artwork. Packaging was key. We all wanted something that reflected our history, working in kitchens and that was uniquely American. That is where Salty's arm came in. Salty was our kitchen manager at City Catering. If you have an image of a handsome guy, greying at the temples, who rocks a clipboard with a smile until he gets a little bit salty, that is Salty. His tattoos are a travelogue. He has a fantastic hula girl, an owl with the ace of spades wearing a top hat, a dagger and more. He adds another piece on his annual vacation each year.

We wanted to bring American Traditional tattoo art together with our food in packaging that didn't quite exist just yet. We connected with a Seattle branding company, and it started with all of the promise of every first meeting and went a little bit downhill from there. We might have been the most offended when they questioned the authenticity of our lion logo idea. When Shana said, "It's the king of the jungle," I might have busted out laughing. Salty would have never gone for artwork of a wedge of cheese with a dagger that was pitched to us. After a month in, it was time to make the best decision we ever made. We said goodbye to the branders and set off like kids in a fairytale lost in the woods.

On a walk with the dog (how many good ideas start at the end of a dog's leash?), I realized that tattoo shops were closed nationwide and there were a lot of really skillful artists who were out of work. We put ads in Seattle, Portland, New York, and Chicago. We pitched our products and the ideas and artwork started flowing. We fell in love with an artist outside of Portland who just understood us. He loved the lion, he drew the lion, he drew the lion with a monocle and he drew the lion with parted hair. He even drew the lion with a top hat when we asked him to. He worked as tattoo artists work, collaboratively, and with a lot of great ideas. (Note: We skipped all of our ideas and went with his.) Sister Carol's designs were from Dia Diaspora, a tattoo artist from Utica, New York. Ideas and art poured in, and we were set off on a ride that has been non-stop.

Next Up: Traditional American Cookie meet Traditional American Tattoos


 

 

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ROUND ONE: The Classic Question: If You Could Do Anything, What Would You Do?

Posted by Lendy Hensley on

Today, a customer popped in to grab a basket for a work gift. He had about 30 seconds to handwrite the card before dashing out the door. As his voice trailed off, he asked, “Can you do corporate holiday gifts?”.  We immediately did a cheerleader pyramid in the form of “Yessirree, Bob!”. (We are talented cheerscapers.)

It occurred to me, while I was making the bottom of the B in Bob, that we don’t always do the best job of telling our own story. We have an About Us, but it is snappy and sassy and tells the story in less than 50 words. It doesn’t answer the question, “Why should I trust you with putting together 400 gift baskets for my best customers?” in a way that might make you feel like letting us put together 400 holiday gift baskets for your best customers. Now feels like a good time to explain just how we went from 0 to 60 as both a gift basket company and a retail packaged food company, and why you can trust us to send out your corporate gifts.

Twenty years ago, I started a catering company: City Catering. We got kind of big, kind of quickly. Our first 1,000 person event was in our 3rd month of business. Our first 2,000 person event was in that same month. We marched a steady path up from there. We catered for fancy people in fancy places, opened our own cafes, and generally felt like we had the world by the tail. We also made a lot of tasty food, met some great people, had some hilarious antics with trucks that didn’t fit into loading docks, ovens that didn’t work, fire marshals that did work, and more..so much more.

The year 2020 offered me, us and just about everyone an opportunity to re-imagine their life and their businesses in a new way. We were given a full stop. Our commissary and warehouse that was once teeming with cooks, packers, loaders and servers was empty (except for a ton of flour, yeast and beer). You know that self-help book question, “If you could do anything, what would you do?”? My old answer was, “Yeah, right”. My new answer was, “Hold my 100 pound sack of flour, I have an idea.”

Many years ago,  I fell in love with a 300 year old London company called Fortnum & Mason. At heart, they are caterers with department stores devoted to food. The candy counter is like a jewelry display and the packaging is artful, delightful, and very British. I ordered a hamper as a thank you for a friend who hosted me while I was visiting, and I was inspired. I thought, "Someday, I want to do that". The somedays got a little further away as the catering and cafe business grew. But, then 2020 happened and someday came.

We had a chance to take all that we learned as caterers and dive into something new. We took our recipes, our know how, our incredible logistical experience and turned it into what our fancy copy writer called “Picnics by Post”.

It took us about 9 months and 20 years to put Bite Society together, so I think it will take more than one blog post to tell our story. We kicked our first blog post off with a list of what we did, and in the next few posts I will share a few stories of how we got here.

Next Up: Tattoo Artists defeat Branding Company in Virtual Cage Match

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But What Does Salsa Macha Taste Like?

Posted by Lendy Hensley on

Shana’s husband, Allan, was an early Salsa Macha taster. I received a text early last summer that said, “My mouth is pleasantly on fire.”  Even The New York Times wrote an article about the "Value of Salsa Macha". Our Salsa Macha is true to its Veracruz roots using a blend of chilies that give it both chili flavor (we prefer flavor over fear) and chili heat, fried garlic and onion for flavor and crunch and a hint of cinnamon. We give ours a unique twist with pepitas and sesame.

Back to the original question: What does Salsa Macha taste like?

The first note is the harmony of warmth and cinnamon, followed by the crunch of garlic and onion with a savory intermittent salt wave. Like a social media "About Me" descriptor....Salsa Macha is complicated. It’s a challenging question to answer. That is part of what makes Salsa Macha so versatile. It has characteristics that ebb and flow by what it’s paired with. On eggs, I get more chili. On savory proteins, I get the heat along with garlic and onions. With my chocolate ice cream, I get the cinnamon and roasted pepitas.

 

It occurs to me that Salsa Macha is the condiment of requirement. Like the room in Harry Potter, it gives me just what I need to make the perfect bite (see what I did there). My friend Tam is an excellent cook and all-around culinarian. She reads about food, collects cookbooks, knows a lot, and is ultimately responsible for my career in food (she’s also smarter than me – she has a real job at Microsoft). Tam was also a Salsa Macha tester, so I asked her, “What does Salsa Macha taste like?” I got an answer worthy of Food52:

"Salsa Macha provides both a layered taste and sensation.

For flavor, it gives a rich and complex spiciness that’s tempered with sweet and salty notes and an earthiness from the pepitas … and is there sesame in there? The nuttiness definitely provides a grounding for all the zippiness that comes from the chilis. And speaking of the chilis, Salsa Macha doesn’t give me the spicy/numbing/tingling effect of a traditional Szechuan chili crisp, but there’s a lively mouthfeel that comes along with the spice. " -Tam

 

Translation: Her mouth is pleasantly on fire.

Snag Your Salsa Macha Jar(s) Here>>

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Our Pickling Timeline

Posted by Lendy Hensley on

Katy was giving me the synopsis of a 99%Invisible podcast that investigated innovations sparked by wars and other tragedies. I call this "The Katycast".

She recounted Napoleon’s offer of 12,000 francs to a person who could successfully preserve food for his army (I almost said successfully can food, but that was not yet invented). Nicolas François Appert, a confectioner, won the prize after 15 years of experiments.  His method involved heating and sealing food in airtight glass jars, or what we call Wednesday.

This fun fact sent me down a series of twists and turns about this history of pickling and canned food. Apparently, my grandmother invented neither pickling nor canning. The Pickle Museum has a nice poster with a pickle timeline. When pickles met canning it began the end of getting your gherkins from barrels on the corner, and JH Heinz started an industry. This postcard shows a process that remains unchanged. Our skirts may be shorter, but we look pretty similar.

As caterers, we pickled when we had a combination of extra produce and time. The combinations were endless and at hand: Beets and thyme…winner! Figs and balsamic…super extra winner. When we opened Café Freya at the National Nordic Museum our pickling went into overdrive. The Nords are serious about two things: Pickles and coffee.  We developed our Pickled Fennel and our Pickled Red O’s for the café and used the methods of Nicholas Francios Appert to put them in a jar for you.

P.S. This makes the Napoleon line of canned and jarred foods make a lot more sense.

 

P.P.S. We are working on Pickled Pickles right now – look for them soon.

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BS Potato Salad

Posted by Lendy Hensley on

This recipe is far from what B.S. usually stands for. Whip up a quick side of Bite Society Potato Salad for your next BBQ!
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