Arabica London – Levantine Feast

Arabica Bar & Kitchen is a cozy and friendly middle-eastern restaurant based in the notorious Borough Market. Usually not open on Sundays, they decided to change this by offering a refreshing alternative to a classic roast: a Levantine feast. The launch event was nothing short of a beer & food pairing guided by the energetic & fun Melissa Cole.

The whole thing started off nicely with an innocent Pilsner from the nearby Fourpure brewery to accompany some delicious homemade pickles & roasted cashews, then followed by their Session IPA and Pale Ale along with creamy and rich dips such as hummuscacik, and moutabel. But, it wasn’t long before we found ourselves hammered with some serious artillery such as a Chouffe (8% ABV), Fuller’s Imperial Stout (10.7%), or the luscious Stout or Brown ales by the creative gang at Anspach & Hobday. All of that for a Sunday brunch…

What else to say other than the beers were all excellent, the food was delicious, and the pairing spot-on! Oh, and the seven hour slow cooked lamb with cinnamon rice… absolutely divine! Absolutely recommended, and we’ll clearly be back for some more (like for their upcoming Lebanese Wine & food feast, for example?)

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Arabica Bar and Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Forest fruits, pistachio & coconut cake

Rainy Sunday afternoons are definitely a great “excuse” for baking cakes. It’s relaxing, fun, and totally rewarding. Today we’ve tried out a delightful Middle Eastern inspired recipe by Honey & Co. It’s such an easy recipe that can be made without flour or sugar, and the results… mind blowing! Just so you know, their book is on massive sale on Amazon, so make sure you get your copy asap – it’s fabulous: Honey & Co: Food from the Middle East.

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Forest fruits, pistachio & coconut cake

Ingredients

  • 180g ground almonds
  • 30g ground pistachio
  • 50g desiccated coconut
  • 50g self-raising flour (optional)
  • 40ml agave syrup (or honey)
  • 150g butter (melted)
  • 3 eggs
  • 300g forest fruits (or cherries)
  • 50g chopped pistachios (for the topping)
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 20g sugar (for the topping)

Directions

Step 1
Preheat the oven to 180ºC/gas mark 5 and grease a 22cm diameter cake pan with butter.
Step 2
Mix all the dry ingredients together with the agave syrup (honey) in a bowl. Pour over the melted butter and mix in the eggs.
Step 3
Spoon the butter into the pan. Drop the forrest fruits/cherries on top (if you are using frozen fruits, spread 2-3 spoons of sugar on top and leave them to room temperature for about 20 minutes before using).
Step 4
Sprinkle the top of the cake with the roughly chopped pistachios and 20g os sugar. Bake for 25-30 minutes.
Step 5
Let the cake to cool before serving it! Bon appétit!

The FoodCrafters Christmas Shopping Guide

Ho ho ho!

As Christmas is peeking around the corner, we wanted to share some of the most exciting, original, and unique artisan food products from around the world we totally love and that should be on your shopping list. We’re pretty sure they will make more than happy any food aficionado you would like to please.

 

1. Jojo’s Sriracha Gift Box

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Three jars of awesome sauce for that special someone. This gift box contains 1 classic batch, 1 zinfandel-infused and 1 petite sirah-infused Sriracha. Jolene Collins handcrafts her small batch sriracha from locally sourced peppers and ages it in oak barrels to maximize its smoky, spicy goodness. A fiery hot, Asian-style chili pepper sauce made with distilled vinegar, sea salt, garlic and palm sugar.

 

2. Tarquin’s Gin

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A contemporary take on a classic London Dry, we use fragrant handpicked Devon violets and fresh orange zest to deliver an aromatic sensation unlike any other. We like to think the result is comparable to stumbling upon a beautiful orange blossom in the middle of a crisp, dry pine forest. Only the best and most pure spirit (the heart) makes it into Tarquin’s Gin, which is diluted to bottling strength at 42% with Cornish spring water.

 

3. Craft Your Own Bitters Kit

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This kit will bring the excitement, creativity, and satisfaction of making fine tinctures and extracts into the home. We’ve curated a handsome assortment of the essential tools and packaged them alongside our proprietary mix of herbs, spices, bittering agents, and dried fruit peel. Out of the box, the results will be delicious and we’ll also encourage people to use our blends as a starting-point for their own special recipes by adding flavor components that speak to their unique taste.

 

4. Liddabits Fig Ricotta Caramels

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Loaded with sweet bits of dried fig and touched with balsamic vinegar, these caramels are one of our most sophisticated treats. A delightful addition to a cheese plate, they’re also great with a sip of port – or just on their own.

 

5. Salt Tower (exclusive to Food52)

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An exclusive-to-Provisions selection of hand-harvested salts from around the world, in one tower that makes it simple to experiment with every regional variety, including Bali Sea Salt, Australian Murray River Pink Salt Flakes, Maine Cherry Smoked Salt, Hawaiian Red Alaea Sea Salt, Himalayan Fine Grain, and Black Cyprus Sea Salt Flakes.

 

6. Turkish Coffee Set with Cups (Selamlique Istanbul)

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This exceptional Turkish Coffee Gift Box includes a Black porcelain coffee pot, 125g Celebration “Dark roast” coffee, and 2 black Selamlique cups. Everything (except coffee beans of course) is Made in Turkey with pride. Coffee beans are 100% arabica imported from Brazil (Rio Minas), without any use of artificial or chemical additives.

 

7. The Essential Chili Butter Collection

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Our Chili Butters were created by drawing inspiration from our favorite African Harissas, Mexican Adobos, Thai Curry Pastes and other spreads and pastes from around the world. We experimented endlessly to create a smooth spicy product that can be used for everything from spreading right on a sandwich alongside mayo or using to add a burst of flavor to braises, grill marinades, or simple sautéed vegetables.

 

8. Dave’s Original All Natural Cold Brewed Coffee Syrup

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There’s a whole lot of love that goes into each bottle of Dave’s Coffee Syrup. And, from the roasted coffee to the bottled syrup, we do it all right here in Rhode Island. For a classic coffee milk, mix three generous tablespoons of Dave’s Coffee Syrup into a glass of cold milk and enjoy.

 

9. Askinosie Single Origin Box

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Our best deal, this is a great way to not only taste a chocolate bar from each origin, but to taste your way around the world… in chocolate! This set of chocolate also makes a great gift: the bars are wrapped up inside a kraft box, with a rustic paper label on the front that features an area to write a special message (or just check one of the boxes). All chocolate bars are made with cocoa beans and organic cane sugar only and are Certified Kosher D.E., vegan and gluten free.

 

10. Click and Grow – Smart Herb Garden

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I was made to take complete care of your plants, so you could enjoy your life to the fullest. Let me water them as often as necessary, provide the extra lighting, and love them while you’re away. I come with cartridges for Basil, Thyme and Lemon Balm, but you can always refill me with various other plants. Just plug me into the wall, add water and let me take care of everything else!

 

11. La Boîte NYC The Voyager Collection

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After 3 years of working together, Eric Ripert of Manhattan’s Le Bernardin and Lior Lev Sercarz of La Boite have collaborated to create a unique line of spices – The Voyager Collection. In this collector’s wooden box, signed by Ripert and Lev Sercarz, you will find 3 new blends made specially for this collection: Le Poivre, Riviera Herbs, Sel D’Antibes.

 

12. The Brander − Food Edition

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In the second book of this exciting branding consultancy from Zürich, The Brander – Food introduce you to 17 extraordinary brand makers and their stories. As the title reveals, this book has a culinary theme. As an extra treat every brand story is rounded off with a recipe for you to try out at home that has been provided by the portrayed brand creators.

Mexico – The cookbook by Phaidon

The cookbook nerds we are got extremely thrilled when we heard Phaidon is releasing a mammoth book on Mexican cuisine called “Mexico: The Cookbook”.

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This book is no mean feat – with over 700 (!!) pages of recipes, this massive volume is everything but a desirable companion for your daily commute. It is packed with gorgeous photos on mate paper, proper and tasteful food porn.

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All the classics are there, from tacos, to tamales, to moles, you’ll find a dozen variations for each. But then, you’ll find a whole load of seriously authentic and tasty sounding stews, soups, and more. Most recipes are manageable, although some call for rather exotic ingredients that you won’t likely find outside Mexico (avocado leaves? fresh epazote? chapulines?). Obviously, you’ll need access to a Mexican shop to source your chillies (of all kinds), masa harina, and many others.

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The only thing that the next edition of the book could do more is to add more text. Lots more text. As it stands, beyond a very basic introductory text about Mexican food, the rest of the book is pretty much a very dry and endless list of recipes. It would be lovely if each recipe had its little introduction paragraph, where the recipes are from, a funny anecdote about the dish or an ingredients, anything that makes us learn something about the dish.

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In short, this book is clearly a “must-have” for any fanatic of Mexican food. If you have to own only one recipe book on the topic – this is hands down the best out there, and it’s very likely to remain this way for many years to come. If you’re looking for more “text” – insights in the ingredients, stories, and recipes of this incredible complex culture (and less of an encyclopedic compendium of recipes), go for the books of Rick Bayless, Hugo Ortega, or Diana Kennedy. And if you speak Spanish, the ideal compromise would be the “Larousse de la Cocina Mexicana” – the best classic book on Mexican cuisine we’ve seen, sadly it’s been not easy to find.

The Clove Club

Dining at The Clove Club, a restaurant/bar located in the Shoreditch Town Hall in London, has been on top of our todo list for quite a while. We’ve read about  their creative, yet down-to-earth, British cuisine made with mainly local ingredients (and some discreetly intertwined Japanese influences). Obviously, we couldn’t handle the call of the extended tasting menu: some fancy snacks to start with, and then a few more exceptional dishes – 10 of them to be accurate. All modern and honest food, which we loved.

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To cut it short, it was absolutely worth it! Meat and fish was cooked to perfection, flavours were exciting and balanced, the service friendly and helpful. Dishes were original and displayed the top-notch cooking skills of the brigade.

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Our first starter was fried chicken feet skin (yes, feet skin) was a premiere for us – and a delicious one!

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Coppa & Lardo

 

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Homemade sourdough & butter

 

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Flamed Mackerel, Cucumber, English Mustard & Chrysanthemums

 

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Hazelwood Grilled Squid Tarragon & Kabu Turnip

 

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Montgomery Cheddar Tart & Crystal Malt

 

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Grouse & Partridge Pie

 

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60 Day Aged Hereford Rib, Parsley & Horseradish

 

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Duck consommé & Hundred Year Old Madeira

 

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Dry Aged Challans Duck, Ceps & Kale

 

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Amalfi Lemonade & Sarawak Pepper

 

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The Clove Club on Urbanspoon

Roasted cauliflower with lentils and tahini

Looking for something simple, fresh and exotic for your dinner? Here’s our choice this week, a wonderful combination of grilled cauliflower and lentils – two unlikely companions – turned into an amazing mix of flavours you won’t easily forget! This salad has it all: crunchy bread, earthy lentils, nutty tahini and zesty lemon – everything needed to raise a smile!

This recipe was inspired by a similar one we found in Under the Shade of Olive Trees: Recipes from Jerusalem to Marrakech and Beyond, one of our favourite cookbook these days.

Roasted cauliflower with lentils and tahini

Ingredients

  • 1 Medium cauliflower
  • 1 flatbread
  • 100g lentils
  • 1 bunch fresh mint
  • 150ml tahini
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 clove garlic
  • olive oil
  • 1 pomegranate seeds

Directions

Step 1
Cut the cauliflower into florets, place them in an oven dish and toss with olive oil and salt. Shred the bread into small pieces, drizzle with olive oil and add it to the cauliflower. Roast them together for about 10 minutes, or until golden brown.
Step 2
Cook the lentils for about 20 minutes. Use half of a lemon and thinly slice its peel. Add it to the boiled lentils. Prepare the dressing mixing the tahini with the lemon juice, garlic, a couple of tablespoons boiling water, and some olive oil.
Step 3
Finally, combine the roasted cauliflower & bread with the lentils, fresh mint, and pomegranate seeds. Generously sprinkle with tahini dressing. Bon appetit!

The Ethicurean

We’ve dreamed about going to The Ethicurean for a while. Not really because of the raving reviews & tweets, but because we’ve been salivating over the luscious pages of their book for quite some time.

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To put in context, the Ethicurean is a lovely homey restaurant tucked away in the bucolic country-side in Somerset, not far from Bristol. Although ease of access is not a defining characteristic when you’re relying on public transportation (=us), it’s absolutely worth a trip. Yet, this place is not just a country-side restaurant, but the real-world embodiment of a lifestyle and philosophy we entirely embrace.

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In their own words:

The Ethicurean Restaurant is founded on ‘a sense of place’. This is the idea of having a connection with the native land, the community who grow seasonal food upon it, preparations with harmonious flavours and the understanding of its history. In our kitchen garden restaurant we give respect to the local produce grown here and sourced locally by using flavour combinations that have been partners for centuries. We look for ways to update and innovate historical recipes that highlight the bounteous nature of our land.

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It opened a few years back on the grounds of the Barley Wood Walled Garden, a Victorian garden built in 1901 for the director of the Imperial Tobacco Company (see history). It provides an incredibly relaxing atmosphere with postcard-like vistas on this beautiful region.

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Since their opening, the garden became the cradle where a young gang of ambitious chefs, mixologists, and overall bon vivants could let their imagination go wild and push the boundaries of what modern British food is. And we’re not talking about “hype” food, but honest and delightful culinary creations.

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Most of the produce they use comes either from their own garden or nearby farmers, cheese-makers, hunters, gatherers, or brewers. They make their own cider and apple juice on the premisses. Jars filled with pickles, essences, spices, and other concoctions are scattered opportunistically every where you look. Their dishes audaciously combine traditional recipes and cooking techniques, with lots of exciting flavours – often forgotten spices, seeds, plants.

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To be honest, we didn’t like the food. We absolutely LOVED it! Every bit of meat, cabbage leaf, or sauce drop had a unique story to tell, and we licked our (many) plates clean. Everything was utterly delicious and exciting.

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Excellent homemade bread to start. Real, tasty bread.

The Ethicurean, Bristol

Gigha smoked halibut, lacto fermented egg, tidal greens, fresh fennel seeds.

The smoked halibut was excellent. With amazing purple eggs, fermented for a few months with beetroot and fresh fennel seeds, this was an explosion of flavours & textures.

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Macerated strawberry salad, burnt chicory, labneh, marjoram & walnut oil.

The macerated strawberry salad was remarkable. The sweet & sour fruits were getting along perfectly with an onctuous labneh and perfectly crisp chicory.

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Steamed hake, English Kombu dashi, carrot, cucumber, shiitake & black garlic.

Then we had a lovely dashi with hake. The delicate fish was sitting on a bed of carrots, and fresh coriander seeds. A lovely and very exciting dish.

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12-hour pressed pork belly, beetroot, cabbage, chipotle crackling & pickled apple.

The other main was an exceptional pork belly – super crispy skin with spicy crackling. The meat was incredibly moist and succulent, we had to fight over it.

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The first desert was a sublime rhubarb tart with fresh fennel and clotted cream ice cream. Definitely one of the best tarts I’ve ever had, perfectly crumbling yet an incredible texture, and an unforgettable flavour combination. A real treat!! To top it all, we had the steamed pudding with milk stout, perfectly moist and intensely tasty, a dream come true!

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If you have the chance to go there, you simply cannot afford to miss it. But until then, grab a copy of their book – which is one of our all-time favourites. Packed with stories and beautiful pictures, amazing dishes, and tons of interesting anecdotes about this and that ingredient, technique, or dish – this book is bound to become an essential companion for your late-night foodie reads or tea in the garden.

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[1] See the review written by Marina O’Loughlin on the Guardian.

The Ethicurean, Barley Wood Walled Garden
Long Lane, Wrington
Bristol, BS40 5SA

Follow them on Facebook and Twitter!

Cawston Press Apple Juices

An ideal summer drink has to be refreshing, punchy, and not very sweet. Cawston press juices do have it all. Since we tried those guys for the first time, we pretty much fell in love, and our favourite is the rhubarb one. And maybe the elderflower one too. We’re not quite sure yet…

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These come in a few varieties (cloudy apple, apple lemonade, apple and elderflower, and more), all made with fresh apples picked at their peak (“Cox’s Orange Pippin for its depth of flavour and Bramley for its bite” in the cloudy apple one). Obviously free from nasties – like everything we talk about here – they are not even made from concentrate, nor do they contain any artificial flavourings, sweeteners and such.

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Although they say you can’t judge a book by its cover, in this case the juice is certainly on par with its awesome packaging. All flavours are delicious, and once the cork is popped, we find it quite difficult to leave any for next day’s breakfast.

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If you’ve never tried these (which is hard to believe if you’re in the UK), give it a go. Especially worth tasting are their new pop drinks range, I can’t think of anything better than this when it’s hot out there. Or rainy, like today.

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Those folks have been bravely pressing apples in Berkshire (UK) since 1986, and have been able to reinvent something as basic as apple juice to keep up with modern times, and flourish without compromising quality. We love that spirit and that’s exactly the kind of products we want to see (& especially taste) more often, so we’d like raise our glass to them. A glass of what? See below the next picture!

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Here is our take for a late summer (or early autumn, really) on a cocktail with the Apple & Ginger one, topped with some extra spice.

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Pommes pom cal

Ingredients

  • 60ml Cawston Press Apple & Ginger Juice
  • 45ml Pomegranate Juice (e.g. Pom)
  • 60ml Mezcal (smoked, ideally Del Maguey)

Directions

Step 1
Mix all ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. Shake well for 1 minute.
Step 2
Strain & serve in a chilled high glass (margarita or champagne flûte)

Important “just so you know”: we do not get paid/endorsed by the product or brands we talk about in any manner. We choose the products we feature based on their “craftness” and honesty, and simply because we love them, their stories, and especially the brilliant artisans that made them. We will never deliberately talk about a product/crafter that is not aligned with our own principles!!!

Founders Q&A – Jardins Florian

A few weeks back, we met Florian Gonzalez, an accomplished entrepreneur, who certainly knows how to appreciate quality craftsmanship. In 2011 he launched an exquisite concept, Jardins Florian, which is a design house, online store and magazine, specialised in high-quality crafted items, many of them limited editions. Devoted to excellence, functionality and simplicity at the same time, the philosophy of Jardins Florian is “to serve creativity and humanity, with a true art de vivre and dolce vita spirit” without compromising sustainability and social responsibility. More about his project that is close to our own values (& hearts) in an interview with Florian below as part of our Q&A series.

Florian Gonzalez

Image credit: ‘International Herald Tribune’ 2011

FC: Hello Florian, could you introduce yourself and tell us the story of “Jardins Florian”?

In a nuthshell, in 2007 I felt that I could not work for the mainstream luxury/fashion industry as it was. I wanted to reconcile my love for beautiful products together with traceability and sustainability. When completing my MBA in 2004-05 I was already chewing on a few business concepts around retail so the “Jardins Florian” concept came quite naturally. I moved from Milan to London with a view to launching a brick-and-mortar concept store and after the crisis hit retail so hard in 2009 I decided together with my advisors that it was better to wait. In 2011 we eventually launched our collaborative brand and shop online to be lighter in terms of investment and to adapt faster to the dramatically changing market.

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FAIR Rum Belize

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FC: What are the challenges in selling such high quality products and how do you overcome those in today’s world?

There are quite many challenges. The main one is obviously the very costs of producing goods made with finest materials, manufactured by skilled craftsmen and women, keeping production where it should be (e.g. tea caddies in Kyoto, shoes in Milan etc.) even when wages are 10 to 20 times higher. Another one is to work with some niche brands because we pretty much have to promote them from scratch. We have extremely loyal followers and that’s our key engine as they follow our newsletter and some customers purchase pretty much everything we offer :)

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FC: What proved to be the most effective method(s) to grow your community/presence/sales? What didn’t work at all? In other words, what you wish you knew when you started?

We have 2 implicit principles: “quality – quality – quality” and “service – service – service”! We play with social media platforms but we focus on how we serve our customers, spending as much time as necessary to please them. So in a way we keep things very human and a bit old school. Well, what did not work is pretty clear, the web has become extremely crowded and there are so many websites (including Amazon and eBay!), so many products that SEO and online marketing are dangerous for small companies… You have to be very savvy about where you invest your money, time and energy. When we started (2011) it was less crowded but in 3 years things have totally changed.

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FC: You are selling only few food items. What are the difficulties to find and sell more artisan, high-quality products?

We have started selling some very unique spirits and we have a long list of food & beverage brands and products that want to be featured on our website. Of course in terms of shipping, customs, tax they are not the easiest categories… But we sell over the world and we like to solve problems so we are about to add up new categories and food products step by step…

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FAIR Quinoa Vodka

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FC: Some exciting foods you’re currently sourcing or you simply can’t have enough?

There will be chocolate at some point because I am very crazy about this :) We are also about to add up the very best Turkish coffee which, admittedly, is an unexpected move…

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FC: What’s next for your project? Any exciting stuff you’d like to share?

Well, hard to pick one example as we work on 30-40 projects at the same time and we launch them only when the time is right however we are quite excited about skateboards which are coming within days, straight from California!! And they are the most sustainable decks which makes us even more proud!

FC: A last word for anyone who wants to make and sell authentic food, but are too scared/shy, don’t have time/money, or simply don’t know where to start?

JUST DO IT, NOW!!! Jump jump jump! Lack of money is always an excuse. Get started (even small) and learn to fly on the way.

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FC: Thank you, Florian!

[Images courtesy of JardinsFlorian.com]