Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme!

No, we aren’t talking about the Simon & Garfunkel song, we just love everything herb! Spring and Summer seasons mean that our herb garden is starting to grow here at our York Company Store, and there’s nothing like fresh, homegrown ingredients. There are so many ways to use herbs in food and we’d love to share a few ideas with you.

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Whether you have a garden of your own, or purchase locally, using fresh herbs in any meal can really bring that hint of summer to your dish. Herbs are great to use as garnish, adding a pop of color to your creation, and can also be combined with other ingredients to make a whole new dish. We love to experiment and see how we can bring that freshness to our herb-inspired recipes!

Pestos are a perfect way to use herbs. Our Basil Pesto highlights the peppery, mint flavor in basil and compliments grain dishes, like our Risotto with Basil Pesto. Stonewall Kitchen Kale & Arugula Pesto showcases the sharp, mustard taste of Arugula and is a delicious addition to our Roasted Carrot Hummus.

On a side note – arugula is great by itself, especially as a salad. Drizzle some olive oil, splash a bit of lemon, add a pinch of salt and pepper and voila!

Guess what? You can combine herbs too! Put parsley and basil together and you get a Pasta Alfredo! We use our Basil Alfredo Sauce in the main dish and parsley as garnish!

The key to herbs is keeping them fresh and happy. It can be easy to bruise or blemish the leaves, potentially reducing the amount of flavor. Using gadgets such as Freshforce Herb Scissors or the Zip Strip Herb Stripper (say that ten times fast!) can help preserve flavor and make the job easier!

As always, we love to hear from YOU! Share any herb tips by commenting below or sending us an e-mail! We’d love to hear from other herb and garden lovers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Freshen Up Your Spring Cleaning Products

We couldn’t be happier to welcome warmer, spring days back with open arms. To be honest, we’re even ready to get going on our spring cleaning! We credit our willingness to clean to our line of quality Fine Home Keeping Products. It’s always much nicer to clean up your home when your cleaning products smell nice, right?

Launching just over ten years ago, we first introduced our Fine Home Keeping line in September of 2006. Our original goal for our Fine Home Keeping products has remained the same throughout the years; our products must be effective with a simple and basic ingredients list and free of harmful additives. Handmade in New England, our products only use premium aromatherapy essential oils, fragrances created around kitchen and garden themes and natural ingredients. By keeping our Fine Home Keeping items all natural, it helps eliminate any unnecessary additives that may cause skin irritations, such as solvents, parabens or triclosan. They’re even gluten free!

 

On top of being a great pick for your skin, our scents are clean and pleasant without lingering too long. Seasonal scents vary by year, but our core line includes Maine Woods, Herbes de Provence, Coastal Breeze, Lemon Parsley, Grapefruit Thyme, Lavender Mint and White Pine, all offered year round. Each scent comes in at least four different products (hand soap, hand lotion, dish soap and a soy candle) with select scents available in additional variations like window & counter top cleanser, hand soap refills, mini lotions, hand gels and/or travel sets.

To keep your hands in tip-top shape, our lotion ingredients are very simple – just purified water, olive oil, coconut oil, shea butter, cetyl alcohol (a fatty alcohol from coconuts, used as an emulsifier and preservative), stearyl alcohol (another fatty alcohol from coconuts, used as a humectant, emulsifier, skin softener and preservative), green tea extract, aloe vera, vitamins A, E & D, essential oils and fragrance. They are formulated to absorb thoroughly while leaving skin smooth, soothed and nourished without leaving a residue on your hands.

We believe that using a good quality hand soap also promotes healthy, moisturized hands in addition to using a good quality lotion. The vitamin rich formula you’ll find in our hand soaps is specially made from plant-based ingredients. They create a lush later that cleanses and rinses off clean, leaving hands lightly fragranced and moisturized from the natural glycerin without stripping the skin of natural oils.

While our window & countertop cleanser is natural, that doesn’t mean it isn’t still highly effective. In fact, both lavender and spearmint essential oils are known to be antibacterial (Lavender Mint) as well as lemon essential oil (Lemon Parsley). It’s a breath of fresh air (literally!) to know that by wiping down your counters, surfaces and windows with our cleaning sprays that you won’t be breathing in any fumes that can affect those with allergies and asthma. Rest assured that they will leave a streak free finish as well.

Check out some behind the scenes photos below of some Lavender Mint Hand Soap being made!

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Happy spring cleaning!


Presenting – Our January 2017 New Products!

New Product launches are always such an exciting time for us at Stonewall Kitchen and we couldn’t be more excited to share these great new products with you! Meet the new line up… we’ve got something for every taste bud! Most of our new products are available on our website (click here to see them!) and we’re continuing to add our inventory over the next few weeks.

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Shave precious minutes off your morning routine and make mornings a little easier, with our two new additions to our convenient, single serve coffee cups – Coastal Morning and Hazelnut Crème! You’ll love the fresh taste of roasted Arabica coffee beans in our Coastal Morning blend. It’s bold, but well rounded, aromatic and delicious and is sure to be your new favorite morning coffee! Our Hazelnut Crème cups are rich and flavorful with a creamy, nutty (almost buttery!) taste of hazelnuts blended with 100% Arabica beans. If you enjoy flavored coffee, this one is perfect for an afternoon pick me up.

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In addition to our convenient, single serve coffee cups, we’ve also added single serve cups of our popular oatmeal flavors we introduced last January! For those mornings when you’re on the go and want a quick breakfast to grab on your way out the door, our Apple Cinnamon, Farmhouse and Maple Brown Sugar Oatmeal flavors are now available in a convenient 2 oz. cups. For mornings when you have a little extra time, our new Vanilla Honey flavor is a delicious way to start the day! Made from the same hearty, whole oat blend for a satisfying breakfast with rich vanilla taste and sweet honey swirled in. We love this flavor for it’s versatility and how easy it is to top with our favorite oatmeal toppings!

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We continue to add to our popular organic line and have brought a wide variety of products to the table for January. From baking mixes to relish, we’re really proud of our newest assortment!

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For a delicious chip dip or secret ingredient in homemade guacamole, our Organic Spicy Corn & Tomato Relish can’t be beat. This tasty combination of crunchy corn kernels, crispy red bell peppers, sweet tomatoes and savory onion is fantastic! It’s light, fresh tasting and has a big kick of heat from spicy peppers and roasted garlic.

Simple and light, but not lacking in flavor, is our new Organic Miso Ginger Dressing. A blend of mellow white miso, tart rice vinegar, toasted sesame oil, sweet wildflower honey and candied ginger, it has a wonderful depth of flavor and is the perfect complement to a fresh, green salad.

If you like your barbecue sauces sweet and smoky, we’ve got a new sauce for you to try. Our Organic Smoky Maple Barbecue Sauce is thick, rich and loaded with flavorful organic ingredients include real maple syrup, cider vinegar, molasses, onion, garlic and Dijon mustard. It adds a tasty, well-rounded flavor to grilled meats, recipes and sandwiches.

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Rich and chocolately, our Organic Brownie Mix is pure, sweet satisfaction. Made with delicious, organic ingredients, you’ll taste that special homemade goodness in every bite. For cornbread lovers, our new Organic Honey Cornbread Mix bakes up moist and crumbly with a full bodied corn flavor and a delicate hint of sweet honey. Best alongside homemade soups, chili and hearty stews this winter!

For a refreshing breakfast treat, our Organic Peach Raspberry Jam is a delicious topping for breakfast breads and scones. It’s loaded with big chunks of juicy organic peaches and sweet, tangy organic raspberries.

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And speaking of jams, we’ve added two new savory jams, too! For the ultimate cheese board, reach for our new Bourbon Pear Onion Jam. Slow cooked, caramelized onions are combined with sweet, ripe pears and a splash of bourbon for good measure. Alternatively, if you like a sweet heat, our Pineapple Sriracha Jam is also a delicious addition for a cheese board. This delicious jam has a character all of its own. It starts out with the sweet, sunny taste of pineapple and a touch of citrus and then a kick of heat from sriracha!

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If you’re looking for some new, flavorful condiments to add to your pantry, we’ve got you covered. For sriracha lovers, try our Roasted Garlic Sriracha Hot Sauce. Made with a tasty blend of roasted garlic and red peppers, spices, a hint of lime juice plus the powerful flavor and heat of sriracha, this hot sauce is a great secret ingredient for scrambled eggs, burgers, chicken, wings in soups or in a dip! For a pumpkin treat with a kick, try our new Spicy Pumpkin Butter. It’s smooth and rich with just the right combination of savory pumpkin and sweet brown sugar with a spicy heat at the end from two types of chilis. Try it as a great secret ingredient for ravioli filling! And don’t forget our Cuban Mojo Sauce. In addition to being delicious and versatile, true Mojo sauces are traditionally homemade recipes made from a variety of ingredients and can differ in taste from house to house and culture to culture. Ours is made with flavorful Aji peppers from Peru, olive oil, tart citrus juices, garlic and spices. It’s delicious on pork, fish tacos, shrimp or tuna steaks for an exotic kick.

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To keep you warm and toasty this winter, we’ve introduced three new simmering sauces to our simmering sauce collection… Enchilada Sauce, Maple Bourbon Braising Sauce and White Chili Starter. When it comes to recreating regional recipes, we always use the best and most flavorful ingredients to capture that truly authentic taste. For our Enchilada Sauce, we combined genuine Ancho and Pasilla chilies, roasted tomatoes, garlic and spices for an authentic experience. And if you like pot roast, Swiss steak or beef brisket, you may already be a big fan of braising. Our tasty Maple Bourbon Braising Sauce is made with sweet maple syrup, brown sugar, fresh spices and smooth bourbon to help you create an exceptionally flavorful main course that’s tender and delicious. Last but not least, if you’re looking for a new twist on chili, look no further than our White Chili Starter! It’s a flavorful, but less spicy version of a traditional Tex-Mex chili. Made with Great Northern Beans, corn, red bell peppers, onions, mild green chilies and a little garlic, it’s ideal with chicken, turkey or even pork!

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In preparation for Easter, we’ve brought back (by popular demand!) our Classic Ham Glaze. Some things are just too good to ever change, like this classic glaze that has perfected hams for generations. Our Moms really got this one right! It’s so good you’ll love it equally on pork or chicken (or even roasted vegetables!)

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We’ve saved the best for last. Although Sangria has been around for centuries in Europe, it wasn’t until 1964 that it made its U.S. debut at the World’s Fair in New York. Served chilled with pieces of fresh fruit, it was an instant hit and remains popular to this day. Our delicious Sangria Mixer has all of that fruity character, a vibrant color and refreshing classic flavor. Everyone loves a festive pitcher of Sangria!

To see more of our new products and for delicious recipes featuring our new products and to get inspired, visit our website! We’d love to see your creative uses and beautiful meal shots… leave us a comment on Facebook, tweet us on Twitter or share your photo with us on Instagram! We might just regram them or put them on our website!


Behind The Scenes: 2016 Holiday Collection

If you’ve shopped with us in the past around the holidays, you’re probably familiar with our holiday packaging. From single jams, to mini sampler collections to complete Italian Dinners, our holiday collection might be the easiest gifts to give. Especially since the packaging is already so beautifully designed and thought out that it requires no wrapping. This is thanks in large part to our incredibly talented in-house design team who consistently ‘wows’ us with their beautiful packaging, striking in-store displays, ads and so much more. We sat down with our Creative Manager, Melissa Ambrose, to get the scoop on all the behind-the-scenes creative work and inspiration that goes into the packaging each year. Check out the video at the end of this post from our packaging vendor, United Paper Box Co., to see our packaging come to life! They are a second generation family owned and operated packaging manufacturer in Holyoke, MA and have been supplying our quality packaging since 2006, working closely with our design team to help turn their concepts into finished packaging.

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Our 2016 Holiday Collection

Q: When does the Design team usually start thinking of concepts for holiday packaging?

A: We usually begin to concept about a year and a half ahead of the holiday we’re designing for. It allows for plenty of time for discussion and it also accommodates our wholesale business, since they begin holiday 6 months or so before we do in retail.

Q: What is your process for initial concepts? Do you brainstorm as a group? Where do you find inspiration?

A: Our initial discussion around themes and concepts for holiday packaging usually starts with Jonathan. We check in and see what he’s been thinking of for ideas and we bring some of ours to the table, too. From that point, we branch out and research the ideas and concepts we discuss, review how last holiday went and think of elements and designs that have worked well for us in the past and start to put a plan together. While we always aim for something new, we also stick with our tried and true elements and always try to work that in. I spend a lot of time on Pinterest! We also take note of input from the heads of our sales accounts (both Wholesale and Retail) and our Buyer. You always have to keep it in the back of your head that you’re designing for Stonewall Kitchen and what does that mean? It’s a little bit more traditional and rooted in New England on some level because that’s our history and our base. The colors end up being pretty traditional. As a designer, I tend to bring in personal preferences but always within the framework of what will serve the brand best. We always stretch our limits just a little bit and we always learn from those ideas. And it’s good to bring that in – it keeps it fresh and interesting. I love to see what new designers we add to our team bring to the table to make it feel different, but still work for our brand.

Q: Has the packaging evolved over the years as you’ve learned from previous years?

A: Definitely. All of the steps that lead up to it getting to the store and then getting it to someone’s house from the store are important to consider. I have a running list at my desk of what does and doesn’t work. We’ve had years where we tried to include a wrap that was an added element and that was a nightmare for our fulfillment team to accommodate and was hard to merchandise in our retail stores. One year we tried a pale, white shimmer paper that we learned wouldn’t work due to scuff marks. You have to ask yourself, how do you keep the box bare bones but still beautiful and special? We used to not show the contents of the box, but that was tough on our Wholesale team. We started incorporating an image of the contents of the gift on the back of the box for ease of the guest, but then that adds another limitation for us when it comes to designing. Definitely all things to keep in mind when we sit down to design the boxes. It provides us with a roadmap of sorts to make sure we’re going in the right direction.

Q: How much time does the entire collection of holiday packaging usually take to design? Do you start with a particular gift first and then branch out from there?

A: Once our concept is finalized, it takes at least 10 months or so to send the final files to the printer. Ideally it’s more like 10-12 months, so about a year’s worth of time goes into it. You concept a lot – then you take everyone’s feedback and get everyone to buy into the idea without seeing all of the designed elements in person. That’s the hardest part, sometimes. We also spend a lot of time discussing the packaging with our vendors to make sure it’s all possible. When I first started designing holiday packaging, we had a “sky’s the limit” mentality with no parameters and we’ve really learned to tailor that down to what aligns with our strategy. Instead of adding a ton of fancy elements, we know now that usually one element is enough to make a statement and still allows us to stay on track. Sometimes I start with that “special” element when I’m brainstorming.

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Early concepts for 2016 packaging.

Q: How many variations does each year’s concept typically have across the different gifts and sizes?

A: We usually have three patterns and from those patterns there are four or so variations. What works for the Holiday Blueberry Jam gift won’t necessarily work for a larger gift like the Holiday Italian Dinner. Sometimes an allover pattern will work with a specific box style and other times it will only work for the lid. I list all of my options and then I go over the restrictions of each box and compare and contrast what works for certain boxes and what doesn’t. Then I try to divvy it up so there’s an equal representation of patterns across the collection.

Q: Are designs completed digitally or are elements hand painted and scanned into a computer?

A: A combination of both. For example, our 2016 collection concept was “botanical holiday.” I just wanted to get some ideas going so I did some sketches and scanned them in quickly. I had intentions of hand painting them in watercolors, but to get the idea rolling, I “painted” them in Photoshop and everyone loved how they looked! Last year, our packaging was all designed digitally and I can remember another year that it was all typography. The last couple of years, we’ve started to work in more physical drawings and it is true for our 2017 holiday designs as well.

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Winter berry progression.

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Cardinal progression.

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Poinsettia progression.

Q: Do you work closely with our vendor to ensure that the real packaging mirrors the way you design the initial mock packaging in-house?

A: We meet early on in the process to show them what we’re thinking and talk through any limitations. Throughout the whole process we stay in close contact and are always communicating through email and phone as questions come up. They’re great about letting us know what does and doesn’t work, or what might be too risky to try and they usually try to do that up front when we’re sharing concepts. Our mock packaging that we create in-house to show our team for approval is SO different that it can be really tough to get people to buy into it sometimes. Elements like foils and metallic paper are non-existent when we make a mock in-house, so we really don’t see it all come to life until the packaging arrives.

Q: What has been your favorite packaging you’ve designed since you’ve been with Stonewall Kitchen and why?

A: That’s tough – there’s always something from each year that I think is a win and there’s always different reasons for those wins. The 2011 collection with the typography was the first collection I designed by myself, so that has always been a favorite of mine. The typography was so fun and I had a real sense of pride that I walked away with.

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Our 2014 collection was also very beautiful, but it was a win for me for a different reason. I got to mentor another designer and watch her learn along the way to make her design concept work. It was a really fulfilling experience to let her chase her vision.

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This year’s packaging is also one of my favorites because I love that they’re my drawings. To know it all started as a pencil sketch and that I brought it to life is so exciting. I have a painting background so when I get to tie that in with packaging, it’s a great feeling. It’s always great to hear what my co-workers have to say about the packaging each year.

Q: Any sneak peeks or hints you can give us for 2017 holiday packaging? What can we expect to see next year?

I had a chance to draw again and apply the same technique of adding color digitally, like this year’s packaging. It’s very vintage – think 50’s and 60’s. To me it feels like a classic Christmas movie. Even though the colors are very similar to this year’s and the technique of the boxes are the same, it’s still a very different feel. Stay tuned!

Watch our packaging come to life thanks to United Paper Box Co! And don’t forget to check out our entire Holiday Collection for your gift giving needs. Happy Holidays!


Countdown to Thanksgiving Prep!

Let’s talk turkey… and while we’re at it, mashed potatoes too! Two staples that grace Thanksgiving tables every November. With so many different “tips and tricks” to the perfect roast turkey or the best mashed potatoes, how do you know where to start this holiday season? We’ve gone back to the basics with some tips to get you started. If you missed us on Facebook Live last week (10/19) you can still access the video with our Culinary Specialist Patty Roche sharing all her best Thanksgiving prep tips (check it out here).

All About the Turkey

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  • It is recommended that for sufficient servings for Thanksgiving as well as leftovers for those delicious sandwiches the next day, count on 1 to 1¼ lbs of turkey per person.
  • We like to stick to birds that are between 12 and 14 lbs. Bigger birds are harder to get the white and dark meat to cook evenly and if you have a smaller oven, it might not fit. If we’re serving more people, we supplement with other turkey parts, such as an extra breast.
  • Natural – prebasting. Fresh vs. frozen.
  • Allow for enough time to thoroughly thaw your bird if using a frozen turkey as it can take several days. Typically 1 day for every 4 pounds.
  • When prepping the turkey, there is no need to rinse. This just leads to contaminated surfaces and the only true way to kill bacteria is by cooking it. You cannot wash it away.
  • To brine or not to brine? We like to brine! Soaking a turkey in a brining solution will help ensure moist, juicy cooked meat. The salt-water brine solution increases the juiciness of the meat by breaking down the protein structure.
  • Cover your turkey in the solution and refrigerate for at least 10 hours, but no longer than 24 hours. When you’re ready to cook, pour off your brine, rinse the turkey well with cool tap water and pat dry with towels. Be sure to sanitize your sink after rinsing.
  • Alternatively, you can use a dry brine method with chopped fresh herbs tucked underneath the skin and by rubbing generously with kosher salt. Brush off an excess before cooking.
  • Don’t baste! It doesn’t add moisture to the meat and eliminates crispy skin. Additionally, every time you open the oven, you are lowering the temperature and adding additional cook time.
  • To create a rich, golden brown skin, you’ll want to either brush the skin with melted butter or oil prior to cooking. As the turkey roasts, this allow the butter to melt into the meat and it will crisp the skin during cook time. The butter will also enhance the pan drippings and results in an especially rich gravy. A tip from our kitchen, mix 1 teaspoon of our Chicken & Pork Spice Rub with 1 stick of softened butter for a flavorful compound butter.
  • Use a roasting rack to help with the circulation of air around the turkey, helping the meat to cook evenly.
  • For best results, bring your turkey to room temperature and roast at 400°F, breast side down, for the first 45 minutes of cooking, then turn the bird breast side up and roast at 325°F until done (165°F for breast meat, 175°F for thighs). Allow to rest 20 to 30 minutes before carving.

Mashed Potato Bliss

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  • The best choices for potatoes are Russet (very starchy and creamy with lower moisture) or Yukon Gold (less starch, higher moisture with more sugar and a great butter flavor).
  • Start potatoes with cold water, covering them by at least an inch or two and adding 1 Tablespoon of kosher salt. The salt will help make them more flavorful.
  • Cook uncovered until a paring knife slips easily into the potato. Drain your potatoes, then dump them back into the hot pot over low heat for two to three minutes. This will remove any moisture and will allow the potatoes to absorb more flavorful ingredients.
  • Once your potatoes are cooked, process them through a potato ricer for silky, creamy mashed potatoes. A potato masher can be used, but will yield slightly chunky potatoes. Add melted, warm butter before adding warm dairy. By adding the melted butter first, the fat coats the starch and results in a more velvety smooth mash. A tip from our kitchen: infuse your warmed milk/cream with whole garlic gloves before adding it to your potatoes for an extra boost of flavor. Be sure to remove the cloves from your dairy before adding to potatoes.
  • If you are going to hold your potatoes for an hour or two before serving, place mashed potatoes in a metal bowl over a simmering pot of water and cover (make sure the bowl does not touch the water). The potatoes will remain silky. You may have to add a little additional dairy just before serving.
  • For fun add-ins, try our Roasted Garlic Onion Jam or Maple Bacon Onion Jam for a flavorful boost!

Don’t Forget the Veggies!

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  • To contrast your hearty main dishes of turkey, potatoes and stuffing, add bright vegetable dishes to your table.
  • To preserve the beautiful color of your vegetables, blanch them quickly by putting them in a sieve of boiling water and cook until fork tender, but still crisp. Remove sieve and plunge vegetables into an ice bath. Drain and pat dry. This can be done a day ahead – just reheat in a skillet with butter or olive oil just before serving.
  • Having trouble cutting your squash in half? Set it on a dish towel and place a sharp carving knife lengthwise on the squash. Give the top of the blade a quick hit with a meat tenderizing mallet and the squash should separate in a flash.
  • For a simple, delicious way to serve sliced carrots or beans, steam or boil for a few minutes, then sauté in butter, glaze with your favorite marmalade and garnish with fresh chopped herbs, chopped nuts or a crumbling of blue cheese.

Dress Up Your Stuffing

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The Rest is Gravy

  • We’d be remiss if we didn’t touch upon gravy, too. For the perfect gravy, start by deglazing your pan using a small amount of liquid to loosen the bits of caramelized turkey at the bottom of the pan. This will create a rich flavor.
  • Make a roux out of equal parts room temperature butter and flour. It should have a paste-like consistency
  • Use a fat separator to remove the fat from the juice that accumulates in the roasting pan.
  • If you need to supplement your pan drippings with additional broth, or you don’t have any pan drippings, we like to boost the flavor of canned stock with mirepoix (2 parts onion, 1 part celery and 1 part carrot), as well as fresh thyme, a bay leaf, parsley springs and peppercorns. You won’t believe the difference in taste! Do this ahead of time so you can bring it to a boil and allow it to simmer before straining.
  • Add roux to a saucepan over medium heat and melt until bubbly. Slowly pour in the pan drippings and broth, while whisking into the roux until desired consistency is reached. Cook until smooth and thickened and season to taste.
  • For perfectly smooth gravy, strain your finished homemade gravy through a sieve. This will get rid of all the lumps and result in a very creamy, smooth gravy.

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For more of our favorite Thanksgiving recipes, check out our Thanksgiving Day recipe category on our website! From our family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!


Q&A With Stonewall Kitchen’s Visual Merchandising Team

From product development and packaging our products to merchandising displays, quality is our primary focus in everything we do. If you’ve ever had the chance to visit one of our ten retail locations, located along the East Coast and as far down as Washington DC, you’ve been immersed in all of the above. Our retail stores and catalogs are one of our strongest marketing vehicles that allow us tell a story with our products and our brand, which goes well beyond just food. Back in 2013, our headquarters underwent an expansion and a new merchandise center was built for the creation of themes for our visual displays. Since then it has given our Merchandising team a dedicated work space to bring their stories and inspirations to life.

A blend of visual merchandisers, buyers and planners, our team meets regularly to consistently “wow” our retail guests with their newest creations and finds. We sat down with three of our visual merchandisers to get the inside scoop on how they do it. Check out the step by step photos at the end to see how our Thanksgiving Prep table story came to life!

Q: When creating table stories, where do you start? How do you come up with that initial idea to get going?

A: Our visual and buying teams meet weekly to whiteboard story sets. We work on ten stories each quarter. These stories are driven by new products, past year performances, Hallmark holidays and the like. Our stories are always heavily driven by our food products and then complemented by what we call “hard goods,” or the dinnerware, linens and gadgets that you’ll find merchandised alongside our food products. Out of those ten stories, three or four are the dominant stories that are always merchandised on large table sets. In our larger stores, they are the focal point when you walk in and we tend to focus on those more so initially.

We’ll get our whole group together and everyone tackles a story and gets the food products on the tables in our merchandise center. Hard goods will trickle in as we receive samples and things start to slowly evolve. It’s like an onion and you have layer after layer on each table. From start to finish, this usually takes about five weeks or so. All while physical story sets are happening throughout the stores.

Q: Where do you find inspiration to help keep our visual merchandising fresh and exciting?

A: Visiting various trade shows and taking notes from other store sets is always helpful. It is key to always have your finger on the pulse of trends out there, even if it’s just seeing what’s in a showroom or seeing what other people are buying at any type of trade forum. Our new visual team has also helped to freshen up our ideas. Our team is very creative and we all find inspiration from different areas – whether it’s from nature or seeing a vintage tablecloth pattern at a Flea Market and loving it so much that we make a tea towel out of the design.

Q: How do you balance the visual display while also making a table story approachable and shopable for our guests?

A: It really is an art form. As designers, we know the basic principles of design: balance, proportion, rhythm, emphasis and unity. Instinctively, we know how to structure a story and apply our experience to the quantity and placement of our food product, where to mix in just the right balance of hard goods and how to compose a visual prop. It is no different than creating and executing a wonderful recipe – by careful planning and preparation to presentation! By the time a floor set or season change occurs, building these stories is second nature as it’s been refined in our merchandise center nearly to the point of completion. The real magic happens once we are setting the actual themed story in our York store where you can stretch your design muscles a bit and apply your design experience by collecting products together that will help our guests find the products they need and offer them opportunities to also discover new food products and new ways to serve or prepare them. The art form is in the ability to tell a merchandise story visually, one that is enjoyable, exciting and inspiring for our guests.

Q: Our Fall story sets are so fun this year! From larger than life paper lanterns to a product filled wooden wagon and a dramatic stack of crates themed with Thanksgiving prep items, what inspired you to use some of the fall elements that you used this year?

A: Our Thanksgiving Prep story started as the idea of a “butler’s pantry” and a central location that someone could go for everything they could possibly need to create their meal. We started stacking crates and the more we played around with them, the more it started to resemble an actual pantry. All the food products on one level on a “shelf,” re-purposed antique “trays” in the form of drawers with apothecary jars of product inside. To make it shopable, the stack of crates aren’t pushed all the way to the back of the table so guests can still comfortably reach in.

Our awesome Fall Harvest wagon filled with pumpkin products was a prop we found in our warehouse and then gave a facelift with some paint and our rice paper lanterns averaged out at $2.96 per lantern and make such a statement! Good design doesn’t have to be expensive. The key is the composition and installation. It takes a lot of time and patience and tweaking to make sure everything looks just right but the reward of seeing it all put together is wonderful. So far the best part of these sets has been the impact from our guests when they visit us and the reaction. We love to hear them talk about the tables when we’re on the sales floor. It’s the real proof in the pudding when you can hear them get excited about shopping and they want to recreate something similar at home.

Q: While you have a heavy presence in our York Company Store, how do you convey your vision to the rest of our retail locations to recreate in their store?

A: Through directives and photography, it all comes together. We have so many good visual leads in our stores and they know our products so well. When most of our team first started, they taught us. We provide them with all their materials and detailed descriptions to help them understand our vision and we walk through each store post-story to see it all together. All of our stores are so different and keeping that in mind is so important – what we sell in one store might not work in another location because that store isn’t in a coastal town. There are a lot of phone calls, a lot of checking in and a lot of planning.

Check out this behind the scenes look at our table story installation night that look place earlier this fall in our York Company Store after hours!

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Securing the crates for a stable “pantry.”

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Crates are secured… time to make it beautiful!

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Product starts to fill the crates. It was important to our visual team to keep the product all on one level, similar to how you might find it in a pantry.

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Drawers are added for cooking utensils.

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Finished product! Everything you need for a Thanksgiving dinner.

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Our spooky Halloween table story, complete with the larger than life rice paper lanterns!

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The fun wagon that was found in our warehouse that got some fresh paint and made an excellent vessel for our fall products!


Ingredient Spotlight: Pears

Undoubtedly one of the most beautiful fruits, pears are something we love both as a stunning centerpiece placed in a beautiful bowl or for their great taste all by themselves. We love their refreshing and mild taste, similar to an apple, yet at the same time distinctive in their own way. A close relative to the apple, you won’t find as many types of pears in your local stores as they perish more easily and aren’t as commonly used as an apple. This makes them all the more special and appreciated by cooks for their refined tastes and elegant look. We have to say we agree and certainly love to cook with them and also incorporate them into our products!

Varying in shades of bronze or gold to green or yellow and even deep, rosy red, a pears shape and size can vary almost as much as the 5,000 named varieties of them growing worldwide. They date back all the way to prehistoric times, idolized by the Phonenicians and Romans as a delicacy that was saved for royalty to enjoy due to how perishable they are. They do have a short “perfect” time for eating fresh; cooking with them, on the other hand, is a different story. We use them in our Lemon Pear Marmalade, Holiday Chutney and fan-favorite, Holiday Jam. We also love them sautéed with Maine Maple Syrup as a topping on our Raspberry Pear Crepes! Perfect for a Sunday morning breakfast. Enjoy!

Raspberry Pear Crepes

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Ingredients:

Maple Butter Sauce –

Filling –

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 8 ounces Mascarpone cheese, room temperature
  • ¼ cup Stonewall Kitchen Seedless Raspberry Jam
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons fresh grated lemon zest
  • 1 pint raspberries

Pears –

Directions:

  1. For the maple butter sauce, whisk syrup, butter and cinnamon together in a small saucepan over low heat until butter melts. Allow to cool.
  2. For the filling, beat together the cream cheese, Mascarpone, Seedless Raspberry Jam, egg, vanilla extract and lemon zest.
  3. Reserve a few raspberries for garnish, fold the remaining raspberries into cream cheese mixture and chill at least 1 hour (can be made a day ahead).
  4. For the pears, heat 2 Tablespoons butter in a large skillet. Stir in 2 Tablespoons Maine Maple Syrup and a pinch of cinnamon. Add pear slices and sauté until tender and golden brown. Set aside to cool.
  5. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  6. Butter a 9×13-inch glass baking pan.
  7. Place crepes, light side up, on working surface. Spoon ¼ cup of filling into the center of the crepe.
  8. Fold both sides of the crepe partially over filling. Then roll up from the bottom. Place seam side down in prepared dish. Repeat with remaining crepes and filling.
  9. Cover the dish with foil. Bake until center of filling is heated to 160°F, approximately 30 minutes.
  10. When ready to serve, warm the maple butter sauce over low heat, whisking until smooth.
  11. Place crepes on a plate and serve with warm sauce, garnish with fresh raspberries and sautéed pears and a dusting of confectioner’s sugar.