The Driftaway Coffee premise is quite genius: freshly roasted coffee, personalized for your taste, delivered to your door. Simple, awesome, and kind of magical.

Driftaway Coffee

They solve a pretty major problem for people who love a good cup of coffee, but don’t know the difference between fruity Ugandan beans or darker Nicaraguan coffee. That’s me right there – half of the time I end up picking something at random, or I’ll go with the medium roast from Tanzania because I really want to go to Zanzibar one day, and in my book that’s a perfectly acceptable decision process. It doesn’t always get me the type of coffee that I like though.

Here’s how a Driftaway Coffee subscription works: the first delivery gets you four different types of coffee with unique taste profiles. After brewing, you rate the coffee and the next batch is based on your feedback. Your deliveries going forward are tailored to your taste preferences, which you keep updating over time. Loved that intense Guatemalan Huehuetenango? The team at Driftaway Coffee takes note.

Their selection is handpicked, featuring only specialty single-origin coffee from all over the world. Coffee geeks can review notes about processing, grind, or the region. Turns out Nyeri in Kenya is to coffee what Rioja in Spain is to wine. Every delivery will take you somewhere new, making your morning cup of java a bit more special.

Anu Menon and Suyog Mody started Driftaway Coffee to create something they were both passionate about: a better way to enjoy a perfect cup of coffee. From careful sourcing to roasting their beans in small batches; from designing the packaging to ensuring that every order is just what the customer would love, Anu and Suyog are there every step of the way.

You can choose from a Solo plan ($12 for 7oz of coffee every two weeks), the Doppio ($16 for 11oz of coffee every two weeks) or make your own custom plan. You can also make a one-time tasting gift, or gift a subscription if you are a super awesome friend. The first delivery is just $4, and you can cancel at any time – it doesn’t get much easier than that. Time to upgrade your morning ritual – give Driftaway Coffee a go.

The moral of the story of how Rescue Chocolate came about is that eating chocolate for breakfast is a great idea. Founder Sarah Gross had her aha! moment as she was munching on some chocolate one morning. She was getting ready to walk her dog, Mocha, which she had adopted a few months before. “Suddenly it occurred to me: why not put together my two loves? How about developing a scrumptious new dark chocolate line, selling it, and donating the profits to animals in need?

Rescue Chocolate

In full disclosure, at the time Sarah was working part-time at Gnosis, a raw chocolate company in Queens, so eating chocolate for breakfast was kind of like working from home. At Gnosis, she had developed a best-selling flavor, so she definitely had the chocolate knowledge necessary to launch an amazing-tasting line. She teamed up with executive chef Jean Francois Bonnet at Tumbador, which produces Rescue Chocolate’s delectable vegan bars.

Rescue Chocolate

rc_jess_Mission_Feral_inside_SMALL

Each flavor sheds light on a different problem caused by the pet “overpopulation” epidemic. You’ll find Peanut Butter Pit Bull (crispy peanut butter and chocolate, countering the negative public image of the pit bull-type dogs), Forever Mocha (hazelnut praline and coffee, highlighting ways to help people make and honor a lifetime commitment to their pets), or The Fix (plain 66%, highlighting the importance of spay and neuter)

Growing up, Sarah volunteered at her local animal shelter. Before she adopted Mocha, she didn’t consider having a pet – her lease didn’t allow pets in the apartment. But when she saw Mocha’s picture online, “Mocha’s eyes stuck with me“. Now Rescue Chocolate is a growing company donating 100% of net profits to animal rescue organizations around the country. They just introduced Robust Rescue, a line of pure dark chocolate that uses only two ingredients: cacao and sugar.

Robust Rescue

You will find Rescue Chocolate at Brooklyn Holiday Bazaar on December 14th. You can also shop online at rescuechocolate.com

You’re going to see Dona Chai at Whole Foods very soon. You can already find it at many local coffee shops. When you see it, pick up a bottle – trust me. Best chai we’ve ever had, period. Most ready-made chai teas we’ve tried are too sweet or have an overpowering flavor. Dona Chai is miles away from that – it kind of stops you on your tracks as you take the first sip, as you taste the different subtle flavors. It sooo good.

Dona Chai

Newly arrived in Brooklyn from Colorado to enroll in NYU Steinhardt’s Food Systems graduate program, founder Amy Rothstein noticed two things about the local coffee shops:
1. Brooklynites are obsessed with locally-roasted coffee and are very proud about it.
2. Brooklynites do not seem to care where their tea comes from, and when a tea is considered ‘local’, we may be talking Oregon. Amy saw this as a great opportunity: “I was totally shocked that no one was making a local and high quality chai concentrate. I then started making my own.

Amy spent a few months perfecting the recipe and tinkering with brewing techniques, to create a unique Chai tea concentrate. “[Our] brewing process begins with whole spices that are ground fresh for each batch to maximize flavor, depth, and purity. Every cup has notes of each flavor: cinnamon bark, cardamom, vanilla bean, cloves, black peppercorns, cold-pressed ginger, and loose-leaf black tea. Our slow brewing process creates a powerful balance of flavors. Steeped in small batches, we ensure consistency and quality.

Dona Chai Ingredients

To help get Dona Chai off the ground, Amy enlisted the business expertise of her brother, Peter, who moved to Brooklyn recently to join the team. They have grown quickly since their launch this past March, and they are already at over 30 coffee shops around Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens.

We were curious about the name. Amy tells us “My mom hates this question! I took the name from her childhood doll, named Donna“. I wonder if my kids will start a business named after their dad’s rattled old Doggie.

Originally from Detroit, Amy loves living in Greenpoint and has a few recommendations for us: “For coffee – Variety. They’re so friendly. I know the owner Gavin, and all the baristas. They just started roasting their own coffee beans at their new location in Bushwick. My favorite park is McGolrick. It’s beautiful and never crowded. They have this great farmers market on Sundays. And for pie – Blue Stove. I’m a regular“.

You will be able to try Dona Chai at our upcoming Brooklyn Holiday Bazaar, coming back to 501 Union on December 14th. You can find them at local coffee shops such as 61 Local, Four and Twenty Blackbirds or Lark. Soon they’ll be on the shelves at Whole Foods.

Food and design are basically the two things we won’t stop talking about. And babies, I guess, because Brooklyn is unofficially ruled by toddlers. Anyhoo, we are thrilled to introduce you to a local entrepreneur who is incredibly talented in both departments: Diana Kuan.

Love-the-Wine-You're-With-Wine-Tote

You may know Diana from her cooking classes around town, her book The Chinese Takeout Cookbook, and her writing in publications like Food & Wine, The Boston Globe, or her fantastic blog Appetite for China. As if that weren’t enough to put us all to shame, Diana launched a new venture a few months ago with Plate and Pencil, an online gift shop featuring unique designs inspired by her favorite international cuisines. Diana tells us about her new venture, her ideal dinner, and her favorite spots in Park Slope.

cheers-card-6

When was Plate and Pencil officially launched? What made you take the leap?
Plate & Pencil launched in early December of 2013. I had been teaching dumpling-making classes and other cooking classes for a few years and had always been fascinated by how so many cultures around the world have dumplings of some kind in their cuisine. So I decided to design a Dumplings Around the World tote bag on a whim. Which, of course, led to other food-inspired design ideas. I knew that there was a great opportunity to launch the shop with the upcoming holiday season, and after pulling many late nights and dealing with various setbacks, finally launched the second week of December.

How are you combining your ‘cooking’ self with your new venture with Plate and Pencil?
Before enrolling in culinary school in New York, I had studied art and design back in Boston. Even though the culinary career was a bit of a departure, I realized when I was working on my cookbook and blog and organizing pop-up dinners and cooking classes that the parts I enjoyed most was creating the visual elements, including photography and graphic design. So I realized that opening a shop that sold totes, tees, prints, and home goods with food-inspired designs was pretty much my dream come true.

dumpling-tote-product-shoot-22

Where do you get your inspiration from?
Everywhere! Dishes I teach in my cooking classes, stuff I make for dinner, favorite alcoholic beverages, etc, are all fair game for becoming illustrations. I spend a lot of time just wandering around the city, so I always keep my eye open for interesting typefaces and color combos that could be worked into the designs.

What’s your ideal dinner menu?
Buttermilk roast chicken with rosemary roasted potatoes, finished off with homemade ice cream or cookies. Or just dumplings. Of any kind.

Your favorite dessert when you were little?
Cookie and brownie edges.

What are your plans for the next few months?
To continue building up inventory for the shop and teaching cooking classes. I’d also love to do more markets in Brooklyn. They’re a great way to talk with people and get instant feedback on your products.

What are some of your favorite spots in your neighborhood?
I live in Park Slope, which is my ideal neighborhood for all sorts of reasons. I love going to the Grand Army Greenmarket on Saturdays and hanging out at local restaurants and watering holes, including Thistle Hill Tavern, Rose Water, The Double Windsor, and Greenwood Park. Also, there are great shops like Annie’s Blue Ribbon General Store and Paper Source, where I spend way too much time and money.

bubble-tea-notebook-1

You will find Plate and Pencil at our upcoming Brooklyn Holiday Bazaar on December 14th. Check out the growing collection at the Plate and Pencil online shop.

Guest post by Little Island Kitchen, one of our favorite recent discoveries. This online shop is a haven for foodies everywhere and a great resource for creative gifts. Run by Carroll Gardens residents Matthew Pugliese and Tom O’Connor, it opened for business last November.

We get a lot of inspiration from creative and passionate food makers who seem to be everywhere in Brooklyn. There’s a nice mix of people starting new ventures and others carrying on generations-old traditions in specialty shops and markets. We always try to feature a few Brooklyn products in both our gift boxes and in our online shop. It’s a great way to give our customers from other parts of the country a taste of Brooklyn’s burgeoning small batch food movement. Here’s a short list of our favorites, in the shop and in the neighborhood:

Anarchy in a JarAnarchy In a Jar makes delicious jams, bursting with flavor, that truly taste home made. We first met Laena, the jam queen, at Smorgasburg where she always has jars and spoons lined up and ready for tasting. She makes her jams using fresh produce from small farms and an old-school, long-maceration process that really intensifies the flavor. Our current fave is Spiced Beer Jelly, made with fresh apples, black cardamom and dark ale from local brewer, Sixpoint Craft Ales. Try this: line up some crostini with slices of a good aged cheddar, top them with a dollop of the spiced beer jam, and you have a delicious way to kick start happy hour.

Empire MayonnaiseChef Sam Mason at Empire Mayo reinvents mayonnaise with a dynamic assortment of mind-blowing flavors. His creations open all sorts of possibilities in the kitchen for chefs, food lovers, and even the average sandwich maker. Putting rosemary mayo on a Thanksgiving Day leftover sandwich was a genius call and turned us into real fans. Since then, we’ve tried the smoked paprika flavor in deviled eggs (fantastic); chicken salad with the madras curry blend of Vahdoovan (outrageous); and a burger with white cheddar blend (so much flavor, you won’t need to add cheese).

Nunu Chocolates
We love Nunu Chocolates (529 Atlantic Ave) because they are wonderfully delicious and because we agree with their basic philosophy that “the world is better place when chocolate is involved.” Their caramel creations are fantastic and it’s always interesting to stop into the storefront shop to see the big trays filled with freshly made chocolates. Making it even harder to resist is a well-curated selection of beers on tap in their cozy tasting lounge. Sit back and enjoy the beautiful worlds of chocolate and beer colliding.

Our new obsession is the fresh Burrata from Caputo’s Fine Foods (460 Court Street) in Carroll Gardens. Burrata means “buttery” in Italian and this cheese is a specialty from the Southern Puglia region. The burrata is essentially a thin mozzarella skin surrounding a soft center that is made from fresh cream and soft stringy bits of curd, leftovers from the mozzarella making, sometimes called “ritagli” or rags. We like serving it on fresh bread with a little prosciutto.

Panelle at Ferdinando's Focacceria
Last, but not least, is the incredible Panelle Sandwich at Ferdinando’s Focacceria, the 100-year-old South Brooklyn institution (151 Union Street). This delicious one-of-a-kind sandwich consists of thin patties made from fried chickpea flour topped with ricotta and shaved parmigiano. Simple and delicious and the pride of the neighborhood.

Check out Little Island Kitchen’s awesome selection of food, gift boxes and tableware: http://www.littleislandkitchen.com

I suffer from a disastrous combination of a madly sweet tooth and a very high tolerance for sugar. I even have the theory (proven, by me) that eating sweets helps when my allergies are acting up.

Despite my sugar-junkie condition, I know that not all sweets are created equal. Cookie Fairy Sweets fresh-baked frozen cookies are like nothing I had tried before. The list of amazing qualities is pretty long here, starting with their premium ingredients and the fact that all three of their varieties are INSANELY GOOD. Don’t take my all-caps lightly. They are some of the absolute best cookies I’ve ever had. And they are so pretty.

But what’s truly different about Cookie Fairy Sweets’ is that the cookies are frozen right after they’re baked. This means they’re free of preservatives, and they’re always fresh when you eat them. A quick pop in the toaster oven or microwave, and it’s just like heaven.

There are three signature varieties: My Man, packed with three types of chocolate chips, natural shredded coconut, oatmeal and pecans; Li’l Devils, for the chocolate lovers, loaded with four (!) types of chocolates, hand ground oatmeal and a touch of spices; and a classic but spiked Oatmeal & Raisin – the raisins are soaked in rum. You can get a pack of 3 bags, 10oz bag (30 cookies total) for $24.

Food-industry veteran Paige McCurdy-Flynn is the brains behind Cookie Fairy Sweets. Like a lot of entrepreneurs, Paige is a multi-tasking master, running all aspects of the business herself (with a little help from her husband) – from sourcing the best ingredients to baking or marketing. Originally from Texas, Paige has been in New York for 12 years. She is excited about the success that Cookie Fairy Sweets has had so far, and has a lot of plans for 2013:

[I want to] grow the company, by getting into more grocery stores, restaurants, bars and local markets. I also want to expand our dessert catering line for events: weddings, showers, photo shoots and parties. The dessert catering line will consist of Cookie & Milk parties, Whoopie Pies, Cookie-Cakes and Whoopie Cakes“.

Uhm, did you just say ‘Whoopie Cakes’?! Sign me up!

Paige is a proud Bay Ridge resident. “I love living close to the water and seeing the beautiful views of the Verrazano Bridge lite up at night. I love jogging along Shore Road and strolling through the parks along the water. I love the neighborhood feel“. Some of her favorite spots in the neighborhood include The Owl’s Head wine bar, the Middle Eastern restaurant Tanoreen and Skinflintsfor their juicy burgers and chicken pot pies“.

You can get Cookie Fairy Sweets’ frozen cookies on their website. You can also find them in the freezer section of many Brooklyn stores, such as Union Market, Gourmet Fresh in Cobble Hill and The Owl’s Head in Bay Ridge.