You Ain’t Much if You Ain’t Dutch – How Will YOU Celebrate King’s Day on Friday?

Friday, April 27 is King’s Day or Koningsdag in the Netherlands. It’s the birthday of the new King Willem-Alexander, and he is the first king celebrating the national holiday since its inception. Before his mother, Queen Beatrice, abdicated the throne to him in 2013, Queen’s Day or Konningennidag, was celebrated on April 30, which is her mother’s birthday. The tradition started in 1891 with Queen Wilhemina, whose father King Willem III, was not so popular. Wilhemina passed it in 1948 to her daughter Queen Juliana, who then passed it to her daughter, Queen Beatrice, when she ascended the throne in 1980.     As King Willem-Alexander has three daughters, the tradition will revert back to Queen’s Day when he turns over the throne to his eldest princess daughter.

 

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King Willem-Alexander and his family.

It’s a day for oranjegekte or ‘orange madness.’  Everybody dresses in orange and drinks beer and orange colored drinks and parties all day long. The reason for the color orange is that the monarchy is from the Royal House of Orange-Nassau. There is also the national vrijmarket, or flea markets and garage sales all over the Netherlands, for people to offload their junk.

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Kids celebrate by playing a game called koekhappen, where they catch spice cake ontbijtkoek, dangling from a string in their mouths. Made with rye flower and a long list of spices, ontibjtkoek, is like a deeper version of gingerbread cake. A variation of the game is appelhappen, where an apple dipped in stroop (a Dutch syrup similar to caramel) is attached to the thread. The stroop makes it difficult to take a bite of the apple without getting a faceful of delicious syrup. Stroopwaffels – two thin Dutch waffles glued together with stroop are now being served on United Airlines flights as a snack, like their Dutch counterpart, KLM.

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Dutch King’s Day Cake Pops
I will be wearing orange Friday, as my fifth great grandparents, Rainier and Grada Reinsen, immigrated from the Netherlands to New Orleans in 1849. They were the unicorns known as Dutch Catholics, from the Brabant province, which was home to artist Vincent Van Gogh, and the Dutch ancestor to goetta, balkenbrij. Maybe that’s why I love the Netherlands so much.    Amsterdam is my Paris.    I love the art museums and canals of that romantic city. I loved the ‘Legends of the Gnomes’ as a kid, created by Dutch artist, Rien Portvliet.  I am a huge fan of Dutch salty black licorice.    I’m mad about a nice Dutch pannekouken or pancake for breakfast with spicy stewed apples on top.  The best Thai savory pannekouken of my life was had on a visit to art city, Utrecht.   And, as gross as it may seem to the uninitiated, I am also a huge fan of Dutch favorite smoked herring and matjes – the variety of pickled herring from the area of Northern Europe.
So if you see someone dressed in orange, or with orange hair on Friday, wish them Happy King’s Day!

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The Cincinnati Candy that Licensed The Nation’s Most Popular Comic – the Katzenjammer Kids

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In 1897 the nation’s most popular comic strip was introduced in the Sunday supplement of William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal.  It was a series called the Katzenjammer Kids – created by German immigrants Rudolph Dirks and Harold Knerr.   It was based on the popular German stories of Max & Moritz of the 1860s, who were two mischievous boys killed after seven pranks- yes, pretty gruesome and very Grimm.     This was over decades before a little mouse was introduced in 1928 by an unknown comic artist named Walt Disney, who would produce all sorts of candy and toy licensing opportunities.   The name Katzenjammer translates from the German as “wailing of cats” – which means contrition after a failed endeavor.

The stars of this new strip were two German twins, Hans and Fritz.  Hans had dark buzzed hair, and Fritz had blonde hair with what could today be called a feau-hawk.  The two were always getting in trouble, rebelling against authority, particularly their mother, Mama Katzenjammer, and her friend der Captain, who was sort of a de facto father to the boys.   They used their bulldog, Rosie, to help them carry out a lot of their pranks on der Captain, and others  like der Inspector, a dreaded official from their school.      The characters spoke in very stereotypical German accents, and each episode usually ended by both boys getting a spanking.      American kids LOVED the strip.     Even though they got into a lot of mischief, they did get what they deserved at the end.  Between 1916 and 1918 kids could go to the theatres to see over 37 silent short films of the Katzenjammer Kids, which were produced by Hearst.   They were discontinued at the height of their popularity as a result of their German connection and the anti-German hysteria of World War I.

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In 1915, Cincinnati candy company Peter Echert, who was then part of the National Candy Company, wanted to get in on this comic strip popularity.   The year before Knerr and Dirks split ways and developed two identical and competing versions of the strip, producing lawsuits.     Echert introduced a line of marshamallow candies called Jymcrax, under their Cincinnati line of Acme Confections.  They were a box of pink, white, and yellow marshamallow candies shaped into several of the most popular characters in the Katzenjammer strip.  Oddly, Mama Katzenjammer was not included as one of the marshmallow treats.   Echert  marketed the candies across the nation through the National Candy supply chain.   A 1915 artists rendering in the International Confectioner showed how a candy store could create a display window with Hans and Fritz and the candies.

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A 1915 design of a candy store window marketing the Jymcrax candies using the Katzenhammer kids.

There were six characters molded out of marshmallow candies – all six available to the kid for one penny – Hans, Fritz, their bulldog, Rosie, their girlfriend, der Captain, and der Inspector.

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As a result of the anti-German hysteria of World War I, the candy line was discontinued, but Echert got three good years of marketing power with the nation’s most popular comic characters.  The Katzenjammer Kids are still very popular in Denmark and Norway and have inspired many other comic characters.

Fred Harvey’s Chains were the “Hooters” of the Wild West

 

 

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Judy Garland made the first chain of U.S.  restaurants famous when she starred in the 1946 MGM movie musical Harvey Girls.   She played a mail order bride heading by train to the West, when she encountered a cheery group of girls travelling to open a Fred Harvey Restaurant.     Judy fell out with her fiancé and became a Harvey Girl.

Harvey developed a standard uniform for these Harvey Girls.   It was a short, tight fitting black frock with white apron, designed to highlight the female form.    It was  pretty racy for the 1880s, with a shorter than normal skirt that hung eight inches off the floor.    He placed ads in the 1880s in East Coast and Midwestern newspapers for “white girls, 18-30, of good character, attractive and intelligent.   The women signed a one year contract, lived in a house run by a House Mother, had a strict 10 PM curfew, and were forced to quit if they married.

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Fred Harvey restaurants were the first chain of restaurants in the U.S.  They were set up at stops along the Atchinson, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad, and catered to those who travelled on the railway – mostly well to do white businessmen.   Starting in 1876 and lasting until the 1960s, the Harvey Girls supposedly helped to tame the American West.

The Harvey chain offered weary rail travelers a place to have a good, elegantly prepared meal in a refined atmosphere at affordable prices.    Unlike other restaurants of the day it didn’t offer ‘short-order’ or fried food.   Rather, they offered steaks, chops, ribs, hams and bacon served usually with home-fried,  hash-browned or boiled potatoes.

Duncan Hines, food critic, frequented the Harvey Restaurant counter as a young man in the 1890s working for Wells Fargo in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  He was impressed by the generous portions, the quality of the food, and the cleanliness of the restaurants.     He could get a meal for under 25 cents at the counter and he felt he could eat like a king.

This shaped Hines’ expectations of restaurants in years to come in his successful line of guide books Adventures in Good Eating.

An 1888 menu reveals the choices a customer had in a typical Harvey dining room:  bluepoints on the half shell, filet of whitefish with Madeira sauce, young capon, roast sirloin of beef au jus, pork with applesauce, stuffed turkey, salmi of duck, English style baked veal pie, prairie chicken with currant jelly, sugar-cured ham and pickled lamb’s tongue, all accompanied with seven vegetables and a wide variety of pies, cakes, and custards, and Harvey’s famous coffee.

Of the 86 or so Harvey restaurants that popped up along the railroad – (one every 100 miles of the AT&SF Line by 1886) –  one, the El Tovar, is still operating in the Grand Canyon.

 

“Head Held High and Drink into the Sky” – Lüttje Lage, the Hanover Cocktail that Accompanies Goetta Eating

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The dish of Hanover Kohl und Pinkel – Kale and Pinkel, a Goetta ancestor.

There is a long legacy of ancestors of our beloved goetta in the Northern Cradle of Germany from Munster/Oldenburg, Hanover, Bremen, Hamburg, and to Mecklenburg.
In the areas of Oldenburg and Ammerland, in Hanover, Pinkel is one of the closest of these grain sausages or gruetzwursts to our goetta. In fact the slab form of pinkel, pan fried, is called in low german, Goert, which has a striking resemblance to goetta.   Pinkel itself is eaten by locals slit down the center and innards ‘pushed out’ like goetta.
Made in the late fall and winter, there are groups who tour the inns and small cafes of the area on what is called a Kohlfahrt –or Kale Expedition to eat the regional dish of pinkel and green kale. Grunkohl or green kale is the preferred side dish with this Hanover grain sausage, and in season in the late Fall. All the inns have their special preparation of this dish, and the locals love celebrating this season, which involves a lot of drinking.

The Kohlfahrt is an invite only type of affair and begins early in the afternoon at about 2 PM on a Saturday.   The organizer has a bollerwagen or hand cart full with everything you need for the next few hours – some kale, snacks, and lots of alcohol – namely the Luttje Lage or other local schnapps like saurer and plum.

You start at a friends house and walk to the local gasthaus or beer keller for the kohl and pinkel dinner and basically have a drink at nearly every corner, bridge or other opportunity along the way.   Leave it  to the Hanoverians to come up with such a drunken event.

 

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The special drink that accompanies this dish is called Luttje Lage. It is a cocktail that consists of drinking the local sour wheat beer and kornschapps, simultaneously out of two separate and special glasses. It’s got the college feel of drinking an Irish Car Bomb, but looks like it takes the skill of a tightrope walker to perform. Bibs are served to first timers just in case they spill.

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You can order specialized kits with the beer, schnapps and both glasses from http://www.luttjelage.de

There are three beers brewed in Hannover that are appropriate for the cocktail – Gilde luttje lage, Herrenhauser, and Hanoversch, but originally the cocktail was drunk with a local sour top-fermenting wheat beer invented in 1526 by Cord Broyhan, that no one seems to make commercially anymore. The three mentioned are all a low alcohol class (2.2 to 4%) of beers in Germany called Schankbiers. One of the typical kornschnapps is Hardenberg Weizenkorn.
Drinking this pairing looks fun, but precarious, and I found an English pictorial description on how to drink it.

 

Instructions on how to drink Lutje Lage:

When you pour the beer into the special glass, do observe the measuring line. Do not pour too much liqued into the glasses (especially the schnapps glass, otherwise you will spill the drink
Take the beerglass into your hand and put all fingers to the glass. Leave about a fingerwidth of space to the top of the glass (this will work no matter how big or small your fingers are
Push the middle finger out (obviously designed by a smartaleck) All other fingers remain to the glass)
Put the schapps glass between your middle finger and your ring finger. (the ring finger is now between the two glasses and sits on top of the foot of the schnapps glass)
Now adjust the schnappsglass to be about 5 mm above the beer glass (Important: the two glasses must touch so that the schnapps can flow from the schnappsglass into the beerglass.
Stand straight (important: do not lean forward in fear of spilling the drink!)
Drink exactly opposting the schappsglass allowing the schnapps to flow direction into the beerglass.
Drink speedy, not hastily! Head held high and look into the sky – Important: do not tilt the glasses (like drinking beer or wine) but knock your head back!

I think this custom needs to be brought back to Cincinnati goetta eating or at least at the Hofbrauhaus or Mecklenburg Gardens to celebrate St. Martins Day in November, the day when hog slaugthering, and goetta making, started.

 

Happy 100th to Some Fantastic American Food Products

As I get older and realize it’s OK to trust people over the age of 40, and to value experience and wisdom over beauty, I am focusing on honoring longevity in all its forms. So, for any food business, surviving a decade is spectacular. For a food brand that survives 100 years is a holy miracle and should be celebrated. This year, there are several U.S. Companies who have a food brand becoming a centenarian.  Some, like Goetze are still amazingly run by their founding family.
Sweet confections Cherry Mash (St. Joseph, Missouri), the Goetze Bulls-eye (Baltimore, Maryland), and the Moon Pie (Chattanooga, Tennessee) all celebrate this year.

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The South’s favorite creamy mayonnaise, Duke’s, has been used in potato salads, ambrosia, and on sandwiches for a century. The beloved condiment was formulated by the enterprising southern female Eugenia Duke, who by 1918 was selling over 10,000 mayo-slathered sandwiches to customers in North Carolina. The mayo has the distinction of being the only sugarless mayo on the market. Its higher concentration of egg yolks, and its vinegar and paprika give it a creamier, and tangier kick than its competition.

 

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Marshmallow fluff, which also now has a new strawberry flavor has been slathered on ice cream and confections, and even “Fluffer-Nutter”  peanut butter sandwiches, since World War I.

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A soft drink invented in Cuba, by Manuel Rabanal, was brought to Miami, Florida, with his family in exile during the Castro regime. It’s described as a fruiter Dr. Pepper, and very popular with the south Florida Latin community.

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The SunSweet Prune of all products celebrates 100, keeping America’s people … um, regular. Founded in 1917 as an agricultural marketing cooperative, today they operate the worlds largest dried fruit plant in Yuba City, California.
Next year will see the 100th birthday of our two beloved home grown potato chips – Grippos and Husmans – hopefully they put together a great year-long celebration. It will also see Hostess Cupcake, and the Ohio-invented Eskimo Pie and Good Humor ice cream bars, which gave birth to the novelty ice cream bar industry, turn a century.
There are other U.S. food products over 100 years old and still going strong – like Candy Corn, Cracker Jack, Doscher’s French Chew, Dorsel’s Pinhead Oats, and many others.

My Favorite Caramel Candy – the Goetze Bulls-Eye Turns 100

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Another U.S. candy turns 100 this year – one of my personal faves – the Goetze Cream Caramel Bulls-eye. My blog earlier last month celebrated the 100th birthday this year, of another U.S. made candy, the Cherry Mash. Both candies are manufactured in the U.S. – not in Mexico, Canada, or elsewhere, where other U.S. Candy companies have moved their factories due to sugar tariffs and the flood of international imports.

But the small Baltimore, Maryland-based company – run by the fifth generation of the founding family – is fighting and passionate about keeping American jobs. The Goetze Candy Company was started in 1895 in Baltimore (near where John Hopkins Medical Center is today) by Prussian Immigrant August Goetze and son, William. William had graduated in 1884 from the Maryland Institute of Arts and became an engraver of printing plates for offset lithographic presses. He ended up doing a lot of work for the Baltimore Chewing Gum Company, and bought the company with his ‘Vati’ in 1895.

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During World War I, there was a shortage of chicle, a main ingredient of chewing gum at the time, and there was big competition from larger candy companies who were buying chicle plantations in Latin America.  A Chicle Trust had been formed of the large gum producers that put the little chewing gum manufacturers, like Goetze and our own H.D. Smith Company in Cincinnati at a huge disadvantage. As a result, the company had to innovate. So, Melvin Goetze, grandson of the founder, started making caramels, which he called ‘chuees’ in 1917, out of his home kitchen. Then in 1918, with help from his father William, he introduced the first cream caramel bulls-eye – a soft, chewy caramel wrapped around a cream fondant center – yum!

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Over the years four new flavors of cream caramels came – the Black Licorice (my favorite) in 1968, the Chocolate in 1971, Strawberry in 1980, and the Caramel Apple, which have a tart Granny Smith apple flavored cream center. I became only recently aware of the new flavors, which I have only seen at Witt’s End Candy Emporium in Bellevue, Kentucky. Unfortunately, they are closing at the end of April after 4 years, so I have to stock up and find a new supplier.

By 1959, when the company changed their name and incorporated into the Goetze Candy Company, they were already focusing on caramels. The name change was a formality.

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Three generations of Goetze management of the company.

Then in 1984 the company introduced yet another popular candy item – a long Twizzler like extruded cream caramel rope called the Cow Tail. In 1993 they came out with the caramel apple Cow Tail.

Three members of the family have been inducted into the Candy Hall of Fame of the National Confectioners’ Association (NCA) . Melvin was inducted in 1984, William in 2008, and Spaulding in 1998. Mitchell Goetze, fifth generation of the family serves on the NCA’s Manufacturing Advisory Council, and served as Chairman of the NCA.

From left to right William, Melvin, and Spaulding Goetze.

So I proclaim a loud “Zum Geburtstag, Viel Gluck!” or Happy Birthday to my favorite caramel candy, born out of World War 1 innovation.

 

A Fat Buddha Where a Fat Barbarossa Once Stood

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A young Harry Hsu, ca. 1986.

Chinese food in an historic German beer garden may seem ironic – especially in Cincinnati’s meat-and-potato West Side. But that’s what’s about to happen, again, thanks to Cincinnati’s Mogul of Chinese food – Harry Hsu. If there’s anyone who knows the history of Chinese-American food in Cincinnati, it’s Hsu. For nearly forty years, the native of Taiwan has been presenting quality Chinese food to Greater Cincinnatians on both sides of the Ohio River. He’s owned nine Chinese restaurants starting in the early 1980s. He’s currently renovating one of them, which is the site of the oldest German Beer Garden in Cincinnati – Quebec Gardens in East Fairmount.
Quebec Gardens started out in 1865 as the Charles Gries Wine Gardens, when the area was a rural grape growing community outside the reach of the city Blue Laws. It became a Sunday escape for the Germans of downtown who wanted to imbibe on the Sabbath. Leave it to a Chinese immigrant to preserve the over 160 year old building of a German immigrant.  Now a fat and happy Buddha sits in a building which originally had a painting of a fat and happy Barbarossa, the mythical patron of Bavarian brewers. The year Gries Wine Gardens sold out of the family in 1933, from the estate of John J. Gries, Mrs. Wong Yie, signed a seven year lease on a Chinese restaurant in the Mabley and Carew Building. She was the widow of famed Cantonese restauranteur, Wong Yie, who legitimized Chop Suey in Cincinnati, and took Chinese food out of the seedy alleyways and into mainstream cuisine in the 1910s.
But being a restauranteur was not Harry Hsu’s original plan. Growing up on a rural farm outside of Tamsui, Taiwan, near Tapei, he was more familiar with pigs, chickens, and oxen. His family had about an acre of land where they grew cabbage, cauliflower, snow peas and rice. But his background did expose him to fresh cooking. Call it maybe early Chinese farm-to-table.
Harry came to Cincinnati in 1975 to go to the University of Cincinnati to earn a degree in Electrical Engineering. After receiving his degree in the early 1980s, and working a year for the Zonic Corporation, he was given the opportunity to open his first restaurant, China Chef, on Colerain Avenue. The Blue Gibbon on Tennessee Avenue in St. Bernard was next, opening in 1984 with a partner, Frank Kok. Along came Peking Palace shortly thereafter in 1985, where Hsu’s master chef, Chester Yang, served Peking Duck, without having to call ahead 24 hours before, like other restaurants at the time required.
Next came the remodeled Quebec Gardens in 1985 in South Fairmount, with his four brothers. Tamsui in the former Catfish Ranch in Bromley, Kentucky, was next in 1986. He introduced now popular General Tso’s Chicken and cashew chicken to Cincinnatians at these restaurants. Now they’re his two top sellers. A Quebec Gardens, Jr. was opened in Cheviot in a former Roy Rogers restaurant in 1989, and in 1992 he opened his longest running restaurant, Casual Chinese in Newport, Kentucky, which has earned Best of Award in Cincinnati Enquirer and other local publications.
Hsu closed Quebec Gardens in about 2007 to move his family to Montgomery for better schools. While there he ran the Casual Wok and Grill, which became Bon Chinese. Now that the 10 year lease is up in Montgomery, he plans to move into his mortgage-free Quebec Gardens, where he will present Sichuan and Dim Sum, along with ribs, steaks, and seafood.
Harry gave me an explanation as to why Sichuan food is so spicy. He says in addition to being the province where the Panda bear lives, it is a big basin with very moist air and lots of rainy weather. The Sichuan people use the spicy chilis and peppercorns in their cuisine to keep their joints healthy.
Harry differentiates his Chinese cuisine from the others by its depth of flavor. Instead of making sauces that use salt, sugar, and MSG, he uses fresh garlic and ginger. He says many Chinese restaurants make their sugary sauces ahead and just pour into the stir fry to appease the American palate. Hsu’s chefs don’t premake any sauces – everything is cooked to order.
As a fan of Hsu’s Blue Gibbon, when I was a young UC Engineering graduate working in St. Bernard, I am excited to see what his revamped Quebec Gardens offers. But, I will probably be drinking a Tsingtao or Snow, rather than a Moerlein or a Mulhauser.

National Caramel Day – April 5

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April 5 is National Caramel Day, a holiday likely started by the National Confectioners’ Association. Caramel is kind of the “Jan Brady” of candies, taking a second fiddle to chocolate. But caramel is just as important as chocolate. It’s the glue that holds the ‘innards’ of many candy bars together, before being slathered in chocolate. America’s first candy bars like the Goo Goo Cluster, all had caramel. What would a Snickers or a Payday, or really any candy bar be without luscious, chewy caramel? It’s used in one of our most popular candy confections – caramel popcorn. It’s used in our favorite summer treat – caramel apples. Caramel is everywhere – so let’s celebrate caramel!
Simple stated, caramel is made with the addition of cream to a sugary syrup. In candy terms, it’s the creamy version of a taffy. Caramelization is the chemical process by which sugar is oxidized, producing a nutty, brown syrup. It’s what gives flavor to meat and vegetables in the cooking process. I discovered a whole new world of flavor when I learned how to caramelize the natural sugars of fresh Brussel sprouts by roasting them into what now seems like vegetable candy.
My favorite version of the caramel is the bullseye – the creamy centered round caramel. The best brand, in my opinion, is Goetz. I’ve discovered that there are four other Goetz flavored bullseyes I had no idea existed, when I visited Witt’s End Candy Emporium in Bellevue, Kentucky. In addition to the standard vanilla caramel flavor, they have green apple, strawberry, black licorice, and chocolate. My favorite of these is the black licorice caramel, but I’m a weirdo.

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Back in the Victorian era, caramels had more interesting flavors, like Orris Root, an extract made from the bulb of the violet, which is more widely used as a perfume than a flavoring. My favorite local caramels are made by Schneider’s Sweet Shop in Bellevue, Kentucky.
The world has many different types of caramels in addition to our standard American caramel.

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The Monterrey region of Mexico has its beloved Glorias – caramels made with goat’s milk instead of cow’s. Latin America also has its dulce de leche, a caramel sauce made from condensed milk.

France has its fleur de sel – sea salt caramels made from salt harvested from the swamps of Guerande in the south coast of Brittany.
Southeast Asian cuisine has a fishy caramel used for dipping sauce that brings umami flavors front and center. In Thailand the sauce is Naam plaa waan and in Vietnam its Nuoc Mau. It’s made with tamarind and fish sauce, and used as a dipper for appetizers and a drizzle for a whole world of other dishes.

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Persia has a special caramel treat called sohan asali that’s served as the dessert to their Persian New Year’s (Nowruz) feast – the day of the Vernal Equinox, with Zoroastrian religious origins. This confection a specialty in Iran’s Isfahan region, and they’re made with almonds, pistachios, honey, rosewater, and saffron. Think of them as a caramelized version of the filling used in a Persian snake cake or a caramelized version of the baklava filling.

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Norway has a whole family of caramelized cow’s whey cheeses they call Brunost – which means brown cheese. They have the texture of a fudge, but taste like caramel, and are a cheese. I recently tasted some Brunost at Jungle Jim’s Market and it is fantastic. A version that uses Goat’s milk is called Geitost. Please Restaurant in Over-the-Rhine has a dish using Brunost, and the Rhined Cheese shop in Findlay Market will be carrying them as well. In Norway, the cheese is used as a sandwich topper, a drizzle for Norwegian waffles, and as a sauce for game meats.

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Japan has its Morinaga Caramels, made with sweetened condensed milk, that have been popular for over 100 years.
So get out of your caramel box and try some other worldly caramels.

A Local Inventor’s Weird Contraption for Chewing Gum

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Everything about Edmund Lunkenheimer was golden – or more accurately brass-plated. Ever since he took over his father, Fredrick’s valve company in Cincinnati, in the 1890s, things were up, up, and away. They expanded the 8th street plant. They experienced a hiring boom – employment increased from 199 in 1891 to 254 in 1893. And, in 1893, he changed the name of his company to The Lunkenheimer Company, even though he had Anglicanized his name to Lunken (after which the airport would be named) the year before. The majority of the capital raised from the shares of the newly named company would go to Edmund for payment of his patents.

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Edmund Lunken, holding one of his brass gate valves for which he was awarded a patent.
Even though Edmund had been awarded some successful patents in the valve industry of his family company, not all were successful.
In 1898 Edmund Lunken was awarded probably the weirdest of patents for a device he called, the “Peggy.” There is one in the collection of the Smithsonian Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. It is a small brass container with a spike or “peg” inside to store used chewing gum until the next use. It was beautifully decorated on the outside to appear as if a piece of jewelry, which could be work on a chain. It was sort of like the society woman’s snuff box. No longer would your violet, carnation, orris root, or Ylang Ylang flavored gum lose its flavor on the bedpost overnight. Back in the Victorian era, gum flavors were what we might consider Granny perfume flavors today.
Lunken tried unsuccessfully to sell the device to the Wrigley Company. They thought it a better business opportunity to let gum lose its flavor so they could sell more of it. There’s no evidence that the device was successfully sold to the local chewing gum manufacturers, like H.D. Smith or Dorne in Covington, Kentucky, either.

 
So Lunken’s gum reuse device, which was way ahead of its time, sank into oblivion.

Cincinnati Whiskey and The Bavarian Immigrant Who Started Cincinnati’s Flavor Industry

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Alex Fries, the Bavarian Immigrant responsible Cincinnati’s Flavor Industry.

While Cincinnati is known for its brewing heritage, it’s really the whiskey industry that’s consistently provided major economic dividends to our city, and has made us the number one flavor city in the United States. If you’ve ever smelled those fruity or savory smells driving on I-75 through Lockland, you’ve smelled this legacy – from the Givaudan flavors plant. We can thank one Bavarian immigrant from Furth, Alexander Fries, for this. The company that he started became three separate multinational flavor companies, two of which are still thriving today. The flavoring industry is nearly a $6 billion dollar industry in the U.S.

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Licensed whiskey rectifiers, who often were liquor wholesalers, were permitted to blend neutral spirits with aged whiskey or rye, to produce a swill that was often cheaper, but better in some regards to the straight goods. Whiskey rectifiers could also add flavoring, coloring, and other additives to the neutral spirits to give it the desired taste, aroma, and appearance. A great resource giving insight into these early whisky rectifiers in Cincinnati is the Whiskey Merchant’s Diary, which is the first hand accounts of a Joseph Mersman who worked in Cincinnati in the 1840s and 50s.

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Alex Fries was born in 1821 in Furth, Bavaria, into a well-educated family, son of Moritz Fries, a professor of mathematics, and grandson of a famous rabbi. Alex was educated in chemistry at the Universities of Erlangen and Paris. In 1843 he entered into service of the King of Spain, on a project to survey and economically develop the Sierra Morenas region of Spain, with the help of the Germans to colonize it. After feeling the project was proceeding too slowly, Alex, immigrated to Cincinnati to join his sister Antoine, and her husband, Lemuel Springer, in 1855, in a business to distill cannel oil, a cheap fuel oil for lamps, from bituminous slate or mineral wax. But, the untimely death of Lemuel, and the discovery of cheaper fuel, petroleum in 1859, made the cannel oil business a bad venture. So, Alex employed his two other brothers, Gustave and Charles, to supply flavoring oils to the food and whiskey industries. Thus, formed Alex Fries and Brothers Chemical Works. They started in small factory on Avery Alley, between Mill and Stone Streets, but quickly outgrew this space and built a multi-story brick building at East Second Street.
Youngest brother Charles would move in the 1860s to New York to open that office of the Alex Fries company, but his sons, Harold and Albert Fries, would separate the company from their Uncle’s and run into litigation on patents with them. When Alex died in 1907, his brother Gustave would take over the company, with his nephew, Dr. Alfred Springer.
By 1893, Fries and Fries listed seven variation of flavors for Bourbon Essence: Bourbon Essence number E, Bourbon Essence no. 2, Cynthiana, Harrison County, Kentucky, Paris, and Sour Mash. The same catalogue lists a similar number for Rye Essences: Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Monongahela, and Robertson County. Similar were flavors for various gins (Old Tom, Holland Gin, Schiedam Schnapps, London Dock), rums, brandies, and for fortified wines. These flavors indicate the wide variety of liquors available and the flavors that held market significance. Because these flavorings claimed to reproduce the particular sensory qualities that distinguished each of these varieties, they allowed whisky rectifiers and wholesalers to tailor their offerings to local tastes and to quickly shift their inventory when necessary. The might hold one whiskey stock and flavor it per order – creating a mix-on-demand operation that didn’t have to distill to each taste.

 

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Along with each of the numerous whiskey distillers and rectifiers were many brands of Cincinnati made bitters. Bitters, now used as cocktail mixers, were originally devised as medicinal remedies for digestive issues like acid reflux, indigestion, cholic, cramps, and diarrhea. It was the Haitian Creole pharmacist in New Orleans, Antoine Amedie Peychaud, who devised mixing his own Peychaud bitters with spirits to form the first cocktail, the Sazerac. Fries supplied the flavors to these bitters producers, who were often also whiskey distillers or rectifiers. One celebrated Cincinnati brand was Hoffheimer Bavarian bitters, which was flavored with essence of cherry, blackberry, plum and currents. The  Hoffheimer Brothers were one of the largest whiskey distillers and wholesalers in Cincinnati. The founder’s grandson, Herbert Hoffheimer, Jr., was president of the Alex Fries company in the 1950s.
In the 1880s Alex Fries helped to standardize the syrup of an unknown beverage company known as Coca-Cola. In the 2000s, the descendant company of Fries and Fries, Givaudan, would produce the flavor for vanilla coke, devised by one of its most respected flavorists, Joe Enderle.

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In 1900, after the death of their father Gustave, his children, Robert, George, and Eugene Harriet , sold their father’s interest in Alex Fries and Brothers, and opened their own business, Fries and Fries, in January of 1915. This business sold flavors to the cigarette industry, namely a licorice essence, LICO, whose sales surged when licorice root became scarce in the 1916. This business passed to Robert Jr. and then his son Jon, who sold the business to Mallinkrodt in 1970. Jon ran the business under Mallinkrodt from 1978 to 1985. Fries and Fries became Tastemaker in 1992, a joint venture between the Mallinkrodt Specialty Chemicals Division of IMCERCA Group, and the PFW Flavor and Fragrance division of Hercules Chemical Inc. Then, in 1997, Tastemaker was bought by Swiss based Givaudan Roure, and now the company is called Givaudan, with their plant in Reading and beautiful U.S. headquarters in Bond Hill.

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In 1986, Jon Fries and his father Robert bought Cin-Co, a flavoring company that was formed when Bloom left Alex Fries, and started the business in 1924. They renamed it F & C. The Wild Group in Heidelberg, Germany acquired the company in 1994. The group is now called Wild Flavors and is in Erlanger, Kentucky, owned by ADM since 2014.
The original Alex Fries Brothers specialized in flavors for the beverage, candy and dairy/ice cream industries. They went through a series of buyouts and mergers – Degussa AG, then Land-O-Lakes in 1996, Cargill Flavor Systems in 2001, and finally, Kerry, which closed the Woodlawn plant in 2012, ending nearly a 160 year legacy.
It’s a shame we don’t have our own local bitters like New Orleans Peychaud. And the antebellum bars of Cincinnati must have had a great variety for craft cocktailing, with all the bitters, flavors, and whiskey distillers in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. More important is that the snack, beverage and whiskey industries in America have grown significantly through the contributions of our flavor companies started by one Bavarian immigrant.