If you ever happen to embark on a label-studying spree like the one I've been on, you'll no doubt find yourself impressed with the creativity and gumption of some of your proverbial neighbors, fellow Western New Yorkers who are making a go of it in the world of edible goods. And, the smart practice of locavorism notwithstanding, all of these homegrown products can be quite inspiring to anyone who has batted around the idea of a little food business of their own.
This is the second installment in an ongoing "Made in Rochester" series that highlights locally made vittles. If there's an area food company you think should be on our radar, please let us know by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by posting a comment on this article at rochestercitynewspaper.com.
From the name you might suspect your kindly Greek grandmother has a secret side gig, but Yaya's Yummys (yayasyummys.com) is a Penfield business that makes a wide array of jams and jellies (the Caramel Apple Jam is innocently decadent), dips, olive oil blends, and baking mixes, with a website that provides a gaggle of recipe ideas and tips for using Yaya's myriad products. And if you're looking to raise money for your organization but don't feel like peddling the usual gift wrap, magazines, or giant drums of popcorn, Yaya's Yummys offers a fundraising program. Get Yaya's Yummys at Red Bird Market or Deer Run Winery, or maybe look into hosting a Yaya's Yummys party of your own.
High-fructose corn syrup is not solely responsible for the obesity epidemic, but its complicity in the fattening of America is well documented. So the health conscious have turned to more wholesome sweetening options like honey, agave, and Hey Shuga! (heyshuga.com), a sugar-cane syrup derived through a natural enzymatic process that bio-mimics the one bees use to produce honey. Created by the Tejada family, this organic, GMO-free, gluten-free, vegan, and kosher cane syrup is a favorite of bakers and mixologists, and anyone hoping to cut back on their refined sugar consumption ought to check out Lil' Shuga!, which intensifies the cane syrup with the addition of stevia extract. You can find both Shuga! products at markets like Lori's Natural Foods and Abundance Co-op.
With roots in a small pasticceria in Sicily, Vigneri Chocolate (vigneri.com) began life in Rochester as a bakery before narrowing its focus to chocolate. The third generation of the Vigneri family is taking the concept further, harnessing the healthful properties of chocolate into the By Nature By Hand collection, a sort of trail mix anchored by chunks of antioxidant-loaded dark chocolate and bolstered with various nuts and dried fruits. Vigneri also makes holiday-themed chocolate — including huge Easter eggs called La Gigantes — and it will soon roll out Quarrels, chocolate intended to be paired with wine. Look for Vigneri products at places like Wegmans and Rosario Pino's Artisan Foods.
Victor's MaD Foodz (madfoodz.com) makes "all-natural craft hot sauces," meaning no artificial colors, additives, or preservatives. Whether you're interested in spicing up meats and fish, or just doing a little dipping, there's something for every heat tolerance in these citrus-based sauces. They range from the mild Oh My, with a little warmth from jalapeño pepper; to the moderate singe of the chipotle-kissed Oh Wow and Oh Boy, featuring habanero; to the "massive" ghost-pepper kick of the aptly named Oh Mama. Shop the MaD Foodz line at spots like Niblack, Nathaniel Square Corner Store, and Mileage Master.
Recently served as part of the President's Inaugural Luncheon in Washington, D.C., and named Best Honey in New York State at the 2012 New York State Fair, Pat Bono's Seaway Trail Honey (seawaytrailhoney.com) comes from her small Wayne County apiary. The bees harvest the pollen from apple blossoms, buttercups, goldenrod, locust blossoms, and other wildflowers, their hard work made available unpasteurized and certified kosher. Get Seaway Trail Honey products from places like Simply New York Marketplace & Gifts, the Brighton Farmers' Market, and the Little Bleu Cheese Shop.
To clarify the difference between the two, muesli is granola's raw, unprocessed cousin, and no one requires a lecture about the potential health benefits of grains in their natural state. With components like oats, flaxseed, fruits, and nuts, muesli can be eaten cold, perhaps after an overnight soak in milk, or prepared like oatmeal. Ian Szalinski launched his rapidly growing Muesli Fusion (mueslifusion.com) in late 2010 after noticing a lack of variety in store-bought brands, and currently his company offers six different muesli blends, like the gluten-free Morning Zen, the protein-packed Athlete Fuel, and An Ox, which features antioxidant-rich goji berries and cacao nibs. Muesli Fusion is available at retailers like Wegmans, RIT's Global Village Market, and Hegedorn's.
Throughout history, salt has occupied an important place in civilization as a preservative, seasoning, and even a form of payment when one is worth his or her salt. (Read Mark Kurlansky's fascinating "Salt" if this subject interests you.) Seneca Salt Company (java-gourmet.com), a division of Penn Yan's Java-Gourmet, is harvesting its culinary flake salt right from a vein in Seneca Lake and offering it unadulterated as well as in blends with rosemary, matcha, vanilla, or lemon, and even a grapevine-smoked version. Look for Seneca Salt at shops like Parkleigh, The Nut House, and F. Oliver's.
Chow Hound is a food and restaurant news column. Do you have a tip? Send it to email@example.com.