Friday, March 4, 2016

Peanut Butter Lover’s Day is March 1st

Mark Overbay is deeply amused by the notion of March 1 being National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day.

“For me, that’s like having a National Oxygen Lover’s Day,” quips the founder of Big Spoon Roasters, a maker of artisan nut butters in Durham, North Carolina. “Peanut butter has always been, and will always be, a staple of my existence!”

Overbay just celebrated the fifth anniversary of his company, which was the nation’s first maker of small-batch, fresh-roasted, handcrafted nut butters. He drew inspiration the time he spent in rural Zimbabwe with the Peace Corps, where he experienced the extraordinary flavors and textures of nut butters made with local ingredients and ground with stones. Each family added its own unique touches, such as honey, coconut oil or spices.

Overbay takes a similar approach, sourcing the majority of his ingredients from sustainable growers in North Carolina and throughout the Southeast. The current line of 10 flavors is produced on a rotating schedule, with product delivered as soon as it’s packaged. For Southern Season’s Chapel Hill and Raleigh locations, that means it arrives within hours.

While North Carolina’s Triangle region takes special pride in this local product, Big Spoon Roasters nut butters have been earning national praise since their debut. In fact, Food & Wine magazine named its Peanut Pecan Butter as one of the seven best things staff tasted in 2011. The current issue of Teen Vogue raves about the brand’s Cherry Pecan nut butter bars. Overbay does not take such praise lightly.

“We have zero control over what the media covers, but we do have control over how we select our ingredients, how we roast our nuts, how our food tastes, how our jar feels in people’s hands, how we interact with someone who calls our office,” he says. “These are the things we try to do as well as we can.”

The company will mark its fifth anniversary in the spring by introducing a new nut butter flavor as well as a nut butter bar recipe. Both currently are labeled Top Secret.

“The goals that launched Big Spoon Roasters as a business remain our goals today,” Overbay says. “We want to introduce people to the inimitable experience of eating truly handmade-to-order, fresh-roasted nut butter; to be a progressive market force for sustainable agriculture; and to positively affect the communities we touch.

“These are goals we can never exceed,” he adds “but also goals we can pursue and measure every day.”

Visit Southern Season stores for a wide selection of Big Spoon Roaster nut butters or shop online.

This post first appeared on the Southern Season blog.

Pure Parmesan

At Southern Season, when you buy a chunk of Parmesan cheese, you get 100 percent premium Italian cheese chosen by our Cheesemonger in Residence to deliver exceptional flavor and quality. “We’ve heard from customers who are concerned about reports of wood pulp in some commercial brands of pre-packaged grated cheese,” says Dany Schutte, who is based at Southern Season’s Richmond, Virginia, store. “We stock only the best cheeses available from authentic sources.”

As reported by numerous news sources, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is investigating some companies that produce products labeled as “100 percent real Parmesan.” A few brands have been found to contain excessive amounts of cellulose, an anti-clumping additive made from wood pulp, as well as less expensive filler cheese. While not necessarily dangerous for consumption, such products are not consistent with Southern Season’s premium quality standards.
Schutte has selected a Parmigiano Reggiano produced by Giorgio Cravero as the signature cheese available at our stores. The Cravero family has been producing wheels of the highest quality aged cheeses since 1855. “We choose his wheels because he exceeds the minimum requirement of the Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium, flipping and rubbing down his wheels every two days instead of the required two weeks,” Schutte explains. “He also matures them longer. The flavor profile is deeper, nuttier and sweeter.”
The cheese is available in a range of sizes to suit customer needs. While Cheese Departments offer grated cheese for grab-and-go convenience, Schutte recommends grating or shredding the cheese just before use for maximum flavor.
This post first appeared on the Southern Season blog.