If you were to open my fridge, you would get a sense of what I’ve been up to since the pandemic started. That’s right, collecting condiments. Gone are the days of baking banana bread, of waiting for sourdough to rise, of evenings creating experimental cocktails, or even of looking for a new recipe to try. This is the time of the pandemic where I jazz up scrambled eggs with Fly Jing chili crisp and call it dinner, or squirt egg yolk-heavy Kewpie mayonnaise and Sriracha on my salmon and rice ala the brilliant Tik Tok influencer, Emily Mariko, or spread rosemary-forward Lighthouse Keeper’s Beachcomber mustard straight from Cape Cod on my boring old sausages.
I’m not the only one sick of cooking but needing to experience new tastes. Everyone I talk to about this phenomenon recommends more condiments to try. A friend recently sang the praises of Chocobar Cortes, a new Caribbean-style restaurant in the South Bronx where everything on the menu includes chocolate, including the ketchup. My friend liked it so much, she asked for a side order to take home so others in her family could give it a try. Although not available on their online store, you can purchase chocolate hot sauce or chocolate sea salt in person.
“People are staying in and cooking more,” says Chitra Agrawal, co-founder of Brooklyn Delhi Chutney and author of Vibrant India. “They are trying to figure out more new and different ways to flavor the foods they are eating at home.” Luckily for us in Brooklyn, there are still some artisans left in the borough, crafting indelible creations that will perk up any meal you might be sick of cooking, or reawaken taste buds that may have been affected by a bout with Covid. Stock up on some of these favorites made in Brooklyn.
Brooklyn Delhi makes Indian-inspired chutneys and sauces that are so easy to implement into your repertoire that you’ll soon be using the achaar with cheese and crackers, the curry ketchup on your burgers, or the simmer sauces to liven up your mac and cheese. Chitra Agrawal, the co-founder of Brooklyn Delhi and author of Vibrant India, says, the newly launched plant-based Cashew Butter Masala and the Roasted Garlic Achaar, a traditional Indian condiment, are both flying off the shelves. It’s no wonder why — the simplicity of use mixed with the complexity of taste make these perfect to use creatively. The mango chutney is a must for everything from rice dishes to layered in a grilled cheese sandwich.
How dare you try to make pizza at home without this essential ingredient? Created in 2010 by Mike Kurtz at the pizzeria where he worked, it has since become an essential for meat dishes, cornbreads, salads, waffles, you name it. The pandemic has seen even more growth. “People are eating more at home, cooking more, but still want some easy tools to take their food to the next level.,” says Kurtz. “Also, more than ever before, folks are open to trying new condiments and seeking to use condiments in ways they haven’t before.” If you’re looking for inspiration, check the recipe section on their website for unusual ideas like the hot honey cold remedy.
If you are the type of person who spends $150 on eight white strawberries, then you might already be familiar with Regalis Foods, an importer of “exceptional, elusive food products.” Scrolling through their online store feels like menu prep at Downton Abbey — from crazy-looking Florida Spiny Lobster, a tray of cherry blossoms to a dozen different kinds of caviar. “As people were saving money by not being able to eat out and travel, they invested in higher quality ingredients,” says Karrie Kimple, Partner at Philosophy Foods/ Regalis. “Suddenly we had no issues selling $25 bottles of O-Med Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Conservas LaBrujula tinned fish to home consumers.” Topping my condiment bucket list is the Regalis Truffle Oils (Black or White) which is just the thing to elevate anything you are planning in the kitchen. Splash on some pasta and it’s insta-gourmet.
Heatonist Hot Sauce
My husband is the kind of person who puts hot sauce on everything even in the best of times. During the pandemic, he’s been collecting new hot sauces like some people collect snowglobes. Unfortunately, there’s not one perfect hot sauce for everything as much as there is a spice hole that you can fall deep into. In Williamsburg, the Heatonist’s flagship store is a hot sauce aficionado’s fever dream where they curate some of the best hot sauces from around the world as well as come up with some of their own. At the store, you can do tastings to find your very own favorite or you can sign up for a subscription box and get new ones delivered every month. This might be the best way to bring some heat to a frigid day.
The Jam Stand
OK, I know what you’re thinking: what’s the big deal about jam? But The Jam Stand’s jam combines flavor combinations that are so much more complex than others, that it tastes nothing like the Smuckers you can buy on the grocery store shelf. You will be perfectly happy spreading the blissful Blueberry Bourbon on some sourdough toast. Many of their jams, however, like Sweet Wino or Raspberry Jalapeno encourage you to go savory with cheese plates, meats or salad concoctions. Glaze a chicken, upgrade your Superbowl party hor d’oeuvres, or just sit in your kitchen with a spoon and shovel the jam straight from the jar.
I’m not SO into mustards, although I enjoy them with sausage plates, but I know others who will have a sandwich just to have something to spread the dijon on. For these people, there is Tin Mustard, which calls itself “the caviar of mustards.” Their original whole grain mustard balances the sharp dijon flavor with the sweetness of a whole grain mustard and is sold in stores like Union Market and Bedford Cheese Shop.