Meet, Melissa Yen of Jo Snow syrups, the latest talent to share her recipes for delicious beverages with Salty Fig. While the proprietress of the coffee shop Café Vella, she became obsessed with the creation of flavors and created a line of syrups to dress up coffee. Her first syrup, during the café days was one rooted in Mexico Café de Olla. Realizing she couldn’t brew the coffee in a clay pot and expect her clients to wait for it , the creative gal made a syrup to taste just like it. By combining Brown Sugar, Cinnamon, Molasses and Cloves she created her winning Café de Olla Syrup. Melissa has since moved on, she owns Jo Snow Syrups spending her time concocting a fabulous array of intensely creative flavored syrups!
I interviewed Melissa at 2 SPARROWS, in Chicago over steak and eggs a few weeks ago:
Q: So, what does Jo Snow specialize in?
“I hand craft small batch syrups for coffee, cocktails, sodas & snow cones.I want people to know that my syrups are all natural & made with care & passion. ”
Q: Why did you start cooking?
“My husband actually taught me how to cook! He went to culinary school. Food is our life…when we travel we pick our destinations for the food of the region. I just wanted to be able to re create & put my spin on the food that I enjoyed. There is such diversity in food & you learn so much about the culture of the people whose food you are eating or making. I yearn to learn/taste something new all the time.”
Q: What is one tool in the kitchen you couldn’t live without?
“Sounds silly, but my cheap yellow spatula! It has the perfect curve & is the perfect weight/hardness. I pass up all the other spatulas in the drawer to find this one.”
Q: What are three ingredients you have in your Kitchen at all times?
“Quite a few of my home cooking flavors have carried over to the Jo Snow kitchen. I could not live without fresh crushed black pepper. At home I put it on everything & at Jo Snow it is in my best selling flavor, fig vanilla black pepper. Ginger is also very high on my list. It is one of my most favorite flavors ever. I could eat it straight. My newest love is Zaatar. I put it on popcorn thanks to Tim Mazurek at Lottie & Doof and now look for anything & everything to be it’s carrier. I hasn’t made its way to the Jo Snow kitchen yet, but don’t think for a second that I am not obsessing over how to do it!”
Q: What is your most popular recipe on your site?
“The most popular recipe is the Dutch 74. I think because it is so easy. Who doesn’t like gin, Prosecco & tangerine?”
Q: Favorite person to cook for?
“I love cooking for friends. We have a group of us who get together for NYE. We each cook a course. It makes me get creative, as we are always trying to out do each other…in a good way!”
Q: Favorite food moment in a movie?
“My husband & I always “quote” our favorite movie, Tampopo. It is actually a gesture. When the main characters are in another noodle shop “spying” They see that the cooks are not attentive & goofing around & miming playing golf. It represents how inefficient they are. So when we see people wasting time & taking extra unnecessary steps in preparing food & just being “sloppy” we mime the golf swing from Tampopo & immediately know what the other is talking about! ”
Speaking of Movie clips, I thought it would be a lot more fun to see Melissa in action, rather than see a clip of Tampopo here….With out further chatter here she is live via a film from Food Curated:
Q: What is your biggest flop in the kitchen (and would you ever make it again)?
“Apricot sage syrup. The fresh sage just made the syrup taste awful. I still do not know why. Everytime I want to use sage, I remember that incident. I don’t think I will try it again…well…maybe I will! It just has to work!”
Q: What is your #1 piece of advice for novice cooks?
“Start simple to gain confidence. If you have really good ingredients you don’t need to have an over complicated recipe, just keep it simple & the ingredients will shine.”
Q: What is your most bizarre food experience?
“Eating stinky tofu in a Chinese restaurant in LA. My husband grew up with it & I am open to trying (almost) anything. It smells like stinky cheese, which I love. The stinkier the better. Oh boy, was it awful! I had to spit it out & was gesturing for someone to bring me anything to get that taste out of my mouth! I remember guzzling an entire can of Coke! I’ll stick to limburger!”
When I meet a really interesting person I assume other very cool people are in their world, so I asked :
Q: “Who are some of your biggest supporters?”
My gut was right, Melissa rattled off three intriguing business’ that support her effort:
“Ipsento Coffee “in Chicago is a key client of Melissa’s, featuring her syrups in their coffees.
“Masa Azul“ a Modern Southwestern Restaurant and Tequila Bar uses Jo Snow Syrups in their cocktails!
“Puffs of Doom” www.facebook.com/puffsofdoom , Jo Snow has collaborated on a bunch of cream puff flavors including three favorites – Sass! Root Beer, Cardamom Rose Water and Cafe de Olla.
- Farmers Markets
- Community Supported Baking Club – Delivery of cream puffs on a monthly or bi-monthly basis
- Restaurants, Cafe’s and Coffee Shops
- Tricycle Cart (Coming Soon)
- Festivals and Fairs
Brussel Sprouts and Bacon w/ Jo Snow Fig Vanilla Black Pepper Syrup
INGREDIENTSBrussel sprouts, halved
Bacon or pancetta, rough chopped
Jo Snow Fig Vanilla Black Pepper syrup
Good olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste
METHOD1. Heat a cast iron skillet
2. Fry up the bacon or pancetta until crispy
3. Remove from pan & wipe out extra bacon grease
4. Pour in a little olive oil
5. Add the brussel sprouts & cook until crispy
6. Let them get seared & brown a little
7. Add the bacon back in the pan, toss & drizzle the Jo Snow Fig Vanilla Black Pepper syrup on top.
8. Remove from pan & serve