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Lehigh is for Yummy Lovers: 10 Unique Food and Beverage Gift Ideas

Lehigh is for Yummy Lovers: 10 Unique Food and Beverage Gift Ideas

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and we all know the drill — flowers, chocolates, candy, rinse and repeat.

Although a lovely sentiment, it’s not exactly the stuff that legends are made of, right?

So, we dove deep into the web and came up with a list of food and beverage items that say “I love you” in an unconventional and out-of-the-box way.

These gems are not your garden-variety tokens of affection; they’re off-beat, they’re fun, and they scream “Be Mine” in the most deliciously distinctive ways.

From quirky snacks to sippable surprises, here’s our list of

10 unique food & beverage gifts for Valentine’s day

Olive & Cocoa Chocolate Heart Pretzels

Imagine a dozen crunchy pretzels, each smothered in a dreamy mix of milk and white chocolate and then dotted with playful pink hearts.

Both salty and sweet, as most relationships are, these tantalizing treats arrive in a chic, handcrafted wooden crate, tied up with a red ribbon, and just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Trust us, they are the yummiest way to say “I heart you!” 

Visit Olive and Cocoa here 

BareOrganics Ashwagandha Root Powder

Ever heard of Ashwagandha Root?

It’s like nature’s own love boosting superfood – the Ayurvedic secret often dubbed as a ‘natural viagra’ for both ladies and gents. And, it’s not just about cranking up your libido and vitality; it’s also great for knocking down stress and anxiety, which are the usual, and unfortunate romance killers.

Sprinkle some of this 100% USDA Certified Organic magic powder into your daily routine and get ready for a more sumptuous and satisfying sex life.

Visit the Ashwaganha Root

Lou’s Heart Shaped Chocolate Chip Cookie & Heart Shaped Pizza

Double the love straight from the Windy City!

We’re talking about Lou Malnati’s heart-shaped deep dish pizza for two, with your pick of cheesy goodness or savory sausage, paired with a giant heart-shaped chocolate chip cookie. And this cookie isn’t just any cookie – it’s the same recipe used in Lou Malnati’s iconic pizzerias.

It’s like a big hug from Chicago, sent straight to your door this Valentine’s Day. Who can resist that?

Click here for Taste of Chicago

Be My Huckleberry Hand Pies

Get ready to fall hard for these delicious hand pies, bursting with juicy Montana huckleberries and blueberries.

Elle’s Belles country kitchen whips up each small-batch bakes with love, making these some of the tastiest treats you’ll ever devour.

And here’s the kicker — each pie is handcrafted, ensuring your gift is as unique as it is delicious. But remember, all good things take time, and these handmade beauties need 24 hours to bake and package before heading your way.

Click here to check out Huckleberry Hand Pies

Dora’s Heart-Shaped Ravioli for 2

 

Whisk your taste buds to Italy on Valentine’s Day with Nonna Dora’s heart-shaped ravioli, a beloved staple for 25 years at New York City’s I Trulli!

Handcrafted with special Italian flour, these beauties get their charming stripes from beet puree and are filled with creamy Italian ricotta. Boil them up, sauté with butter and sage, and voilà—a romantic dinner to remember.

Behind these gems is “Nonna Dora” Marzovilla, a pasta-making legend for over 70 years, now delighting NYC with her own spot, Nonna Dora’s Pasta Bar. It’s like getting a squeeze from an Italian nonna in every bite! 

Click here for Dora’s Heart-Shaped Ravioli

Jerky Heart

Why settle for the same old same old chocolates in a heart shaped box when you can gift BEEF JERKY instead!

The Man Crates Exclusive Heart Box includes: 1 Dave’s Pepperoni Pork Stick, 1 Dave’s Wine Pork Stick, 1 Dave’s Orange Habanero Pork Stick, 1 Dave’s Honey Bourbon Formed Beef Bit, 1 Dave’s Honey Root Beer Formed Beef Bit, 

1 Dave’s Sesame Ginger Formed Beef Bit, 3 Cajun Beef Sticks, 2 Teriyaki Beef Sticks, and 3 Habanero BBQ Beef Sticks to highly satisfy your most beloved carnivore. 

And, for that extra touch of testosterone, you can have the box “gift wrapped” in red colored duct tape.

Visit Man Crates

Tipsy Bubbly Rose

Yup!  That’s right folks… a phallus shaped bottle of pink sparkling rosé wine for that very special someone. We’ll just leave it right there…

Click here to visit Tipsy Brand

Candied Bacon Bouquet

What better way to say “I love you” than with an elegant bouquet of long-stemmed candied bacon shaped roses. Perfect for anyone who can’t resist the sweet and salty combo of maple syrup and bacon, each rose shaped flower is topped with a red sugar coating to keep those roses a brightly blooming red. 

Visit Bacon Bouquets

Meat Card

Why settle for a Hallmark card when you can have your love note laser engraved on a 4″ x 9″ sheet of meat? 

Manly Man Co. offers customized greetings of 100 characters at max on a 100% edible sheet of savory beef jerky. 

Made to order and vacuum sealed for freshness, it’s the yummiest way to share your affection.

Visit Manly Man Co

Heart-Shaped Tea Bags

Heart-Shaped Tea Bags

Seeking a little romantic tea time with your honey?

Jacqueline Aliotti’s heart-shaped tea bags are the perfect choice to heat things up. Inspired by her childhood in Lyon, France, surrounded by the warmth of her parents’ tea shop, each boxed set includes 5 English Breakfast, 5 Earl Grey, and 5 White Berry tea bags, perfect for sharing a romantic afternoon with your Valentine. 

Visit UnCommon Goods

“Big, bold, packed with flavor” – Bourbon Podcast announces 2023 Whiskey of the Year

“Big, bold, packed with flavor” – Bourbon Podcast announces 2023 Whiskey of the Year

After sampling over 100 whiskeys in 2023, Bourbon Podcast announced its 2023 Whiskey of the Year: Garrison Brothers Cowboy Bourbon®.

The highly anticipated 2023 release of Garrison Brothers Cowboy Bourbon® was limited to 9,600 bottles coming in at 140.9 proof.

Cowboy Bourbon® is bottled at cask strength, uncut and unfiltered, providing a unique flavor that is distinctly Garrison Brothers and unapologetically Texas.

“The 2023 release of Cowboy Bourbon® really stood out to us,”

Joe Nassif

co-host of Bourbon Podcast

“It is a big, bold, hazmat bourbon that is packed with flavor. It tastes like a dessert in a glass, with notes of brown sugar, chocolate, raisins, and cinnamon.”

Each barrel of Cowboy Bourbon® was hand-selected by Master Distiller Donnis Todd and stashed away in Garrison Brothers’ barrel barns for at least six years.

The process and high heat in Texas allows the bourbon to soak in even more flavor and texture, resulting in an incredible product. “Cowboy 2013, the first Cowboy ever released, put Garrison Brothers and Texas on the bourbon map,” said Donnis Todd, Master Distiller, Garrison Brothers Distillery. “It’s an honor a decade after the first release having the 2023 Cowboy named as the 2023 Whiskey of the Year,” Todd said.

Founded in 2005, Garrison Brothers Distillery is located in Hye, Texas. In 2006, the distillery was granted the first stiller’s permit for bourbon outside of Kentucky and Tennessee, which makes it the oldest legal bourbon distillery in Texas.

In addition to 2023 Whiskey of the Year, Bourbon Podcast announced the following 2023 Honorable Mention Whiskeys:

2XO Gem of Kentucky, 108 Proof, MSRP $199
Old Forester The President’s Choice, Barrel #30, 117 Proof, MSRP $189
Russell Reserve 13, Batch 4, 114.8 Proof, MSRP $150
Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond 10 year (Spring 2023), 100 Proof, MSRP $140
Angel’s Envy Cask Strength Rye, 114.4 Proof, MSRP $270
Elijah Craig Barrel Strength (C923), 133 Proof, MSRP $70
Elijah Craig Barrel Strength (B523), 124.2 Proof, MSRP $70
Garrison Brothers Balmorhea, 115 Proof, MSRP $180
Michter’s 10 Year Single Barrel Bourbon, Barrel #23G2651, 94.4 Proof, $185 MSRP 
George T. Stagg, 135 Proof, MSRP: $125

Bourbon Podcast is the premier podcast for whiskey enthusiasts, consistently ranking in the Top 10 of Apple Podcasts in the United States in the hobbies category. Bourbon Podcast has thousands of weekly subscribers made up of whiskey enthusiasts and industry insiders. With over 60,000 followers on social media, Bourbon Podcast has distinguished itself as one of the top sources for news and reviews of whiskey in the United States.

For more information: www.bourbonpodcast.com

Instagram: @bourbonpodcast
Facebook: facebook.com/bourbonpodcast

Super Bowl LVIII and Playoff Parties: 12 Easy Recipe Options with Recommended Wine Pairings Score Big

12 Easy Recipe Options with Recommended Wine Pairings Score Big for Super Bowl LVIII and Playoff Parties

The big game is just around the corner.  Your guest list is set, and you’re facing the perennial challenge: what to serve?

What to serve for Super Bowl LVIII? Game Day Appetizers collection

Meal planning service eMeals comes to the rescue with a Game Day Appetizers collection featuring 12 easy-cook recipes ranging from Pull-Apart Meatball Sub Bites to Snickerdoodle Sandwich Cookies – each paired with liquid refreshment from California winery Sutter Home and complete with fast online shopping options. Problem solved!

The game plan is straightforward. Simply:

  • Check out eMeals’ Game Day Appetizers landing page or the Occasions Plan section of the eMeals app if you’re a subscriber to explore the fun finger-food recipes created by the eMeals team to feed you and your guests from kickoff to the final buzzer.
Hummus Board

Hummus Board

  • Assemble your menu. In addition to the collection’s pizza dough-wrapped meatball sub bites and classic frosting-filled snickerdoodles, you’ll find options like Nashville Hot Chicken Dip served with crostini, Philly Cheesesteak Sliders nestled in Hawaiian sweet dinner rolls, Twice-Baked Dill Pickle Potatoes made with miniature Yukon golds, and seven others including a Smoky Snack Mix – each assembled in a snap and serving 10-12 hungry football fans.

Pull-Apart Meatball Sub Bites

Pull-Apart Meatball Sub Bites

  • Accept the wine recommendations. Whether it’s a Sutter Home Cabernet Sauvignon, White Zinfandel, Merlot or Pinot Grigio for the main event dishes you selected or the same winery’s Sweet Peach or Wild Berry fruit infusion for your dessert choices, you’ll get the perfect pairing for less than $12 per bottle. No need to waste time and no chance of choosing the wrong wine.

  • Auto-generate your grocery list for easy in-store or online shopping. Click on the recipes you’re planning to make, and eMeals will create a shopping list you can use to self-shop at your local grocery store or tap for online grocery fulfillment at major retailers. It’s fast, easy, and ensures you won’t forget an ingredient.

  • Cook, serve, and get your game on (TV, that is)! Every dish is tailor-made for grazing while you and your guests are glued to your big screen, so you’ll be the toast of the party – no matter which team wins.

And speaking of teams, eMeals can be a great addition to your cooking lineup. The company’s weekly meal planning service saves an average of two hours of meal planning time every week, helps reduce grocery expenses by utilizing ingredients efficiently and avoiding impulse purchases, and provides meal inspiration and variety with less stress and more family time.

For as little as $5 a month, eMeals subscribers get a choice of meal plans for 15 different eating styles including Quick and Healthy, Clean Eating, Low Calorie, Low Carb, 30 Minute Meals, Kid Friendly and Vegetarian. Users also receive Occasions Plan and Bonus Collection menus for recipes that may not fit into the nightly dinner category; have the option to mix and match menus from any style and substitute favorites from previous weeks; and can take advantage of eMeals’ web-shoppable functionality for fast one-click shopping from major retailers. Free 14-day trials are available here.

 

eMeals is a meal inspiration, planning and shopping

eMeals is a meal inspiration, planning and shopping platform that operates the subscription-based eMeals digital meal planning service, the free RecipeBox app enabling home cooks to create personalized digital cookbooks, and the Grocery Connect SDK providing online grocery shopping functionality for third-party apps and websites.

eMeals has helped millions of families relieve the daily stress of putting healthy home-cooked meals on the table quickly, easily and affordably since the launch of its digital meal planning service.

For more information, visit https://emeals.com and https://recipebox.com.

Sutter Home revolutionized the way Americans enjoyed wine

When the Trinchero family bought the Sutter Home Winery in 1948, they had vision, passion and a keen insight into consumer tastes.

In the early 1970s, Sutter Home revolutionized the way Americans enjoyed wine when it created the first-ever White Zinfandel, introducing a new, sweeter style of wine—along with several other crowd-pleasing varietals—at an affordable price.

By the 1980s and 1990s, Sutter Home became a household name as the second largest independent, family-owned winery in the United States. In 2005, the winery was the first to produce the groundbreaking single-serve, 187mL package in lightweight plastic bottles.

Today, Sutter Home continues to reflect the evolution of its consumers, offering 21 different varietals in 750mL, 187mL and 1.5L bottles, plus 500mL Tetra Pak® packages.

For more information visit www.SutterHome.com.

Celebrate Christmas with Cash and Outlaw Country Classics at Sherman Stage at The Renegade Winery December 15

Celebrate Christmas with Cash and Outlaw Country Classics at Sherman Stage at The Renegade Winery December 15

Get ready for an unforgettable Christmas experience filled with the timeless music of Johnny Cash performed by Chuck Rissmiller and the Outlaw Country Classics of Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson, performed by the talented acoustic songwriter, Robbie Junior. Join us on December 15, 2023, at the Sherman Stage at The Renegade Winery at 600 Main Street, Stroudsburg, PA for a holiday celebration like no other.

Celebrate Christmas with Cash and Outlaw Country Classics at Sherman Stage at The Renegade Winery December 15

Celebrate Christmas with Cash and Outlaw Country Classics at Sherman Stage at The Renegade Winery December 15

Take a journey through the songwriting career of Johnny Cash (1954 thru 2003). The tunes that made him famous as well as those songs Cash loved personally are showcased.  There is also commentary about his music, his successes, his struggles, his beliefs…  in other words the life of the iconic Man In Black.  Chuck Rissmiller delivers an intimate guitar and vocal show that truly pays homage to great songs and an iconic legend.

 

For tickets and more information, visit shermantheater.com or call our Box Office at 570-420-2808.

 

Show: Christmas with Cash: Great Songs of Johnny Cash by Chuck Rissmiller with special guest Robbie Junior performing Outlaw Country Classics

Venue: Sherman Stage at The Renegade Winery, 600 Main Street, Stroudsburg, PA

Date: December 15, 2023

Time: Doors at 7:00 PM, Show at 8:00 PM

 

The Sherman Theater is Monroe County’s only nationally ranked, non-profit theater and performing arts center. Located in downtown Stroudsburg, PA, the Sherman Theater has proudly served the Pocono region for 90 years. The Theater and Performing Arts Center is committed to strengthening the community by producing culturally-diverse, nationally-known professional acts and festivals at the theater and at satellite locations throughout Monroe County for people of all ages, by providing an opportunity for local artists to perform, and by creating economic development in the region. The Sherman Theater projects and events attract over 100,000 visitors to the Pocono Region annually. For more information call 570-420-2808 or visit www.shermantheater.com.

Flogging Molly – Road to Rebellion Tour with Amigo the Devil & Gen and the Degenerates at Penn’s Peak Saturday, February 24, 2024

Flogging Molly – Road to Rebellion Tour with Amigo the Devil & Gen and the Degenerates at Penn’s Peak Saturday, February 24, 2024

Flogging Molly is Dave King (lead vocals, acoustic guitar, bodhran), Bridget Regan (violin, tin whistle, vocals), Dennis Casey (guitar, vocals), Matt Hensley (accordion, concertina, vocals), Nathen Maxwell (bass guitar, vocals), Spencer Swain (mandolin, banjo, guitar, vocals), and Mike Alonso (drums, percussion).

Flogging Molly – Road to Rebellion Tour with Amigo the Devil & Gen and the Degenerates at Penn's Peak Saturday, February 24, 2024

Starting out as the house band for Molly Malone’s in Los Angeles and building a loyal following through endless touring, Flogging Molly has become a staple in the punk scene over the past 20-plus years, kicking off with its riotous debut, Swagger, and continuing through their five additional studio albums.

With numerous late-night television appearances under their belt, a sold out Salty Dog Cruise through the Caribbean, and a yearly St. Patrick’s Day Festival in Los Angeles, the band released their seventh full-length album, Anthem, on Sept. 9, 2022 via Rise Records.

Tickets on sale Friday, November 17th at 10:00AM at all Ticketmaster outlets, the Penn’s Peak Box Office and Roadies Restaurant and Bar.  Penn’s Peak Box Office and Roadies Restaurant ticket sales are walk-up only, no phone orders.

General Admission

Advance: $39.50

Day of Show: $42.00

About Penn’s Peak

Penn’s Peak, a beautiful mountaintop entertainment venue located in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, can comfortably host 1,800 concertgoers.  Enjoy a spacious dance floor, lofty ceilings, concert bar/concession area and a full service restaurant and bar aptly named Roadie’s. Complete with a broad open-air deck for summertime revelry, Penn’s Peak patrons enjoy a breathtaking overlook of nearby Beltzville Lake, plus a commanding, picturesque 50-mile panoramic view of northeastern Pennsylvania’s Appalachian Mountains. Choose Penn’s Peak for your next wedding, banquet or special event and treat your guests to an event truly “Above the Rest”.

Geographically convenient to residents of major population zones in Hazleton, Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, Stroudsburg, the Lehigh Valley, Philadelphia and New York City, Penn’s Peak is an ideal location for any event.  It is located only four miles from Exit 74 of the northeast extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.  For more information on Penn’s Peak, go to www.pennspeak.com or call 866-605-7325.

Legendary Pennsylvania Restauranteur Joseph Costanzo Jr. Reveals all in Tasty Memoir with “On The Rocks”

Legendary Pittsburgh Restauranteur Joseph Costanzo Jr. Reveals all in his Tasty Memoir with “On The Rocks”

On the Rocks chronicles the real-life journey of restaurateur Joseph Costanzo Jr., from his rise to success in the 1990s as a owner of the highly acclaimed Primadonna Restaurant, radio host, columnist, and aspiring politician to his sharp fall in the early 2000s, ending in an investigation and a stint in federal prison.

Costanzo is a complex character, whom readers will admire for his confidence and rebuke for his arrogance, will love for his generosity and despise for his egotism, and will learn from in both his attention to detail and lack thereof.

This driven, not-your-average-Joe is an unforgettable character who achieves the seemingly impossible but can’t help getting in his own way. Come along with Joe for a bumpy ride on the rocks

On the Rocks: The Primadonna Story, co-written by Maria C. Palmer and Ruthie Robbins is available now on Amazon, BarnesandNoble.com, Walmart, Target.  Signed copies at the Heinz History Center. Also follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

Today, we’re having a conversation with all three: Joseph Costanzo Jr., co-writers Maria C. Palmer and Ruthie Robbins.

The conversation has been edited for clarity and length.  Find the un-edited conversation on our FlavRReport YouTube channel.

Something that I find amazing, this book has been 17 years in the process. Is that an accurate piece of trivia?

Maria C. Palmer: 100%. Yes, that is a very accurate piece of trivia.

So way back 17 years ago, what sparked this for you?

Maria C. Palmer: A couple of things. I think that because the restaurant was such a significant part of our lives, and it was always the highlight of my father’s life. Once it went away, the spark kind of went away, too. And I wanted to bring that back in my Dad. So I started asking him lots of questions about his life. Specifically for a family history. At the time, being a writer myself, in addition to grant writing, I’m also a writer and I can really spot a good story that has commercial value.

On The Rocks co-author Maria C. Palmer

On The Rocks co-author Maria C. Palmer

There were just so many wonderful elements to his story. So I started recording some vignettes of different things that had happened throughout his life. But not really knowing and or intending at the time that it would be a book. 

But as we went on, I saw that the potential was there and I was lucky enough to still be in contact with my former teacher, Ruthie Dines Robbins and brought the project to her and asked her if she would be willing to work on it with me.

It was really from there that we decided it would become a book and that we would work together diligently for probably 10 years together.

Ruthie Robbins: I’m only 7 years.

Joseph Costanzo Jr.: They had it in Maria’s voice originally. Ruthie was in a book club and they said, “Put it in Joe’s voice and they had to go back and change the whole book.”  I watched 11, 000 emails back and forth. 

Ruthie Robbins: We were not primarily emailing. We were mostly talking and texting, and that year was the pandemic year. So I was off teaching that winter and the following fall.

 

Before we get into the restaurant itself, what was the writing process like?

Maria C. Palmer: I can speak to the family history and just the overall process of it. It was really challenging. Because whenever you’re writing a memoir or a biography, You’re not writing a Wikipedia page. So it’s not from the time somebody is born until the time that they pass away.

You’re picking the most poignant time in their lives. Not only cherry picking all the good things that happened during that time period, but you’re picking some of the challenges too, because that’s what makes a good story. 

It was challenging to figure out what the storyline was going to be and sometimes to tell those hard parts of the story.

What was even more challenging, was just the nebulous nature of the publishing industry.  I just thought you wrote a book, it’s on Amazon and then people buy it. And that could not be further from the truth. Query letters.  Polished one page, a 90,000 word manuscript.  A whole book proposal.  An entire business plan of why we’re writing the book and why it’s going to sell into the market. Requiring that much to not even get a thanks,, but just no response whatsoever.

Ruthie Robbins: Totally agree. The writing was not arduous part because Maria and I get along so well.. We’re real partners, but this publishing thing.  We really didn’t understand the process, so it is difficult, and especially in this genre, [competing with] the celebrities and athletes and reality stars who wrote memoirs.  They want a name on the shelf that someone will pick up in a bookstore. 

 

Mr. Costanzo, one of my favorite parts of this book is the wine mentions.  Tell us your “Pin on the wall” story.

Joseph Costanzo Jr.: Yeah we’re in a tough neighborhood, but we brought in a lot of people outside the area and upscale people,  limos, what have you. 

I had a bus boy and he was a really good worker. He became a server and he came to me after he got the drink order and said, ”what’s a pin on the wall?”

I never heard of a “Pin on the Wall”. So we went to the bartender. He didn’t know either.  We looked it up, nothing. 

So I went out there to ask the customers, so we could make it for them  – and one of the most mortal sins at the Primadonna was making Joe Costanzo look bad – I said, excuse me what’s in a Pin on a Wall and they all started laughing. The guy said, “Pinot Noir.”

They’re laughing at me.  That’s bad. So I went in and I really did a job on this kid.  My wife grabbed me by my tie and pushed me downstairs to my office.

I was in this kid’s face because he really wasn’t real serious about the situation.  If you’re going to be the best at what you’re doing, you can’t be messing up like that.

He ended up being great.  Chris, who was the server, became a maitre’d and a great employee of mine.  He was very loyal. I really went overboard with him and I did feel bad about it. 

 

Reviews are incredibly important.  The amount of work and effort you put in to get your Four Forks Review. Tell us a little bit about what happened.

Joseph Costanzo Jr.: Because the area was an old steel town which had a reputation of a lot of fighting, a lot of drinking, a lot of drugs, nobody would come into that area to eat.

I knew I needed credibility, and the only way I would get credibility was through the Pittsburgh Post, because the dining critic, Mike Kalina,  who was a syndicated columnist, had tremendous credibility. KDKA TV, Post Gazette, New York Daily News.

For two and a half years, I kept reaching out to him.  This is in a time before cell phones and emails.

But I knew if he comes down and gives us a good review, people from outside the area, from the upscale areas of the city are going to come in.  That’s what happened. 

But he did say to me, “You deserve four, but I’ll only give you three because you’ll never handle the business.” 

That Friday night, June 3rd 1988, he was 100 percent right. People were lined up at the door. I was used to doing 10-15 dinners a night. We did over 200 dinners that night and it was a total joke. People waited two and a half hours. When food came out of the kitchen, people actually applauded. People were begging me to get him a bottle of vodka because they couldn’t get a drink at the bar. 

We were short of service. We were short of bartenders. I made it all work in the next couple of weeks and I hired people.

 

I don’t want to ruin the upcoming movie or TV series, but when you trimmed it down, how much heartbreak was there in cutting out so many stories?

Joseph Costanzo Jr.: It was very tough. We had a book signing in August. I kept telling people they were in the book, and they were in the draft I read.  But there were final touches that I didn’t see and we lost a lot of names and alot of stories.  So I really felt bad. I found the actual early draft and sent copies to those people.  This should be in a book, but it will be in the movie, I guarantee you.

Ruthie Robbins:  It was so hard. We did a lot of fact checking when we wrote, because memories are so unreliable. We talked to people who were in the original book [draft] and they expected to be more.  And on top of that, you try to end the chapter on a cliffhanger.  When you take out a story that changes the number of pages in the chapter, it changes the pace of the book.  That was a terrible editing challenge.

Maria, what was that like for you as the author and the daughter?

Maria C. Palmer: Originally the book was written partially in my voice and partially in my Dad’s voice. It started chronologically for me in my twenties and [had] flashbacks because the story starts in 1986 and I was very young at that time.  It was confusing and it didn’t work.  Everything that I wrote and all that I put my heart and soul into  was all cut from the book. So now I have another book project that I’m working on.

But I will echo what my father and Ruthie said. It was hard because everybody did have a significant piece to the Primadonna story.  

 

Mr. Costanza, it would be an easy assumption to say you’ve lived a big life. Are there one or two things you would have done differently in the stories of the book now looking back on them?

Joseph Costanzo Jr.: Sure. When you are hitting all home runs, you tend to believe that everything that you do is gonna be a home run.  I had the most popular restaurant in Western Pennsylvania. Maybe I’m going to do something else, maybe I’ll go into politics.

I spent about $300,000 of my own money to put my name out there. Most people loved Joe Costanzo, but now when you get into politics it’s not that way. So that was probably my biggest regret.

My wife begged me not to do it. She said, Joe, we have a miracle here and you’re going to try for another miracle. And she was right. You may or may not like Joe Costanzo when you read the book, but you will love Donna Costanzo.

Joseph Costanzo Jr.: And that’s bottom line. Everybody says the same thing. Joe, it was great. What he did is impossible, but his wife was a saint for putting up with all this stuff that a restaurateur has to go through. 

The theme of hospitality comes out in the book, but you so clearly love people.  What has it been like getting all these people’s responses to this story?

Joseph Costanzo Jr.: This has been unbelievable for me. People are very happy that this all happened this way.  I treated people really well and people wanted to reciprocate.  So exhilarating to me. My life has been very boring, but now it’s really gotten to the point where it’s been great thanks to Maria and Ruthie.

Ruthie Robbins: It’s heartwarming. Especially from former students, the outpouring has brought me to tears sometimes.  It’s reconnecting with people over the book. That has really been so wonderful

Maria C. Palmer: This has been such a 17 year journey. I always believed that there was something special about this story.  Seeing that exactly what I felt in my gut for 17 years is actually playing out in real life.

Whenever we’re in Pittsburgh, it is almost surreal because people are talking about “On The Rocks and it’s really cool and crazy to know that something that you created means so much for people.

Joseph Costanzo Jr.: The big thing which is amazing to me is that the book came out August 8th, 2023. For two weeks, the book was the number one bestselling ebook on Amazon for culinary memoirs. Ahead of Anthony Bourdain’s, Kitchen Confidential and Stanley Tucci’s Taste “On the Rocks” for over two weeks was the number one overall best-selling ebook. Now that’s hard to believe because this was just a Western Pennsylvania thing and Bourdain and Tucci are worldwide known authors and entertainers.

Tell us where we can find the book and all the ways we can keep in touch with this story.

Maria C. Palmer: So the book is really wherever books are sold.  We’re on Amazon, BarnesandNoble.com, Walmart, Target. We’re also at most bookstores.   Also on Facebook and Instagram.

Ruthie Robbins: There’s also signed copies at the Heinz History Center

Lehigh Valley wants to Celebrate: French Bloom Delivers Flavor without Boozy Bombs – Wine Review

Lehigh Valley wants to Celebrate: French Bloom Delivers Flavor without Boozy Bombs

You want to celebrate.  You want to “pop the cork”, enjoy the flavor, but you don’t want the after-effects.  The drunkenness.  Certainly not the hangover.  And women?  Of course there needs to be ways to elegantly celebrate even (and especially) during pregnancy.  Imagine a pregnant-friendly wine?

It’s a situation that should have been solved already.  But now it has and with style.  It’s a  subtle, elegant, flavorful answer.

French Bloom Re-Invents the Game 

Now everyone can share “moments of pleasure” as their website mentions.  French Bloom’s organic de-alcoholized chardonnay and pinot noir, alcohol-free French sparkling cuvées combine French tradition with innovation.

French Bloom Co-Founders Maggie Frerejean - Taittinger and Constance Jablonski

French Bloom Co-Founders Maggie Frerejean – Taittinger and Constance Jablonski

The Team Behind French Bloom

 

Maggie Frerejean – Taittinger and Constance Jablonski bring different and complementary skill sets.  Equally important, they bring the desire for the vision and the motivation for innovation. 

Through their innovative and female-founded brand, French Bloom gives an alternative and inviting drink to those wanting to celebrate elegantly and differently, making the most of the precious moments shared with friends and family.

If the names sound familiar, Constance is a globally-working fashion model you’ve seen representing Estée Lauder and countless luxury brands.  

Maggie is director of the Michelin Guide and married to Rodolphe Frerejean-Taittinger, chief executive of Champagne Frerejean Freres. 

Carl Héline, the former head of Champagne Krug, joined French Bloom. 

Let’s Taste French Bloom

Le Rosé 

Pale pink in the glass.  Rose petals, freshly picked red currant, raspberry aromas on the nose.  Indulgent white peach notes on the palate. Elegant. The organic French grapes give a nice acidity.  Well-balanced complexity of minerality and freshness.  Tartness and a rounded balance on the finish.

Certified Vegan- Organic- Halal
0.0% Alcohol
Pregnant-friendly
Low Calorie
Sulfite-Free
No preservatives
No sugar added, 4,2g/ 100ml

A blend of de-alcoholized organic French Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines, organic grape juice, Gensac spring water and natural organic flavors such as lemon. 

 

French Bloom sparkling Discovery Kit

 

Le Blanc 

Organic French Bubbly, 0.0% Alcohol

Medium golden amber in the glass. Minerality and pear aromas on the nose, that just keep opening and opening.  Pear, banana, melon, white flowers.  An explosion of complexity on the palate.  As the flavors open, Granny Smith apple, spicy citrus.  A full-bodied mouth with a luxurious, zesty finish that keeps going.

De-alcoholized organic wine, organic grape juice, French sparkling Gensac spring water, organic lemon juice, organic natural flavors.

Certified Vegan- Organic- Halal

0.0% Alcohol

Pregnant-friendly

Low Calorie

Sulfite-Free

No preservatives

No sugar added, 5,9g/ 100ml

Learn more: FrenchBloom.com

https://www.facebook.com/frenchbloomsparkling

https://www.instagram.com/french.bloom

 

Lehigh Valley wants Family and Flavor — Howell’s Standard Hot Honey Delivers On Your Plate

Lehigh Valley wants Family and Flavor — Howell’s Standard Hot Honey Delivers On Your Plate

Howell’s Standard provides raw, natural honey in its purest form, a variety of herb and fruit-infused honeys, and products from the hive. 

They are a small family-owned company in Northeast Maryland that appreciates the gifts of nature and artistic expression.  Find their website,  their Instagram and their in-person farmer’s market experience.

Howell's Standard Delivers Flavor, Family and a Healthy Flourish with their Hot Honey

Below, Alexander and Monica Howell visited for a conversation about family, flavor, health benefits and the magic of honey.

Howell's Standard Delivers Flavor, Family and a Healthy Flourish

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.  Find the full, unedited conversation on the FlavRReport YouTube channel.

 

My understanding going back to the beginning is, this whole company was a COVID baby, meaning the idea of it launched during the pandemic. Is that accurate?

 

Alexander Howell: So I’ll give you a bit of a backstory. We had, like you said, started around the boom of COVID. During that time with all the sickness going around, one of the things we decided to do was to figure out how we can stay healthier and keep the entire family more healthy during that entire time.

One of the things we decided to do was to cut out a lot of white and processed sugars because it’s the cause of a lot of health issues, cancers, things of that nature. After that we [realized] we can’t just not have any type of sweetener at all.  We’re not that strong. 

We went across a couple of different sweeteners. We tried agave, we tried monk fruit.  We tried all those, [but] they didn’t hit the spot for us. 

Then we were at a farmer’s market [and] tried some raw honey.  Once we had tried that, it’s like the entire world just opened up for us because.

We started researching it more and found out there were tons of health benefits tied into raw honey itself. 

Once we started consuming it ourselves, we felt the changes.  A lot more energy naturally, our skin started looking a lot better, our hair started looking better.  Then we decided instead of keeping this a family secret, we can share it with the world.

Monica Howell: So I’ve got a slightly different angle on it. Everything Alex said is definitely true. Pre COVID, I had always been an entrepreneur at heart, always dabbling in something, always doing a little side things.  They say you have to have multiple streams of income.

So I was always looking for the next best option. Prior to COVID, I was creating body butters and detox masks and sugar scrubs; and just looking for things that were positive for your skin in a natural manner. Honey was one of the ingredients that was always on my shelf. 

[Honey] is one of those ingredients. It’s a wonderful connector. I had really only ever thought of honey as this thing that was on aisle number eight of the grocery store always next to the maple syrup.  A condiment to get with your fried chicken.

But once I started having success with personal skin care, the products that were most sought after, that had the best outcomes for my skin all had honey in them. 

During COVID, we just really started to come together more, having more conversations. Bringing together the things that we were doing individually as a group and kind of figuring out 

We started minimizing ingredients.  Looking at that 20 line ingredient list on the back of everything and saying what can [remove]?

 

Something you both touched on was the zero to one aspect.  Talk a little bit about the process from idea to reality.

Monica Howell: So for me, it was checking boxes. Throwing something on the wall and seeing what sticks, that old spaghetti adage.

There’s so many layers, so many things that I wasn’t aware of honey as a whole.

Figuring out how we could integrate this into our lives, and then how we then convert that and transition that into something that was revenue generating, seeing there was a niche.

We started with friends and family. Letting people that would trust us, try things out.

A lot of the response was ‘I don’t like honey’ or ‘I already have sugar. I don’t need to do this.’

But we said, it’s open your mind, let’s look into something a little different. Let’s consider it in a different way and move forward from there.

One thing that I think stands out for us is the fact that everything that we do, all the honey options that we have available are all beneficial in some way, shape or form. You get the benefit of those things that are being infused into the honey. So everything is purposeful.

Everything added is to expand the benefits of the honey into something beyond. 

Each honey is different, with different infusions.  We call them varietals.  Essentially a varietal is a honey that the beekeeper and the farmer have integrated hives into that particular crop. The honey has a flavor and nuance.  Then we have our infusions. 

Local honey is where I go. That’s all I want.  Our local [honey] in Maryland is not the same local that’s in Texas. What’s local to California is not what’s local to Utah. What’s local to Utah is not local to Maine. But when you look at it, all those honeys have a slight variance and nuance in flavor because of what’s being pollinated.

Our plants aren’t the same here as in Hawaii. So when you say I enjoy wildflower, the enjoyment of your wildflower might taste completely different than what I’m used to because of the plants that are growing. It doesn’t necessarily all taste the same. 

 

When you started with this idea, were you aware of the different varietals, the regions and how that affected honey?

Alexander Howell:  We definitely didn’t know how intricate and how deep this kind of rabbit hole of honey goes.  It’s a very nice and very informative learning experience for two reasons. One, just so we are aware of the benefits and can tell our family, but also so we can now have those kinds of conversations with our customers.

Monica Howell: Even something as a variance from season to season.  Literally your spring honey can be a completely different product from your fall [honey] and your winter honey.

The amount of moisture that’s in the air, that can even be from location to location. April showers bring May flowers. Those April showers are happening, there’s a ton of moisture in the air. And then when you’re getting into the fall, you’re having the bees that are pollinated when you’re getting into the fall, there’s a variance in that same region.

That same area has shifted the temperature. You’re just coming out of 90 degree weather. There’s still flowers out. But the pollination process that’s happening, the bees are what they’re collecting now, it can be different. 

In the U. S. alone, there’s over 300 different types of honey.  Over the world, there are thousands.

The interesting thing is when we’re bringing those varietals together in one place, you actually taste them side by side, [you can taste and notice] there are definite differences that you may never [have noticed otherwise] .

Someone says, “I don’t like honey. I say, “Well you haven’t tasted my honey.”

They find out, they dont like wildflower from North Carolina, but they love sage from California or macadamia nut from Hawaii – it’s amazing.

 

You’ve both mentioned farmer’s market experiences, sampling and buying. Let’s talk a little bit about those experiences.

 

Alexander Howell: As far as farmers markets goes, we’ve gotten the entire spectrum of reactions – ‘Oh, this is some of the best I‘ve ever had in my life’, or ‘This is nasty’

I appreciate either side of the spectrum, it’s just very honest and blunt. In person, you get to actually see that emotion, you get to see that interaction, you get to not only see what they think but maybe they brought a friend or a family member of theirs – their husband, their wife, their kids, their dog.

We get to see what your dietary needs are, your favorite flavors, your favorite vegetables.  If you have a health issue, what type of things we have that could possibly help.

It’s even as simple as someone getting a gift for somebody who’s a pescatarian who likes to cook so, ‘What do you have for this?’

And I can then give them a whole range of stuff [to browse].

Monica Howell: We’ve been selling at farmer’s markets for 2.5 years. By far, it is my favorite. People who grew up going to farmer’s markets. Beekeepers that have grown up in their Grandma’s backyard.  

We always get somebody that says, ‘Oh, my grandma had honey. And I’m already familiar.’    I always challenge them to taste something that’s a little different, 

We get people who are extremely health conscious.  They are looking for natural options.

 

On your website, there’s a lot of products What are the major categories and what are one or two or three that you really want to highlight that are currently available?

Monica Howell: We do some switching out from season to season, but for the most part, 25 items. A combination of the varietals and the infusions. 

We’ve got an amazing macadamia nut honey that comes from Hawaii.  You get a honey that has a certain butteriness to it, a nice weight to it.  A little nuttiness at the end. It’s amazing in coffee. It’s amazing on top of a banana bread, really good in yogurt. Also good to cook with. 

Our blueberry is from Maine. A little bit of a nuance of that blueberry flavor. It’s a little sweeter than some of the other honeys. It’s amazing on bakery goods and breakfast. So instead of using traditional maple syrup, we’re using the blueberry honey on a Belgian waffle on a pancake. Amazing on yogurt and things like that. 

Then we’ve got our infusions. So the infusions essentially are different botanicals using a particular honey.

I’m using an extra white honey from Iowa. If you’re looking on the spectrum of honey, not only does honey change area to area, there’s water white honey, all the way down to your dark amber honeys.  So there’s an entire rainbow of different types of honey, based on what’s being pollinated and what’s growing. 

Your darker honeys have more of a molasses flavor, probably 10 – 20 x the antioxidants that you’re getting then like a water white honey. But when we’re considering what to use to infuse, I’m usually going with that lighter honey.

Our elderberry honey is super important.  We’re taking a ground elderberry from the actual berry, not the elderberry flower. And we’re grinding that up and then infusing that into honey over a period of time. That allows you to then take that elderberry on a regular basis, either in as a sweetener for your tea or actually adding it into a yogurt.

Alexander Howell: Some of the things that I like to highlight, because I’m a foodie, I’m always trying to find honey that would elevate the taste.

One of those is Hot Honey. Anything from chicken, to beef, to pork, to seafood, to shellfish. I love it all. One specific thing is strawberries. It sounds a little out there, but it’s amazing. 

And also the vanilla.  I love it on my baked goods, banana breads, cornbread, really good on cinnamon rolls. Instead of the sheet icing I’ll put the honey. Even simpler like a latte or a cup of tea.  Put some of your pancakes or crepes. 

It’s the two different honeys on two different ends of the spectrum, but at the end of the day they both serve their purposes 

Monica Howell: We are working with a few bartenders and mixologists that have taken our honeys and creating mocktails. Super fun.

 

One thing to acknowledge,  the audience is a large majority of our conversations are wine based. So it’s with winemakers and chefs.

Do any of these honeys pair better with any specific kinds of varietals of wine?

 

Alexander Howell: One of the best ways I do like to enjoy wine with honey is charcuterie. 

Monica Howell: Charcuterie and honey go hand in hand. It’s like a whole little puzzle of delicious-ness.

I like Merlot.  Something becoming more popular are meads. So mead is wine essentially made with the foundation of honey versus grapes.  There are a lot of brewers that are starting to play with mead. So you’ll find mead in all different varietals, some that very much tastes like wine and some that tastes closer to beer.

We’re not necessarily pairing the wine so much with the honey as helping the person that’s hosting the event, creating that perfect board, that perfect accompaniment to it.

What’s the best way to learn more about you? Website, social media? How can we follow you more?

 

Monica Howell: Definitely the website is the easiest way. You can also find us on Facebook and Instagram. The unique feature of what we do in-person. That’s the benefit of coming to see us at a farmer’s market.  We also are actually on a couple of stores in the local area, local by design, which is an Annapolis mall in Annapolis, Maryland, where our product is available on their shelves.

You can find gifting boxes and samplers on the website too. 

Invite Your Friends for a Delicious Night with Horror Movie Night Cookbook

It’s Scary-Delicious! Invite Your Friends over for Horror Movie Night Cookbook written by Richard S. Sargent and Nevyana Dimitrova (Photographer).

Sixty deliciously deadly recipes inspired by iconic slashers, zombie films, psychological thrillers, sci fi spooks, and more. 

The Horror Movie Night Cookbook

The Horror Movie Night Cookbook on sale now

Horror Movie Night Cookbook can be found at any local bookstore or online Barnes Noble, Amazon. Follow the Horror Movie Night Cookbook Instagram.

Horror Movie Night Cookbook written by Richard S. Sargent

Horror Movie Night Cookbook written by Richard S. Sargent

Author Richard S. Sargent joined me for a conversation about food, cooking, horror movies and Halloween.  The below conversation has been edited for length and clarity.  Find the full, un-edited conversation at our YouTube channel.

 

What inspired you as far as horror movies go? What’s your all time favorite horror?

 

Richard Sargent: Wow, that’s a tough one. Yeah, so I would say my all time favorite horror movie is Scream. It’s what got me into diving deeper into horror. My mother actually got me into horror when I was a kid, we would watch a bunch of the old ones after school and that sort of thing, but as I started to discover the newer ones on my own, Scream was the first one that really showed me that there’s more to horror than just blood and boobs.

 

You’re a filmmaker, an artist, an author, many things. Tell us a little bit about your journey

 

Richard Sargent: I went to school for theater and film and acting.  As most people do New York or LA, I chose New York. I did that for a while. I did a couple of my own indie horror films as well. And then as I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do. 

As a side project, because you have to have a side project when you’re trying to break into that field. I thought I love cooking. I love experimenting. I love being creative. Let’s take some culinary classes. So I was gifted some culinary classes and it was really great. And I thought, okay, great. Now I’m going to go work in a kitchen. But the more I thought about that, I realized I would hate it if I had to do it as a day job.  I would hate cooking. I put that on the back burner and focus more on the theater and film and all that. 

And just kept plugging away at that. When I moved to the West Coast, I became artistic director of a couple of theater companies and had some plays published, that sort of thing.

So my writing and my directing was starting to take off a little bit. I had a little more free time to go back to the cooking thing that I was looking forward to doing. And the way this came together is that I was doing a play with some friends and we were chatting we actually were doing the play, The Woman in Black, and we were chatting about horror and horror films and they felt the way I felt about them initially, that they’re all just and I just couldn’t have that.

I’d seen so many great ones that have changed my life and had so many positive messages. Because horror movies are basically about the outcasts winning. I felt like I’ve been an outcast my whole life, so I could really connect to them. So I started showing them the ones that I thought were important.

I started with my favorites and then dug deeper into the ones that I felt. Told really great stories and had really great messages through these horror movie nights where I would pair an appetizer, a dinner and a dessert, each with its own movie and we would do three movies a night and we would do this every couple of weeks.

 

Can you talk a little bit about this book’s undertaking and 1-2 lessons that you learned from that process?

 

Richard Sargent: Absolutely. Yeah, it really was an undertaking. When I started these nights, these horror movie nights myself I just thought they were going to be fun. I just thought we were all going to have a good time.

Then about halfway through, maybe about five or six nights in, my friends were all like, what are you going to do with this? I’m like, what do you mean? We’re just having a good time. And they’re like, no, other people are going to want to do this. I’m thinking about what can I do with this?

Maybe I can start an event service and cater these nights myself? But ultimately I chose to do a book because it’s more accessible and it’s more fun. You get to do it in your own home and invite your friends over and it makes for a much more fun evening. Once I decided that it was going to be a book, it took about two years to compile it all into book format. Retake some pictures, that sort of thing, get it all ready for my copy. So I self published it two years ago and then it got picked up. 

So the version that you have and that we’re talking about today is the version that Ulysses Press put out about another year or so later.

So it was about a five year process from the first horror movie night, all the way to the book that, that we’re talking about today. 

If I have any tips for people, find what makes your idea stick out.  What about your idea do people want to know, be authentic about it and just keep plugging away at it.

You’re going to get frustrated. Move on to another project, take a walk, do something else. And come back when the inspiration strikes, but never force anything. That’s my big thing. You can’t force inspiration or you’re not going to end up with the best product that you could possibly have.

From the five years ago first draft to Ulysses Press version now, how close is the finished product compared to your original vision?

Richard Sargent: It’s very close actually. A lot of things that were changed were just improvements on the pictures. Things are worded differently, more clear, more consistency throughout the book.

Ulysses was really great with the editing process. They kept a lot of what I wanted to do with the book and the whole spirit of the book. 

 

There’s millions of horror movies out there. How did you go from a million down to 60?

 

Richard Sargent: It really had to just speak to me. It had to be bigger and better than the average horror film. Or at least I had to view it that way.

I studied horror and I studied film throughout my life. I can grasp the difference between your average horror film and something that’s trying to influence the viewer in some way. And those are the ones that I tried to put into the book. I know that 60 is not a lot and that’s why there will be more books hopefully.

I thought it would be a fun start to break newbies in. So rather than just hitting every classic that you can think of: Exorcist, Jaws, I picked a lot of classics and mixed them in with some newer things that had more up to date themes and up to date comments on society, like The Conjuring and The Descent, movies like that.

Not everyone seeing this is a huge horror movie fan.  Can you give us any tips or ideas about what makes a really great horror movie?

 

Richard Sargent: I think it all starts with the characters which then reflects on the script.  So if it’s a really well written script,  it has characters that A) you care about and B) are telling a story within a story, basically, by living through their story, they’re telling us how we should be living our lives. Of course, we know that because of Scream and movies like that, we know the rules of horror.

Don’t don’t say “I’ll be right back” and all that kind of stuff. 

But beyond that, there are things that make a horror film great. It’s a lot of really great being on the side of the outcasts. So if you think of movies like Frankenstein a lot of people will say that the monster is the monster, but the monster is not the monster.  The society not accepting the monster Is the real monster. 

That’s a film that tries to show us how to accept people who are not like us. Some people may say that science is the monster. I am not that kind of person. But, there’s the commentary in that film too, that maybe we shouldn’t do everything that we are able to do with science.

For queer culture and women’s rights we have films like Hereditary that  dive into dealing with grief. 

As long as your characters are doing something important, they’re not just playing with a Ouija board, or running into a shed full of chainsaws.  As long as they’re making smart decisions,, I think it elevates it to the next level, movies like The Exorcist, obviously, more recently, I thought Barbarian just from last year was outstanding, just in that way of telling the story, that was creative to me. 

Ones that stick with you forever. Jaws, a lot of people didn’t want to go in the water after that.

 

We have a very dinner party kind of an audience. Do you have a favorite kitchen gadget?

Richard Sargent: Yeah, so I had to cook these meals. There were actually some other recipes that I worked on too, for these films that I didn’t put in the book.  Everything is trial and error in the kitchen. So I cooked several of these many times until I found the right measurements of everything.

It was a long process in the kitchen, but a fun one, of course. 

Maybe it makes me basic, but my favorite kitchen gadget is the slow cooker because you can do so much with it and you can step away from it and work on other things while your main meal is sitting there for hours.

 

Are there 1-2  recipes in the cookbook that you want to point out?

 

Richard Sargent: As I like to start any meal, let’s start with dessert. I would say I’m super proud of the pavlova from Cabin Fever, if you’re familiar with the movie. The dish is called The Close Shave, and it is a pavlova with Chantilly cream inside and berries on top, berry compote on top, and it just drips through a bloody wound.

I’m pretty proud of that one, and I got a lot of great feedback. I still have my friends from that horror movie night talking about it all the time. 

Another one I’m super proud of is the paella from Broken Lizard’s Club Dread, which is an overlooked horror comedy. Basically, Coconut Pete runs this party island and he has his own special paella, Coconut Pete’s paella, which I tried to recreate with his secret ingredients and I thought it came out pretty well, so I’m pretty pleased with that one as well. 

Let me see, appetizers. One that was fun was just coming up with the popcorn for Scream. I tried a bunch of different flavors and a bunch of different ways of doing it and it’s one of the ones that I feel is a recipe, but also a hack.  An easy way to pop bagged popcorn and put flavoring on it.  

It’s a good one to show that anybody can do what’s in this book. You don’t have to be Martha Stewart to be able to create what’s in this book, recreate it. 

When the book first arrived, I was sitting in a room with teenagers and as old as people in their 70s, so it’s quite a range and we were all having fun with it.

As an author, as a creator, how does that make you feel?  Was it designed to be a communal experience?

Richard Sargent: Putting things out there always makes me nervous.  The feedback that I’ve been getting, hearing people, seeing pictures from people doing their own horror movie nights or just recreating the recipes or just on podcasts and things talking about the clever titles and all that kind of stuff it just makes me feel so good because I was worried that maybe this is just a “me” thing, like I’m just this weirdo super into horror and food.  It’s good to know that I’m not.  The whole horror community, the whole film community is into something like this.

 

They they can entertain, they can bring their own friends over. They can be the star of their own show. It speaks to everybody. 

 

Since you are the Horror Movie Night Cookbook expert, can you give us some tips and advice for our next movie night?

 

Richard Sargent: I’ve done horror film nights where we just all get together and we eat the food and we watch the movies. 

I’ve done one’s where we play extra games other than the drinking games. We have costume contests. It’s really how far you want to go into it. 

But I would say start early if you’re going to use some of the recipes in this book, start early because there are many things that could go wrong especially if you’re not used to cooking and there are things that could go wrong, things that could burn things that might not set the way you want them to.

Have extra ingredients on hand. 

If you don’t like a movie that the recipe is paired with, think about how that recipe could go with another more you like more?

Have fun with it and try it all.

How can we elevate the experience to a Superbowl Sunday level?

Richard Sargent: Definitely add costumes. Decorate. Fog machines are always fun. Pick the ones that pick the recipes that can make it a more social evening. Maybe ones where you add your own stuff to them. Like the one for Cujo is like a burrito bowl, essentially, so that people can add their own ingredients to it.  That gets people up and mingling and having a good time, definitely play the drinking games, but be careful because the drinks are strong.

It’s Halloween season right now.  When is the best time of year for the Horror Movie Night Cookbook?

Richard Sargent: All year. There’s no set time. Horror has so many stories to tell. A lot of them are very important that you can watch them all year round.

Get in that spirit all year round. I think that people don’t give horror the credit that it deserves. There are a lot of great films out there that even people that don’t love horror will like. Those are the ones I think we should be talking about. Horror should always be part of the conversation.

A lot of horror films are set throughout the year, so if you wanted to do a horror movie night for Valentine’s Day, you’ve got plenty to choose from, It’s not just for those of us that like to get dressed up one day a year.  It’s all year round.

 

As we wrap up, any final message you want foodies or movie lovers to know about you or this book?

Richard Sargent: I would just want them to know that I really did put a lot of thought and heart into everything that they see in this book. I really didn’t just say, Oh, wow, let’s come up with some gimmicky-looking cookie or something. These aren’t decorations. This is real food and real thoughtful recipes that are inspired by things that happen in the film, things that they eat, things that they do, places they go. For example, in The Descent, they are supposed to be spelunking in the Appalachian mountains. So I used a local dish from the Appalachias as that recipe. These are not just Halloween decorations. These are actual recipes that you can enjoy any time of year. But watch the movie too. So yeah, I would just want people to know that don’t expect cutesy little Pinterest ghost cookies. That’s not what you’re going to get. You’re going to get real recipes like you would in any cookbook. This just has the horror edge to it as well.

Where can we learn more about you? Tell us the website, the social media

Richard Sargent: The book can be found at any local bookstore or online Barnes Noble, Amazon

If you want to learn more about me, or just maybe get bonus recipes every now and then on my Instagram you can follow the Horror Movie Night Cookbook Instagram, or my own personal one, @rsargent83.

Tell me what you like. And if you host your own, tag me in that sort of stuff. I’d love to see how your recipes come out, what you would change. I’d love feedback. If you do try any of this, please contact me online and let me know what you liked and what you didn’t.

Lehigh Needs Juicier BBQ Chicken: Shark Tank’s Turbo Trusser revealed by Brian Halasinski and Kirk Hyust

Secret to BBQing a Juicier Chicken? Shark Tank’s Turbo Trusser revealed by Brian Halasinski and Kirk Hyust.

Want juicier chicken? Yes.  More flavor?  Yes.  Get it all setup in seconds?  Yes.  Two guys who love good food decided to tackle the problem.

Luckily, a Chef and a Builder were on the team.  And luckily the team has business smarts, creativity and can-do spirit.  Lastly, the team got global attention by winning their way onto hit TV show Shark Tank where Kevin O’Leary got excited by the flavors, the team and their product.

Today Turbo Trusser partners Brian Halasinski and Kirk Hyust stopped by for a conversation about delicious food, creating a great team and the secret to cooking.

The below conversation was edited for length and clarity.  Find the full conversation on our YouTube channel.

 

Can you guys share a memory about how being in the backyard with your family and friends inspired you to create the Turbo Trusser?

Brian Halasinski: Kirk and I have been working together on inventions for the last eight years and oftentimes we’ll have an idea that’ll come up and we’ll text each other and we’ll write it down in a notebook and then we’ll come and visit it later.

It just happened that I was getting ready to make chicken for my family and I was going to do a rotisserie chicken and I was trying to figure out how to tie this bird up with traditional strings. So I got my iPad and I’m watching a video.

I have to pause the video. My hands are covered in chicken juice. And after it was all done, it wasn’t done well. 

I texted Kirk because he’s a trained chef from the culinary Institute. There’s gotta be a better way. We started working on the Turbo Trusser from there. 

After your success on Shark Tank, Turbo Trusser has become a global hit. How have your backgrounds inspired where you are today?

 

Kirk Hyust: I’ve been a building contractor for 25 years.  Before that I was a chef. I got burnt out [being a Chef] and then I started building things and that’s how Brian and I met. I renovated his house for him. 

I was in the middle of inventing a wrench and Brian saw it [and said], ‘I want to start inventing too. You want to be inventing partners.’

We still haven’t quit our day jobs. We work seven days a week. Luckily working for us a lot of the time is cooking. Which is good.

 

You mentioned you are a trained chef. Tell us about your chef side. 

 

Kirk Hyust: I went to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. Classical French cuisine. We’re from Ohio, so I like meat and potatoes and hearty casseroles. 

Do you have a favorite dish?

Kirk Hyust: Fettuccine Alfredo and Turbo Trusser chicken.

Brian, can we touch on your background and how how you ended up with TurboTruster?

 

Brian Halasinski: I have been in the pharmaceutical sales industry for the last 20 years.   I have a fairly flexible schedule to where I’m on the road and can be on the phone and be multitasking quite a bit when I’m working. 

I’ve had that entrepreneurial spirit in a way. Then when I met Kirk, he had invented this wrench and he was working on my house and he was there for it was a pretty decent sized project.

So over time we became friends. I became interested in the whole process of inventing. 

And then with that, you could actually take your invention and license it to somebody, basically renting out your idea and collecting a royalty. Kirk and I always thought that would be great.

We did a couple of products and we licensed them. Didn’t end up working out […].  We learned a little bit about the failures. And then ultimately that day I texted Kirk and said, listen, we got to come up with a better way to trust a chicken or Turkey. And we looked out there and there was nothing available other than butcher’s twine, which has been the way it’s been done for a hundred years.

 

 

A huge majority of people cook chicken and turkeys the wrong way. That’s my assumption. 

 

When we compare your final chicken to a poorly done chicken what’s the difference? 

 

Kirk Hyust: Trusting actually is a technique that brings all the meat together. If you don’t trust a bird, you’re actually cooking five pieces of meat separately. You got two wings, you got two legs and thighs and a breast. What you do, when you truss a bird, you actually bring all the pieces together and it cooks as one piece of meat, so it’s cooked more evenly and it’s juicier.

If you don’t cook it, if you don’t tie it up, if you just throw it in the oven or on the grill, what happens is all the meat cooks separately.  The breast is gonna be done before the legs. The wings probably are going to dry out and they’re going to be inedible. Because when you use the Turbo Trusser the wings are great.

It makes one ball of meat essentially and cooks it as one piece of meat instead of five. 

Is it the ego of the grill master? Or how do we help people realize they can have a better bird?

Kirk Hyust: That’s a really good question because we get that a lot. People have never even heard the term truss. To truss a bird. 

Your bird’s gonna be a lot better, but it’s gonna take you about five minutes to do it when it takes 20 seconds to use our product. Especially a Thanksgiving Turkey because that will dry out a lot faster than a chicken.

Brian Halasinski: With the Turbo Trusser, the way it’s designed it’s going to hold the stuffing in place too. So the stuffing’s not going to dry out the way it closes the cavity.

If you’re going to do a rotisserie, you absolutely have to tie that bird up or your legs and wings are going to be just flopping around the whole time. 

Can we talk a little bit about the process going from zero to where we are today?

Brian Halasinski: It was when we came up with the concept.

First, we started making prototypes. We made them out of cardboard. Then we made them out of wood. Kirk’s got all these tools so we could easily cut things. Then through trial and error with prototypes that we could make cheaply, we ended up with a very similar design to what we have today.

Then from there, we found a local fabricating shop that was able to laser cut out some samples for us so we could actually cook with them. We did all these things, refining the process and refining the product down to where we wanted to make it. Then we had to make a decision: make this here in the U.S. or go overseas.

Kirk and I made a decision based on our beliefs and our values that we wanted to make it here in the U.S. Being in Ohio, we were close to Cleveland, Ohio. This was the rust belt. There’s still a lot of manufacturing here. 

So within one hour of our headquarters, we were able to source everything we needed to mass produce and launch this product to the world from Canton, Ohio.

Kirk Hyust: We had six prototypes by the time we got to our seventh one. That was the one that we stuck with. We just kept refining the prototypes until we landed on the seventh one, which is that what in the stores or online.

Can you tell us a little bit about from prototype one to seven?  How did we get there?

Kirk Hyust: When you’re doing a prototype, obviously you have to solve a problem.  When you build a product, it has to work correctly or you’re going to get bad reviews. 

But we started out with a couple different designs.  We bought a chicken and a turkey; and we put this contour gauge on the leg, so that made the dips that you see now where the legs go into. Then we were in my shop, cutting it out and it looked like [bird] wings so we ended up putting the heads on it because it already had wings that the legs sat into the cradle.

It’s a lot of detail.

Kirk Hyust: Yes, exactly. We just got our patent […] issued for the very first time.  Even if it’s a piece of stamp metal and 2 wires. How intricate it really is.

Kirk, between your chef skills and your contractor skills. A perfect combination of bringing those two skill sets together. 

Kirk Hyust: It is. We have sales and numbers and Brian’s also creative.  […]The technical stuff, the websites, we develop everything together, but we have our strengths, he has a master’s degree in business.  So he’s trained really well for that.

 So it’s lie our strengths and weaknesses definitely fit together with each other.

Can we just talk through in the most simple, basic steps, how to use the Turbo Trusser?

 

Kirk Hyust: It’s really very simple. I usually buy a five pound bird. [With] smaller birds, it still works. It goes up to a 10 pound chicken. 

Then you take the plastic off, pull the packet of giblets and everything out of the inside.  Rinse it off. Pat it dry with a paper towel and if you have time, put it in the refrigerator and let the skin dry out. Put the Turbo Trusser on it, hook the legs in, hook the wings.  

Use duck fat or some kind of a binder to put your spices on it.  Salt and pepper, your favorite rub, something spicy, something sweet. Coat it with some kind of oil, or ghee or olive oil.

Put it in the oven at 375 for an hour and a half until it hits 165 degrees. That’s pretty much in a nutshell how easy it is.

Brian Halasinski: The Turbo Trusser is just three pieces. You got the main piece.  Then you have two hooks.  The hooks are going to go through the holes on the body of the chicken. You’re going to put the sharp end through the hole. It’s going to lock into place with the other end. 

So it’s simply, put the two hooks into the Turbo Trusser body.  You hook them onto the wings. The legs go into the cradle and in 20 seconds, you’re done. 

 

How do we get that strong-willed Backyard Grillmaster to give the Turbo Trusser a try?

 

Brian Halasinski: Just telling them to keep it simple and go back to what people have been doing for 100 years. And that’s using string to tie it up. Only we came up with a simpler solution. So it’s what everybody’s been people don’t do it because they’re intimidated, but now they don’t have to be. The turbo truss are so easy to use.

Anybody can use it. Even if you have dexterity problems, you’re never going to figure out how to, you’re not going to be able to tie up a bird if you have problems with your fingers, right? older people, maybe they have arthritis and it’s hard for them to tie a knot. Now with the turbo trusser, you can do that without fear and you can, it’s simple and effective.

As we wrap up, tell me about the Shark Tank experience.

Kirk Hyust: It was crazy.

Brian Halasinski: I’ll give you a high level view. We launched our product on November 1st of 2021.

Right away we went online and we applied for Shark Tank. It was 100% online.  Before COVID they would do open casting calls like Like American Idol.  

About 50, 000 people apply.  They narrow that down to about 125 people that tape [a TV segment], and maybe 100 or so will end up airing on television for the season that you’re in. 

So we apply, we have no sales, we don’t hear a word from them for a couple months. So we launched the product. We did pretty well. We sold like $50,000 worth of Turbo Trussers in the first two months of being in business with nobody ever heard of us.

We went back and we re-applied again, we got some sales numbers. Eventually they called. I Six months after we initially applied, they called us.

You basically work down through the process every week. They’re giving you something new to turn in, to make a video. 

Our first video, we came up with the idea to wear the chicken and turkey costumes. We said we wanted to stand out. We know that Shark Tank is television.  If it’s not good TV, people aren’t going to watch it. They loved it.

We made it all the way down through. We went all the way out to California and taped [our episode]. We ended up getting a deal with Kevin O’Leary, which was incredible.

Kirk Hyust: Brian’s a salesman. I’m not used to that. So when I was on Shark Tank, I messed my lines up.  I went blank for a couple seconds. I missed my cue to go over to my spot and I was really flustered, but I recovered, but man, that was the worst part.

Tell us the website, social media, where to find you, where to browse your products, where to learn more about you.

Brian Halasinski: The first thing for our product is TurboTrusser.com

You can make your decision if you want to buy from our website, or you can go to Amazon Prime across the country. 

You can find us on all the regular social media at Turbo Trusser on Facebook, Instagram, TikToK

You can find me, Brian Halasinski on LinkedIn, connect with us and be happy to chat or answer any questions with anybody.

Kirk Hyust: I’m on LinkedIn as well.  

You can reach out if you have any questions. I write a lot of the PPAs (provisional patent applications) and stuff. So any kind of questions, how to cook a good bird we’re accessible. We want to help we want to help anybody out there that we can, because we’ve had a lot of people help us along the way.

 

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