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January 31, 2015 / joyful plate

joyful plate Manhattan Cocktail Classic May, 2014: Brand Insights

I wondered if the event would live up to the legend:  “If heaven were a cocktail party, the closest most of us will ever get is the Manhattan Cocktail Classic” (NBC News). “The classic is a visual, auditory and tactile spectacle” (BBC).

I admit, the quotes intrigued me.

And sure enough, as I tip toed around pre-show, I became completely enchanted by the evening hues of the NY Public Library, dimly lit for an evening of grandeur.

To read the rest of the blog post, click here:

Manhattan Cocktail Classic Gala May, 2014


May 7, 2014 / joyful plate

Natural Products Expo West 2014: brand insights

joyful plate natural products expo west 2014: brand insights (click here for full blog)

Every year, Expo West gets more exciting and vibrant, with many new foods to learn about. A whole new language has emerged that at times can be somewhat daunting: From flax, chia, hemp, chlorella, spirulina, quinoa, mangosteen, svetol, ashwagandha;  I for one would love a functional foods handbook!

That is why I found this year’s key note from Dr. Andrew Weil so reassuring – the key message: the secret to health is in keeping things simple, balanced and in moderation. There’s been a lot of posturing about what is best- raw? paleo? vegan? etc. “There is an enormous amount of dietary fascism out there-there’s no perfect diet. Humans are omnivores-we can eat a lot of different things, so we need a healthy variety”. 
Dr. Andrew Weil
(credit: Hope Media)
Dr. Weil kept it big picture by sharing a few steps to eating well that are always  good reminders-here are the key take aways:

-Eat as many plant-based foods as much as possible: fruits, veggies, herbs and spices. Plant based foods are high in phytonutrients- plants produce compounds for their own defense systems, which can protects ours.

-Try to reduce sweeteners, limit your sugar intake daily. Understand the difference between whole fruit and fruit juice (certain juices can have high glycemic indexes)

-Eat whole grains (if you can crush bread into a ball, go grainier)

-In general, eat fewer processed foods, less sugar and flour, a good variety of plants and lower your intake of animal meat.

So in the spirit of keeping things simple, here are a few brands that caught my eye at the show, offering straight forward, easy to understand and inviting messaging.

joyful plate brand insights Expo West 2014

(for more information, please click on the brand title to websites)

Beyond Meat


February 6, 2014 / joyful plate

Fancy Food Show San Francisco January 2014

It was especially nice to be in San Francisco for Fancy Food this year. Not only was it a great break from the brutal Polar Vortex…but it was wonderful as usual to be with a community of chefs, craftsmen, designers and tasters that gather together to experience the joy of food. Here are a few brands that caught our eye.

click here for blog: joyful plate Fancy Food San Francisco 2014: Branding Insights


August 11, 2013 / joyful plate

joyful plate fancy food show nyc recap 2013

After a two-year hiatus, Fancy Food was back in NYC this year on a Big Apple scale. Given the enormity of the show, there is no possible way to cover it all – so my strategy was to have a few quality conversations with companies that captured my imagination.

John Wayne Charcoal

For the full story, please click here:

joyful plate fancy food show nyc recap 2013

April 3, 2013 / joyful plate

joyful plate Natural Products Expo West 2013: branding insights

click here for joyful plate Natural Products Expo West 2013: branding insights


February 17, 2013 / joyful plate

joyful plate risotto evening for West Side Campaign Against Hunger

In January, joyful plate shared an evening of risotto and wine with new friends in Brooklyn. The event had been featured as an auction item at the West Side Campaign Against Hunger’s Fall 2012 annual dinner ( Marianne Vernetson and Maggie Corry were the successful bidders and generous co-hosts. Also attending were Jamie Kiley,  Jen Bokoff and David Bone (who was the photographer for the evening). Wines were generously donated by Royal Wine Corp.  Michelle Lawton, founder of joyful plate cooked and shared stories of her travels through Italy and a bit of wine 101. Three kinds of risotti were made: asparagus and white wine, chorizo and cremini mushroom with cognac & cream. And a lot of great conversation was stirred up as well.

For more on the history of risotto, how to make risotto, Amarone as the perfect wine for risotto and joyful plate’s curiosity for risotto click here:

And for more of David Bone’s photography, click here:

January 1, 2013 / joyful plate

A visit to Nikolaihof Winery in the Wachau, Austria

Dankeschön, Christine Saahs for a beautiful visit to your family’s historic and charming winery in Wachau. The entire day was a naturally sensorial experience. Nikolaihof is leading the way in biodynamic food and wine in Austria and in the world. We can’t wait to come back to stay at the guesthouse someday! 
On the last day of our vacation in Vienna this fall, we travelled to Nikolaihof. A friend in the know told us that if we had one winery to visit in the Wachau, this would be it.  It was pouring rain that morning in Vienna, so admittedly we were on the fence about making the trip: picking up a rental for the day, driving without a GPS and deciphering Austrian maps. Thank goodness we went. We arrived in less than an hour, walked in, shook off our wet umbrellas and entered a serene, candlelit comfort zone of Austrian awesomeness.
In my experience, you can tell a lot about a winery or restaurant from the feeling you get in the first few minutes. Owner Christine Saahs has a generosity of spirit that made us feel not only welcome but delighted as soon as we entered. Everything about Nikolaihof is authentic, expressive and exceptional.


For the entire blog post, please click here: joyful plate blog: a visit to Nikolaihof Wachau

Copyright © 2013 -joyful plate (R) LLC. All rights reserved. Photographs taken by M. Lawton with permission at Nikolaihof of Wachau. Links are provided for the purpose of providing accuracy. For any edits or corrections to this information please email and we will update information as requested.

Thank you.

December 21, 2012 / joyful plate

Happy Holidays from joyful plate


joyful plate. We bring the conversation to the table.
Thank you, looking forward to a great 2013!

September 17, 2012 / joyful plate

joyful plate SPIN SERIES: Food Beverage Boutique Trends

This series celebrates the Food and Beverage Boutique. Some smart entrepreneurs have developed “big idea” retail/online concepts that make staying healthy a stylish way of life. What these stores have in common: unique products and services with a fresh and engaging tone of voice and a strong sense of community.

Organic Avenue (461 Amsterdam Ave location), New York, NY.

Organic Avenue: The “Food of LOVE”. The concept is brilliant and big, and the execution creative and courageous. Organic Avenue is a “lifestyle company and a gateway to a new life” offering all kinds of interesting juicing and cleansing programs, “LOVE easy” (for novices) to LOVE deep (truly cleaning house). The juices are offered in fresh glass bottles and made with organic, cold pressed ingredients with everything from turmeric, cashew hemp “mylk”, purified alkaline water, Irish moss and Himalayan sea salt.
Your Lululemon customer is here for sure, and anyone who wants to browse for the latest raw foods, connect with their community or sign up for special seminars (like Live Blood consultations per their website). E-commerce equipped, consumers can easily create an account to order the cleanse of the week (like a deep juice/beauty skin cleanse). The LOVE SUPPORT “rawk-star” team can guide you to make a choice that’s right for you. Importantly, they show the love to the world by committing to sustainable actions for the planet, for animals and for fellow humans.

It’s the new lifestyle formula for success: an amazing cross-section where health meets spa meets science meets fashion and foodie. It’s all happening on Organic Avenue-in numerous New York City hot spots (including a pop-up store near Bergdorf Goodman) and in South Hampton.
For more trends, including Momofuku Milk Bar, David’s Tea and Chobani click here:
joyful plate SPIN SERIES trends

Copyright © 2012 -joyful plate LLC. All rights reserved. Brand images are the copyright of the original owners. References to products and brands are not an endorsement, rather a point of view on branding trends. Links are provided for the purpose of providing accuracy. For any edits or corrections to this information please email and we will update information as requested. Thank you.

August 20, 2012 / joyful plate

Aldo and the art of coffee

Aldo's, Greenport, North Fork. LI, NY.

I have been visiting Greenport for years to visit a dear friend. Whenever I go, I look forward to a coffee at Aldo’s. Everyone knows Aldo here, the mad scientist of coffee and the town eccentric.

In the old days at Aldo’s, you’d be hard pressed to find a seat-bags of beans were everywhere, with random pages from the International Herald Tribune on crates. Today you can sit comfortably in the café or out back overlooking the docks. Thankfully there’s still plenty of highbrow art and just a touch of lovely madness.

On my last visit I woke up early and biked over for a quick espresso. I asked Aldo to recommend a strong blend. His response: “That’s not the way to ask for coffee”. This humbled me. I should have known better. That’s the equivalent of someone asking for “oaky” wine. I reminded him that we met years ago, and that my background was in food and wine. That’s when this quick hello turned into a full-blown interview and I morphed into Michelle the food journalist. When you’ve been in business for a while you recognize an expert when they tell you “I’m not an expert, but….”. That usually translates to “pay attention, this humble genius is going to rock my world and touch my heart with his knowledge”.

Aldo has been in Greenport for 34 years since 1978. I asked what got him into the coffee business. His answer? Necessity. He is an Italian who grew up in the South of France. When he came to Greenport two essentials were missing. The first: good bread. The second: good coffee.

Today, people come to his cafe daily; in fact some highly caffeinated people are coming 2-3 times a day. People travel from literally all over the world to have his coffee. Some save their moment all the way from JFK for 3 hours East to Greenport to have a cup. His doctor walked in while we were chatting. He checks in on Aldo regularly, as do many people. They bring him wine, eggs, plants, flowers….they can’t wait for his molto gentile greeting, “Buongiorno!”. Yes, the coffee is wonderful, but a big part of the thrill is to exchange a few words with him. He thinks they just want to keep him alive so they can be guaranteed a good cup on the North Fork.

A regular customer walked in who requested four bags to travel with. His better judgment was to refuse for fear the beans would not stay fresh, but she was persuasive. In fact, Aldo only uses an espresso machine to make coffee. It’s not an elitist thing, but he insists on giving his customers a fresh cup every time.

We then walked from the café to the roasting room, where my lesson continued. He opened some bags…. from Guatemala, Ethiopia, Sumatra and Yemen. “With Yemen, you get a big mix…some little, some big, some flat, some round, they look like debris in a way, but it’s the combination that makes it more complex and interesting to me”.

He went on to explain the beauty of the Yemen beans. The cherries stay on the tree for a long time to ripen, which makes them less bitter and acidic. It’s the variety and ripeness that bring the complexity in the cup. Yemen has a wonderfully earthy bouquet that reminds him of aromas of sheep or dried grass in Provence. “These smells are not something I read about, I lived it”. When he first discovered Yemen, he noticed how smooth and pleasant it was. He couldn’t understand why it was so delicious and nearly sweet. Sometimes like sweet chocolate.

“You don’t have to look for aromas, they just come to you. This is the connection between smelling and the palate. The whole experience is in the discovery. It’s about making a connection with all items on sensory level. Like fermented compost…cooks are smelling fermented things all the time. That’s how you tell the connection between smell and taste”.

It was then realized I was speaking with a man who lives life completely by his senses. Our conversation took a detour from the ripening of Yemen cherries to botrytis (the “noble rot” necessary for sauterne-style wine) and eventually to ripe fruit. An Italian man growing up in the South of France knows his fruit: like Bartlet pears- “when they are ripe they have a gorgeous perfumy essence”. When you buy cantaloupe, you need to wait a few days to get it perfectly ripe. Bananas also have an incredible fragrance. “When you caramelize them for curry sauce, it’s the developed fruit that make the flavors extraordinary. You try to catch the spirit of the fruit itself. That is what cooking is all about”.

And you realize this when you taste his scones. “Most people don’t like scones because they’re too heavy and too dry. The English hide them with clotted crème”. He insisted I taste his scone. “Eat the lips”, he said. “You never forget that first kiss” (of the scone). And he was right: this was different, more seductive, more Southern European. The scone was not doughy at all-it was crispy on the rim and indulgently buttery. It melts in your mouth. He insists fresh bread should be eaten cold, because the flavors come together as the bread cools down. “Grocery stores make bread with crust that looks good, but inside it’s too doughy. They charge $5 for something that looks like bread. “Good bread should not be a luxury”. And, that’s why he has always made his own bread.

And so, to understand Aldo, you need to taste his coffee. You need to taste his scones. But don’t’ break the scones (as I was corrected) take the whole quarter of the scone into your mouth. Enjoy every morsel. That’s living.

That’s living…Aldo style.

Michelle Lawton, joyful plate