Cocktail Hour: Blank Slate Kitchen

One of the most versatile items we’ve included in the Summer Box is Blank Slate Kitchen’s Palm Sugar Syrup. This complex, rich syrup has a natural sweetness with notes of caramel and maple. It can be used in coffee, tea, and cocktails- as well as in baking and on desserts. 

To find out more about this incredible Summer Box treat, we caught up with the founder of Blank Slate Kitchen, New York City chef and worldwide adventurer, Alex Sorenson. 

The Blank Slate Kitchen Mojito is best enjoyed poolside.

The Blank Slate Kitchen Mojito is best enjoyed poolside.

Alex has had such a varied and interesting career that we had to start back at the beginning to get the full story. Growing up, family dinners at the Sorenson house reflected his parents’ well-traveled tastes. Foregoing the suburban tradition of Campbell soup-based casseroles, Alex’s mom instead graced the table with Indian naan and Korean bulgogi. Alex naturally followed suit, working in restaurants and cooking at home throughout college while he studied for a degree in Cognitive and Computer Science at the University of Virginia. 

After graduation, Alex worked as a software consultant for several years before making the leap to being in the kitchen full-time. Since then he has worked in several influential restaurants in New York that have helped pioneer the farm to table movement, including Mas (farmhouse) in the West Village.

Working with WWOOF, a volunteer exchange focused on organic farming, Alex spent six months in rural France learning how to make cheese and sharpening his charcuterie skills. We asked him if he could share any tips for making the perfect charcuterie board:

Go for quality over quantity. I like to use La Quercia Foods for prosciutto and sausages. Based in Iowa, they are an American-made, small farm focused on sustainability. I’d say choose to have mustard and pickled items (even better if it’s your own recipe), dried fruit, and a small amount of quality meats and cheeses.
— Alex Sorenson

Since then, Alex’s wanderlust has taken him to Africa and Southeast Asia, where he became inspired to create his line of syrups. After touring the Spice Islands off the coast of Tanzania, Alex returned to the kitchen with his Black Pepper Syrup. Initially the syrup was to be featured in a dessert, but since then it’s become a staple behind the bar. One of Alex’s favorite cocktails is made with Gin, limejuice, and the black pepper syrup. 

Everyone can relate to having a fridge or pantry full of random condiments- flavors you’ve been gifted, or picked up at a farmers market once and then forgot about. With Alex’s infinitely versatile syrups he invites home cooks everywhere to look at those ingredients with an open mind and a creative eye.

Got weird vinegar kicking around in the back of pantry from 5 years ago? It’s not just salad dressing, try using it next time your braising meat. Mix that old jam into a new cocktail- just keep in mind, more is not always better.
— Alex Sorenson

Having travelled so far and so frequently, Alex is an expert at bringing people together and making them feel comfortable at the table. 

Food and drink bring people together naturally, as a host I just like to facilitate that. Keep things casual and fun, accommodate dietary restrictions so that everyone feels included. Show that you put thought and effort in your planning.
— Alex Sorenson

Alex recalls one his most memorable moments being hosted abroad- while in the northwest mountainous SE Asian country of Laos.

We were wandering around this sleepy provincial town, and passed by a group of local college kids drinking beers. They invited us over, ostensibly to practice their English us, but later they invited us to a family dinner. The power was out, and so with candles lit we were first seated at what appeared to be the kid’s table. We were served a bowl of instant ramen, but could see at the other table steaming pots of stew. To the surprise and delight of our hosts, we made clear that we were interested in what they were eating. It was a frog stew. Not just frog legs, as we have in the West- actually nothing but the top halves of these frogs were in the stew, complete with their spindly arms and heads. I didn’t know how to eat it. They showed us, just open your mouth and eat it. It was an unforgettable meal.
— Alex Sorenson

 

With Blank Slate Kitchen’s line of syrups, you can expect your next event to be unforgettable too- the frog heads are optional. Currently Blank Slate Kitchen offers four different syrups: Black Pepper, Vanilla, Bird’s Eye Chili, and the Palm Sugar which we’ve included in our Summer Boxes. Alex is careful in striving for ethically based sources for his syrups. 

Palm Sugar is the most sustainable sugar in the world- made without any GMO’s, fertilizers, or pesticides. There are virtually no chemical inputs. Everything is certifiably organic and whenever possible, fair traded.
— Alex Sorenson
Blank Slate Kitchen's Palm Syrup is featured in our Summer Box.

Blank Slate Kitchen's Palm Syrup is featured in our Summer Box.

His syrups use a ratio of 2:1 sugar to water, making them rich, thick, and concentrated. In addition to allowing for less syrup in a cocktail, they can be drizzled over breakfast and desserts, used in marinades, coffee and teas, and substituted one to one for corn syrup in baking and candy making. 

We can’t thank Blank Slate Kitchen enough for elevating our Summer cocktails and recipes with his unique and delicious syrup. Keep an eye out for what Alex has coming out next: a line of sauces. 

Also, a little bird told us he might be collaborating with another of our Summer Box vendors, Pineapple Co. to make a cheeky cocktail kit! We here at Mostess are most pleased to see our boxes facilitating relationships between other American based small businesses making quality products. 

Visit www.blankslatekitchen.com for more recipes and creative ideas for your next gathering.