FOOD LIFE & ME
The Latest and Greatest Hits of the week in Restaurants, Cafes and other random gourmet stuff
EXTRA EXTRA READ ALL ABOUT IT !
EVERYTHING'S COMING UP SPECULOOS !
Warm childhood memories, patent wars, reality TV, gourmet recipes, food empires spanning the globe, and even cookies in shoes thrown in for good measure - You would think that we were talking about a hit Korean drama series, but believe it or not, all this is about…. a cookie. Not just any cookie. But a cookie with a strange sounding name and a rich history to boot.
Now, how did this rather unassuming biscuit with roots dating back to 1650, gain street cred over the past decade or so to become a gourmet force to be reckoned with? Well, here’s the story.
So let’s get to the crux of the matter here. What EXACTLY are we talking about? Well, Speculoos is essentially, a crunchy butter biscuit that’s flavoured with spices like cinnamon, cloves, ginger, cardamon, nutmeg - thus rendering it rich in flavour and crunchy in texture. Originating from the european cities of Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and Austria amongst others, Speculoos cookies are always enjoyed in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
Circa 1650 - That’s the often cited year for the emergence of this cookie with a name that sounds like an alien movie. Speculoos or Speculaas (Dutch), Spéculoos (French), Spekulatius (German), Spekulaaas or Spekulaaskoekjes (Indonesian) or the latest one that we are used to, Biscoff. However you call it, it’s a cookie that’s steeped in tradition, and whose very name brings on smiles and fond memories of the holidays.
Yes, it's been around for literally....Centuries!
So the story goes - that St Nicholas, the patron saint of children, would, on Sinterklaas/St Nicholas Day (but of course, when else?), visit the homes of children who were nice, come down the chimney, and fill their shoes with a heady stash of Speculoos goodness. Which explains why so many bakeries still keep the design of St Nicholas on the cookie. Doesn’t get any more heartwarming than that!
Cookies in Shoes, Chimneys and happy children
Belgium today, tomorrow the world! Not content with being the freebie sidekick to your cup of coffee, this co-star sweet treat is now taking the lead role on a stage it now owns. Even faster than you can say speculoos, this taste sensation is now climbing the ladder of success and appearing not just as an accompaniment to your hot beverage, but on your breakfast, snack and even pastry and cake table as well and is giving peanut butter and hazelnut spreads a run for their money.
Everything's coming up Speculoos!
Definitely no Chump Change Here !
But when you consider that this is no chump change we are talking about here with profits running into the hundreds of millions, you would jump on this bandwagon of success too. Is it any wonder then, that any and every cookie factory won’t say “No” to diverting their factory’s resources into this delectable cash cow. A quick check on Lotus’s 2020 Results Press Release on www.lotusbiscoff.com reveals that the consolidated turnover was EUR663.3 million, representing an 8.3% growth. And not resting on its laurels, Lotus continuously innovates and this can be seen in its two successful new products Biscoff© Sandwich Cookie (2 Speculoos cookies with a vanilla cream filling. Yum!) and for Chocolate lovers, the Lotus Biscoff© Chocolate, which needless to say, proved an instant hit with consumers.
If you can dream it, you can make it - seems to be the motto of Speculoos factories. Ice Cream, Lotus Biscoff Creamy Cookie Butter, Starbucks Speculoos Latte, Krispy Kreme Speculoos Cookie Doughnuts, Ben & Jerry's Spectacular Speculoos Cookie Core ice cream, Godiva's Sirop de Liege with Speculoos and even non-edibles like Biscoff® Cookie Jars, Mugs, Lunchbox style Travel Boxes, Lotus Biscoff Cookbooks, Biscoff emoji/icon as a downloadable sticker pack for iphones in 2017
All this ! …...From one cookie.
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Speculoos takes flight! Right into America!
And we have Delta Airlines to thank for it. Sometime in the 80s, Michael McGuire, a food-broker in the United States, tasted a cookie so wonderful, that he HAD to introduce it to Delta Airlines, and as they always say, the rest….is History!
And the Americans have since been very protective of this little cookie on their flights. Take it away, and the airlines were, without fail, bombarded with letters and emails of vehement protest. In fact, Delta and Biscoff are so tight in a relationship, that when you look up Pinterest for a Speculoos Cookie recipe, you will find them going by a different name - Delta Airlines Biscoff Cookies. Ok Airlines, remove these Biscoff Cookies at your own risk!
Meanwhile, the Speculoos story continues...
PATENT WARS, SECRET NEGOTIATIONS, AND REALITY TV
Bear with me, it seems like a long story but it’s well worth the read.
So there was this reality TV Show and a Belgium housewife Els Scheppers. Ms Scheppers was inspired by how the humble Speculoos Cookies were eaten in days of yore - sandwiched between two slices of buttered bread, which by lunchtime, would present a sandwich filled with a sweet, soft speculoos goodness, quite akin to the texture of peanut butter. So, she concocted a Spreadable version of this cookie and presented it as an idea on the reality TV show De Bedenkers (Dutch for : The Inventors)
Lotus Bakeries latched on to this idea and offered her a tidy sum to develop her idea into a commercial product. And before you knew it, both parties were well on their way to a spreadable success story by the end of 2009 with the first ever factory produced product called Lotus Speculoospasta, raking in some 10 million Euros by 2009. End of story? But wait…. There’s more. Much More.
With this newly acquired coalition, Lotus Bakeries proceeded to try to knock out the spreadable cookie competition (the several big names are Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter, Poppy & Co Speculoos Cookie Butter, Vermeiren Cookie Spread, Wafels and Dinges All-Natural Spekuloos Spread. Turns out, another contestant on the same show, the team of Danny De Maeyer and Dirk De Smet, had years before, come up with the same product idea AND were clever enough to obtain an official patent on it way, way back in 2006. After some negotiations, Lotus bought over this cleverly obtained patent from them in 2009. End of story? Absolutely not.
And here we have another twist. Apparently, there existed the curious case of Grandma Wapsie and her blog OmaWapsie. The owner of the blog, Rita, had, in one of her pioneer posts, uploaded for all and sundry, her mother’s recipe for koekjestaart, otherwise known as Cookie Cake, citing a heartwarming story of how her mother would make the most delicious cake frosting comprising, you guessed it, crushed speculoos, with butter blended in. The discovery of this fact, obviously nullified the previous patent.
Long story short, Lotus’s patent attempt came to an end upon the discovery of the OmaWapsie Blog. Those few years that Lotus was embroiled in these patent wars, cleared the path for the emergence of new and tasty brands of Speculoos Spreads that by then, were being snapped up quicker than they could be loaded up on the supermarket shelves. Well, that's how the cookie crumbles I guess. But never fear, Lotus's Biscoff Biscuits are still the front runner and with their new innovative ideas, you can be sure we'll never tire of them.
Not meant to be gulped. Not meant to be chugged. Tea has a history steeped in tradition that invites a slow, measured pace of drinking that can only serve to calm, relax and sooth.
Find out more about the intricacies of Tea - the product, the pairings, the brewing method - and be prepared to absorb the wealth of information that the folks at The Teh Company will share. They are afterall, Tea Masters in their own right, Sommeliers by certification and your Guide to the world of tea drinking and appreciation.
My notes: I had a lovely time learning all about tea. Was amazed by how little I knew and how much I learned in their Tea Appreciation Workshop! I definitely emerged calmer and more relaxed ! Lovely.
HONG KONG STYLE WONTON NOODLES
You know it's good noodles when your mother's mahjong khaki points to it on your shelf and says, "I LOVE those noodles!I carried quite a few packets back from Hong Kong when I was there last." So needless to say, I just had to try it for my next meal. QQ and reminiscent of the noodles you would find in a Hong Kong Cha Chaan Teng, these noodles take only 3 minutes to prepare, come with a soup base, are non-fried, low fat, and have no added colour and require no rinsing.
Available from Twosomes Trading
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