[box size="large" border="full"]Why it’s awesome: A locally made product so delicious that I had to break from my journalistic tendencies and rant about how delicious they are.[/box]
There is something about the combination of salty and sweet that captivates the taste buds of many eager eaters. Chocolate covered pretzels, kettle corn, Lush Nuts. Ok, so the latter may not be as familiar as the previous two, but that is all about to change. Lush Gourmet Foods, a new business based in Kalamazoo aims to be your go-to snack when you crave the unique salty-sweet combo. And once you crunch into their unexpected flavors like coffee and hot curry, they just may succeed!
Bisera Urdarevik is the mastermind behind Lush Gourmet Foods, drawing inspiration from her familial roots as well as her culinary training. Lush Nuts are, essentially, peanuts coated in a sweet yet slightly salty crunchy exterior. The basic salty/sweet nut (the “Original” flavor) harkens to childhood memories and provides the foundation for the delicious variety of flavors that Lush Gourmet Foods now offers. “My parents would always make these when I was younger when we had people over to the house,” Bisera said of the original flavor. “People always kind of asked about them.” While her parents, originally from Macedonia, both had full time careers and never considered making their delicacy into a business, these suggestions stuck with Bisera who had an inclination toward cooking.
Bisera’s love and fascination of cooking started at an early age. “I always found myself in the kitchen, helping my mom or grandmother, or whoever I could,” she said. This desire manifested itself in her education as she attended culinary school at Kendall College in Chicago. It was here that she began to perfect her product, both in the marketing aspects as well as developing flavor profiles. “What I’ve learned is how to evaluate flavors and how to pair them,” said Bisera. “I added salt to the recipe, because I learned in school that salt enhances the flavor of anything, even in sweets.” Her training paid off, as the flavors are well balanced and wonderful. College also allowed time for perfecting the packaging, which might I add, is super cute.
The process for creating the nuts is, like the Bush’s Baked Beans recipe, a well guarded secret. “It is a two part process,” said Bisera, but that is all she is willing to divulge. The ingredients are simple: peanuts, sugar, and salt (and of course spices depending on the variety that is being concocted). Yet, somehow Bisera is able to turn these ingredients into something spectacular. The crunchy exterior composed of just salt and sugar completely defies all expectations of those two ingredients and has tempted me to begin coating everything with them in attempts of recreating the crunchy goodness.
With their addicting flavor, no added fat, and plenty of protein, Lush’s nuts are an ideal snacking food. However, Lush Nuts aren’t just for simply snacking. Bisera suggests a vast array of serving suggestions to take the nuts to the next level. The coffee flavor pairs perfectly with vanilla ice cream. The salt and pepper flavor adds a delicious crunch to the top of a garden salad. After tasting them, you will be tempted to put them on just about everything. (To be honest, however, the ones I was given to sample didn’t last long enough to try in interesting ways because I simply couldn’t stop eating them).
While Bisera hasn’t planned a storefront for Lush Gourmet Foods just yet, she doesn’t rule out the possibility. At the current time, Lush sells only peanuts, but expansion is in the works. “I have experimented with other nuts and they’ve worked really well and taste great,” Bisera said, “When I have enough to fill a storefront” it might become a possibility. The small size of Lush thus far does have an added bonus to the consumer, as Bisera is able to inspect each peanut, ensuring that each piece meets her standards. This intimate quality control ensures that each and every peanut is equally coated in the deliciousness.
The move from Chicago to Kalamazoo has proved to be beneficial. “I am happy I came back to Kalamazoo,” said Bisera. “It is a smaller town and has a lot of word of mouth.” The word of mouth has begun to pay its dividends as Lush’s products have begun to be sold at a number of stores in Kalamazoo, including Natural Health Center, Temple Vino, The Cheese Lady, and several other locations. Lush Nuts have also found a home in several stores in Lansing, East Lansing, and Rockford. They can be purchased online, allowing you to purchase them no matter where you live, or even send a small (delicious) piece of Michigan to an out of state friend. Lush Nuts, therefore, are always merely a click away for either personal snacking or for a delicious and thoughtful gift for any occasion. ~Chad Cramblet. Regional Director
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