As I mentioned in my last post, I got invited to Sabra to give a group of tastemaker bloggers a little spice education.
Upon our arrival in Richmond we went dinner at the lovely Can Can Brasserie, where we feasted like kings:
Afterward there were some pretty epic desserts – crème brûlée with homemade peanut butter chocolate ice cream, goat cheese cheesecake, pumpkin souffle crepes… Due to the mood lighting that came down upon us during the meal those are left to your imagination.
The next morning I got up early enough to check out a local coffee shop with Veronica from Momma Cuisine and we snuck in a little peek of downtown Richmond.
We headed out to Sabra’s factory, which happens to be the largest hummus production factory in the world. I had never been in a factory before, so I didn’t really know what to expect. Along with seeing how their products are actually made, we also got an education about the company’s growth and practices. Here are some of the things I learned about Sabra, and hummus in general:
The company was started by Rabbi Yehuda Pearl in 1986. It was sold primarily in kosher markets all the way until around 2003. Today it is #1 in the country’s hummus sales, and is sold in over 15,000 stores.
Hummus has a “health halo”, meaning people perceive it to be healthy, but only 12.2% of U.S. households are eating it. This especially resonated with me because I had not even heard of hummus until I was an adult. Growing up in a tiny midwestern town, the closest we got to any sort of ethnic cuisine was Taco Bell. After moving LA, the mish-mash of cuisines became the norm for me, but for a lot of the country that’s still not the case. Hopefully as the trend of eating more healthfully and being conscious of what we put in our bodies ripples out from the big cities, things like hummus and yogurt-based dips can replace the standard sour cream/cream cheese/mayo concoctions.
If you don’t know what hummus is, it is a dip made primarily from ground cooked chickpeas. It generally has very few ingredients; the others being tahini (ground sesame), oil, often garlic and lemon, and spices. Some companies produce more of a grainy spread, but in Sabra’s case it is smooth and creamy. I prefer the smoother variety and definitely suggest starting there if you are a newbie. There are dozens of flavors on the market, and it is easy to customize it to your tastes with your own spices.
From a health standpoint, chickpeas are very low on the glycemic index – meaning you don’t get the spike and crash of your blood sugar, and the addition of tahini and oils actually brings the glycemic index down even further. The protein and fiber in hummus help you stay full longer.
The Executive Chef, MaryDawn, spoke to us about flavor development. We tasted the difference between hummus that is ready to sell and a fresh batch that she had just brought off the production line. It was a world of difference! Giving the flavors a little time to ripen makes it so much better.
For lunch we were able to try all of the flavors, along with a few of their other products like greek yogurt dips, guacamole, and salsa. They even made desserts with hummus! I was a little skeptical about the idea, but they were delicious. People kept throwing around the suggestion for a sweet hummus all weekend. Who knows, maybe someday?
We also had a session on food photography from the talented husband-wife duo from Smith Bites. Hopefully some of their tips on lighting techniques will help release me from having to cook blog-worthy items in the small window of good daylight in my kitchen. Of course once I got home and loaded the pictures from my trip onto my camera I realized that at some point a setting had gotten inadvertently changed and a lot of them were not as clear as they should be. Bummer. So consider that one intentional and one unintentional lesson on photography.
We were given a factory tour, for which we had to don these attractive get-ups:
For my spice talk I choose a set of middle eastern and mediterranean spices that pair well with Sabra’s products, including sumak, aleppo pepper, mint, cumin, coriander, and three types of zahtar. We had jars of the spices so the bloggers could smell and taste the spices to get acquainted with them. Here’s a picture of me in action from Ericka of Nibbles and Feasts:
It was a whirlwind trip – leaving before the crack of dawn on Sunday morning and returning home late Monday night – but it was a great experience. We left with full bellies, lots of goodies to take home, and new friends.