We created our Spring/Summer 2020 Wonder Menu by naming world heritage sites with deep and sometimes ancient historical significance that are important to all of humanity. Sites referenced spanned from the ancient cities of Balkh and Palmyra, to the Strait of Jabal Tariq (Gibraltar), to Teotihuacan. We named our signature pour over for one of the world’s liveliest squares, Marrakech’s Jemaa El-Fnaa, and another drink for Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory.
Our drink, Palmyra, was a nod to the fact that Palmyra was at the Western end of the ancient spice routes, and that it came to prominence as a crossroads and trading center for caravans traveling from distant lands. The featured spices highlighted the multicultural influences that converged, cohabitated and left their architectural marks in ancient Palmyra, and the drink was meant to honor our collective cultural loss from the site’s recent destruction by isis.
When you peel back the layers of each of these sites, some common traits emerge. We were specifically drawn to the assumption and assertion of pluralism that each site elicits or embodies, and to the embedded desire to look beyond oneself and one’s place inherent in these sites.
Our Autumn/Winter 2020/21 Wonder Menu takes an adapted approach in an effort to offer some relief from our isolation and piling on of 2020.
Future Nostalgia - a collaboration with Anna and Chuan of Heirloom Brewshop. In connecting over the immigrant experience, the phrase "beautiful tragedy" kept coming to the surface to describe the feeling of losing something in part by being a product of a familial new place, becoming something new, while keeping one's heritage alive. As we are in a time when tragedy didn't feel quite like the right thing to be naming, we opted for the fun title Future Nostalgia borrowed from the Dua Lipa LP, still capturing something true to our conversation while feeling light and warm like the drink. Future Nostalgia is a latte made with sweetened condensed milk, cinnamon and anise powder, ingredients that arise from our stories.
Chuan and Anna of Heirloom Brewshop
Image by Areon Mobasher Photography
Thinking of this menu simply, it’s about comfort and recuperation (even while we continue to endure the COVID-19 and all that has been piling on) in a situation where there is a deep need for both.
This menu is, just as much, about the need for intimacy, and connecting as kind, creative people. That connection allows for something something light, yet substantial, to emerge.
For the drink Zohra, we worked closely with Djamila and Fadi Bakour of La Recette Patisserie. Zohra is the kind of drink that when you learn the whole story, you are brought to tears, not out of sadness, but because its beauty overwhelms. Simply told, Zohra means "flower" in Arabic and is named in honor of Djamila Bakour's mom whose name is Zohra. The orange peel brings Djamila back to her mom's kitchen in a small town in Western Algeria and Zohra back to her own mom's kitchen. The drink and madeleine come out of the lived memories that the orange peel elicits for them both, tying them together with the madeleine and drink being artifacts of the stories of these memories.
This drink is a warm hug; an oat milk latte with simple syrup, cinnamon, orange peel, rose petal, and clove. We recommend pairing it with its counterpart: a light and airy traditional Madeleine with orange peel, fresh orange zest dipped in dark chocolate, and topped with roasted almonds carefully crafted by La Recette Patisserie to speak to this drink.
Fadi, Zohra & Djamila
For this Wonder Menu we connected via Zoom or by phone with several of our colleagues and clients / work friends to share our vision for the menu. Almost by accident, we all started telling the stories of how we got into what we do, who we are and what varied parts of our backgrounds and heritages have shaped us. Together, we discovered how our stories connect, what leads us to each other and to the love what we each do.
We (Leon and Areli) shared this as part of our intention with one of our collaborators: “As is detailed in the links above, our menu items are meant to be delicious excuses to elicit wonder, flavor, dignity, pluralism, landscapes, spices....of the world. They are excuses to learn, to go beyond self, to feel the aliveness of what it means to connect and feel places, senses, and stories out there beyond ourselves, come alive from them and savor that feeling.“
Collaborating with Jackie of Wonderpuff is like the laughter of a baby, the sweetest medicine to lift the spirits no matter what is going on in the world.
This drink harnesses the desires and beliefs of protecting the innocence of our youth, particularly thinking about our black, indigenous, and youth of color. In this seltzer you will get the sweet taste of our housemade simple syrup, colored by a housemade butterfly pea flower concoction with cardamom & orange blossom, illuminated by stardust (edible glitter) and topped by a violet flavored Wonderpuff Cotton Candy that you can eat as you sip or dunk and let it dissolve and add flavor to your drink! Choose your own adventure!
What emerged from these series of conversations is part business, part friendship, part fun, part escape to a world that feels right to us. It’s notable that almost by accident the layers that emerged through this collaborative menu connect to the plural desires and affirmations of world heritage in our previous menu.
Jay and Queen Precious-Jewel of Indulge Catering, LLC
Working with each of these collaborators reminds us that every single moment that we interact with one another is a chance to be more than strangers, to share moments that connect, quiet, wake, and transform us. Most importantly, there is a constant opportunity to be drawn closer together by experiencing and luxuriating in the beauty of our dramatic differences and likenesses that wow and bind us.
The drinks and desserts that emerged as remnants from these conversations are collaborations of love. We hope that they will help you feel at ease and let your mind wander.
Note we have two more wonder drinks coming in future weeks. We'll update when we launch.
We plan to share more of each story as the season unfolds.
We’re in this together.
-Leon and Areli Grodski de Barrera
Image by Jenn Callender