5 Questions With: Hudson Green

Photo c/o Hudson Green

We are bringing back our “5 Questions With…..” series, but focusing on spotlighting local Hudson Valley businesses and people. Kicking off our local series is 5 Questions with Hudson Green. Hudson Green is a local Westchester County family owned and operated business. This plant-based food company is run by Maria Rama and her son Will Reiter. Launched in 2018, Hudson Green currently sells two plant-based sauces, Meatless Bolognese and Velvet Vodka.

Hudson Green’s Meatless Bolognese sauce. Photo c/o Hudson Green.

Maria grew up in the restaurant business and has extensive experience in the food industry. Not only does she and her son make and sell their sauces, but she creates recipes, found on the Hudson Green website, that incorporate the sauces.

1.  I know starting a business is not a quick and  easy endeavor.What was the inspiration behind Hudson Green and how long did it take for you to go from the concept to creating your first sauce, the Bolognese?

I’ve worked in the food business as a cookbook author, account executive for Sunkist Growers, Tabasco Pepper Sauce, Korbel Champaign, and served as a consumer advocate and food spokesperson for nearly my entire professional life. After my dear husband Mark nearly suffered a heart attack, he made the life-saving decision to become a vegan. As the head chef in our household, and even though I was proficient in the kitchen, I had to learn how to make satisfying and delicious plant-based dishes, that were also fat free or at least had very little fat, including vegetable oils. This undertaking was tricky, even with my cooking skills. Prior to his illness, I’d just released my sixth cookbook, Bacon Nation, which gives you an idea of my cooking experience and my prejudices for using flavorful, umami rich fats in all of my cooking. Like so many others, we thought we were eating well and healthfully, but we weren’t. To save Mark’s life, I had to completely relearn how to cook.

One of the most delicious and useful dishes I created was a recipe for a Meatless 6-Vegetable Bolognese. It was a basket of vegetables in a pot, caramelized in very little oil, seasoned with spices like fennel, nutmeg, nutritional yeast and sun-dried tomatoes, and I added walnuts for a little protein and to give it a meat-like “bite.” It was so thick and delicious, and I used it to stuff peppers, make vegetable chilis, even lentil burgers. I had kind of a “eureka” moment in my kitchen. I thought, “This sauce is so good and so unique, maybe others looking for healthy and delicious plant-based sauces might want to buy it.”  That began my journey to create a recipe that could be scaled up, manufactured and safely jarred. I had no experience as a product developer and it took me the better part of a year to complete this part of my journey. I was helped by Cornell Food Venture Center, the New York State institute that approves all shelf-stable jarred goods before they can be sold in the U.S.

2.  Hudson Green is a family business.  What is it like working with your son?

This is an interesting question. I love working with my son, Will, and believe we’ve gotten to know each other much better through this business. It’s good that we bring different skill sets that can tackle and solve different problems. I focus on recipe and product development and manufacturing. I’m also a people person and love connecting with our customers. But my computer skills are limited, and so Will manages all the back office work, including our online Amazon sales. Also, he’s a lawyer, and he reads and amends all our contracts with the people and companies we work with, such as our broker, our co-packer, our vendors, our distributors. I very much admire how he’s trained to think more cautiously than I am. I’ll say let’s do this, and he’ll give me the smart and practical reasons that temper my enthusiasm. I think we make a good team.

3. You are a best selling cookbook author, have trained as a pastry chef, worked as a food stylist and as an account executive for major food brands.  Who/what influenced you to enter the food industry and how has your diverse background in the industry helped you in creating your sauces?

I grew up in a large, boisterous Italian family, dominated by women who lived to cook. They owned a successful grocery and meat market in Bedford Hills, Briccetti’s Bedford Market, for more than 50 years, and cooked for this store many of the most amazing and unique dishes I’ve ever tasted in my life, still to this day. I worked often in the store and in their home kitchen, absorbing all their secrets and also all the joys of creating food that was pure, delicious, nutritious, and that brought us all to an extended family table at Grandma’s house every Sunday. After graduating from college, I went right back into making food. My first real job was working in Boston as a pastry chef and then I was hired by a major New York Food Public Relations Firm to create recipes and products for different food companies. It’s a classic tale of how what you do as a child, if you love doing it, is very often what you seek to do professionally as an adult.

Hudson Green Vegan Chili. Photo c/o Hudson Green.

4. My family followed a vegan diet for 6 months and now 3 out of the 4 of us are vegetarians.  Your two sauces are both plant-based and meat and dairy-free.  We love pasta and sauce, but I love that you have created recipes like risotto, stuffed peppers and a shepherd(less) pie, that  incorporate your sauces. They really showcase how versatile the Bolognese and Velvet Vodka sauces are.  Do you have any tips or advice for readers who are looking to adopt a more plant-based diet? 

Cooking delicious plant-based foods is not as difficult as many people think. Meat, poultry, eggs, fish and dairy products all have different kinds of fat, and fat is filled with flavor. So, the trick is to impart flavor to your plant-based dishes without using any of these fat-rich foods. You can do it with either a technique or an ingredient. Here’s a few tricks I practice:

1.) Roast your vegetables! Use a little oil or substitute vegetable broth for oil in your roasting pan to roast veggies like red peppers, carrots, onions, garlic, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, eggplant, hard-shelled squash, etc. Roasting caramelizes the vegetables, to bring out their natural sweetness, and aside from the chopping, there’s little work to roasting!

2.) These are a few of the seasoning ingredients that I am never without in my vegan kitchen. They bring bland vegetable dishes to life.

  • Fresh Ginger Root — It’s slightly spicy, intense, slightly nutty, slightly sweet. Add it generously to your soups, vegetable stir-fries, stuffings, and pasta dishes.
  • Garlic — Like onions, it’s a must kitchen helper, but don’t ever burn garlic when you sauté it. Tease out it’s flavor by adding garlic to the pan after other vegetables have been fully sautéed and softened. Sauté garlic only about 30 seconds or until fragrant. Or wrap a whole head of garlic in tin foil and bake until very soft. Perfect for hummus dips!
  • Jalapeno Peppers — They not only add spice, but also lots of peppery flavor to vegetable sautés and soups.
  • Substitute cooked and pureed cauliflower for cream and other dairy to make creamy soups and vegetable purees. 
  • Curry powders are instant flavor enhancers, even if you don’t care much for curry! Yellow curries have a different profile than spicy Thai red curries. Try different ones to flavor soups, vegetable stews, stir-fries, dips, sauces. A little sprinkle or a large spoonful of curry powder perks up the flavor of just about any vegetable dish. 
  • We all focus on eating fresh vegetables, but don’t ignore frozen veggies. Stock them conveniently in your freezer for quick side dishes. We always buy and freeze a supply of shelled edamame, corn, and green peas, and add them to mixed greens for quick and nutritious salads. 
  • Olives, capers, roasted and pickled peppers, pickles — With their intense saltiness, these make great seasoners. Add them to salads or serving as satisfying garnishes to all kinds of vegan dishes. 
  • Good quality sea salt, kosher salt, truffle salt, etc. Salt can elevate the taste of a bland and forgettable vegan dish to something wonderful. Experiment with different salts to find a few you really like. 
  • Good quality white and red balsamic vinegar. Drizzle over roasted veggies, onto your favorite salad, onto avocado toast, etc. 
  • Fresh herbs, especially thyme, tarragon, parsley. 
  • Good quality vegetable broth. If you need to reduce the amount of oil in your diet, use a good quality vegetable broth instead to sautéed and roast vegetables. Oil does work to impart flavor, but vegetable broth will also impart some flavor and more importantly it will keep your veggies from burning while sautéing or roasting.

3.) We’re all eating more pasta dishes these days. To avoid putting on COVID pasta pounds, make the sauce the center of the dish, not the pasta. In other words, do as the Italians do, who eat pasta every day and never gain weight. Use less pasta and more sauce and fill your sauce with an assortment of vegetables. Your pasta sauce can become a vegetable delivery system. Indeed, this is the way we look at our Organic 6-Vegetable Meatless Bolognese. It brings to your pasta plate cauliflower, carrots, onions, mushrooms, carrots, garlic, tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes and walnuts. Use 3 to 4 ounces of pasta per serving, not 6 to 8, with our sauce for a truly satisfying dinner that won’t add unwanted pasta pounds. 

4.) Think outside the pasta box! Use our plant-based Hudson Green sauces not only to make great pasta dishes but also to make soups, veggie stews, to stuff peppers, to make a veggie chili, a lentil burger, or a cream-free, dairy-free mac ‘n cheese. Our sauces are not for pasta only! Check out our many Hudson Green recipes on our website.

5.  What are your future plans and goals for Hudson Green?
We’d like to extend our line of sauces, and we have several recipes ready to go. To that end, we’ll need to find investors or a larger company that sees the potential in our brand and wants to help us develop our products. 

Bonus Questions:

1. What is your favorite food?
I don’t have one. But I love any dish that is perfectly and exquisitely seasoned and cooked. 

2. What are some of your favorite places in Westchester County to eat, shop and play?
My husband and I are avid golfers and you will find us often on many of Westchester’s public courses about 8 months out of the year, weather permitting. I love any restaurant where the cook makes something I can’t make better in my own home kitchen. Often a great slice of pizza or an exquisitely prepared eggplant parmesan will send me to heaven, so to speak.  And I often find these dishes in small neighborhood restaurants where the chef or owner has been making them for many years or even for his entire life.

Hudson Green’s Meatless Bolognese and Velvet Vodka sauces can be purchased online via the Hudson Green website, Amazon or at local specialty grocery stores including Wegmans.

To learn more about Hudson Green, visit their website!

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5 Questions with Team Fun

5 Questions with Wes Henderson

A short interview with Wes Henderson of Angel's Envy.

(photo courtesy of Angel’s Envy)

Our 5 Questions feature is where we interview notable people in the food and travel industry. Wes Henderson is the Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer of Louisville Distilling Company, the makers of Angel’s Envy Bourbon.  Based in Louisville, Kentucky Angel’s Envy has made a name for itself in the few short years of its existence. Wes and his late father Lincoln Henderson founded the company to create a super-premium bourbon.  What sets their bourbon apart from others is their use of port barrels in the finishing process.

Angel’s Envy is typically aged between 4-6 years in new, charred 53-gallon American white oak barrels. Then, the aged bourbon is aged up to 6 more months in 60-gallon port barrels from Portugal. This bourbon is produced in small batches, of only 8-12 barrels at a time.  They also make a limited edition Cask Strength Bourbon.  These barrels are deemed exceptional, and the aged bourbon is given a lengthier stay in the port barrels and then bottled at full strength. The 2017 edition is 124.5 proof and is a rare, limited edition release, of only 10,000 bottles. We here at NY Foodie Family were fascinated learning about how this spirit is created, as Kentucky bourbon is one of the few spirits originated in America.


(photo courtesy of Angel’s Envy – (L-R) Kyle, Wes and Lincoln Henderson)

Angel’s Envy is truly a family operation.  Although Wes and his father Lincoln created Angel’s Envy, his son Kyle has joined as production manager.  Other son, Andrew, is a distillery operator and is also learning the distilling process. Since Lincoln’s passing in 2013, Wes is continuing to carry on the family legacy.

1. What is one thing that would surprise people who know nothing about bourbon?

WH: 60% is an interesting number to look at. It’s been estimated to be the percentage of bourbon’s flavor that comes from barrel aging, and it’s also roughly the amount that each bottle is taxed by the government.

2. What do you suppose your profession might be if you weren’t the son of a Master Distiller?

WH: Well, being the son of a Master Distiller isn’t really a profession, and I had several professions before co-founding Angel’s Envy. But if I had to return to an old favorite, it would have to be a radio personality. I genuinely loved that job.

3. Kentucky produces 95% of all bourbon. What is it that makes the state so special in its production?

WH: The easy answer is the state’s limestone-filtered water. But I genuinely believe that it’s the people. For generations now, we’ve had a unique community, a truly close circle of individuals, committed to distilling great whiskey. It’s a surprisingly supportive group that understands that we all succeed together, and I’ve always thought that that was Kentucky’s secret to success.

4. How would you describe the perfect barrel of bourbon?  And have you ever found one?

WH: I have had the pleasure of tasting a perfect barrel of bourbon on several occasions. That’s actually the basis for our Cask Strength release. We usually refer to them as honey barrels, and the second you taste it, you just know.

5. What’s your favorite drink that doesn’t involve a drop of bourbon?

WH: Mexican Coke.

We’d like to thank Wes Henderson for sharing his perspectives and insight with us. Stay tuned for the next entry in our series of “5 Questions With…”

You can learn more about Angel’s Envy and get cocktail recipes on their website.  

5 Questions with Team Fun {Becca Droz & Floyd Pierce}

(Photo provided by Becca Droz)

It’s time for another “5 Questions with….”  a feature where I interview notable figures in the food and travel industry. I’ve been a fan of the television show The Amazing Race since it first aired on CBS back in 2001.  I even had hopes of one day being a contestant on the show.  That is until my husband so kindly pointed out that I don’t deal well with stress…..and racing around the world on a televised game show isn’t stressful or anything!  I recently introduced our kids, ages 9 and 11 to the show for the first time this season.  Every week we watched the Amazing Race 29 and cheered on our favorite team, Team Fun!  Becca and Floyd were so enjoyable to watch.  They were always so positive, had so much energy and were, well…..fun!  I jokingly asked my husband, “imagine if I interviewed Team Fun for my 5 questions series?!”  So I was super excited when they responded that they would love to participate.  (My son’s jaw literally dropped when I told him!)  So, as a family we collaborated on coming up with the 5 Questions below to ask Team Fun!

5 Questions with Team Fun:  

1.How much travel experience did you have prior to filming the Amazing Race?

Becca Droz:  Internationally, I did not have a lot of travel experience. I went on a 10 day trip to Barcelona with my family in 10th grade and I lived in Israel for 5 months during a gap year in 2010-2011. I did travel within the states a fair amount, mostly for outdoor adventures. I also lived out of a van with a friend for 5 months when I graduated college in 2014, when we traveled to popular climbing destinations around the country.

Floyd Pierce:  Pretty much none! I’ve been around the country as well as Hawaii. My family once went on a Caribbean cruise, but I don’t really count that since we didn’t get off the boat that much.

2. Viewers rarely see contestants eating regular meals during the show.  Did you guys eat the local cuisine in the countries you visited?  Can you tell us some of your favorite and least favorite foods that you ate? 

BD: Unfortunately we did not get to eat a ton of authentic local cuisine. The majority of our meals were ham and cheese sandwiches made by local production companies and sodium-heavy airplane meals. With that said, my favorite meal was in Greece. We had 13 or so hours to kill before our flight so we asked our taxi driver about a good local spot. He took us to a local “tavern” where we met with Team LoLo (London and Logan) and Team Drama (Brooke and Scott) for a beer and some delicious, fresh gyros. They brought us some complimentary shaved meat which tasted like bacon and a little cup of a yogurty dessert. It was one of the few cultural food experiences I had on the Race.  Also, I tried to go local in Vietnam and ordered goat stew and a duck dish. The goat wasn’t terrible, but the smell of the duck dish alone made me feel nauseous, as did the taste.

FP:  We ate a little local cuisine at this food court kind of place in Panama.  And then we had these awesome Gyros and this skewer of meat in Greece with Brooke and Scott and London and Logan.  The chef liked us so much that they gave us free dessert! They also had really good beer.  Then there was the raw fish we ate in Norway at the lighthouse, and I ate some pasta and eggplant as a part of the roadblock in Italy.  Besides that, we didn’t eat too much local cuisine, as we didn’t want to risk getting sick or mess up our digestion, haha.

(photo provided by Becca Droz)

3. Everyone on your season of the show has such different personalities.  It’s incredible that you two started out as strangers but ended up as teammates with similar dispositions.  How were you both able to keep your positive attitudes in such stressful situations?

BD: By watching past seasons of The Amazing Race it is clear that it is not worth it to let the stress of the Race create tension in the relationship. We both went into the race knowing that staying positive, believing in ourselves and believing in each other were our greatest assets as individuals and as a team. We also wanted to enjoy our experience of traveling the world as much as we could. Needless to say, we both got very lucky.

FP:  Because we knew that’s what it took to win!  I came on the show knowing that it was designed to push you to your limits, it’s designed to trip you up. Staying positive was our way to “outsmart” the race. Plus, it was way more fun to race that way!

4. What was your favorite leg of the race?  And what location(s) would you like to go back and visit when you have the chance?

BD: Each leg was so unique, not only because of the location and the challenges, but because of the phase of the Race, Team Fun’s growing relationship and our ebb and flow of confidence. That being said, our first leg in Vietnam was phenomenal. We did everything right (besides wear shorts). Playing Frogger through the chaotic streets of Hanoi with a 20 foot ladder was wild and memorable! We went from worst to first that leg and were as confident as we’ve ever been, (perhaps a factor that lead to our downfall). I’m looking forward to returning to the area around Lake Como, Italy and Norway to explore the rock climbing and more remote beauty in those areas.

FP: That’s like asking me who’s my favorite child.  Each leg and culture was so different than the others, and I appreciated each one in different ways, even the scary/dramatic ones. If I had to choose a favorite I’d say Brazil, Norway, or the first leg of Vietnam, as the challenges in each of those legs (drumming with a samba band, skydiving, running with a ladder through crowded streets) were so much fun. I’d definitely go back to Norway. It was so beautiful, as if it was directly out of a fairy tale.

5. How have your lives changed since being on the show?  What are you doing now that the show is over?

BD: By achieving my goal of being on The Amazing Race, I set a high standard for myself regarding what I can accomplish in life. Now that the show is over, I am moving forward in a few areas of passion. I am earning certifications in the world of rock climbing so that I can be a more competent climbing instructor and I am taking my personal climbing pursuits to a new level. I am still teaching rock climbing in the gym at Movement Climbing and Fitness in Boulder and outdoor days with the Women’s Wilderness Institute. Floyd and I are developing our YouTube channel to continue spreading the fun and positive vibes. I am currently phasing out of my full time job as a barista and into an entrepreneurial lifestyle where I will arrange speaking gigs and workshops to become more comfortable with uncertainty and to inspire people to see failure as a stepping stone to success. It all starts slowly. At this point I spend a lot of my free time making Fun O Meter buttons in my home button factory and shipping them to fun loving folks around the world! There is more information at www.funstoppables.com. While I am trying to accomplish a long list of goals, I am also taking the time to build relationships with people who I admire and remain introspective as I continue to grow.

FP: I’ve definitely been recognized a lot more, and it’s the first thing people want to talk about! Since the show I’ve had quite a few speaking engagements lined up, but other than that things are mostly the same! Moving forward, I’ll continue to live my life and appreciate the surprise that each day brings me. Becca and I will also continue being Team Fun, and we have a YouTube channel that we will continue posting on!

Thank you so much Becca and Floyd for answering my 5 Questions!  Follow Becca on Instagram and Twitter and check out her website Funstoppables!  Follow Floyd on Twitter and Instagram!   Check out their YouTube channel where you can watch them recap the episodes of their season of the Amazing Race, getting behind the scenes info!  You can also see their audition videos!  Their first episode is below.


5 Questions with Joel Gamoran

(Photo courtesy of SCRAPS)

Welcome to the first interview in my new “5 Questions with…..” feature. My goal is to share short interviews with notable personalities in the food and travel industry.

Today I am interviewing Joel Gamoran, a producer and host of the new FYI  show SCRAPS.  In each episode, Joel travels to a new location throughout the country to cook with a local co-host and create a dinner using food scraps. What could be more fun than driving around in a refurbished 1963 Volkswagen bus that also acts as a mobile kitchen?!  The show hopes to change they way we think about food and reduce food waste.

1.  You’re the host and a producer of the cooking show SCRAPS.  What was your top reason for getting involved in the show?

JG:  It was seriously just one of those things where it was like, why are we wasting that? I was teaching a cooking class at Sur La Table and noticed everyone’s trash bins were filled to the brim with usable ingredients.  As a chef we are taught to use every last scrap.  At home we are way too quick to toss something out.  With people starving in America and pollution being a major factor, I felt this was my duty to stand up for this and bring it to light!

2. Aside from watching SCRAPS, what is one thing that families can do right now to help minimize food waste?

JG: I always say cook your favorite recipe and put all of your scraps into a big bowl.  Take a look at all the ingredients and start researching the possibilities.  Once you get started it is hard to go back.  You will look at every scrap as an opportunity.  It’s just that muscle memory of pausing before you trash it!

3.You were recently on the TODAY show and had to cook for some of the pickiest judges: kids. What are some tips for getting kids to be more adventurous eaters?

JG: Kids need to see or interact with a recipe in order to get behind it.  The more a kid can be involved in the cooking of a recipe, the more it allows them to take some ownership in it.  Seems simple, but it works almost every time.

Also, kids love playing with their food and textures.  Make something crunchy with nuts or whole wheat bread crumbs.  Plan a dish to be dipped or assembled at the table.  These make all the difference!

4. At the time of this interview, only three episodes out of the ten episode series of SCRAPS have aired. You’ve now been to Charleston, SC, Asheville, NC and the Hudson Valley in NY.  Which easy recipe from those 3 locations would you recommend to novice home cooks?  Personally, I’m looking forward to making the Apple Cake from the Hudson Valley episode.

JG: Ha, ha!  I love the apple cake but the easiest one would be the broccoli slaw.  We all have broccoli stems and it requires zero cooking.  The stems have so much personality compared to boring old cabbage.  I call this a gateway scrap!

(Broccoli Slaw – photo courtesy of SCRAPS)

5. Although you grew up in Seattle, you’ve been living in Brooklyn for some time now. What are some of your favorite places to eat in NYC?

JG: I am drawn to casual and laid-back spots with seasonal, straightforward cooking. I love Quality Eats in the village, Roberta’s Pizza, Il Buco, Barbuto, Buttermilk Channel, Buvette, and Vanessa Dumplings.

New episodes of SCRAPS air on the FYI channel on Sundays at 10:30 PM.