Tag: New Orleans

Taste the World with Spice Madam’s Co-founder and Chief Spice Madam Kim Simithraaratchy

Kim Simithraaratchy has co-founded Spice Madam to connect people through good food and the sharing of culture across all borders. By working as a technology consultant, she was able to perfect her skills in problem solving and creating an online presence from day one. From delivering the flavors of the world to your kitchen table to giving back to Cafe Momentum, a Dallas-based restaurant and culinary training facility that transforms the lives of our most at-risk youth with life skills, education and employment opportunities, Kim has made an impact in people’s lives with her passion for food. With her sights focused on international consumers in the near future, Spice Madam plans on expanding her reach so other cultures to get a deeper understanding of other countries around the world through their palate.

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Tell us about Spice Madam.

Spice Madam is a privately-held, global lifestyle brand dedicated to bringing people together through food. We believe cooking and sharing meals is the most powerful platform for communication, connection and community. Spice Madam curates subscription spice kits featuring a different country’s cuisine every month, conveniently delivered to member’s doorsteps on a monthly basis nationwide.  Each kit includes the featured country’s key spices, recipes, cultural information and a music playlist with representative music from that country. My friend Meghana Moya, a fellow foodie and world traveler, and I co-founded Spice Madam over dinner where Meghana brought up the idea for the subscription spice business model. I loved it immediately and came up with the name Spice Madam that night.  Spice Madam’s target market is anyone who likes to cook, travel and explore other cultures.

How has working as a Computer Engineer and Technology Consultant prepared you for your role with Spice Madam?

At the end of the day, my work as a technology consultant was about helping companies solve difficult problems. Having worked across many client industries, I am very confident in facing any new problems with an analytical and solution-oriented mindset no matter the context.  As an online business, establishing a presence on the Web is critical.  I was able to quickly set up a site capable of taking orders and conveying our value proposition.  As our needs outgrew our initial hosting platform, I migrated our site to another platform to streamline payment processing and maintenance. My 13 years of technology experience allowed us to get moving quickly without worrying about hiring the right person to help us.

What has be the biggest hurdle transitioning from the technology space to the food industry?

I’ve been involved in the food industry for a long time as an avid consumer, but also in running a cooking blog and producing cooking videos in my spare time. The biggest change in moving over from the technology space has been that I now get to dedicate all of my time to something I am very passionate about. The hardest part is moving from being a part of a company with an established structure and process to owning and directing a brand-new enterprise from the ground up. Through it all, I am continuing to learn and grow in all new directions, and that is the best part of it for me!

What is your proudest accomplishment since the launch of Spice Madam?

Meghana and I came up with the concept for a Travel Spice Kit while on a plane as we returned from a spice research trip in New Orleans and were able to turn it around to launch in five days. We feel pretty proud of that ability to be innovative and nimble as a business!

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What was the biggest obstacle while creating Spice Madam and how did you overcome this hurdle?

The biggest obstacle we faced in launching Spice Madam was making the time to get all the necessary elements of the business organized while holding very demanding full-time jobs. When we agreed to pursue Spice Madam together as business partners, we committed to meeting once a week to dedicate time to plan the launch.  Our drive to stay the course enabled us to successfully launch Spice Madam one year after we began our weekly meetings.

What are the benefits of working with your business partner Meghana?

As business partners, we are very aligned in our vision of Spice Madam’s mission and core values.  This has made the decision-making process very easy since everything we do must support our shared vision for Spice Madam or we just don’t do it.  We complement each other very well as one of Meghana’s strengths is her experience working in marketing, finance, and operations at a private equity backed consumer products company and in technology at a leading Fortune 500 company.   We both recognize that it’s always great to have two perspectives on an issue and through open communication we arrive at solutions together that abide by our brand’s mission and values.  We feed off each other’s energy and passion for what we do and our team’s results benefit from our combined ideas and perspectives.

When a customer receives their box, what would they expect inside?

Each box contains 3-5 spices and 4-6 recipes from the featured destination. You also get a playlist of music from there to set the mood while you are cooking, as well as fun travel tips and cultural facts to give you some context around the food you’ll be cooking and enjoying at the dinner table.

How do you choose which spices you are going to have in your box?

Each month, we go through a process of research on the cuisine of the featured destination. We also bring in our own firsthand experiences from worldwide travel and our international network to ensure we are getting to the heart of the culture. We select recipes and then decide which spices to feature in our curated spice kit.  We test all the recipes in the Spice Madam test kitchen to ensure they are doable in the average home kitchen, and we also devise substitutions for members to prepare gluten-free, vegetarian, and/or vegan versions of our recipes to suit their lifestyles.

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What are your favorite spices, recipes and why?

Ginger is one of my favorite spices because I love the spiciness and flavor it adds to so many dishes. In addition, it has lots of anti-inflammatory properties that make it really healthy and healing for you.

A favorite ginger recipe would be Vietnamese caramelized pork, where tender pork chunks are braised in a sweet and savory ginger, coconut juice sauce. It’s the comfort food of my childhood!

What is one of your most favorite customer reactions to receiving their box and making the recipes?

One customer shared that he gets together with his dad to cook every month with Spice Madam Spice Kits. I love that we can help bring people together through food.

What is one thing about spices that most people do not know?

Spices have many healthy properties and have been used in eastern medicine for various purposes. In recent years, science and western medicine have started proving what has been known in practices such as Ayurveda for over two millennia.

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Where would you like to see Spice Madam in the next five years?

We are working for Spice Madam to be recognized as the easiest way to bring global cuisine to homes worldwide and for bringing people together through food. We have gotten requests for Spice Madam from Brazil and Italy, among other countries, and are working to ship internationally within the next three to five years.  

Anything else you would like to share with our readers?

One of the core values of Spice Madam is to give back to the community. A portion of the proceeds of each box is donated to a nonprofit that supports children and education. Currently, we donate to Cafe Momentum, an organization that provides life skills training and mentorship for at risk teens in a gourmet restaurant kitchen setting. They’re doing amazing work!

Use the code TWIP20 for 20% off your first box!

More facts about Kim:

Personal Mantra: “Let’s Go!”
De-Stress Technique: Dancing and Yoga
Latest Gadget: Travel Spice Kit
Favorite App: Slack
Next Vacation Destination: New York and Bali

TWIPPER OF THE WEEK

Twipper of the Week: Megan Singleton from Blogger at Large

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Current city: At home in Auckland where I divide my time between our little cottage on Waiheke Island and our home in east Auckland.

Age:  40-ish!

Total countries visited: I’ve just done a Google search of all the world’s countries so I could count them: 38 (out of 197!)

What makes you interesting: I’m the funniest person I know (although my sister likes to claim that title), but what she can’t do is play the spoons like I can.

What brands do you love: I’ve been an Apple girl since the Mac Classic. I wouldn’t say I’m an early adopter, preferring the price to come down and the bugs ironed out and I’m wishing my iPhone 6 was smaller. I also love my home airline Air NZ and my new shoes from a New Zealand startup called All Birds.

What’s one thing you have no problem breaking the bank for when traveling: It always hurts to break the bank, but when it happens it tends to be an experience involving food and/or alcohol. The latest one was a frightfully expensive high tea at the Goring Hotel in London involving both vices.

What is the most impractical item you have ever packed: I’m often returning home with ridiculously impractical items, like the glass lantern from Istanbul and another one from Mexico. But leaving home, probably an umbrella. Why??! Just jump between rain drops.

What have you learned about yourself during your travels: That the way I grew up and the worldview I have, consciously and unconsciously, is not the only way. Or even the best way, or the right way. The more I meet people when I travel, the more my own horizons are expanded and I like to think, more tolerance and understanding has made me into the person I am today.

Where did you go for your first travel experience and at what age: A family holiday to Sydney when I was 12. First time on a plane and I’ll never forget the feeling of the G-forces when we took off.

If you were given a free trip tomorrow, where would you go: I’d choose Petra in Jordan. I’m always astounded by man-made architectural feats and this has been on my Bucket List ever since I heard about it.

If your personality was a city or country, which one would it be: My husband volunteered Chicago: a little bit sophisticated and lots of fun. I like that.

Next travel destination: Houston and New Orleans to attend IPW then maybe a cruise in the Caribbean – if I can work out the timings.

TWIPPER OF THE WEEK

Twipper of the Week: Colleen Lanin from The Travel Mamas.

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Current city: Scottsdale, Arizona

Age: 42

Total countries visited: 30

What makes you interesting: I do a great impersonation of Stitch, from Disney’s “Lilo & Stitch.”

What brands do you love: Estancia chardonnay. Coca-Cola Life (it comes in green cans and is made with Stevia and cane sugar instead of corn syrup). I’m a Sephora junkie. As a runner and hiker who lives in the hottest state in the U.S., I don’t know how I’d survive without my CamelBak water backpack.

What’s your favorite passport stamp: I don’t know what the passport stamp looks like, but I am so happy that I visited Finland because three of my grandparents were born in that country. It felt like going home, in a strange way, to see familiar Finnish names on buildings and to taste the sweet cardamom-flavored breads like my mom bakes. Finnish Americans don’t have the same sense of community in the U.S. as other groups of people do, and it was so exciting to see that I do belong to a history and heritage beyond America.

What item will you never leave home without: My iPhone. It acts as my camera, book, map and so much more! Also Dramamine because I tend to get motion sickness, especially on boats.

Describe your most unique or funniest travel experience: One funny experience was the time that a friend and I took an overnight bus from London to Liverpool (never, ever do this, by the way). We arrived many hours before anything was open in  the morning so to keep warm, we hung out inside a telephone booth (which tells you how long ago this was). Soon enough we realized two homeless people were having ahem relations in the booth across from us.  Unfortunately, it’s something I’ll never forget!

Other unique travel experiences: Getting invited for a tour of the Oval Office at the White House, leading a pack of sled dogs through a wintry Québécois forest, and falling asleep to the haunting call of loons while camping in the remote wilderness in Northern Minnesota.

If your personality was a city or country, which one would it be: I wish I could say Paris – sexy, interesting, confident and classy. I’m probably more like New York – loud, energetic and always very, very busy.

Do you have any recommendations to help battle jet lag: Get out in the sun!

How has travel changed you or how do you hope it will change you: Travel has made me more curious and understanding about different people, foods, cultures and religion. Pretty much everything!

Next travel destination: I’m headed to the Twin Cities in Minnesota to visit family and attend TBEX (the Travel Bloggers Exchange conference). Then I’m headed to New Orleans for the first time to celebrate my 15th wedding anniversary with my husband. We’re also planning a big family trip to Oregon this summer.

Spend Halloween in America’s Favorite Cities

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Photo courtesy of olliestaxi.com

By: Natalie Austin, TWIP

At one time or another, we may have been told to see New York at Christmas, New Orleans at Mardi Gras and Los Angeles for a spring vacation. However, traveling during these times can be tampered with inconvenient travel, plagued with tourists, and void of authentic local experiences. As large cities can be overwhelming, planning your trip can be exhausting, which is why most cities are visited during popular calendar year events. Instead of the obvious times to travel to these cities, Halloween makes for the perfect holiday to experience cities like the locals, while also filling your itinerary with festive events. See why these culturally rich cities are best this October.

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Photo courtesy of pinterest.com

New Orleans

New Orleans is on every traveler’s bucket list for its amazing jazz, unforgettable cuisine and melting pot of cultures. With the chaos of Mardi Gras tourists and scorching heat in the summer, October is the ideal month to experience one of America’s favorite cities. As the second most celebrated holiday, Halloween is a perfect time to get the true New Orleans experience. Regarded, “The Most Haunted City in America,” New Orleans boasts real-life voodoo shops, psychic readings, haunted houses and cemetery and swamp tours. In the French Quarter, many of NOLA’s famous watering holes become “haunted bars,” perfect for grabbing a drink before hitting Krewe of  Boo – their annual Halloween parade.

You can also take in local experiences not focused on Halloween. Take a stroll down Frenchmen Street, a trendier spot loved by locals, which offers a four-block stretch of live music, art galleries, restaurant, and bars.

 

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Photo courtesy of www.ladayofthedead.com/

Los Angeles

Los Angeles is a hub for nightlife, cinema, Latin American culture and countless outdoor activities. Despite its popularity during other times in the year, September through November is the best time to visit according to U.S. News. With over 50 ways to celebrate Halloween, October is the perfect time to experience Los Angeles. From October 14-23rd, head to the iconic Chinese 6 Theatres in Hollywood for the annual Screamfest Horror Film Festival.  On October 24th, take in the LA Mexican culture at the Day of the Dead, located at the Hollywood Forever cemetery. You can try authentic Mexican cuisine, visit the cathedral art exhibit and see traditional Mexican alter exhibitions. If you prefer nightlife, spend Halloween in West Hollywood on the iconic Santa Monica Boulevard for the world’s largest Halloween street party. The event features a parade, six stages with live music and quintessential WeHo culture. The event runs from 6 – 11 pm, but is continued by most bars and restaurants located along the boulevard until closing time.

Los Angeles is also home to countless local activities, perfect for fall. As the temperatures are still in the high 70s and 80s, a trip to the Venice Beach Boardwalk can be a perfect addition to your LA itinerary. If you want to go the culture route spend a day at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art or take a tour of Paramount Picture Studios.

 

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Photo courtesy of nyc-arts.org

New York City

Although New York is packed with events year-round, October is the perfect month to avoid the typical tourist scene. Spend your Halloween in New York’s charming Greenwich Village, at one of the biggest Halloween parties in the US. Anyone who arrives in costume can walk in the parade alongside giant puppets and over 50 bands and dancing troupes, making the event a local favorite. For an easy day trip, Sleepy Hollow is an hour train ride outside the city, home of the timeless tale of the Headless Horseman. Here you can visit the Dutch Burying Ground; the oldest cemetery in the U.S.

To experience NYC like a true New Yorker, spend your visit exploring some of the best outdoor spots all over the city. Have a picnic at Sheep Meadow in Central Park to catch changing colors or shop some outdoor markets such as the Greenmarket at Union Square or Brooklyn Flea Market.

Travel Trends for the Epicurean: 5 of the Hottest Food Festivals to Visit Around the World

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Photo courtesy of petergreenberg.com

By: Lauren Durden

Details on the best food festivals worldwide.

Epicurean Twippers are known for their love of all things culinary – from the pursuit of the next great bite to the search for that special ingredient. They wholeheartedly celebrate food holidays, seek out farmer’s markets when traveling and take snaps of their plates to add to their stacks of photos from their travels. Sound familiar? You may be an Epicurean Twipper yourself.

While celebrating food holidays may be fun enough, food festivals offer days of delectable treats, meet and greets with culinary celebrities and a peek into the culinary traditions of different cities and countries around the world. You may know of the New York City Wine and Food Festival or La Tomatina in Spain, but what about a festival dedicated to truffles, or one all about hot chicken? These five food related festivals are TWIP’s  picks for some of the best culinary celebrations our Epicurean Twippers can visit on their next travels. Don’t forget to mark your calendars!

LuckyRice Festivals

The LuckyRice Festival celebrates the cuisines and cultures of Asia through a gastronomic lens.Originally the festival began in New York City, but the tastings, dinners and culinary events surrounding the festival have also recently spread to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami, and Toronto.

With big culinary names like Anita Lo, David Chang, Masaharu Morimoto and Sang Yoon on their culinary council, festival attendees know they are in for a treat. Guests of the festival can learn the proper slurping technique at LuckyRice’s ramen Slurpfest or enjoying a cocktail inspired by Asian ingredients at the Moon Festival Cocktail Feast, among other events. Events are now ongoing throughout each city.

Music City Hot Chicken Festival

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Photo courtesy of travelphilosophy.com

While fried chicken has always been a much loved dish, hot chicken is a regional specialty of Nashville that has been steadily gaining national popularity. Hot chicken is made by frying chicken, then saucing it with a spicy paste made with cayenne pepper, chili powder, garlic, brown sugar and paprika to give it a special kick and serving it over a slice of white bread with pickles atop the chicken.

The festival, which takes place every 4th of July in Nashville, is free to the public and offers festival attendees free samples of hot chicken, endless vendors of hot chicken, beer, a parade and even an amateur hot chicken cook off.

Acqualagna Truffle Festival

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Photo courtesy of one.classetouriste.be

Though Acqualagna is home to both a Black Truffle Festival and White Truffle Festival, it is the National Truffle Festival in late October through early November that the town is known for worldwide. For two weeks in fall, the luxurious and delicious tuber is celebrated for its importance to the Marche region surrounding Acqualagna. The Marche region produces two-thirds of Italy’s annual crop of truffles, with more than four varieties found throughout the area.

During the festival, the small town of Acqualanga bursts with visitors and vendors alike. Guests can peruse vendors offering truffle tastings, classes to learn more about the elusive treat, food stalls and art exhibitions. If travelers are a bit more adventurous, they can even tag along on a truffle hunt, for a fee.

Fête de Vendanges de Montmartre

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Photo courtesy of paradisefoundaround.com

Many visitors of Paris visit the city without ever knowing their close proximity to a vineyard. The butte de Montmartre, where the beautiful Sacre Coeur cathedral sits, is surrounded by more than 1,200 grape vines and plays host to the Fête de Vendanges de Montmartre, or the harvest feast of Montmartre, during the first days of October each year.

The festival includes a week of events featuring visits to the vineyards on the sloping hillsides of Montmartre, a parade, talks on food sustainability and preservation of traditional methods of winemaking, and over 100 food and wine stalls for guests to taste the fares of the local Parisian vendors.

Tales of the Cocktail

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Photo courtesy of fest300.com

For those that are serious students of the bar, the annual Tales of the Cocktail festival in New Orleans offers cerebral, informative boozy events for attendees who are more obsessed with bitters than baking.

The five day festival began in 2003 as the art of crafting a cocktail had begun to sweep throughout the United States. Today, the festival brings together some of the best mixologists, bartenders, distillers and purveyors of all things related to liberal libations to show off their skills and fares. There are tastings, distillery and cocktail tours, and opportunities to learn more about everything from the latest garnish trends to the history of the daiquiri. The festival culminates with the Spirited Awards, which crowns the best mixologists, bars, brands, writers and spirits in the industry – and gives guests a sneak peek into upcoming trends and which bars and restaurants they should be visiting in the coming year.

 

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