Meet the Producers: Leah Kuo and Laura Englander
Co-owners of Cookies & Corksuser rating
Kids playgroups can be the place of great inspiration for moms. As it was for Leah Kuo and Laura Englander, co-owners of Cookies & Corks (www.cookiesandcorks.com), who met while their children were playing and quickly discovered they had similar ambitions to start their own company. They started by pairing Kuo’s culinary skills, which began with her studies at the Cooking & Hospitality Institute of Chicago where she specialized in Pastry Arts, and Englander’s marketing skills gained by an intense career as a salesperson in the medical devices field, to create a gourmet cookie company called CookieZen. The missing ingredient was their love of wine, so their business quickly evolved into Cookies & Corks in 2009, which offers sweet and savory cookies that pair beautifully with wines. Their hope was to match cookies with fine wines as a fun and sophisticated way to learn how to pair food and wine. An easy-to-use pairing guide helps customers navigate the way.
For the duo, the biggest challenge was matching the flavor combinations in the cookies with the complexities and subtleties offered by wines. In the end, they created real winners like Apricot Sage cookies with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, Zesty Lemon matched with Merlot, or White Cheddar Rosemary and Sea Salt Chocolate Oatmeal alongside a Cabernet Sauvignon. The tasting possibilities are vast and give consumers a great way to expand their pairing knowledge. Not only that, they inspire other moms to remember that playgroups can be about more than the kids having some fun.
Englander and Kuo told us more about themselves.
1. What's your favorite flavor in your line and why?
Kuo: My favorite is the Shortbread. It's buttery, crispy, and perfectly accentuates the way we use kosher salt in our cookies to add a hint of savory, which makes them dry wine pairing friendly.
Englander: My favorite is the Sea Salt Chocolate Oatmeal. I love the crunch followed by soft bittersweet chocolate, the delicious vanilla flavor and, of course, that savory sea salt at the end.
2. Who is your culinary idol and why?
Kuo: I love Jamie Oliver. Not only do I enjoy every dish of his I've attempted to make (I love his British colloquialisms), I also appreciate his efforts to revolutionize healthy eating habits here in the states.
Englander: I can think of several celebrity chefs but my most influential is my mom. She has always included me (and now my kids) in the kitchen and has taught me the joy of cooking the mundane to the fabulous.
3. What's your guilty food pleasure?
Kuo: Spaghetti carbonara.
Englander: Creme brulee.
4. Best meal ever?
Kuo: At home: my mom's Italian beef parmigiana. Out: Pho loaded with Siracha and jalapeños.
Englander: Flagstaff House in Boulder, Colorado: a filet, crispy onions, asparagus and a great sommelier.
5. Aside from your products, what three items can you always find in your kitchen?
Kuo: Fresh garlic, Calrose rice and butter.
Englander: Fruit, brie and wine.
6. If you weren't a specialty food manufacturer, what would you be doing instead?
Kuo: Maybe trying to find a way to turn my anthropology degree into a career.
Englander: A mom with a consulting career in medical devices--and probably teaching color guard.