Imagine if an insanely delicious dessert was good for you and made you feel like a champ. Well, folks, Samantha Abrams can make your dreams come true! At age 26, this bright-spirited gal is at the helm of emmy’s organics, an Ithaca-based power-snack company founded with her partner, Ian Gaffney. When the company launched in 2009, the couple drove crowds of eaters crazy with their imaginative and decadent macaroons. (Chai Spice for me, please!) They’ve since tacked on a spread of delicacies, including granola, chocolate sauce, super-fudge, sprouted foods and more. And frankly, they’re all to die for. I was lucky to dip into Samantha’s kitchen and learn a thing or two about the company and their treats…
Tell me about your favorite memory of playing with food.
Samantha hardly skipped a beat. “When I first used a high-speed blender! It’s funny how a tool can make things really exciting and new; it completely changed my perspective about what is possible in the kitchen. I experienced a whole new level of texture. My blender took smoothies to a whole ‘nother realm for me; smooth and creamy, like I’ve never experienced before.”
Her second favorite kitchen tool: a spiralizer. “A what?!” I squeaked. Samantha explained that a spiralizer turns zucchini or squash into noodle-like ribbons for making food like raw pasta. Ian found her a basic spiralizer at the Salvation Army. Though she teases him for “nerding out on these tools” during his years as a raw foodie, they have “opened up a whole new world of beautiful creations.”
What food are you most passionate about preparing?
It’s no surprise that Samantha is most passionate about making healthy desserts that people can share – like Emmy’s iconic macaroons. She says, “When people are interested in trying something new, they go for something sweet, no matter what their diet is. I like to make desserts with superfoods that are very powerful for your body, like non-dairy ice cream with avocado.” Uh, yum! Samantha explains that superfoods have high-density nutrition.
Emmy’s slogan is “have it all.” And boy do Emmy’s tasty morsels embody this simple phrase! “Not only are superfood desserts delicious to eat and easy to share, they are educational in a secret way. If someone eats one of our macaroons and thinks ‘wow, that’s good,’ they will be even more surprised when they look at the package and learn about the business.” They’ll discover “I’m eating something tasty that’s good for my body, the packaging is made with environmentally conscious materials, people behind the business care about their employees and social impact, and hey, they’re really nice!”
The staff names each piece of equipment, though this big mixer is hardly sized for hobbits! Flavor labels, shelves of granola (I drool), and my favorite flavor of macaroons: Chai Spice.
Tell me about someone who has left a special imprint on your cooking style or in your kitchen.
With pep and certainty, Samantha says “A very big influencer for us was Café Gratitude!” I jumped with glee! I myself was blown away the first time I visited this renowned California eatery, most loved for its gorgeous, pure food served with grace and gratitude.
Samantha asked, “Have you also eaten at the owners’ Mexican restaurant Gracias Madre?” Considering I’ve only been to San Fran twice, shockingly yes! Samantha said, “Isn’t it so amazing? I cried the first time I ate there!” An eater after my own heart! What passion. “One of the owners is from Ithaca and their son grew up with Ian and his brother. Eventually, Ian moved out to California and worked at Café Gratitude for a short training-stint. That’s where Ian first learned to prepare raw foods.”
Samantha explains that Café Gratitude’s fundamental mission is to align its social and environmental impact with the quality of their food. “When we were starting our company, I thought about Café Gratitude’s owners a lot. It’s very inspiring how they treat their employees. I knew that we would want our employees to feel appreciated and respected.” The original founders now live on a farm in northern California that provides a lot food for their restaurants. Samantha admires their evolution: “It’s very cool to see them bridging the connection between farm to plate.”
What do you choose to do when you have playtime?
“I like spending time with my friends and not paying attention to the time. I take my watch off and enjoy that experience whenever it’s available. I like going out to eat on the weekends. Though I always build exercise into my schedule – I love doing a yoga class or going for a long run or walk.”
Emmy’s grows up, graduating from the most adorable hot-pink Kitchen Aid to an industrial-sized mixer.