Brooklyn’s hipsters thought “artisanal mayonnaise” was too ironic even for them, but now they are buying it by the seven-dollar jar, reports Anne Kadet in The Wall Street Journal (3/2/13). When Elizabeth Valleau and Sam Mason announced plans to open Empire Mayonnaise, “a store dedicated to selling a single line of flavored, small-batch mayonnaise,” the backlash was suitably sarcastic: “Ah, yes, just what Brooklyn needs, another artisanal, hipster-run faux-foodie shoppe!” was a typical online comment. A blogger wrote: “I wish them all the best, but this may be a sign of the apocalypse.”
However, less than a year after its grand opening, Empire Mayonnaise in Prospect Heights is “already profitable, selling 850 jars a week and being stocked by more than 70 outlets, including Dean & Deluca and national decor chain, West Elm. If you check into the Andaz 5th Avenue and order a room-service sandwich, you’ll get a little jar of Empire on the side.” Gaia Di Loreteo, “who sells 20 jars of Empire Mayonnaise a week,” at By Brooklyn, a gift shop, says artisanal mayo fills a void. “We don’t need any more jam, we don’t need any more pickles,” she says.
Not only does the very idea of artisanal mayonnaise stand out, but so do the flavors, which include bacon, lime-pickle, rosemary, coffee, foi gras and emu egg. Under development are white cheddar, fennel and sea urchin. According to Gaia, “Folks pick up the jar and smirk … but then they buy.” As for the seven-dollar price point, Elizabeth says the ingredients and packaging are expensive, as is the labor-intensity of making the mayo, “one batch at a time in a stand mixer.” The jars are filled using a pastry bag and labels are applied by hand. Plans are “to double production and supply more national retailers,” and eventually convert the mayonnaise store into a sandwich shop.