As soon as they arrived in the Wedge's bulk aisle, almond "hotties"--roasted nuts coated with a sweet-hot spice--quickly became an expensive addiction (and a fun nickname). I was eating so many of them, snacking out of hand and scattering them on salads, that I considered trying to reverse engineer the recipe.
And then, one day, they were gone ... replaced by almond "smokies."
Turns out that "hotties" and "smokies" are just two of the five almonds baked and seasoned by Barsy's almonds, the brainchild of two local entrepreneurs. The Hot Dish touched base with Barsy's Jason Hendrycks and Barbara Spenader to find out more about their, ahem, nutty business:[jump]
Hendrycks and Spenader are friends who worked at a mail order company and started making the Smokies as Christmas gifts. After encouragement from friends, they started selling their Smokies at the Midtown and Kingfield Farmers Markets in 2008. Then, after being approached by the Seward co-op and Golden Fig, who both asked to carry their nuts, Hendrycks and Spenader decided to sell their products in co-op and grocery stores.
Barsy's now offers five seasoning options. Hendrycks and Spenader bake their batches of the nuts in convection ovens and deliver them a day or two later. In the experimenting process, not every flavor idea survived. A mix of horseradish and mustard turned out way too bitter--Hendrycks and Spenader say it tasted like the contents of a vitamin capsule!
Eventually Barsy's may branch out to other kinds of nuts and seeds that can be sourced locally, as well as crackers and cookies. But for now we're having enough trouble choosing among the current flavors. Hendrycks and Spenader say that a customer has suggested they make a mixed bag with all five flavors and call it "Crazies." Perhaps it could be our own version of Chicago-style popcorn, a Minneapolis Mix? Barsy's Tasting Notes Hotties: Coated with white vinegar, molasses, salt, spices, citric acid, and natural hickory flavor, hotties are sweet, tangy, and, indeed, fairly spicy.
Stuffies: Seasoned with onion powder, sage, salt, pepper, and a touch of brown sugar, these really do taste like Thanksgiving stuffing, without all the carbs.
Smokies: Nutritional yeast, natural hickory flavor, and a bit of brown sugar give these nuts an extra boost of umami and increase their addictiveness. Fans apparently refer to them as "vegan bacon."
Sweeties: At first you think you're getting a classic cinnamon and sugar blend, but the chai-like ginger/nutmeg/cardamom/clove combo really elevates the mix.
Naughties: Inspired by chocolate-covered almonds, Naughties are covered with sugar, cinnamon, and cocoa (with a bit of cayenne), so they're lower in fat but leave a bit of a kick.