Today, Lick My Spoon boasts five consecutive annual Good Food Awards (in 2014, 2015, and 2016). But when she launched the company in 2013, Kristine Insalaco-Gaioni was making just 4 jars at a time. Talk about small batch!
“Back then, I didn’t even use a candy thermometer,” Kristine shared. “I was able to do it all by sight and taste. I’d always enjoyed making sweets, especially those in the Italian tradition. My father’s family comes from Italy, a s does my husband and his family. When I was a child, my mom made everything fresh and from scratch so I was used to foods with quality ingredients that tasted, and were, homemade. Then, I had no specialized education or training, and was basically making the caramel for fun. It all started when I tasted some caramel sauce at a friend’s party and thought ‘This isn’t even good. I can do better than that.’”
“I value natural ingredients—using no artificial flavorings or preservatives like what you expect from a mass-produced sauces. I was already working with my husband, who is an importer of Italian foods. We were working out of a commercial kitchen, so everything was already set for me to begin experimenting. The name ‘Lick My Spoon’ came through joking among friends. We all sat around enjoying each other’s company while eating my caramel sauce and I asked, ‘What should I call this if I ever went somewhere with it?’ Someone said, ‘Lick My Spoon’ and it stuck.”
For the packaging, Kristine’s mother chose the white-stitched, black grosgrain ribbon and her husband, Fabio, designed the double spoon logo. As more friends and customers tasted the not-too-sweet sauce with a touch of fleur de sel, its popularity grew, but Kristine was still making jars with her 4-at-a-time approach. Then, she read about the Good Food Awards. Filled with confidence in the taste of her sauce, and not letting the stiff competition dull her vision, she set her sights on winning a Good Food Award of her own.
In 2014, she submitted, and won. “When I saw the notice of the award, I suddenly got nervous. I realized everyone was going to discover that I wasn’t trained! But ultimately, it didn’t matter. It was so exciting to be part of the presentation and to stand on the stage next to so many accomplished food makers.”
Several more Good Food Awards later—2015 and 2016 for her original Caramel Sauce, and another for her Totally Fudged Chocolate Fudge Sauce—and with distribution at specialty foods stores nationwide, Kristine has purchased more commercial space. Production is now 36 jars at a time, alternating between caramel and fudge sauces, Italian style chocolates, and confections. Too keep up with demand, she has come to rely on her award-winning recipes (and a thermometer!) to produce a consistent product.
With her award-winning sauce as their base, she continues to develop more caramel sauces, inspired as she says by “American classics with Italian influences.” (Italy itself influenced by the cuisines of the Middle East, Greece, and beyond.) In The Savory Pantry, you’ll find organic rosewater and spicy cardamom lending luscious flavor to Cardamom Rose Caramel Sauce, recently named in Food & Wine’s F&W Taste Test: Best Caramel Sauces. Bourbon lovers will be drawn to the smoky Kentucky bourbon that boozes up Bourbon Me Bourbon Caramel Sauce. If you like tried-and-true, it’s impossible to go wrong with the award-winning original Caramel Sauce and Totally Fudged Chocolate Fudge Sauce.
Kristine loves using the caramel sauces in savory applications as a salmon or pork glaze, or as cheese accompaniments. Any of them go well with yogurt, pancakes, or waffles. “But the best use of all the sauces,” she says, “is drizzled warm over high-quality vanilla bean ice cream.”
With success, Kristine has gained even more energy and drive to broaden her culinary knowledge. Every summer, she and her husband return to Italy, where simply traveling can be considered a culinary education. In the summer of 2016, Kristine trained as a chocolatier with the #2 pastry chef in Europe. This summer, she’ll attend more pastry classes and become a master chocolatier. It’s mouth watering to consider what she’ll be bringing to our tables next.
“We are also thrilled to have teens and young adults from a special needs home helping us with our packaging. They are paid to place the labels in the home’s commercial kitchen, and it makes me so happy to see that this project is providing jobs.”
What else makes Kristine smile? “Still, my favorite part of this job is watching people’s faces as they sample the caramel sauces. It may sound simple but it is so satisfying . . . to see the jars that I’ve filled by hand and watch people’s expressions as they enjoy my products. It fulfills me to no end, every time.” On June 24, Lick My Spoon presented for the first time at the Fancy Food Show in New York. “I always used to dream I’d do this,” said Kristine. Her dream has come true. You can taste it.