[Photo courtesy Janelle Jones]
[Text by Lynn Wolsted]
When you work in the food industry like I do there are certain sacrifices you have to make in order to be successful in the biz. What I tend to discover speaking with non-kitchen people is the disbelief that yes, indeed, we do work on Thanksgiving and of course, we are busy like Santa’s little elves preparing your Christmas Eve feasts. But we don’t mind, it’s just another workday for us. Working in this industry typically means that your weekends begin any where between Monday and Thursday. Friday, Saturday and Sunday are luxuries that you are lucky to swing if you don’t happen to request it off weeks or months in advance. At other times we may only have one day off versus two and in some cases no days off at all but that is only under extreme circumstances. Now I know you may be wondering, but ‘what on earth can you do on days off that aren’t Saturday and Sunday? How do you live like that? The best part about having days off during the middle of the week, when the rest of the city is working like busy little bees at their desks and crunching numbers on Wall Street, is the city is ours for the taking! Sure you might run into a few tourists here and there but the streets are less crowded, SOHO isn’t a nightmare to maneuver, Trader Joe’s line isn’t wrapping around the block at Union Square and restaurants that typically have an hour wait list have tables just prime for the taking. Which is why when I was invited to try an amazing and delicious honey product and sit down with the inventor and production extraordinaire, Mike, for a few slices at Paulie Gee’s in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, I hopped on the G train and buzzed right on over.
When I got to Paulie Gee’s I was greeted by my lovely Slideluck co-worker, Mesha, her friend Brian and their friend, Mike, the hot honey man himself. We promptly ordered a few beers; I went for the Ommegang Witte, and was then shown to our table. Now, I’ve eaten at Paulie Gee’s before and there are a few unique qualities to the space that I find so fascinating: The original structure of the building was an old horse stable. The bathroom doors are equipped with heavy-duty rod iron locks and handles, and the entire space is decked out in a cozy wooden barn interior. Unique 1960’S and 1970’s tunes of Paulie Gee’s personal play list are pumped throughout the restaurant. If you’re a Red Sox fan it is best to leave your pride and your gear at home as Paulie Gee is a tried and true Yankees fanatic. In the back is the gorgeous Stefano Ferrara wood oven-Paulie Gee’s was one of the first to procure one in New York. I was also told that the temperature of the oven can reach up to 900F and is able to crank out pies in a minute to a minute in a half! When I asked Paulie Gee how many pies they turn out on an average weekend night, he slyly grinned at me with a mischievous twinkle in his eye, and simply said, “a lot.” I can attest to that, I had just finished ordering my beer when the first three pizzas arrived, less than 4 minutes after Mike had ordered them. Which was perfect because I was ravenous. Over the course of dinner we had a total of four different pizza’s: The hell boy, featuring Mike’s Hot Honey, the special-Brooklyn Brisket Pie, the Daniela Spinaci, and the Greenpointer.
Once we began to tackle our pizzas and another round of beers was ordered I took that time to sit and chat with, Mike about his delicious honey. Mike’s first introduction to hot honey occurred while he was studying abroad in Brazil. He happened to stumble across a small pizzeria that was serving chili infused honey with their pizzas. Mike took one bite and was stung with intrigue and curiosity. This new flavor sensation sent him on an 8-year honey-making quest to harmonize the perfect balance between sweet and spicy. After tasting his product, I can say from personal experience, that his efforts did not go to waste. Within the first bite of the sweet and silky honey, (which slowly but not painfully turned into a warm and slow burn that danced upon my tongue), I quickly began analyzing the different possibilities and flavor combinations that could be married with this unique little treat: cheese, desserts, anything fried, my happy little list began pouring out of me. Mike entertained my run away flavor train and helpfully got me back on track by informing me that the Beer garden in Eataly was using Mike’s Hot Honey to make beer cocktails. I was almost half way out the door when he told me that little tidbit, (you’re welcome loyal Slideluck readers.) Once my excitement and glee subsided a little after discovering this delectable morsel, but not by much, I dug a little deeper and soon learned the partnership between Paulie Gee’s and Mike’s Hot Honey and why Mike’s honey was featured with some pizzas at Paulie Gee’s.
Not being a stranger to pizza making; his childhood best friend’s family was in the pizza business, Mike headed over to Paulie Gee’s the summer of 2010 when the restaurant first opened it’s doors in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Soon Mike’s love for pizza was embraced by, Paulie Gee and Mike quickly found himself kneading dough, and slinging pies as an apprentice; he was eventually hired on and worked on the line until 2012. One of the humbling and incredible characteristics of Paulie Gee is his encouragement of young entrepreneurship. When Mike discussed his idea for producing and distributing his hot honey product, Paulie Gee offered Mike, not only his support but also access to his kitchen for production. Through this mentorship Paulie Gee features some of Mike’s Hot Honey on his delectable and satisfying Neapolitan style pizza’s such as: The Hellboy and the Hellified Pork Pie White.
For those of you lucky New Yorkers, Paulie Gee’s is definitely a spot that you must come and sink your teeth into at least once and be sure to get a pie with Mike’s Hot Honey, I guarantee you won’t regret it. I am also happy to announce that Paulie Gee will be opening another pizza joint in Baltimore, Maryland featuring not one but two Stefano Ferrara oven’s; which means, more pies at record breaking speeds.
Mike’s incredible Hot Honey is also being sold at the Brooklyn Night Bazaar in the South Greenpoint warehouse. Starting Saturday November 23rd and going through the end of the year. They will be open from 6pm-12am on the weekends. And with the holidays right around the corner Mike’s Hot Honey is the perfect stocking stuffer for that little gourmand in your circle of friends or family. The Bedford cheese shop agrees with me and likes to suggest it to their customers for cheese pairings.
As the last pint was drained and the final bite of pizza was chewed, I asked Mike what his hopes and aspirations were for, Mike’s Hot Honey. Short term, he hopes to scale up his production capacity to accommodate growing wholesale demand. Long term, Mike simply wants a successful business that allows him to continue doing what he enjoys the most. However, should there be an opportunity for expansion he would not be opposed to letting his company take flight. Mike’s Hot Honey is a delightful addition to anyone’s cupboard that are looking for a little sugar and spice to liven up their meals; my roommate made bbq ribs with it and they were out of this world!
After sharing a meal with this modest and personable entrepreneur from Massachusetts, whose dedication to this unique sweet and spicy little product leaves me in awe of his tenacious spirit and positive attitude towards the future, I see nothing but great success for him. I can also proudly say that, Mike’s Hot Honey has become a part of my daily condiments rotation. And I will be sad when the last delicious drip is drained from the bottle. That is, until I get another one, of course!