Suzanah Raffield on Searching for a Taste of the Past
As one of the creators of Bold City Pops, Suzanah Raffield is building her future business on flavorful memories in her past. Her memories of food grown by farmers and caught by fishermen on both sides of her family provide the foundation for an approach based on fresh and seasonal ingredients. Suzanah sees opportunity with the end of each season, creating new flavor profiles and new relationships with area farmers and food purveyors.
How did you first become interested in food and food related issues?
I grew up eating meals harvested in the soil and water around me. My dad’s side of the family are commercial fisherman in the Gulf of Mexico. My mom’s side of the family are farmers and fresh water fisherman. I grew up tasting the freshest of foods. Taste is a strong memory. As an adult, I search out my food past which naturally leads me to food related issues.
How did Bold City Pops get its start? What has been the most beneficial advice you received as a start-up?
We started out of a desire to get to know our city and ourselves. We knew we wanted to work with fresh food and Rhonda had a friend who lived in an orange grove. When we decided to explore the possibility of making artisan pops, it was citrus season. A lot of time in the grove learning about heritage Florida oranges and the differences in taste and structure. We’d gather enough to juice and freeze and pick again. Our first citrus pop made me a believer. Someone told us not to think about quitting until after we had been in business at least six months. Of course that wasn’t a long time at all - but in the moment it seemed like forever. Magically, I do remember feeling like we hit a certain stride at six months. We were more sure of ourselves as small business owners. Around then people started calling us to do events and that definitely boosted our confidence.
You feature seasonal ingredients in your products. What do you see as your greatest challenge in maintaining the quality and supply of those ingredients?
Early on we decided to use seasons as a menu guide. This means we don’t always have citrus pops. It means we don’t buy fruit unless it is whole and fresh from the harvest. We make all our pops in small batches so when we run out of ingredients we check the season and create a new menu item. I think this is one of our greatest strengths as artisan pop makers.
You also are actively involved in the small business local food movement. Are there three things you think we need to be doing to promote more of that in our region? If so, what are they?
The local food movement is trendy and often concentrated in the city center and its immediate surrounding neighborhoods. However, there are local restaurants in the suburbs that have been in existence long before local was fashionable. How can we partner with suburban areas, its people and local businesses? That is one question we should be asking ourselves. Also, I’d love to see partnerships with elementary schools. Energizing students about the local food economy could mean we have interested parties for life. And those students who feel connected to the movement will go home and ask their parents to be involved with their financial and social capital.
We talk a lot about our food system -- an interrelated network of restaurants, farms, artisans, policy makers -- all working together to celebrate and strengthen our food resources and culture in the region. What are the greatest opportunities you see for our food system in the next 5 years?
Growth. As people begin to understand the importance of cultivating a healthy food system, the demand will grow and that is a win for all.
What's your guilty pleasure when it comes to food? The one or two things you love to eat or drink, but rarely admit?
I love locally made donuts. And if we were in New Orleans I would want beignets.
What's your favorite local restaurant?
You mentioned our food system earlier. I believe in that interrelated network and if I have a favorite restaurant, as a local food producer, I’m not sure it would be fair for me to share. My favorites always revolve around menu and relationships. Going out to eat is an act of community. I may not know the person at the table next to me, and still we are sharing presence, smells, atmosphere and possibly even food from the same container in which it was prepared. It’s the same when making pops. The opportunity to feed someone is life giving. The ingredients we choose and attitudes we have while creating matter. So if you think about our local restaurants, the ones who do the best job at building those interrelated networks, those are my favorites.
What's your favorite pop flavor?
My answer changes with the seasons. Currently it is Citra Milano.