One of the most rewarding parts about starting a small business is the like-minded, hard-working and completely brilliant folks you meet along the way. Our office is in a large building in Brooklyn that is full of companies, many of them food-related, run by folks with this kind of inspiring energy.
One such company is Stewart & Claire, a boutique line of seriously awesome lip balms. Kristin Donnelly is one half of the duo behind the balms, and when she’s not crafting up beauty products that smell like cocktails (the Negroni balm is downright genius), she’s a brilliant food writer in her own right (you can catch some of her recipes in our upcoming cookbook, in fact).
In honor of the release of Chocolate, we asked Kristin if she’d be willing to create a collaborative balm inspired by the book. And lucky us, she said yes! This moisturizing product is made with real cocoa butter and cocoa powder from Askinosie chocolate and is the perfect accessory to protect your lips all winter long. Snag a book and a balm here!
We sat down with Kristin to chat about the cross-section between food and beauty and get a few of her favorites.
You've had a career in food writing for a long time, as an editor at Food & Wine and now as a cookbook author. How did lip balms come into the equation? What's behind the name Stewart and Claire?
I've always been obsessed with lip balm, and one day it struck me that making lip balm is very similar to crafting a cocktail. The whole thing started off as an experiment to see if I could create a better and more interesting lip balm than what I could find on the market. The experiment gradually became a side business, and now I focus on it about half the time. The name is my husband's middle name and my own. Sometimes, we like to think of Stewart and Claire as our hipper alter egos who live in the Kaufmann Mercantile catalog.
Are there similarities between cooking and making lip balms?
They are similar in that you use some kitchen equipment and transform ingredients into something new. As with cooking, I think a lot about balance, but instead of tweaking flavor, I'm using ingredients to get the right texture and scents.
Tell us about the Chocolate balm.
At first, I wanted to pair cocoa butter with some kind of offbeat scent, perhaps inspired by one of Susie Heller's recipes in the Short Stack book. But chocolate is also a perfect food as it is. Why not celebrate that? So I tried mixing cocoa powder from one of my favorite US chocolate makers, Askinosie, into a cocoa butter-based lip balm and it was fab. It smells so rich, like a hot chocolate.
For best results, apply the balm before eating one of Susie's recipes. :)
Which cookbook(s) can't you live without?
I have a couple of hundred and go through phases. Right now, I'm in love with the Violet Bakery Cookbook, even though I don't typically bake that much. I refer to Nancy Hachisu's Japanese Farm Food book somewhat frequently, especially when I want to get out of a Mediterranean food rut.
Who would be in attendance at your dream dinner party?
I could think about this list for days! Diane von Furstenberg and Nigella Lawson would have to be there. They're both successful entrepreneurs and sensualists. I could listen to them talk for hours and not just because of their fabulous accents! With them at the table, I think the conversation would flow like wine.
What's your late night food craving?
Late nights rarely happen anymore; I have a kid and go to bed by 10. I used to finish the night with a little bourbon on the rocks, but I have recently switched to slim icy cans of Perrier. So boring, right? But they're so much more hydrating and make my early morning wake-ups more bearable.