Leslie’s “Chiles en Nogada”

I think it is interesting how there are many ingredients put together to make one dish: we have a savory, salty, and sweet filling, a sweet and creamy sauce, sweet and slightly sour pomegranate seeds, and if lucky – perhaps unlucky! – a mild spicy chile.

Leslie Cazarez

At Blue Pacific, we are proud to be a multinational family of employees from around the world! Every month brings new opportunities to share in the culture and traditions of our team members. In September we join our Regulatory Compliance Associate, Leslie Cazarez, as she celebrates the Mexican Independence holiday.

Although Mexican Independence Day was officially September 16th, Leslie shares that in Mexico, people celebrate all month long. A major centerpiece of the festivities is – of course – FOOD!

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Pomegranate seeds, called arils, are used to add vibrant color, crunchy-crisp texture, and a refreshingly tart, fruity tang to Chiles en Nogada.

“There are many dishes which I grew up eating some examples including chalupas, molotes, tacos árabes, cemitas, pambazos, tacos al pastor, tostadas, pozole and more,” Leslie recalls. “I specifically picked Chiles en Nogada for a few reasons. One of the main reasons being its history/origin, which relates directly to the place and country where I lived 10 years of my childhood and the variety of ingredients used to prepare the dish. The traditional Chile en Nogada is from Puebla, a state in Mexico, and it is tied to the independence of this country. It is said they were prepared for the first time by nuns to present to a Mexican army general and future emperor of Mexico, who went to town to sign the treaty that would establish Mexican Independence from Spain.”

The traditional season for making and eating this dish in Central Mexico is August and first half of September, when pomegranates, walnuts, and all fruits used in the filling are in season and the national independence festivities begin.

Leslie Cazarez
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The green chiles, white sauce, and red pomegranate seeds lend Chiles en Nogada a patriotic flair, making it a perfect dish for celebrating Mexican Independence.

“The traditional season for making and eating this dish in Central Mexico is August and first half of September, when pomegranates, walnuts, and all fruits used in the filling are in season and the national independence festivities begin. The colors of the dish—green chile, white sauce, red pomegranate—further the patriotic associations, as these are the main colors of the flag of Mexico. While in my case it was not often made at home, since it is rather laborious and often made only once a year, I think it is interesting how there are many ingredients put together to make one dish: we have a savory, salty, and sweet filling, a sweet and creamy sauce, sweet and slightly sour pomegranate seeds, and if lucky – perhaps unlucky! – a mild spicy chile.”

Read on for Leslie’s amazing, fruit and spice-filled recipe for Chiles en Nogada! Thank you Leslie for sharing this delicious dish – and your heritage – with us.

CHILES EN NOGADA

Filling:

  • 1/4 lb ground beef
  • 1/4 lb ground pork
  • 1 c. tomato sauce
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 3 black peppercorns
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. ground thyme
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 large apple, cored and diced
  • 1/2 pear, cored and diced
  • 1 peach, diced
  • 1/2 ripe plantain, diced
  • 1/4 c. raisins
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  1. Sauté half of the onion, the peppercorns, and the garlic in a frying pan with the olive oil for a couple of minutes.
  2. Add the above to a blender with the tomato sauce, the thyme, and the cloves and blend until smooth.
  3. In the same pan where the onions and garlic were sautéed, add the rest of the onion, the ground meat, and the salt and cook until the meat is cooked through.
  4. Add the fruits and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
  5. Add the cinnamon and sugar, stir, and cook for 3 more minutes over medium-low heat.
  6. Add the tomato sauce mixture from above and let simmer until almost all of the liquid has evaporated. Meat shouldn’t be dry, but it shouldn’t have too much liquid either, because that will make it harder to fill the peppers later.

Salsa de Nogada:

  • 2 c. walnuts
  • 1/2 c. milk
  • 3 oz. goat cheese or cream cheese
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • Salt, to taste
  1. Put the walnuts in hot water for about 20 minutes. This is so that it is easier to remove the skins, resulting in a white salsa.
  2. Once you have removed the skins, put the walnuts in cool water for 15 more minutes.
  3. Add the walnuts to the rest of the salsa ingredients, and blend until smooth. Set aside.

Decoration:

  • Chopped parsley
  • Pomegranate seeds

Assembling the Chiles Rellenos:

  • 10 Poblano peppers roasted, with skin and seeds removed
  1. Once the meat and salsa are ready, add some of the filling to each cleaned and prepared poblano pepper. In order to do this, cut an opening right down the middle. You can also use toothpicks to close it back up if you desire.
  2. Smother in the salsa, and top with parsley and pomegranate seeds.
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Pandemic 2020: Reflections of Gratitude

It’s September, and we’re in our seventh month of living with a pandemic.  Life hasn’t gotten back to “normal,” but we are fortunate that it has stabilized.  Much like a passenger on a ship sailing through a storm, the threat doesn’t ever fully go away – but we do get our sea legs, eventually.

We are proud of the way our employees have managed through Covid-19.

At Blue Pacific, we are proud of the way our employees have managed through Covid-19.  Since the beginning, we have been aggressive about first adopting, and then maintaining strict sanitation and social distancing protocols.  From hourly disinfecting of community contact surfaces to installing plexiglass desk partitions and upgrading our air handling system, we have made a lot of facility changes to ensure the health and safety of our employees.  The dedication of our essential workers – many of whom continued to safely work on-site throughout L.A. County’s mandatory stay-at-home orders – enabled Blue Pacific to provide uninterrupted service to our customers.

Today all of our employees are working comfortably from the office.  Although we have had a couple isolated Covid-19 positive tests among staff, our rapid reporting, containment, quarantine, and contact tracing protocols ensured that group exposure was very limited.  We are happy to share that those employees fully recovered, are back at work, and were never under serious health threat. 

Even though this pandemic is far from over, what isn’t over is our gratitude.

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Even though this pandemic is far from over, what isn’t over is our gratitude and appreciation for the ongoing commitment of our Blue Pacific employees.  Wearing face masks all day, every day (especially on a warehouse dock during a heat wave!) isn’t comfortable and having to forgo team lunches and meetings isn’t fun, but these are things we do because we care for each other like family.  If there’s one thing Covid has reminded us, it’s of the bond and responsibility we share with the people we work alongside every day.

That care extends to you, too.  When you request a flavor sample from us, you’ll find a bottle of Blue Pacific hand sanitizer tucked inside your order.  It’s our little way of “sharing the health” and assuring you that from start to finish, we’ve handled your product with the safety of you and your customers in mind.  It’s what we do naturally as part of our GMPs, but in light of this pandemic it’s something that we thought you’d like to know.

Managing a company during Covid hasn’t been easy – evidenced by the demise of many large corporations over the past few months.  Blue Pacific Flavors continues to operate strongly and continuously, driven by the integrity of our employees and fueled by the support of our customers.  As the pandemic wears on, we are fortunate to be an essential business and are grateful to our customers for their continued patronage.

Blue Pacific Flavors continues to operate strongly and continuously, driven by the integrity of our employees and fueled by the support of our customers.

The Art Behind “The Art of Flavor”

For Donald Wilkes, Blue Pacific’s founder, the short film “The Art of Flavor” was a labor of love.

“It was definitely a massive undertaking!” says Donald, referencing the 16 canvases he painted to create the special effect of a cluster of oranges coming to life.  Although it was repetitive, painstaking work, Donald’s background as an illustrator and artist wouldn’t allow him to share this responsibility.  “Illustrators are obsessed with details and authenticity.  For me, I didn’t want anyone to say I didn’t do these paintings…even if it was going to drive me insane!” he laughed. 

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The finished art and its subject: three fresh California navel oranges.

The centerpiece of “The Art of Flavor”, and the introduction to Blue Pacific’s flavor creation philosophy, is a plein air painting of three oranges swaying gently on a tree – oranges that bear a striking resemblance to Blue Pacific’s logo.  Through an artistic film technique called rotoscoping, life imitates art and the painting “comes alive,” leading the viewer on a flavor journey through organic farms and family gatherings. 

Donald’s first experience with rotoscoping came from the 2017 feature length film “Loving Vincent.”  In this experiential work, over 65,000 frames painted by 125 artists are used to tell the story of Vincent Van Gogh and his iconic artwork.  The filmmaker then takes these frames and – much like in the early days of animation – creates motion and energy by playing them in sequence.

“The thing that struck me about the movie was that it captured the painterly experience in a dimensional way,” Donald says, speaking of the way the paint seems to build and flow as the scenes unfold.  “I was very moved by the “Loving Vincent” film.  One of my favorite books growing up was Time Life’s The World of Van Gogh.  [I thought] the rotoscoping technique was a beautiful way to illustrate the visual narrative of capturing the story and characters of Van Gogh’s paintings coming alive.”

While painting may not be an obvious choice for a film about a flavor company, it’s a natural for Donald, who got his BFA from Parsons School of Design before switching gears to follow a career in the flavor industry.

The artist’s palette is very much a metaphor for the flavor [sensory] palate.  Flavor can be very personal, very artistic, and larger than life.  It has its own story.

Donald Wilkes

“I had an idea for a video that would incorporate my passion for art with my passion for flavor,” he enthusiastically explains.  “The artist’s palette is very much a metaphor for the flavor [sensory] palate.  Flavor can be very personal, very artistic, and larger than life.  It has its own story, there’s a familiar journey to it and art has a very similar way of tapping into memory.”

Bringing “The Art of Flavor” story to life was a journey in itself.  First, each frame of the live action video was traced onto individual blank canvases – 16 to be exact. To ensure a seamless merging of art and film, Donald then painted each canvas with the same tools and technique.

“It was challenging to paint with my normal artistic expression while being confined within a linear space,” Donald says, referencing the restriction that “painting within the lines” puts on an artist.  “I typically paint with a lot more freedom!”  To compensate, he had to adjust his brushstroke and dedicate himself more to the technical process of painting rather than his normal instinctual and expressive style.

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Donald painting a series of canvases in his home studio.

Painting 16 near-identical canvases was not without its artistic challenges.  Donald painted with acrylics, which dry quickly.

“The challenge when you’re working with acrylics [is] you’re working against time,” he says.  In the film, the viewer gets a glimpse of the process when Donald mixes acrylic paints on his palette with a milky white liquid.  This is the medium, which gives the paint its matte or glossy finish and also helps to extend the drying time so the artist gets more life out of their paint.

“Maintaining a consistent color palette across canvases was very hard!” Donald says.  “Acrylics dry very quickly, so I would paint four canvases at a time.”  Much like an assembly line, Donald mixed paint and then applied it to as many canvases as he could before it dried – or his enthusiasm wore out.

The best part of the process was the act of painting, the worst part was knowing I had a deadline and the pressure of meeting it.  It really was the agony and the ecstasy!

Donald Wilkes

“The best part of the process was the act of painting, the worst part was knowing I had a deadline and the pressure of meeting it.  It really was the agony and the ecstasy!” he recalls.

Donald estimates that it took approximately 125 hours of painting over a 10 week period to create the 5 second rotoscoping effect.  He got so used to coming home and painting oranges that it was hard for him to believe it when the job was finally done.

“I feel like I have Stockholm syndrome [the condition where a prisoner develops an affinity for their captor] because I keep going into the studio thinking I have to paint something…I think I need therapy!” he jokes.

Making “The Art of Flavor” was a very personal process for Donald, one that finally brings together the company’s approach to flavor creation with the artistic aesthetic and heritage of the Blue Pacific brand.  Since the beginning, vintage illustrations from fruit crate labels and travel posters have been incorporated into Blue Pacific’s custom art, giving it a look unlike any other flavor company.

What I like about this film is that it is unique to us.  I think it communicates  how we differentiate as a company.

Donald Wilkes
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Donald and his artwork at the filming of “The Art of Flavor”

“What I like about this film is that it is unique to us,” Donald shares.  “I think it communicates  how we differentiate as a company.”

Now that the paintings are done and forever immortalized in the home page film, what does Donald plan to do with the artwork?

“I think the paintings belong to the company,” he says thoughtfully.  “Maybe we’ll find a big wall to hang them all on.  If something happens to me, at least people will know we were authentic to nature!”

Although many hours of filmmaking, film editing, storyboarding, scripting, and design work went into producing “The Art of Flavor,” it’s those 16 paintings that – quite literally – illustrate Blue Pacific’s Farm to Flavor philosophy. 

“Painting is about information, but it’s also having vision in what you’re doing,” Donald says.  It’s this dedication to both knowledge and artistic vision that drives flavor creation and product innovation at Blue Pacific Flavors.

Why I Protect the Pacific

Being a California native, it’s easy for me to take for granted the natural beauty and diversity that surround me. From the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada mountains to the sand swept dunes of the Mojave Desert, Californians are spoiled by a cornucopia of indigenous ecology. And perhaps the most constant, most massive, and least understood of all these natural wonders is the huge body of water that forms our western border: the Pacific Ocean.

The Pacific has been “my” ocean my entire life.

Jessica Morton

The Pacific has been “my” ocean my entire life. As a kid, my family vacationed in Pismo Beach every August – our one small window of opportunity to get away between the growing and harvest seasons on our family farm. As a young adult, I worked and went to school in San Luis Obispo, just a stone’s throw from the beaches and headlands of the Central Coast. However, it wasn’t until I moved down to Southern California – and started working at Blue Pacific – that I really connected with this ocean that I have lived near, and loved, so much.

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One of the first things I did when I moved to SoCal was to renew my SCUBA certification. As an open water diver, I see firsthand the human impact on the Pacific. Aside from the bits of “topside” flotsam and jetsam (aka trash) that litter the sea floor, there is storm drain runoff that contributes to poor visibility and algae blooms, and steadily rising ocean temperatures that bring tropical fish and sea life into what were once foreign waters. No matter what side of the climate change argument you land on, one thing is certain: the change to my beloved Pacific, in just my lifetime, is beyond significant.

Being part of change – change for good! – inspires me to take both a personal and community approach to protecting the Pacific.

Jessica Morton

Being part of change – change for good! – inspires me to take both a personal and community approach to protecting the Pacific. My personal mission is to raise awareness through my favorite art medium, photography. My community involvement includes participating in beach clean-ups with Blue Pacific through Heal the Bay and ocean awareness through my local SCUBA diving club.

When it comes to protecting a shared resource, every little bit of awareness helps. The Pacific Ocean is huge, but it is deceptively fragile. Every tiny grain of sand that once belonged to a massive cliff reminds me of this. I am proud that I can be part of my ocean’s sustainable future, not just on my own but through Blue Pacific, too.

The Essence of a Name

When I founded Blue Pacific in 1993, I had the vision to be the best Natural Fruit Flavor company.  I always wanted to focus on authentic flavor profiles of real fruits.  It was this passion that led me to form our foundational team and our humble beginnings in Santa Monica, CA in 1993.  Only one question remained: What will be our company name? I knew I didn’t want to simply name it the “Acme” flavor house.  I felt the company needed an identity and soul that aligned with my passion and aspirations. I wanted a name that would emotionally connect to people through a sense of place and memory.

I wanted a name that would emotionally connect to people through a sense of place and memory.

Donald Wilkes

When I moved to Southern California from New York in 1983, I quickly embraced the West Coast lifestyle but kept my East Coast jazz roots. I fell in love with the warm, sunny beaches and wide blue sky, and knew I wanted a name that captured the essence of these surroundings. 

One day, I cued up the jazz vocal song “Blue Pacific” by Michael Franks.  As the lyrics drew me in (“Here by the blue Pacific / where the diamond water shimmers in the sun …”) the stars aligned. In that moment, Blue Pacific Flavors was born.  The melody and lyrics of the song perfectly expressed my aspirations for a company with an expansive horizon and limitless creative opportunities.

The melody and lyrics of the song [Blue Pacific] perfectly expressed my aspirations for a company with an expansive horizon and limitless creative opportunities.

Donald Wilkes

“Blue Pacific” is a metaphor and a musical link between my roots and my chosen home – the cool jazz clubs of New York City and the sun-drenched beaches of Santa Monica, where Blue Pacific Flavors got its start.  Franks’ smooth vocals transport me back to my early years in NYC and the beginning of my flavor career, when I learned the trade at my father’s flavor company.  It also captures my personal passion for collecting mid-century Hawaiian memorabilia which represents the Aloha spirit, a sense of welcoming and warmth that has always been central to how Blue Pacific does business.

Whenever I listen to the song that inspired our name, I am filled with the same comfort, passion and inspiration I felt the first time I experienced the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean. Blue Pacific is a nod to where we do business – but it’s also the bridge between our company heritage and our shared future.

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Blue Pacific Flavors has a new website!

In early 2020, Blue Pacific embarked on a special project. 

When Covid-19 hit and our lives were disrupted, this project kept us focused – and hopeful.  It provided a positive opportunity to evaluate our brand and refine our business mission during uncertain times.  Working on this project was inspiring, transformative, therapeutic, and best of all – FUN!

Today we are excited to announce the culmination of that project: Our new website!

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BluePacificFlavors.com has a fresh look and feel, starting with an immersive home page experience and continuing on through an interactive World of Flavor and webpages highlighting our Organic Flavor portfolio, Product Development services, and Sustainability vision. 

When you tour our website, you’ll discover many new things about our company while recognizing our familiar Farm to FlavorTM products and vintage art style.  Our goal was to translate the Blue Pacific story into compelling visuals and words that reflected not just the natural origin of our product offerings, but our artistic approach to flavor creation too.  The stunning custom imagery (some of it created by Blue Pacific employee artists!) combined with unique interactive elements make the website a seamless and immersive experience. 

“We wanted BluePacificFlavors.com to be a multisensory, authentic experience – just like our flavors.”

Jessica Morton

“We wanted BluePacificFlavors.com to be a multisensory, authentic experience – just like our flavors,” notes Jessica Morton, Sensory & Consumer Insights Manager and project lead for the website redesign.  “Developing the structure and content for the website was truly a collaborative process, both internally and externally with our many creative contractors.  We can honestly say that everyone at Blue Pacific had a hand in bringing this project to fruition!”

Creativity

Of all the website elements, perhaps the most time-intensive and personal is the homepage video, “The Art of Flavor.”  This cinematic journey through the world of flavor tells the story and philosophy of the Blue Pacific brand…poetically, authentically, and artistically.  It features our own President and CEO, Donald Wilkes, painting fresh oranges that come to life through the magic of rotoscope filmmaking technique.  Donald painted sixteen individual canvases – roughly 125 hours of work! – to create the artistic effect. 

“It was definitely a massive undertaking!”

Donald Wilkes

“It was definitely a massive undertaking,” laughs Donald.   “But I didn’t want anyone to say I didn’t do the paintings myself!”  It just further demonstrates our commitment to keeping true to our word – and staying Authentic to NatureTM, no matter how much time or effort it takes.  Read more about “The Art Behind The Art of Flavor” here.

Even with the new bells and whistles, some things never change.  We still encourage you to Request A Sample of our certified organic and natural flavors, and we still welcome you to explore our portfolio of unique Ingredient Solutions – including several innovative, exclusive immune support products. 

But now, you can also learn more about the dedicated People of Blue Pacific and the Partners we rely on to help us offer sustainable, ethically sourced flavors and ingredients.  We even share a bit about our Heritage (have you ever wondered how we got our name?).  Finally, there’s our Knowledge section, where you can find Industry News and exclusive updates on flavor trends, consumer insights, and Blue Pacific community in our Blog and Videos. 

Quality

It took more than a few people to bring our website to life. We’d like to thank the following Blue Pacific employees who are proudly featured in photo and video:

  • Roya Sayyah
  • Jovanie Gonzalez
  • William Chiu
  • Robert Ramirez
  • Daniel Beltran
  • Juan Martinez
  • Lishuang Zheng
  • Alex Delgado
  • Arturo Pineda
  • Jessica Morton

Welcome to our new virtual home, BluePacificFlavors.com!

We added a few rooms and did some remodeling to BluePacificFlavors.com and hope you enjoy the experience.  Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube to stay up-to-date on the latest flavor trends and consumer insights.

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