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Better than any granola you’ve ever tasted

WOOT! is in a category all its own

July 30, 2015 | Photo courtesy WOOT! 

When Francesca discovered WOOT! at her local farmers market last year, she knew she’d come across something special. Super chunky and not overly sweet, her first bag was gone all too quickly. Now both she and Marisa are huge fans of these unique mixtures, handmade by Gail Fishman in her family’s Baltimore kitchen. Far too sophisticated in flavor and texture to be relegated to the breakfast table, WOOT! pairs just as well with wine and cheese as it does with your morning yogurt.
Here’s the dish. The making of WOOT! is such a family affair that it’s only natural it was developed at the request of Gail Fishman’s daughter Sasha. She had been on a cross-country biking trip and sampled the granola made by a friend’s mother; returning home, she asked Gail to add it to her baking repertoire.
“I do like to bake, but as a family we eat very healthy. We indulge occasionally, but we eat mainly a plant- and fruit-based diet,” Gail says. “I really don’t like granola because I think of it as being very bland and very sweet, but I got in touch with the girl’s mother and she sent me a recipe that was really pretty nutritious. So I made it, altering a few of the ingredients based on what I had in my pantry.” What followed was “like a spontaneous combustion,” according to Gail, who had left a career developing exhibitions for such institutions as the Smithsonian and the Maryland Historical Society to concentrate on raising a family.
She tinkered further with the granola recipe, decreasing the amount of grains while upping the nuts and dried fruits and adding a good balance of healthy seeds like pumpkin, sunflower, chia, and flax. She also developed a base mix of healthy sweeteners—a mixture of maple syrup (from Steyer Brothers in nearby Garrett County) and coconut palm crystals—which she infuses with spices, adding ingredients like crystallized ginger, glazed orange rind, cardamom, and coconut flakes for a sophisticated flavor.
Because Gail makes the complete granola mixture before baking (most recipes call for adding the dried fruit and nuts afterward), the spices cling to all the ingredients and much larger chunks of deliciousness form, giving you chewy, crunchy, and crispy textures all in one bite.
After watching daughter Sasha and her friends gobble it up, Gail started serving the granola to her own friends as well. “I’ve found it goes really well as a part of a cheese presentation that you’d serve with wine,” she says, noting that the response she often heard was: “This is incredible, there’s nothing like it—you’ve got to sell it.”
When that advice came from her good friend Irena Stein, owner of the popular restaurant Alma Cocina Latina, Gail took it to heart. “In addition to Alma, Irena has on-campus cafés at Johns Hopkins University,” she tells us. “Irena said, ‘Gail, there is nothing out there like this. Come to my café and do a sample-and-sell.’ So I did and it went really well. After that, I thought there might be something to this!”
Irena went one step further and introduced Gail to the Fancy Food Show in New York City. “She really wanted to impress upon me that there are thousands of other people making granola out there, but nobody’s doing what I’m doing.”
Before taking it to market, Gail gathered friends into informal focus groups, some of them centering on what to call her product. “I didn’t really want to call it granola,” she says. “It’s such a different mixture, but in the end we went with it because nothing else seemed right.” And as for WOOT!? Once again, that came from daughter Sasha: “Any time I’d text her to ask about something—How was the game? How did you do on the test?—the answer I’d get if everything was good was WOOT!,” Gail explains. “So I took that as an abstract, youthful expression of everything’s great. It took me a long time to buy into it because it says nothing about eating, but it’s proved to be popular and a great source of conversation.”
Soon Gail was selling WOOT! at small farmers markets around the city, and was granted a spot at the Union Graze at Artifact Coffee (a local-foods happy hour where you can drink and chat with local makers). “That gave me a great opportunity to meet a lot of people,” she says, noting that it lead to guest spots at larger markets and an appearance at Emporiyum. She’s now settled at the Fell’s Point Farmers Market, which is open along the waterfront every Saturday during the season. “I started there a month ago and am really very happy with it,” Gail says. “I’d recommend it to anyone, especially if you have guests from out of town—it’s in a beautiful spot and it’s busy but not frenetic. People can relax and enjoy themselves.”
Gail produces WOOT! in four flavor mixes: Raisin Walnut, Moroccan Fruit & Nut, Cherry Pecan (which is also available in a wheat-free version), and the newest, Almond Lavender, which she thinks is her most delicious blend to date. 150ish would like to tell you which is our favorite, but in truth, we love them all.
There are also seasonal mixes like Pumpkin Pear Crunch and she will also do custom blends for events and private clients. For example, for the restaurant Alma Cocina Latina to serve at their brunch, she created a mix that’s a cross between south-of-the-border and the Caribbean, with jalapeno powder and cayenne, dried pineapple and cashews, and cornmeal, puffed millet, and quinoa flakes—all South American grains.
When it comes to finding inspiration, Gail says: “I usually try to think of things that I personally like and then I start looking around for ingredients that I might not know about, and try to gain an understanding of how things that I’m familiar with would mix with something new.”
As to how to best use WOOT!, Gail aptly states, “It’s a great food accessory that adds to any dish you’re making. You sprinkle it on top and it enhances the flavor and adds texture and crunch. Think of it as a condiment.” In addition to serving it along with a cheese plate, if you bake a wheel of Brie add some WOOT! on top. Sprinkle it on your oatmeal, pancakes, or waffles; add it to a pureed soup or a salad in place of croutons. With so many fresh fruits in season, WOOT! offers an easy way to make a fruit crumble topping, or put it on top of a baked apple come fall. Of course, it’s a great topping for yogurt and ice cream—to be honest, we like it straight out of the bag.
Although WOOT! is completely natural and without additives, it’s a totally shelf stable product that will keep for at least three months, if not longer (although we can’t imagine a bag would ever last that long). Humidity may cause the granola to go a little soft, so don’t refrigerate it, and if need be, spread it out on a pan in the toaster oven for a few minutes and it will crisp right up again.
Gail’s husband is in the process of developing a food incubator in Baltimore, working with the folks from Union Kitchen in Washington, D.C., but until that space is up and running, she continues to make WOOT! in her home kitchen (where she’s a licensed cottage industry) with the help of just her family.
Moving to a larger space may lead to expansion, but Gail wants WOOT! to keep its handmade character. “The whole experience has been incredibly organic—thinking out to the next few weeks is about as far ahead as I plan. So I think I’m going to stay on the slow road. I envision it growing, but not beyond its handmade quality and characteristics.”
To order WOOT! granola online or for a list of retailers, visit
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