We like to think of ourselves as grown-ups—grown-ups who just happen to eat a lot of s’mores. Especially the dangerously habit-forming, boutique varieties being sold by Nineteen27 S’mores. Imagine graham crackers infused with honey, cinnamon, and cocoa. Marshmallows laced with vanilla, espresso, lemon-chamomile—you get the idea… Also impressive, the s’mores’ construction. There were no crackly, crumbly messes to deal with, and melty mallow stayed in line.
We sat down with James and Elise Kelly, the creative couple behind Nineteen27, and asked them to tell us how they got into the s’mores business (just feels good to type that) and what keeps them motivated when they could literally just sit around all day, blow-torching marshmallows and dunking them in vats of chocolate sauce instead.
You are a dedicated s’mores company—a company that has perhaps always existed in the Portlandia universe, but is now a real world business, selling its sweet wares online and from one painfully cute dessert cart. Why s’mores? Why now?
James: S’mores are about as American as fireworks and apple pie. In our experience, they’ve always been great in theory but underwhelming around the campfire. The idea for a s’mores cart actually came about four years before the production of it, mostly because we were saving our pennies and working our way through the recession along with everyone else.
Elise: For most of us, s’mores are not just dessert, they’re nostalgic memories and we wanted to pay tribute to that. To do so, we started with local, quality ingredients and played around with different recipes until we found the consistency and flavors we wanted. The s’more has mostly been treated as a “one trick pony,” a one and done flavor combo. We’ve always thought of the s’more as a platform for many flavors. No one had really done it yet and done it well, so now was the time to bring it to market.
What do s’mores evoke for you?
James: When I think of s’mores, or smell them roasted up in front of customers, I’m immediately transported back to my days as a Boy Scout camp counselor. Elise grew up camping in the Pacific Northwest where s’mores were always present around her family’s campfire. Those were days filled with some of our most treasured memories. One of our goals as a company is that our product enables human connection. In the months that follow we will be inserting a fun conversation starter into our s’mores kits to help facilitate that. We hope that people will slow down and be present with the company that they share, so new memories can be forged.
Describe your preferred s’mores style.
James: At our s’mores cart in Portland, I like my marshmallow to be medium or medium well, but at the campsite I have no patience. I want the marshmallow done quick and as black as possible. Elise loves hers charred with a gooey inside, but when she roasts at the cart she is the master of the “golden” marshmallow.
Tell me us about a favorite camping memory.
Elise: There’s so many that it’s hard to choose! One of my all-time favorite camping trips was at Fort Stevens about 13 years ago. We had gone with a bunch of other families from our church community and shared a giant campsite. One of the nights we were there, we trekked out to the battery to play capture the flag in the dark. We quickly found out that was illegal when the cops showed up after awhile to kick us out…Oops! Anyway, I’ve never had so much fun in my life. The battery was full of amazing hiding spots, was spooky, and there were a million of us laughing, screaming, and running around. It was the most epic game ever.
What’s your favorite place to camp in the PNW today?
James: Pretty much anywhere that has a body of water or river, amazing hiking, and a secluded campsite. Waldo Lake is an incredible spot, especially if you have your own canoe or kayak. It is like heaven on earth and only discovered roughly 100 years ago.
You’ve elevated s’mores far beyond what most of us experienced as kids. Give me a run-down of the Nineteen27 experience.
Elise: For starters, we make everything from scratch. That means our grahams, marshmallows, and sauces are extremely fresh. We use locally sourced ingredients wherever possible which plays a huge role in the overall flavor. If you visit our cart on NW 23rd & Kearney in Portland, you’ll likely find fairly nontraditional flavors such as our signature lemon curd on honey grahams with a chamomile marshmallow, or our peanut butter chocolate ganache drizzled over a chocolate swirl marshmallow on cocoa grahams. All s’mores are roasted on demand with a culinary torch, so it’s still ooey gooey delicious as it’s put into your hands.
James: Our s’mores kits are fashioned with the same level of freshness and are available in a variety of unique, tasty flavors that you can roast over a campfire or even at home over an electric or gas stove top. Keep an eye out for the seasonal flavors—Pumpkin Pie & Peppermint Patty were huge hits last year!
What’s going on in the Nineteen27 lab? Any foodie innovations we can look forward to?
James: Elise is always working on something. Baking and creating new flavor combos and treats is her passion and favorite aspect of our business. Currently she is scheming summer flavors such as grilled peach marshmallows, a cherry almond torte s’more, a pistachio chocolate cheesecake s’more, something to do with lavender, and also rice crispy treats.
If you were to pair your s’mores with an adult bevvy, what is your top recommendation?
James: Hmm, I guess it would depend on which s’more you chose. Bourbon is an excellent pairing with our rich flavors like the salted caramel, chocolate swirl, or vanilla bean marshmallows. A slightly spicy, slightly tannic red wine pairs amazingly well with our raspberry marshmallow & cocoa grahams. An IPA with a vanilla bean marshmallow? I can’t say I haven’t done that before!
Favorite camping gear you can’t live without:
James: Elise watches too much Man vs. Wild and is convinced she is the girl version of Bear Grylls, and can survive with nothing at all. But I’m going to call her bluff, and say a heavy coat & sleeping bag for both of us.
Last but not least, why the name Nineteen27 S’mores?
Elise: When we were planning the business, we discovered that the s’mores recipe was first documented by the Girl Scouts in their “Tramping and Trailing” newsletter in 1927. Branding our business around a fun unknown piece of history was something we couldn’t resist.
For more information about Nineteen27 S’mores or to follow their latest culinary experiments, visit their website here.