Willy Wonka may have said it best. The snozzberries taste like snozzberries.
Get a lemon marshmallow from Chris Momberger at his place in the Pittsburgh Public Market in the Strip District and it tastes like actual lemons. The ones he makes with Big Hop IPA from East End Brewing taste like the beer tastes. Root beer marshmallows taste like root beer. Pistachio like pistachio. Maple bacon like syrup and cured pork belly.
And then there are these. If you’re brave enough.
Which is all sort of funny for a dude who is an economist by trade.
He learned this particular confection in India, just the right combination of sugar and gelatin and whatever the hell else works. The structure is his, but the flavoring genius belongs largely to his girlfriend, Deborah Steinberg.
They’d made the marshmallows for parties and the like, but hadn’t developed any kind of business plan.
Then Deborah was looking to drum up some extra cash.
“I told her as long as we could gross $250 for a weekend, I was in,” Chris said.
He’s been busy enough that he’s been asking friends to work the stand so he has enough time to make more marshmallows and, like, sleep.
My first of his marshmallows was whiskey.
There it is in some hot chocolate. Then came a beer one. Then ginger. Then cherry. Root beer and pistachio after that.
And then this happened.
It has little nibs of cooked bacon in it. Yes, really. And the maple-syrup flavor is kind of a perfect bridge between the marshmallow and the little piggy parts.
That I went back again and again should tell you something. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth.
The marshmallows themselves are light, ethereal little notions. They weigh less than the idea of them. Sweet but not cloying. These are not the dusty, dense, cakey marshmallows most of us are used to out of a plastic bag on a supermarket shelf. And they’re a buck each at the Public Market, most of them.
Not just a different kind of thing — a different thing entirely.