We think every merchant we work with for Provisions is special -- but when we find one with a great story, we'll be featuring them here. Because we want to tell the world about our favorite makers.
Today: A glimpse into the fantasy candy world of QUIN.
QUIN founder Jami Curl's entire family is committed to candy: Her grandmother Dot even sold her homemade butter mints and chocolate-dipped nuts to a small network of friends in North Carolina for decades. And Jami’s seven-year-old son Theo will be dressing up as Willy Wonka this Halloween -- complete with purple top hat and bow tie.
That’s an apt costume, and not just because his mother is Portland's candy maker extraordinaire. It's because, in our minds, QUIN Candy is something like the intersection of Willy Wonka and Alice Waters.
While the idea of candy and local, wholesome food might seem antithetical, Jami Curl is marrying them -- and helping to foster the small foods community in Oregon as she does. She makes small-batch candy like gumdrops using real fruit purées and caramels with tea from an artisan Portland teamaker.
Jami with her grandmother Dot eating cakes; Jami's son Theo trying on his Willy Wonka Halloween costume
But just calling it local doesn’t fully capture QUIN’s vision. QUIN has its own brand of whimsy, driven by exceptional ingredients (like blackberries from Oregon’s Viridian Farms) and innovative small businesses (like Jacobsen Sea Salt Co.) that often spark the idea for a new candy.
QUIN’s line ranges from tangerine lollipops to vanilla bean marshmallows to maple and cracked black pepper caramels, and Jami is always pushing the limits of what they do. For FEAST Portland last month, she turned up with Pinot Noir cotton candy, using wine from a local Portland vineyard. (Fun fact: To mimic the flavors of alcohol in her candy, Jami uses a combination of actual booze -- with the alcohol boiled out -- real fruit flavorings, and a dash of yeast!)
Jami holding her Pinot Noir cotton candy; #candyismagic
But even though she had a candy-making grandmother, Jami didn’t start out with plans for a candy company. Her first job was at the Geneva Dairy Delight in Geneva, Ohio, scooping ice cream and working the deep fryer. It wasn’t until after college (with a degree in English and theater), partway through a master’s degree in public administration, that she decided to open her cupcake bakery. Nine years after running the bakery, she left to start QUIN.
Managing expectations at a bakery -- where everyone wanted their favorite scone, or the cookie they had on their last visit -- kept Jami from tapping into serious, no-holds-barred creativity. But making candy, she says, "is the most freeing thing I've been able to do in the kitchen."
Part of the appeal of QUIN is that they tap into a culinary community of forward-thinking people, from farmers to vintners. “People are interested in Portland and what it has to offer,” Jami says. Beyond her own city, she has visions of going to different regions like the Hudson Valley, finding out what is delicious and fresh and perfect there, and making candy inspired by that place.
Jami is an avid home cook -- and her life outside QUIN is filled with the same enthusiasm for bringing pleasure through food. When she told us that every Christmas she hosts a huge party with tamales and margaritas, we thought, that sounds about right for someone of Jami's passions: feeding people, entertaining, and making life a little more fun.
We’ve been stocking and collaborating on exclusive QUIN candies in our Provisions shop since we opened -- and we are constantly impressed and surprised by each new candy creation. Jami has designed baking sprinkles in a rainbow of colors for us, and she's even made our college-kid dreams come true by tackling the challenge of crafting boozy gummies for us. (Stay tuned! They’ll be here on October 23).
QUIN is creating a place where nostalgic candy and good-quality, thoughtful eating exist together -- and that is a world where we absolutely want to live.
Candy photos by James Ransom; all other photos by Jami Curl