Nice package

Some everyday objects look so cool, they transcend their inherent value. TONY's Seek editor rates her favorite NYC-made foods by design-graphic legend Milton Glaser weighs in.



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Photograph: Heather Terry

Joray fruit rolls

Produced since the ’50s by Joseph Shalhoub & Son in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn, the Fruit Roll-Up prototype is based on a family recipe for the Middle Eastern apricot candy, amardeen. Since I was previously only familiar with the plasticky lunchbox staple, the Joray version, made with real fruit, blew my mind. But it’s the wildly colorful packaging that makes me want to shove one in each pocket. The baroque logo (see the flourishes) seems incongruous with the wholesome fruit sketches, but I like that dichotomy; it matches the product’s dressed-up fruit conceit. Glaser calls the look “a mixed bag of graphic idioms. The logo seems based on ’60s references. The fruit illustration on the container and on the package are unrelated. The result seems playful and happy anyhow.”
$20 for a box of 48 at

Photograph: Stephanie Gussin

Fox’s U-Bet syrup

Where would egg creams be without U-Bet? The chocolate syrup, produced in Brooklyn since 1895, is the favored brand for the fizzy lunch-counter beverage. The Little Orphan Annie–esque girl and the color scheme strike a retro Americana chord that reminds me of other brands with great design, like Aunt Jemima. “This stuff has been around since I was slurping egg creams on Allerton Avenue in the Bronx,” says Glaser. “I know it’s been redesigned more than once, but the awkward lettering of U-Bet and the strange expression on the little girl’s face give it some graphic distinction.” He then adds: “How can chocolate syrup be fat-free?”
$5 at Gristedes,

Photograph: Heather Terry

Brooklyn Lager

With the goal of bringing a tradition of brewing back to a borough in which it was once prevalent, Brooklyn Brewery poured its way into New Yorkers’ hearts in 1987, making a damn fine beer in the process. The label itself has a baseball-meets-Bud vibe, with the cursive B reminiscent of the long-lost Brooklyn Dodgers, the circle of stars conjuring the American flag. In terms of both taste and design, it’s the MVP of beers. When asked what he thinks, Glaser replies, “Full disclosure: I can’t comment on this package because I designed it.” I’ll take that to mean he likes it.
Around $12 for a 6-pack; 79 North 11th St between Berry St and Wythe Ave, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-486-7422,

Photograph: Heather Terry

Wheelhouse pickles

Jon Orren credits his mom’s idea to throw some cukes from her garden into jars of brine as the impetus behind his pickle endeavor, started in 2005. Today, Orren and his modest staff preserve beets, pears, beans and other comestibles in a cooperative kitchen in LIC. The packaging echoes their collaborative process. In fact, a friend designed the logo. It’s bold and sleek, with bright hues offset by white type—a rare color composition in logos. Simple canning jars make the contents seem more artisanal and precious. “The intention is to separate the product from those made by large, industrial producers,” says Glaser. “I think that intention is successful, although the overall effect is banal.”
$8.50 for a pint at

Photograph: Heather Terry

Quaker Sugar Co. salt and pepper packets

In business for 75 years, this Brooklyn company produces the funkiest little packets for salt, pepper and sugar (under the name Diamond Sugar). I am a salt fiend and happened upon these anomalous icons when I grabbed a handful of seasoning from the deli. But I ended up loving the Spy vs. Spy–like graphic so much that I couldn’t bear to tear them open. The Quaker mascot—with dark spectacles, large brimmed hat and scruffy beard—is so mysterious and alluring, it manages to make food’s most commonplace boosters sexy. Free at certain delis,

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Photograph: Stephanie Gussin

Bazzini pistachios

You can’t get much more New York than Bazzini’s nuts: Founded by Italian immigrant A.L. Bazzini in 1886, the Bronx company supplied Yankee Stadium with peanuts since its inaugural game against the Red Sox in 1923. Although I admittedly hate pistachios, I love everything else about these nuts. The large paper-sack packaging is so incredibly American-looking. It’s not just the red, white and blue, it’s that the graphic label reminds me of other early mass-produced foodstuffs, like Necco wafers. For once, Glaser agrees with me: “Bazzini’s packaging is memorable and appropriate. The enlarged B and the strong panels of color produce a circusy effect that suggests fun and pleasure.”
$37.50 for a five-pound bag at

Photograph: Heather Terry

Joyva halvah

According to company lore, when Nathan Radutzky emigrated to New York from Kiev, Ukraine, his most prized possession wasn’t money, but his precious halvah recipe. Radutzky turned the sesame-based confection into a family business, and today the company is still churning out this and other treats in Williamsburg. The name Joyva is derived from the slogan the company used just after World War II—“Halvah, the joy of the party.” Graphically, I happen to agree. What strikes me most about the packaging is how clean and typographically driven it is. The stencillike letters are so utilitarian, with the split A resting on the proceeding letter like an open ladder. My favorite part, of course, is the mustachioed sultan (who I think resembles a Super Mario Bros. character—though I’m not sure either is politically correct). Glaser sees it differently, saying, “It’s distinctive because of the turbaned head and the pyramid shape of the front panel. But it’s a strong and quite ugly package.” The product itself is rather delicious: the perfect union of sweet and savory.
$8 at Whole Foods,

Photograph: Stephanie Gussin

Russ & Daughters caviar

Though the Jewish legacy of the LES has nearly vanished, one can’t help but feel that as long as this ancient appetizing shop stays in business, things will all be okay. In addition to the peerless lox, there’s another reason why Russ is close to our hearts: the beautiful Art Nouveau–inspired R logo with an elegant fish swimming through it. Slap that on a caviar tin and it telegraphs extravagance. Glaser agrees: “A nice logo for a store that specializes in smoked fish. I think it would be improved if the fish were slightly smaller to make the R a bit more evident.”
Starting at $49 for 50 grams at 179 E Houston St between Allen and Orchard Sts (212-475-4880,

Photograph: Stephanie Gussin

Manhattan Special Pure Espresso soda

Despite the rising costs of ingredients, this 113-year-old family-owned Williamsburg soda outfit has stuck to its original recipe. So it’s no wonder that the old-timey brand would want to evoke a sense of history. That’s what I love about its aesthetic. You just can’t mess with a glass soda bottle, and the label itself is epic: a dashing couple locked in an embrace, set against the NYC skyline. It’s very F. Scott Fitzgerald. In fact, I’ve engaged with this product visually only because I love the design so much—I’m afraid I won’t like the coffee soda inside. A brass-tacks Glaser prefers the older version, saying it “was much more primitive, more like, ‘We make it ourselves in the garage.’” Still, he can’t help but recognize a classic: “The graphic elements in the current version evoke a nostalgic response but do not really come together. Are we in the ’20s, ’30s, ’50s? Hard to tell. Nevertheless, the package works because it looks like no other.”
$16.95 for 12 ten-ounce bottles at

Photograph: Heather Terry

Gorilla coffee

Everything about Gorilla Coffee, a Brooklyn microroaster, is in your face: its coffee (extra strong), its employees (hard-core) and its packaging. The sacks of beans are covered in bold red and black images that evoke the Brooklyn literary renaissance of dorky comic-book lovers like Jonathan Lethem and Dave Eggers. I love the stark silhouettes and heroic King Kong icon; it’s like the primate’s thumping his chest and bellowing, “Brooklyn!” That also happens to be what I do after I drink their joe. It’s hands-down my favorite in the city.
,em>$12 for a one-pound bag at 97 Fifth Ave at Park Pl, Park Slope, Brooklyn (718-230-3243,

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