In My Pantry: Alison Cayne’s Five Essentials

Alison Cayne has a mission: To get people more comfortable in the kitchen and guide them to joyful experiences while they’re there. In 2012, Cayne opened her cooking school and cafe, Haven’s Kitchen. After 5 years of teaching, her students expressed an idea: while the classes were a great place to learn, couldn’t she just make the sauces for them? Says Cayne, “They would say, ‘there’s nothing like this in the store, everything has so much added sugar or preservatives, it’s boiled beyond recognition,’” Cayne says. “So, I looked into how I can make the freshest possible product that’s also viable for the grocery store. We learned about high pressure pasteurization. All of the flavors are really condensed and pack a good punch. The goal was to get something that you could put on or in anything that would make it taste better. Like a flavor shortcut. And that’s what we did.”

In 2018, Haven’s Kitchen pivoted to refrigerated, squeezable sauces, utilizing fresh ingredients for optimum flavor. Capers provide salt and brine in their Herby Chimichurri sauce, cashews and coconut create the base for the thai-inspired Coconut Cashew sauce, and consumers will find fresh herbs and spices inside each packet. Each sauce can be used as a seasoning or, with the addition of a protein for fresh veg, as the base for a meal. The sauces are cold pressed, without any added sugar or preservatives, and are based on the recipes Cayne taught her students. “We use the flavor profiles that I really like, we’re helping people cook, we’re getting into more and more stores.. We’ve started to work on another product line, which will be for people’s pantries, not the refrigerator, which is exciting,” says Cayne.

When it comes to stocking her pantry, Cayne is guided by unprocessed foods and her own intuition. “I feel very lucky that I know what I like. So, if I’m really craving roast chicken, or I’m really craving a flaky piece of fish, how do I get there? What’s the quickest way? I have five kids, I have a full time job. I’m not going to take four hours to make dinner and I don’t want to have to clean up a lot. What’s going to get me to what I feel like eating the fastest, the healthiest, with the least amount of work possible? And that’s always how I’ve cooked. Something I learned early about myself is that I like something that is crispy and something chewy, something that’s sweet and something that’s tart. I like the juxtaposition of flavors, I like variety in my mouth.” Cayne’s pantry staples deliver just that. 

Finn Crisp

I grew up eating them. They’re sort of the perfect cracker for me. They have a nice dark rye flavor, and they’re a long vertical shape so you can put a whole sardine on them, which is my second item. The crisps are a good vehicle for sardines, cheese, tuna, or whatever else.


I really love sardines. I even have a bracelet that says sardines on it. They’re a whole food, they have a ton of great micronutrients and omegas. When I was in college, I went on this sailing trip, and I was the only person who ate sardines onboard. Everyone else thought they were gross, so I ate really, really well for the whole trip. My skin was glowing when I got home, so I’m a big believer. My favorite are Les Mouettes d’Arvor Sardines in olive oil with lemon. There’s a restaurant in the meatpacking district called Pastis. They have a dish with sardines on this really nice, warm, crusty bread with butter, and I noticed that the sardines they use at the restaurant are my sardines that I have in my pantry, so I felt very elegant.

Raw Nuts

I have a very specific morning ritual. I take eight raw, organic almonds and eight raw organic walnuts, soak them overnight with filtered water, and eat them in the morning. Basically, I sprout them overnight. Supposedly, once you roast them, you kill all those enzymes, so they’re not as good for you. So, you’re getting all these, like, really good micronutrients, enzymes, and they have protein. It’s very hard to get raw organic nuts because nuts grown in the US are required to be irradiated. There’s one company called Terra Soul, and I buy them in bulk. They’re organic and raw and not irradiated.

Prince of Peace Ginger Honey Crystals

I’m obsessed with these. They are real little ginger pieces that are crystalized, and anytime I serve them to anyone, they instantly get smitten with them too. You pour them into a mug, add hot water and a squeeze of lemon. I love ginger. I could make my own ginger tea, but it won’t be as good. These are super random, but they’re really my personal favorite things.

Roasted Seaweed Sheets

I always have those big sheets of seaweed because I like to wrap everything in seaweed. I’ll make grilled chicken or grilled salmon, veggies, rice and one of our sauces and put everything into a big hand roll. Also, it’s just a really good snack. I like crispy things as you can tell, and I like savory things, and I also like eating with my hands as a rule. So, anything that I can pick up and use my hands where I don’t have to use silverware is particularly appealing to me. So, wrapping things in seaweed is another one of my favorite things. I like the gimMe organic roasted seaweed sheets because they’re crispy, and they don’t fall apart when you roll them.

RELATED: In My Pantry: Danny Bowien’s Five Favorite Ingredients

Feature photo courtesy of Haven’s Kitchen.