Our story is a story of destiny, and how things always happen for a reason. We met for the first time 17 years ago in Casablanca, Morocco. We were then 11-year old kids, both anxious about our first day in a new school, meeting new teachers, and all these new faces we’ve never seen before. New everything, really. Fast forward to 17 years later, we meet again in New York, the city that we both decided to call home now. Amidst the cliché of our typical busy New York lives, we managed to sit one day for brunch, and to remember old times.
Since we moved to the city, we adopted plenty of new habits. Morning yoga for Lou, Pilates and everyday fitness routine for M, New York bagels for busy morning and baked apple oatmeal for lazy Sundays. But most important of all: almond butter. We are both foodies, we love good and healthy food, strong flavors, and New York has so much to offer. Almond butter became our all-time favorite, especially for breakfast and afternoon snacks. We drizzled it over pretty much everything: pancakes, crepes, oatmeal, granola parfait, yogurt. But every time, it felt somewhat disappointing… as if something was missing. Almond butter is great, but it is a little pasty, plain, it needed to be spiced up.
And here comes the brunch we were referring to. On a perfect Sunday morning, exactly a year ago, we met for brunch at Bluestone Lane in the West Village. Somehow, the conversation turned into good old times in Morocco, and how we so dearly miss the food. Especially one specific food: amlu, or what we like to call the ‘Moroccan Nutella’. Made of raw almonds, organic honey, and pure argan oil, amlu is this addictive nut butter that rocked our childhood, our parents’, our grandparents’, and their parents too! It is creamier than almond butter as you know it, and has a unique smoky flavor and light sweet aftertaste. Amlu is also healthier thanks to Argan oil, its signature ingredient which is rich in Vitamin E and antioxidants that help protect your skin and prevent from aging. The benefits of amlu are endless, but we will leave this topic for another time!
In December, we both go back to Morocco to visit family, and bring back some amlu with us. In Moroccan hospitality, we love to share, so we gave some to our New York friends. And as we brought way too much food than we can eat, we also hosted a brunch to introduce Moroccan foods to our international friends. Amongst other things, we’ve had the traditional Moroccan pancakes, cooked eggplant and tomato salad (called ‘zaalouk’), spicy fried eggs, olives, fresh mint tea, and plenty of bread! The brunch was a success, but amlu was the clear winner! Everyone loved it, and was asking where they could get more. We thought: wait a second, this a treasure that not much people know about… and there, m&lou was born.
The day after, we were already brainstorming about how to make this happen. One thing for sure, we wanted this adventure to have a purpose. We want our product to be the best it can be, traditionally made, with the best ingredients. We also want our amlu to be 100% organic and fair trade. The search for a partner begun.
For centuries, amlu was prepared in the mountainous regions of the south of Morocco, at home, by the women of scattered small villages. Over time, the women got organized into cooperatives, and soon became entrepreneurs, running their small business to support their families. As for the technique of amlu making, it was passed on from generation to generation, in a way that preserves the benefits of the honey, the almonds, and the argan oil. During our search, we strongly focused on finding these small cooperatives, that were checking all the boxes: organic, traditional techniques, locally sourced, fair trade. After months of research, we finally found the perfect partner: a small co-op a few miles south of Agadir, with truly the best amlu we have ever tried, and decided to work with them.
We are now (almost) ready to roll! After finding the partner who was going to supply us with the best almond and argan butter, we started thinking about our brand. Curious? No worries, we will dedicate another article to the design and meaning of our logo, coming up soon! Once our cute little jars were designed (by us, yes indeed), the co-op had it from there. The amlu is prepared and bottled by the co-op in Morocco, and then directly shipped to the US. This Moroccan treasure is now all yours to discover and enjoy.
Since we officially launched about a month ago, we have received some really good feedback: people just love it. You can drizzle the spread on top of pretty much everything, easily spread on your tartine, incorporate it to any cake recipe – it can be everywhere. If you’re running out of ideas, check our Instagram page @mandlou.nyc. Every Friday we share a recipe idea, generally quick to make, and perfect to impress your guests or just treat yourself.
We are currently primarily an online business, but if you are in the city, you must check out Le Gamin in Brooklyn, where you can not only have a great brunch or dinner, but also find us on the shelves! If some of the best French restaurateurs trust us and are happy to show us off, then believe me… this almond and argan butter is worth a try.