“I had a mother that loved Julia Child,” says Pierette Huttner. “She would cook all the time and have these fabulous dinner parties. Other children got macaroni and cheese and we got scallops.” It’s exactly this kind of upbringing that led Huttner to appreciate and experiment with bold flavors and ultimately earn the title of mustard sommelier.
Having trained in Dijon and Paris with Maille, a 268-year-old French gourmet mustard company, today, Huttner serves as the sommelier at the boutique’s first U.S. location on New York’s Upper West Side. Much like a wine sommelier, she helps clients find the mustard that suits their tastes and advises on food pairings. “This is about creating a conversation,” she says. “It’s talking about what you cook and eat and finding something that works in your everyday life, but also pushing beyond your palate into something that’s a bit more exotic.”
Customers can find their favorite from the extensive mustard library on the back wall or take home a pour from one of the taps. Similar to a beer tap, clients can refill reusable stoneware jars from an authentic French ceramic pump. “The jars are great because they have their own passports,” says Huttner. “We might have a client that purchased the jar in France and lives in Arizona and comes to New York and refills their jar. They have their own trip around the world.”
With more than 25 variations, the shop’s flavors range from sweet and spicy to zesty and tart. There’s the springy Sauternes, which exudes floral notes and livens up lobster, scallops or pasta primavera in a light cream sauce. There’s another that Huttner calls “the pretty one,” a visually appealing whole-grain chardonnay that’s great for mixing in mac and cheese and potato salad. Breaking any stereotype that mustard is just a condiment that pairs solely with meat, Huttner explains that there’s a flavor for every meal of the day. “The sundried tomato and esplette chili pepper is my breakfast mustard,” she says. “It has a Southwestern feel and is great with eggs or a frittata.” Other palate-pleasers include the lemon and harissa (try it on shrimp tacos), the tart Dijon black current liqueur (mix it in with sour cream), the fig and coriander (blend into marmalade) and even a dessert mustard like the pistachio orange, which tops off almond cookies. “The little bit of spice from the mustard works well with something sweet because it gives it balance,” she says.
In addition to a core collection, Maille also offers a seasonal selection. Geared towards summer cooking (think: picnics and backyard barbecues), the current the spring/summer line comes outfitted in colorful gingham jars and features three varieties, including the textured toasted onion and wild thyme—a perfect match for salads, grilled cheeses and burgers.
While creating pairings is a major perk of being a mustard sommelier, when asked to name the biggest reward of her job, Huttner says, “You may take a person to a different level in every area of their life because understanding your palate opens you up to an entirely different world. It’s the element of the unexpected that makes this job really pleasurable for me.”