All posts by BudgetEpicurean

Long-time student turned young adult with varied interests, mostly food and frugality. Pursuing wealth so I can help others pursue health.

These guys are the Real Dill

 

Many a huge business success has started from one tiny great idea. One such idea was had the day Justin Park and Tyler DuBois decided to make a batch of pickles together. For some time, each had been individually making homemade pickles as a fun hobby. They exchanged recipes and tastes, and eventually collaborated. That first batch, the original version of their Jalapeño Honey Dills, foretold of greatness. The pickles were so unique, crunchy, and flavorful, they just had to share their creations.

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After two years of talk, plans, and recipe experimentation, they launched the brand “The Real Dill” in summer of 2012. To this day, they still follow the same recipes they created in their home kitchen, using all natural ingredients and home canning techniques. All of the pickling spices used are proudly sourced from local Denver business Savory Spice Shop.

Their flavors range from high heat Habanero Horseradish and Jalapeno Honey to the more tame Caraway Garlic Dills. The Bloody Mary Mix is made in part with excess pickling liquid and a smooth tomato base, yielding an herby, complex drink that just needs a dash of liquor to make your day. New recipes and flavor combinations are tested all the time, so be on the lookout for new favorites.

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I was lucky enough to have the chance to interview Co-Founder & Owner Justin Parks.

So Justin, what is the ‘story’ of The Real Dill, how did it all start?

It was really just a hobby gone wild. We were making pickles for fun and really didn’t have plans to start a business. But we got really excited about what we were making and I think we expected the excitement to wear off at some point and it never did. So after a year or more went by and we were still devoting our free time to this pursuit we knew that it was something we were really passionate about. We finally decided to take the leap and it has been a wild ride ever since.

That sounds like such an adventure! How do you source your products? The cucumbers, the spices, the jars, etc.

Sourcing is probably one of the biggest challenges and something that we are constantly striving to improve upon. Our primary focus is to find the absolute best quality product that we can get. After all, the end product is only as good as what we start with. Sourcing good quality produce can be a lot trickier than you’d expect and although we go through what we think is a lot, we don’t have a ton of buying power. Our cucumbers come from various sources throughout the year, including Colorado, Mexico, California, Georgia, and Florida. We source all of our spices from Savory Spice Shop in Denver.
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What is your favorite pickle flavor?
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My favorite flavor changes all the time. Every product we make is so different from the others that it can depend on your mood at the time or what you’re eating it with. That said, I think the Spicy Caribbeans are my favorite. They have tons of flavor and are just so unique and unlike anything else out there. 

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Where do the ideas for recipes come from?
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The ideas and recipes come from general inspiration. Sometimes it may be inspirations that hits us while traveling, or while eating a great meal, or cooking at home. We have a long, long list of recipe ideas that we are interested in trying out and we haven’t gotten to most of them just yet. But when something really excites us, we make it a priority because ultimately that is why we are doing what we’re doing. To have fun.
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Sounds like you really have your priorities straight. Do you offer factory tours to the public, take part in community events, etc?
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We do not currently offer any tours because we’re operating in a shared space. But we are in the process of moving into a new facility that will belong to us and we are very excited to bring people in and show them what we do, how we do it, and even teach them how to do it at home. (AWESOME, home pickling lessons! Sign me up.) We do tons of events, including farmer’s markets, festivals, in-store demos, and other miscellaneous gatherings. We do over 200 events per year, closer to 250, actually. We love to engage with people and share our passion for what we do. Getting out into the community to engage with people face to face is very important to us.
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If you don’t have time to hit up a farmer’s market, you can find their products online by searching your zipcode to find the nearest vendors, or ordering online at Mouth.com.
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So how much does word-of-mouth help your business vs. paid advertising?
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I don’t believe we have ever paid for advertising, so I don’t have any experience with it. There’s obviously no better advertising than word of mouth, and its something that we benefit from a great deal. Events are a great opportunity to connect with people and share an experience with them. That is far more powerful than a billboard or a magazine ad can ever be. It also takes a lot more effort.

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What is your favorite part of working with The Real Dill?

I think business and entrepreneurism is rarely thought about as a creative pursuit. But I think that it requires endless creativity and that’s what makes it fun. There are new challenges every single day and there is no book with all of the answers. So, you have to find creative and inventive solutions to the problems that come up. It’s a huge challenge and that’s what I enjoy most about what I do.

Is the “pickle industry” competitive compared to other food genres?

In our experience it definitely has not been. Before we got started we reached out to some established pickle companies in other areas and locally, and for the most part they were happy to help. And there’s not a shred of competitiveness in the local Colorado artisan food and drink scene. It’s pretty amazing how genuine and supportive everyone is. I think that, for the most part, people are creative enough to distinguish themselves from the competition and people realize that the rising tide raises all ships. We have formed some pretty amazing friendships and partnerships with people that might be assumed to be competitors.

That’s so great to hear. Colorado in general does seem to be blessed with a huge variety of amazing artisinal foodies. What type(s) of your products sell best and why?

Our Bloody Mary Mix is actually our best selling item, which was not something we expected. We were pretty naive when it came to the market for Bloody Mary Mix. But from the very first day we launched that product it has been our best seller, and we sell out of it pretty regularly.

Apparently Coloradans like their boozy breakfast drinks with a hit of flavorful pickle juice! Seems like you cultivate many new as well as returning customers. What do you hope your overall customer experience is like?

We hope that our pickles are so good that you feel like you have to tell everyone you know about them. Not only would that mean that they were good, but also that they made you happy.

Making people happy is a worthy goal. What do you see as the future for the Real Dill?

We definitely look ahead, but generally speaking we’re most focused on the step immediately in front of us. We’re very intentional about slow, organic growth, at a pace that is comfortable for us. Our goal is not to be a nationally distributed product, but hopefully we can find a sweet spot that allows us to pay the bills and to have some flexibility. Most importantly, this is a pursuit of passion so it only works if we are having fun. And we couldn’t be happier to be doing what we’re doing and we’re fortunate to be able to do this for a living. 

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There you have it folks, a Cinderella story of a fun hobby turned into a pursuit of passion and full-blown business for two creative Colorado entrepreneurs. The next time you are at a Farmer’s Market, be sure to find the Real Dill’s booth and sample some of their handmade artisan pickles, and famous Bloody Mary Mix. Your taste buds are sure to thank you.

The Budget Epicurean on vacation

 

Hello blogosphere!

I know you will be so disappointed to hear, but the Budget Epicurean will be taking a short hiatus. But you may say, taking vacations is not frugal! Nay nay. Vacations help keep one inside the budget I will retort. Planned or spontaneous, taking a break from the day-to-day can help to relax, recharge, and keep the frugal fires burning.

Sometimes, we all stumble, despite our best intentions. This is usually due to stress and being overwhelmed. Whether it’s family, friends, work, or personal life, when you are too busy to think straight you are more prone to mistakes. You give in and have a jumbo muffin, latte, fruit, another latte, and a doughnut, just to get through the morning. You forget to pack lunch and have to buy a cheeseburger and fries in the car on the way to a meeting. You didn’t prepare and need to purchase travel-sized things at an inflated price. You’re just too tired to cook, so looks like it’s pizza for the fifth time this month.

You also sometimes need a break from being frugal to avoid “frugal fatigue”. This is what happens when you are being good and sticking to a budget, making your own food, not eating out or going out often, and all in all being frugal for a long time. It’s like cheating on a diet, the more extreme you begin the faster your willpower wears out. Frugality is a way of life to be sure. If you go from upper-middle-class lifestyle of eating out constantly, new toys, new clothes, trips, etc. and jump right into a cabin in the wilderness where you grow and shoot all your own food, you will break in about a week I’d guess.

To avoid frugal fatigue, it is perfectly fine to ease yourself in, and take mini-breaks. When you save an extra $100 in one month, go ahead and allow yourself one Starbucks run. If you make your own laundry detergent, and buy no new clothes for a year, I’d say you deserve the running shoes you’ve been eying. Planned for or occasional small indulgences are the icing on the cake of life.

Therefore, it is essential to take a break once in a while. Especially in the US, we pretty much work ourselves to death. Down time is essential to overall health and well-being. An occasional indulgence and/or respite is often just what you need to push through or recover from a particularly crazy phase of life, a big project, a family event, whatever.

With that in mind, this blog’s author is taking a much-needed break from all things normal, including internet and this blog. If all goes well, we will be back in full force come August. See you on the sunnier side! 😉

~BE

 

Chicken Liver Pasta

 

Now I may have lost many of you on the title alone. But trust me. Have I ever steered you wrong? If you hate liver & onions, that’s ok. If you’ve never had liver, then you can’t say you don’t like it!

Liver is an extremely inexpensive meat per pound, because most people don’t know what to do with it, or don’t like it. Their loss is my gain. And yours.

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Beef liver is what liver & onions is typically made from, because it is much larger. Chicken livers are a lot smaller, and are perfect for this recipe which requires blending them into a sauce. They cook up quickly, and easily fit in the blender. It is up to you, I imagine beef liver would taste similar.

Organ meats (offal) were traditionally a large part of many cultures. However it seems they are not thought of much and even spurned in today’s society; where we can all basically afford whatever cut we want. But every animal killed for a steak, wing, or ham contains edible parts like the liver, kidney, and even heart.

Some avoid liver because they are concerned that it stores toxins, since the liver’s main job is to detoxify chemicals and drugs in the body. Chris Kesser sets the record straight: “While it is true that one of the liver’s role is to neutralize toxins (such as drugs, chemical agents and poisons), it does not store these toxins. Toxins the body cannot eliminate are likely to accumulate in the body’s fatty tissues and nervous systems.”

So eating liver will not cause you to ingest a bunch of toxins. It will cause you to ingest large amounts of all kinds of vitamins and micronutrients though. Gram for gram, liver has more copper, iron, vitamins A, C, D, and E, B vitamins, and P, K, Mg than apples, carrots, or lean red meat in most cases combined.  Of course, where the liver comes from is important. A grass-fed, naturally raised cow’s liver is much healthier than a CAFO animal fed antibiotics, growth hormones, corn, and packed in too tight to lie down.

If you are lucky enough to already like liver, rock on! Keep eating that superfood. And hopefully you will love this recipe, as a new and exciting way beyond the typical onions or pate to enjoy liver. If you don’t like liver, give this a try anyways and see what you think. Blended up with other veggies and pasta, you may not even notice. Look for it in the frozen section if you can’t find it in the meat aisle.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound pasta (I used bowtie)
  • 1 pound chicken livers
  • 1/4 cup cream or milk
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • Handful chopped kale or spinach
  • Garlic salt
  • Grated Parmesan cheese

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Step 1: Boil the pasta for 7-9 minutes. While that’s boiling, cook the livers over medium heat until only slightly pink, then turn heat off. Drain pasta and put in a large fry pan.

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Step 2: In a blender, combine cooked livers, milk, and garlic salt to taste. Blend well and coat pasta. Add in can of diced tomatoes and greens. Cook another 10-15 minutes, until greens are wilted and everything is heated through.

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Serve with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese on top. That last tiny hit of saltiness really makes this sing. It is a bit gamey, but I absolutely loved it! Which is good, because it made about four meals’ worth for me.

 

Do you ever eat liver? If so how do you cook it?