Category Archives: Review

Restaurant Review: Little Owl Coffee

 

In an unobtrusive section of Blake Street in downtown Denver, Colorado, lives a minimalist coffee-drinker paradise. This little gem is easy to walk right by, but once you’ve been inside you will crave its unique, laid-back yet hip vibe, and expertly crafted java jolts with an artistic flair.

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Little Owl Coffee, at 1555 Blake St. in the heart of LoDo (lower downtown), was established in spring of 2013. The interior is clean, natural, and decorated with mainly itty-bitty plants. Live branches, clusters of seasonal gourds, tiny air plants in teeny glass bulbs, and other plant life in bud vases adorn the standing bar and wood tables.

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The place is cozy, small but not too small to work on a laptop or enjoy a teacup of espresso with a friend. Their patio area is boxed in with small hedges, and each table top has its own petite glass jar and miniscule spoon for doling out natural brown sugar in case the espresso is too bitter for your tastes.

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You can watch the downtown foot and vehicle traffic rush by as you sit and sip your hand crafted beverage, including tasty teas, espresso, and a variety of espresso-milk combinations. They also boast fresh hand-made almond milk daily, and plenty of fresh, hand-made pastries and cakes.

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Oh, and of course the baristas are trained in the very adorable art of coffee-pictures. Makes me smile every time.

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If you find yourself in the area, I’d recommend stopping by. My personal favorite is the mocha latte, but there is plenty to choose from. With a variety of local and chain organic, healthy, and/or vegan snack options, hand-made almond milk and pastries, a friendly and talented staff, and a can’t-find-anywhere-else atmosphere, Little Owl is a must-see in downtown Denver.

Final round of Walmart Grocery To Go

 

For my third and final test of Walmart Grocery To Go service, I decided I would go with ways to preserve meals and plan ahead. Because everyone is busy and convenience is king in today’s over-stimulated and demanding world, being able to plan ahead and cook meals in advance can save you on a hectic week night.

In preparation, I ordered several different sizes of Zip-Lock baggies, quarts, gallons, sandwich size, and snack bags.I got zip-and-steam bags, which you can put fresh veggies into, seal, then steam them in the microwave, and Crock Pot liners, for easier clean up. I ordered a few foil roaster pans with lids, for lasagna and casseroles to freeze.

I got many items which can be stored long-term and used in a variety of dishes, including black beans, pinto beans, Jasmine rice, chickpeas, split peas, black-eyed peas, barley, quinoa, and lentils. These will become soups, stews, curries, and chili. Dried fruits such as dates and apricots and raisins, and cashews and mixed nuts for trail mixes and granola bars.

I also ordered a few games, SkipBo and Phase 10, because it is always nice to have cards on handy when bored during a cold winter night or when friends come to call.

This order came around noon on Valentine’s Day, which I was spending alone. Because the S.O. had already moved to Connecticut to start a new job! Super exciting I know. More on that later.

The delivery guys were very sweet, and made sure to ask if I was okay with a substitution they had to make. If something you ordered is out of stock, they notify you by email, and then you have to verbally agree to it before you can accept the order. You have the option to send it all back and wait until what you wanted is in stock again, which is nice if you had your heart set on something.

So, one weekend or weeknight, when you have a few hours to cook, pick 2 or 3 recipes which store frozen well. Take stock of your refrigerator and cabinets for ideas. Almost all vegetables lend themselves well to soups and stews. Rice or potatoes are easily made into many dishes.

Be flexible; if you don’t have ground beef but have leftover chicken breast, you can still make a mean white bean chicken chili. And don’t be afraid to experiment!

Ideas include:

Now that you’ve chosen your recipes, gather all your ingredients. Spend some time chopping and peeling, feeling the texture of the vegetables, the lovely colors, the smells and tastes. Cooking is the best way to get back in touch with what we eat, and thus are putting into our bodies.

Once you have two or three pots happily simmering, you can entertain yourself elsewhere. Taste as you go, remembering that you will need to re-season when you reheat the dishes, as flavors may dull over time.

Now you can portion out your home-cooked goodies into individual or family-sized portions. Soups and stews can be spooned into freezer bags and laid flat to freeze. Lasagnas and casseroles can be assembled and baked in the roaster pans and then frozen to be thawed and re-heated in the oven later.

Now that is convenience food I can get behind!

Restaurant Review: Pho Lee

 

Until I moved to Colorado, I didn’t know what “pho” (pronounced “f-ooo” or “ph-uh”) was. The closest thing I’d ever had was ramen noodles out of a bag with that obviously fake chicken flavor but deliciously salty spice packet.

Well, pho is definitely not just ramen noodles. It is so much more. Typically a rich, flavorful broth made by simmering all manners of vegetables and meats for hours, filled with noodles, veggies, and paper-thin slices of beef. Then topped with crunchy sprouts, Thai basil, and jalapeno slices. Pho is a whole taste experience.

You can of course have non-soup dishes as well, including rice bowls and noodle bowls. Depends on the place you go, but you should definitely try authentic pho soup at least once. Be sure to ask to see the size of the bowl before you order for the first time. Even a “small” can be a staggeringly huge amount of food.

By far my favorite find for pho in the Denver area has been Pho Lee.  A small, unassuming store in a tucked-away plaza off of Arapahoe Road just off I-25, you wouldn’t know it to look at it but this cozy diner is ragingly popular with the locals. And for good reason.

I’ve had both a noodle bowl and the pho soup, and both have been crazy tasty. For a very affordable price ($8-$12) you can have a gigantic bowl of top-notch Asian cuisine, likely with enough left over for dinner or to store in the work fridge until tomorrow. If it even lasts that long.

I went with several people from work, and we waited about 5 minutes for a table. Be sure to get there well before the noon rush crowd, or you will definitely be there longer than an hour. Like I said, this place is popular.

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My co-worker got a rice bowl with sweet and sour shrimp, and said it was delightful. The sauce was flavorful and tasty, not too thick and not too watery. The veggies were steamed to perfection.

I chose the brisket noodle bowl, and boy am I glad I did! This monster of a meal had heaps of fresh hot meat, sliced more thinly than my pinky nail and covered in a slightly sweet almost BBQ like marinade. The hot rice noodles went perfectly with the brown sauce, and the cold diced cucumber and shaved carrots were a great combination and contrast. Topped with scallions and crushed peanuts, and with a cup of kimchi poured on top, it was absolute bliss.

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I had more than enough to satiate me, and more than half I took home in a box for dinner. Not bad for $9. I went back a few weeks later with another work friend, and had the pho soup bowl. This time we had a 10 minute wait for a table, and ended up sharing a 4-top with one stranger. But at Pho Lee, everyone is family.

The bowl was bigger than my head and filled to the top with hot, complex, spicy broth, heaps of ribbons of meat, fresh vegetables, and rice noodles. The plate they bring as toppings was piled with handfuls of fresh Thai basil, other greens, jalapenos, and bean sprouts. Several types of hot sauces and spices are also provided, so you can customize your heat content to taste.

Overall, Pho Lee provides some amazing food for a very affordable price, especially in the I-25/Arapahoe area. The service was great too, the owner himself came to give us a quick apology for the delay in getting a table, and to thank us for being willing to share a table when they are clearly busy. Everyone was pleasant, and seemed very happy to be working there. I would highly recommend this place, for lunch or dinner, any time.

 

Pho lee

6860 South Clinton Street
Greenwood Village, CO 80112

Recipe Review: Chia Fresca from Oh She Glows

 

As I research and educate myself about food and nutrition, I believe more deeply that plant-based foods have such phenomenal health-promoting powers, and want to incorporate more of them into my own life and cooking. I am constantly on the hunt for more ideas, tips, advice, recipes, and knowledge.

I have recently become aware of this fabulous vegan/veg-centered blog from Angela at Oh She Glows. Her story is inspiring, and her recipes even more so! With so much abundance of plant-based, fabulous foods, I will never again be without dinner ideas! Check it out yourself and you’ll see what I mean. My new foodie heroine.

So in browsing her many recipes, I came across this odd bird: The Chia Fresca. A popular drink in South America for centuries, it consists of water (or coconut water), chia seeds, lemon or lime juice, and usually sweetener.

For those who do not know, when chia seeds are soaked in water they produce a gel-like coating, much like tomato seeds. Chia seeds are so intensely hydrophilic (hydro = “water” philic = “loving”) that they can absorb up to NINE times the weight of the seed in liquid. That is just plain crazy awesome!

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Chia seeds also have two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble, which will help keep your whole digestive tract healthy. Their gel takes a long time for the digestive system to extract the water from, so it hydrates your whole system along the way. For more fun facts check out MySeeds.

Chia seeds are also a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids, so if you are vegetarian or vegan and cannot eat fish, this is a great option. Chia seeds are easily incorporated into any beverage, and can be used in cooking as well as a substitute for eggs or pectin in jellies and jams. That may be my next project.

Anywho, back on track.

The Oh She Glows chia fresca recipe called for 1 1/2 tbsp chia in 2 cups water, plus 1/2 a lemon or lime and sweetener to taste.

I tried exactly that, without the sweetener.

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No sweetener partially because I didn’t want to add sugar, and also because I like lemony water so I figured it is just that with a little chewy bonus.

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The chia seeds take 10 minutes or so to become fully gel-like. At first they sit on top of the water like a little film. Just keep stirring and be patient.

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I thought this was a little bit too much chia for me, and it clumped together a bit. So I experimented a little (of course). There are tons of other recipes and ideas of what you could add to the water. Cucumber was pretty tasty, and would have been even better if I had fresh mint leaves.

But I think my favorite was when I added lime juice and a little orange juice, and a smaller amount of seeds. The amended recipe is below.

Give chia a try, it is probably a love-or-hate kind of thing.

As the SO said when he saw it: “Are those bees?!”

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To his credit, he did try it. And he said he actually likes the bees. Success.

And then he went to “drink some bacon grease”. Life is all about the little victories ya know?

 

Orange-Lime Chia Fresca

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

Yield: 2 cups

1 glass-full

Ingredients

  • 1/4 lime, juiced
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • Optional: 1/2" piece of ginger

Instructions

  1. Mix the chia seeds into the water. They will take 10+ minutes to completely gel.
  2. Add the lime juice and orange juice. Stir to mix.
  3. If using the ginger, chop it roughly and add to boiling water, mix well and let sit 30+ minutes. Strain and continue with ginger-water as above.

Notes

You can sub in any fruit juice here basically. Get creative and see what you like.

Recipe Management Powered by Zip Recipes Plugin
http://www.budgetepicurean.com/beverage/chia-fresca/

 

This post contains links to Amazon Affiliate products.

Book Review: Plant-Powered For Life by Sharon Palmer, RD

 

Do you want to feel vibrantly alive? Do you want to be in the peak health of your life, no matter your age? Do you want to enjoy a constant kaleidoscope of rotating colors, flavors, textures, and aromas in your meals? Do you want to do your fellow mankind, animals, and the planet a huge favor?

Living a plant-powered life can give you all that and more.

I had the great honor of being asked to read and write a review for “Plant-Powered For Life“, the recently-released second book by Registered Dietician Nutritionist Sharon Palmer. Also the author of “The Plant-Powered Diet“, an avid blogger and speaker, and with hundreds of hands-on hours helping people empower their life and better their health through diet, Ms. Palmer knows her food.

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This is an insightful, instructive book which focuses on a whole-lifestyle approach to better health through better eating. It is exactly the kind of book I have been looking for. It includes tons of practical tips from how and what to shop for at the grocery store, to ways to prepare and cook different vegetables, to 125 plant-powered recipes.

There are also gorgeous full-sized photos of various recipes and produce sprinkled throughout every chapter. The food looks so tasty, it would make even the most hard-core carnivore crave a Farro and White Bean Burger, Thai Lettuce Wrap, or Strawberry Soy Lassi.

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She begins the book simply, by asking the reader to create a plant-powered life goal. There is a whole spectrum from die hard carnivores simply aiming to include more plants in their daily diet, to going full-blown vegan. You choose how vibrantly plant-powered you want your life to become.

Since I am a lifelong omnivore, I’d like to add more veggies into my diet every day, as well as having a minimum of one meatless day per week. I will keep packing in more and more veggies, until they begin to supplant the meat naturally.

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The book is broken down into 52 chapters, and each is a call to action about changing one small segment of your life. You can choose to take on one chapter per week for a year-long journey to plant power, or you can skip around to whatever chapters best fit in your life and speak to you.

Included in each chapter is 2-3 plant-powered recipes. These recipes feature seasonal produce, and a rainbow of variety. Ms. Palmer repeatedly makes the point that eating varied, whole, plant-based foods is the most ideal diet humans can follow.

Each fruit, vegetable, legume, or grain has a unique mixture of micro- and macro-nutrients that contribute to vibrant health. We need a rotating variety of these vitamins and minerals to achieve and maintain ideal health.

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All the recipes have suggestions for substitutions or variations; for example, if you follow a gluten-free diet for dietary reasons there are substitutions included to make the recipe gluten-free. Most have very brief ingredient lists, and prep/cook times under an hour. I have already found at least a dozen recipes I am super excited to try and get into my weekly meal rotation!

I am so happy to have this handy plant-based eating guide slash cookbook on my kitchen shelf. I’m sure I will refer to it for advice, ideas, and inspiration for years to come. Count me in for eating more plants this year!

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The best part of this article, is that Ms. Palmer’s team has been generous enough to enable me to give one lucky reader a copy of their very own! Below is a Rafflecopter giveaway; you can earn up to four entries, plus an extra one each day you Tweet about us!

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This giveaway begins at midnight MST on Sunday January 25, and ends Sunday February 22nd at noon MST.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Product Review: Steep and Go

 

As you may know from my earlier post all about the Health Benefits of Tea, tea is very good for your health for many reasons. Whether you drink it hot with honey or over ice, tea can contribute to a happy, healthy lifestyle.

I am always looking for new tea flavors to try, and new ways to get more tea into my days. I have a tea pot and cups that a friend gave me for a birthday which I love, it strains the loose leaves and you can pour right out of the pot. I have a tea kettle my thoughtful brother gave me which has that classic whistle to it. And I am always on the lookout for new and exciting tea companies and products.

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One day over a year ago, a friend who is a fellow tea lover recommended I check out The Tea Spot website. Located in Boulder, they are a local Colorado tea company producing high-quality loose leaf tea blends and tea products. Their website is also packed with educational information about tea, as I referenced.

As I’ve collected more loose leaf tea, I have enjoyed the winters much more. Unfortunately, during the summer I don’t want hot tea and I’m too lazy to brew it hot then cool it in the fridge before drinking hours later. The Tea Spot has found a solution! The cold brew steep and go.

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This plastic miracle has an adapter which allows it to fit onto most standard sized water bottles. The top is a pop-up nozzle which clicks closed for no spills, and the bottom part is a filter which keeps loose leaves out of your mouth, and in your bottle.

To answer commonly asked questions when people see mine:

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1. How long can you steep the tea?
As long as you want. I put it in the bottle at night, stick it in the fridge, then take it with me the next morning.

2. Doesn’t it get bitter?
Nope, not at all. I think this is because you put it in cold–room temp water rather than boiling water; it doesn’t release as many tannins.

3. How much tea do you use?
You only need about 1 heaping teaspoon per 16 oz bottle of water. And I’ve re-used the leaves for two brews with success.

You can choose to add sweeteners such as honey or splenda, but after one or two bottles I grew to prefer the taste of simple green tea. The only thing healthier is pure water!

When I first received the steep and go, I tried to put it onto a bottle directly. I could not get it to tighten, because I didn’t realize there are two adapter rings, one the color of the steep and go, and another clear plastic one. Both sides are slightly different sizes, such that the adapters can make the steep and go fit four different bottle types! The Tea Spot also has a re-useable bottle for the steep and go, which will definitely be my next purchase.

I have not yet tried to run it through a dishwasher, but if put on the top shelf the plastic seems hardy enough to not melt. I will likely end up hand-washing this every dozen uses or so.

Besides loose leaf teas, they now offer whole leaf tea bags as well. You may wonder, what makes these tea bags different from ones I can buy at Wal-mart? Let me allow them to explain:

The differences between loose leaf tea and traditional tea bags are numerous, and it goes far beyond the surface. The leaves used in most bags are actually the “dust and fannings” from broken tea leaves. This is a huge compromise in quality from full leaf tea. Finely broken tea leaves have lost most of their essential oils and aroma. When steeped, they release more tannins than whole leaf tea, resulting in bitter astringent brews. The material, shape, and size of the bags themselves are also important factors. Most tea bags constrain the tea leaves, keeping them from expanding to their full flavor and aroma potential.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the sound of “tea dust” as a beverage.

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Sue of Siam — Restaurant Review

 

In Aurora, Colorado, on an innocuous side street in a rather run-down part of town, a tiny white building sits back in a parking lot simple labeled Sue of Siam: Authentic Thai Cuisine. Their slogan is “We bring Thailand to your table”.

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It’s a place I had driven by a hundred times when I lived near that part of town. Curiosity began to build, and one day I decided to do something about it. I talked a friend into being brave with me, and we adventured inside.

The place is small, seating only about 20-30 people. But the feeling is intimate, and the owner makes you feel like one of the family immediately. He was very attentive, explaining anything we had questions about and making recommendations. They will accommodate any spice level and taste preference.

When asked for our drink order, I saw hand-written onto the menu “Lime juice”. Imagining a shot straight from the fruit, I had to try it.

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Turns out it was like lemonade, but made instead with limes. It was sweet yet tart, and very refreshing.

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We had the egg rolls, Cashew chicken, and Pad Thai of course.  Everything on the menu is very affordable, with lunches averaging $7-8 and dinner only one dollar more. The egg rolls were sweet and crunchy and totally addicting. Their house-made sweet and sour sauce is delicious enough to want to eat with a spoon.

The cashew chicken was chock-full of fresh steamed snow peas, bell peppers, and sweet chunks of marinated white meat chicken all bathed in a complex umami-packed brown sauce.  And the Pad Thai was a perfect rendition with thick noodles, crunchy bean sprouts, a spicy-sweet peanut sauce and crushed peanuts on the side.

Overall, I’d give Sue of Siam:

  • 9 for taste
  • 10 for atmosphere
  • 9 for value

Sue of Siam is located at 106 Del Mar Circle, Aurora, CO 80011. You can call them at (720)949-1980 or visit the website. I’m not sure at this point if the deliver, but they definitely do allow carry-out, and offer catering and private parties.

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How to stay cool, plus a Keurig give-away!

 

Summer is winding down, but there are still a few scorchers ahead. And even through the fall and winter, sometimes it’s nice to have a frosty beverage pick-me-up. Iced drinks are my number one favorite way to keep cool, as they taste great and also cool your internal body temperature, making it easier to beat the heat.

It’s no secret that I love my caffeinated beverages, and have finally figured out the secret to Perfect Iced Coffee. This trick works with tea, juices, or any other drink as well. Try it yourself and see how great it is to no longer have watered-down drinks that are still icy cold.

This summer, Keurig is sponsoring a nation-wide #StayCool contest! If you share a photo of how you stay cool on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, you are entered in a contest to win a Keurig K Cup and other fun goodies!

  • On your mobile device, take a photo and share it on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #StayCool & #Sweeps. Make sure to share your location!
  • Your photo will appear on the interactive map where you can see how everyone else is riding out the summer heat. You’ll automatically get a chance to win a Keurig® brewer and Brew Over Ice K-Cup® packs!

In other exciting news, The Budget Epicurean is partnering with Keurig for a K Cup beverage give-away! Readers who enter will have the chance to win:

  1. A variety pack of Keurig K Cups
  2. Coupons for BOGO K Cups
  3. An ebook with drink recipes

Top three entries will receive the prizes in order. One other mode of entry is to send an email to BudgetEpicurean (at) gmail (dot) com with your name and how you #StayCool! Raffle ends 8/25/2014. Winners will be notified and posted about on 8/26/2014.

BudgetEpicurean Keurig giveaway, by Rafflecopter.

This is why I was super-pumped to get a Keurig K-Cup brewer! IMG_4471

I’ve long laughed at the idea of a one-cup wonder, as I tend to brew a big ‘ol pot of java on Monday and use it throughout the week (or freeze it… hint hint). However, I’ve been more and more curious as tons of new options come out for this bad boy. What if I only wanted one cup of hot coffee? What if I wanted to try a new type of tea? What if I wanted cold tea?

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Well, now Keurig has the answer to all these dilemmas! Hot tea, any kind you want, just one cup, and no tea kettle required. Cold tea, perfect for sunny days, porch sipping, or watching your show on the couch. Coffees, flavored coffees, decaf too. All at the touch of a button.

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I have to admit, I’ve only tried a few varieties so far and I’m already in love! This guy had earned its counter space the first day I had it. Set-up was a breeze, and it was ready to brew within minutes of leaving the package.

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The first thing I tried was the Vitamin Burst acai berry Cold Brew. It smelled delicious the second it began brewing.

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Simply fill up a tall glass with ice cubes, pop in the cup, and hit ‘brew’. Easy peasy.

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This is a 24 oz cup I think, and it was done in less than a minute.

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I just popped on some berries and a cute umbrella as garnish, and enjoyed!

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The flavor is delightful, refreshing and light. I found the highest brew setting was just sugary enough for me, though you could choose lower amounts of water if you like it stronger.

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Trying to re-create the ice cube “splash” on the box. =)

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The Keurig obviously works wonders for coffee. For just one cup in the mornings or afternoon, pop in your favorite and hit the button. You can have six people with six different favorites, and serve up a hot fresh round in minutes. My counter is now half dedicated to beverages.

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The brew-over-ice coffee is equally wonderful. Yes you will get some watered down effect, unless you use my tip

In case you missed it above, The Budget Epicurean is partnering with Keurig for a K Cup beverage give-away! Readers who enter will have the chance to win:

    1. A variety pack of Keurig K Cups
    2. Coupons for BOGO K Cups
    3. An ebook with drink recipes

Top three entries will receive the prizes in order. One other mode of entry is to send an email to BudgetEpicurean (at) gmail (dot) com with your name and how you #StayCool! Raffle ends 8/25/2014. BudgetEpicurean Keurig giveaway, by Rafflecopter!

Disclaimer: Keurig machine and K-Cups were provided by Keurig Green Mountain, Inc., all opinions are those of the Budget Epicurean.


 

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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.

Justin Park & Tyler DuBoisRealDill_Owners

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.

Honey, you’re so sweet

 

“Honey honey, how you thrill me, ah-hah, honey honey”… ABBA had it right. Honey is thrilling, and delicious. Produced by the humble honey bee, it is an ancient sweetener and medicine.

How is honey made?

Honey begins as flower nectar. The flowers make a sweet, sugary liquid for the purpose of attracting insects, like the honeybee, to them. In this symbiotic relationship, the bee gets a treat and the flower gets its pollen spread. The pollen sticks to the bee’s furry body, and it can carry the pollen miles away to fertilize another flower.

The worker bees bring the nectar back to the hive, where they store it in the honey combs. The sugars are naturally broken down, and evaporation turns the liquid into the thick, gold goodness we know as honey. Humans have found ways to harvest excess honey while not harming the bees and leaving more than enough for the hive. Good news for us all!

Watch this clip from How It’s Made, in less than 5 minutes, explain how honey is made, harvested, and bottled in our modern world. You could also check out Ford’s Honey Farm, or the National
Honey Board website for more info.

What can you do with honey?

Honey is a versatile thing. Honey is a great, natural sweetener. Thus, you can use it to replace sugar or other sweeteners in many things. It can be used as a sweetener in beverages and baked goods, such as a sweetener and binding agent in granola bars, or mixed with balsamic vinegar and drizzled over strawberries.

A teaspoon of honey in warm milk will help rid you of insomnia, at least I believe so. A tablespoon (or four) of honey makes a warm cup of tea positively sing. Honey can be used in cooking as part of a tropical marinade, in a dressing for coleslaw, or as a snack like putting honey on a sweet potato.

I got my awesome honey from Bjorn’s Colorado Honey at the Cherry Creek Farmer’s Market which I recently reviewed. You can find them in Boulder, CO at 845 Mohawk Dr. or many Colorado farmer’s markets. The woman running the stand was very kind, and passionate about bees and the good they do in the world.

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Her company not only sells local raw honey, but also makes many beeswax products and proplis based cosmetics. What is propolis? you may ask.

According to Wikipedia, propolis is a resinous mixture bees collect and use to seal small gaps in their hive. Larger gaps are usually sealed with wax. Beeswax is used in many cosmetic products, but propolis largely has gone to waste. Until now.

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I tried a sample of this hand cream, and it truly is wonderful. It instantly makes your skin feel smooth and supple, and smells clean without any perfumy fragrance.

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The honey itself was only $10 for a 16 oz jar. To order some yourself, email pontus. jacobson @ gmail. com. The viscous liquid gold is wonderful on just about anything; particularly drizzled over yogurt, granola, and fresh seasonal fruit.

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Honey nutritional facts

Honey is more than just sugar. Per 1 tbsp, it has about 60 calories, zero fat and cholesterol, 17 g of carbs (16 of which are sugar), but also has trace vitamins and minerals, as well as antibacterial properties which may help the healing process for cuts or bites.

Honey also has beauty benefits. The Huffington Post lists 9 “sweet” ways you can use honey in your beauty routine for frugal fixes, from dry hair to chapped lips.

It is a popular belief that honey can help cure seasonal allergies. The logic behind this claim is that bees use nectar and collect pollen from the flowers which are blooming in your area. Thus the honey will contain small amounts of this pollen. When you eat local honey, your immune system recognizes these foreign particles and fights them. Then when you encounter them again in nature, you should be fortified with pre-made anti-allergens.

The problem is, that is false. Simply eating small amounts of local honey cannot cure allergies. Reasons include the fact that bees carry back many types of pollen and contaminants, so you cannot have honey made from say only ragweed pollen. Also allergies are typically caused by allergens blowing in the wind, not the kind the bees collect on their bodies. This just means honey belongs in your kitchen, not your medicine cabinet.

For official information, visit the Mayo Clinic website, WebMD.com, or How Stuff Works: Health page.

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 What is your favorite way to use honey?