It was a Wednesday, like it usually is when I'm out running errands. This day was no different than any other. I was making my weekly run to Roth's Fresh Markets to grab my grass fed ground beef. I love shopping at Roth's because its a small local grocery store chain focused on customer service and providing the locally community with local foods. The stores are just beautiful, typical farmer's market rustic.
This particular day, though, there was a table set up near the front door with samples. While not totally uncommon this product was one I had not seen before. This was the firs time I had the privilege of trying Epiphany Caramelized Balsamic Vinegar. The flavor was bold and impressive and it went good on ice cream... I'm adventurous some what when it comes to food and vinegar on ice cream was something I couldn't turn down. It was also fabulous on strawberries.... those were my favorite.
Not only was the product great, but I was happy to find another dedicated food entrepreneur with a fabulous product. I knew that this would be great on so many tea time recipes that I had to grab a bottle for myself. That takes us today and our interview with Epiphany Pantry. I enjoyed their story and I think you will too!
Tell us a little bit about Crate Expectations Epiphany Pantry
Thanks for giving us this interview, CeAnne. We still enjoy telling people about Epiphany Pantry’s Caramelized Balsamic Vinegar. I am also very excited about Herb Infused Grape Seed Oils, which are just now out. Yes, Epiphany is small, but that allows us to pay attention to every detail. We make, distribute and sell our products ourselves. Our batches are never made in anything over a 40 gallon pot. We never take our eyes off of it.
Tell us a little about your personal life
Our entire family, my wife Rosalie, my son Zack and I are involved in the business. Rosalie comes from a large Maltese family, so she loves food and is a skilled cook. She has spent over 18 years as advisor for several cult boutique wineries. I was a Landscape Designer much of my carrier. Now I enjoy writing, photography and computer graphics. I’ve had fun doing all of that for Epiphany. Zack is a senior at West Salem High School. He will be studying Environmental Engineering next year. He has been accepted at OSU. He had a positive interview with MIT. Fingers are crossed while we wait to hear. Zack’s Robotics team made it to the semifinals at the State Finals of the VEX Robotics Competition last year. He is competing again this year and we are devoting a lot of our free time to it. Outside of that, we like to meet and be with people by travel, exploring, discovery. Generally adventures off the beaten path.
What was it that got you started creating a caramelized balsamic vinegar?
We were actually introduced to it. We had a pack and ship store called Crate Expectations in a railcar in Calistoga, California. On one bright, but agonizingly slow day a dark and mysterious woman walked in backwards and continued to walk backwards up to the counter. She spun around and held tiny sampling spoons right before Rosalie and I's faces. They held a mere few drops of dark brown liquid. She said, “Taste this.” Being adventurous, we did.
We turned to each other, our eyes widened. We both exclaimed, “We’re going to sell
this!" at exactly the same. We then at the same time turned back to the woman, and again simultaneously asked, "What is it?” The whole thing happened as if it was choreographed.
The vinegar was being imported from Australia one barrel at a time by a retired
gentleman. I don’t think he imported more than two barrels. It was an expensive
venture. Our business failed, and we lost contact with him. A few years later I took a job at a guest ranch. I had about an inch of Caramelized Balsamic in our last bottle. I had the chef there, Miguel Islas, try it; really for no reason other than “Isn’t this tasty?” Miguel offered to figure it out and he recreated it. He is an amazing cook and an awesome friend! We’re it not for him… well, I must say I am grateful and lucky to know him.
What did you do prior to owning Crate Expectations?
Rosalie has spent over 18 years as advisor for several cult boutique wineries, and of
course we had our store. I was a Landscape Contractor and Designer much of my carrier. I’ve built a couple of homes. I was also a Worm Wrangler and a Federal Agent among other things. Okay, I was a Federal Purchasing Agent, but it’s fun to leave that out.
Why balsamic vinegar over other vinegars?
Well, because it’s tasty! No really, it’s all about the versatility gained by a lot of boiling, and the additional ingredients adding more flavor layers than a simple reduction. Epiphany Caramelized Balsamic vinegar goes on almost any food! All produce. All dairy items. Fish. Most baked goods. In fact, the only food item I’ve ever not liked it on was ginger snaps.
Buyers should beware. Most “reductions” and “glazes” are in fact not reduced at all!
Look at the label. Gum, corn starch, or even worse thickeners are a sure sign they are
just thickening it, not cooking it. They remain bitter without the volatiles boiled out.
They lack in uses.
We buy Balsamic Vinegar from Modena, Italy. Modena is renowned for Balsamic Vinegar. We boil the Balsamic hard, in fact burning it a little bit. This requires paying attention! The fumes will burn your lungs if you don’t have powerful ventilation. Don’t try this at home, kids! This reduces the balsamic and caramelizes it. We take the now reduced Balsamic and add citrus juice, a little dark brown cane sugar, a few spices. These ingredients add additional layers of flavor. We again reduce the entire batch, once more caramelizing it.
We reduce the balsamic vinegar alone, first to drive the most volatile part of the vinegar out of it. These volatiles are not only the bitterest part of the vinegar, but the part that smells “vinegary”. So, if you as you bring a spoonful of a Caramelized Balsamic Sundae, for instance, you’re not smelling a smell that makes you think of a salad. All foods remain approachable.
What are your favorite recipes for using your Caramelized Balsamic Vinegar?
That’s a moving target. It’s good with so many things and can be used somewhere in
almost any recipe. You can cook with it anywhere you would use a traditional balsamic, but it’s range is far broader than that. I like to keep it simple. Think of it as
a condiment. I’m not fond of that word (condiment) because it sounds common, but really you get the most of it by sprinkling it sparingly on food after you prepare it.
Here’s what I suggest. Take any given dish, and I mean any. Pull a little off to the side
and give it a little sprinkle of Epiphany Caramelized on it. Taste it. If you like it, put it on the rest of your dish. Take it easy and just add a little. It packs a lot of flavor. Them
you can add more to suit your individual taste.
CeAnne here, I just wanted to add to Bill's wonderful recipe suggestions that we tried it on top of pancakes or Dutch Baby's (a.k.a. German pancakes). We have a great recipe on the blog here for Caramelized Balsamic Skillet Cake that we topped with Epiphany's Caramelized Balsamic Vinegar. Ok, Bill you can have the reigns back.
Do you have any new product lines coming out? Tell us about those.
We just introduced Epiphany Rosemary Infused Grape Seed Oil. It is fantastic with our
caramelized balsamic. Garlic will be introduced next week. Basil will be next. Oregano, perhaps Habanero. We’re not sure where we will stop.
Grape Seed Oil doesn’t compete with other flavors, yet oddly enough it enhances them. It has a high smoke point of 420 degrees, which is nice for stir frying or pan brazing. Grape Seed Oil has no synthetic ingredients, has Zero Trans Fat and is Non-
hydrogenated and polyunsaturated. It contains a high level of Omega-6s, Especially Linoleic Acids. It’s also high in vitamin E.
Where can our readers find your products?
Epiphany Caramelized Balsamic Vinegar is available at 62 retail locations in Oregon, Washington and California. We are adding more stores all the time, so it is good to look at our list online.
Having just come out just 4 days ago, Epiphany Rosemary Infused Grape Seed Oil is available locally only at Honeywood Winery. Check our locations online for up and coming Epiphany Garlic Infused Grape Seed Oil.
Our products are also available with free shipping in the lower 48 states via our online store.
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