Denver Post on our Pickles
Probiotic pickling comes naturally to Boulder’s Esoteric Food Company
Pretty, yes? And good. Esoteric Food Company has the recipe for great probiotic foods.
It all began, like so many things in food world, in the kitchen.
Mara King and Willow King — same last name, but they aren’t related — took one day a week to hang out together and make stuff from scratch. They tried sausage. Cheese, from raw milk. Kombucha.
But the Boulderites kept returning to pickled things – cucumbers, cabbage, beets, kale.
They dreamed of opening a restaurant or a delicatessen, but the pickles kept nudging them, whispering: Restaurant schmestaurant. So expensive! So many of them! Stick with pickles!”
It turns out pickles are persuasive.
Perfectly fried eggs on a bed of Esoteric Food Company’s pickled beets, hijiki, and kale
Instead of turning blank space into a room full of food, last May they began filling pretty jars with vegetables, herbs and spices and selling them in stores in the Boulder area. And soon their business, called Esoteric Food Company, will have a stall at the Boulder Farmer’s Market, and their products – called “Zuke,” short for Tsukemono, which means “pickled things” in Japanese – may also be on shelves at Whole Foods throughout the Rocky Mountain region.
At first, “we were giving it away and selling it at Lucky’s Market in Boulder,” said Willow. “A case here, a case there.”
Now three other people work with them, and twice a week they process 500 pounds of vegetables or more at a commercial kitchen.
They have big plans. Among other things, they want to buy different stuff at the Farmer’s Market every week, pickle it, and sell it until they run out. Each week, they hope, they will have two new pickled products – in addition to their regular line – for sale.
“We are moving away from this idea that dinner comes from a box and it’s always the same,” said Mara. “What is ready now should decide what is for dinner tonight.”
I tried the kimchi. I hadn’t tasted the stuff in maybe 20 years, since I lived in Minneapolis as a 20-something graduate student and nearly OD’d on kimchi and its punch of pungent funk.
I feared it.
But one taste of Esoteric’s version, and I fell in love with it (although later, on a picnic on Flagstaff Mountain in Boulder, my daughter Ruby could not stop talking about the aroma. She was not a fan.)
I also had bites of the beet, hijiki and kale, and the dill, caraway and cabbage. Fantastic stuff.
I know at least one of my stops at the Farmer’s Market this year