There are a few things that every business on this list has in common. They are small. They started with a good idea. There are no CEOs, no high powered executives. A newspaper article recently referred to one of these small business owners as a CEO. Her response? Hysterical laughter. Another recently received a call asking to speak to the international shipping department. The response? Also hysterical laughter. The response is laughter not because these businesses don’t take CEOs or big business seriously. After all, that is what they are all trying to build… a successful business.
In these businesses the owner is a jack of all trades. You might find him or her mixing dough, sampling product in the grocery store or labeling bottles. The owner might be loading boxes or washing bottles. Starting a business from nothing is extremely difficult. These businesses didn’t begin with thousands of dollars in the bank. Most of them began in home kitchens. The success of each and every business on this list is because of the person or people behind it. This is a group of people who believe in hard work and the American dream because they are living it. Each is thankful for every bag, bottle, jar or tin sold. These are businesses run by people who care and are proud to put food on your table.
Merry Cheese Crisps
Some of you may remember my recent article about Merry Cheese Crisps. These highly addictive bites combine the perfect amount of spice and cheddar. One is never enough. They pair perfectly with both wine and beer and look lovely on any table. I am so excited because Merry Cheese Crisps has just introduced Merry Mac Shortbread! The shortbread used to be the last cookie I would choose in the mixed cookie tin. Dry, hard as a rock, bland… no thank you. Merry Mac Shortbread cookies are dainty, buttery little bites. Shortbread cookies will never be the same, thank goodness! A party isn’t complete without Merry Cheese Crisps and Merry Mac Shortbread on the table. (www.merrycheesecrisps.com)
Picture this… it is dinner time and you have a gorgeous piece of pork and fresh veggies. After rummaging through your refrigerator you settle- yet again- on some boring, watery salad dressing as a marinade. You use half the bottle in an attempt to impart some flavor and end up disappointed. If you had used T.Lish, your dinner would have been a different experience. One look at the product and you know it is anything but watery or boring. T.Lish’s Sweet Garlic Vinaigrette is the perfect combination of sweet and tangy. It is my new go-to for anything that requires a marinade. The Chipotle Vinaigrette infuses the perfect amount of smokiness to meats and veggies alike. I cannot wait to get my hands on the newest flavor, Asian Sesame… T. Lish marinades and dressings are an essential kitchen weapon. I’m a better cook for using them. (www.tlish.com)
Chutney is one of the most versatile, yet underrated, condiments on the market. Holmsted Fines Chutneys are both worldly and local. The recipes are derived from time spent in European kitchens, and the fruit and veggies are grown on a Southern farm and orchard. Red Onion Balsamic, Green Tomato and Peach transform fish and meat. Never again will goat cheese on a cracker taste the same. A blue-cheese burger with red onion balsamic is phenomenal. Spicy pork with peach chutney is mouth- watering. You can even use the chutneys to mix a one of a kind cocktail. That’s what I’m talking about! It is rare to find a product that is so versatile. What else can you mix in a drink, serve with cheese, top a burger with and serve with fish? Seriously? If you haven’t tried Holmsted Fines chutney you most definitely are missing out. Everyone needs a few tricks in their pantry… this is one of mine. (www.holmstedfines.com)
Copper Pot Kitchen
When you think of Alabama food, do visions of baked grits, banana puddin’, and barbecue ribs dance in your head? Sure. But it’s now time for a different vision: That of garlic and chile oil tossed with angel hair pasta, or lemon rosemary with fish. Ashley Tarver and Copper Pot Kitchen are taking the olive oil world by storm with her line of infused oils. Perfect for grilling, drizzling, and dipping. Thanksgiving at our house will forever now include garlic mashed potatoes using her Roasted Garlic Olive Oil. Looking for a way out of the fried chicken and slaw rut? How about Honey Balsamic with pork, asparagus and parmesan or cold pasta salad? With skills perfected in San Sebastian, Spain and Buenos Aires, Ashley has given us yet another reason to love Alabama. (www.copperpotkitchen.com)
You’ve got to love a guy who starts a cookie business. And you love him even more when you find out his cookies are inspired by his grandmother. I am no longer allowed to buy GMomma’s cookies. Last time, I decided I was going to have one, just one, to tide me over on the car ride home from the store. I made it home in no time but the GMomma’s didn’t. I hid the evidence of course… It is a hard decision between the Chocolate Chip with Pecans and Buddascotch Oatmeal. GMomma’s are crunchy, crispy and bite-sized. Made with real love and real butter… (www.gmommas.com)
Pretty Perfect Pimiento Cheese
I was first drawn to Pretty Perfect Pimiento Cheese because I noticed the label. The label screams old- fashioned and family. When you’re talking about pimiento cheese, an old-fashioned, family recipe is hard to find if you don’t make it yourself. I’m also a sucker for jalapenos. I was blown away by Pretty Perfect Pimiento Cheese. It is the perfect ratio of jalapenos to pimientos to cheddar. One taste and you know it is a high quality cheddar. If you like greasy, mayonnaisey pimiento cheese, you’d best move on. This pimiento cheese is thick and rich and spicy… I guess you’d say it’s pretty perfect. (www.prettyperfectpimientocheese.com)
G’s Apple Dreams
I’m so tired of buying dried out, oversized muffins at the grocery store bakery. No love and certainly no flavor. Then I found G’s Apple Dreams. Baked with applesauce, these muffins are the perfect bite. And if you warm them in the microwave for just a few seconds, they can take you back… way back. G’s Apple Dreams are also based on a grandmother’s recipe. They are a decadent treat that you won’t feel guilty about. Lightly sweet they are wonderful for breakfast or as a snack. They are also fun to play with… you can elevate anything from a cupcake to bread pudding with G’s Apple Dreams. (www.gsappledreams.com)
McEwen & Sons Grits
Who remembers the soupy, instant grits from their childhood? I do! The first time I tried McEwen & Sons Grits, I thought… Oh, I get it now. Now, y’all don’t kick me out of the South for admitting this, but I didn’t love grits until recently. Three years ago, as a cook in Frank Stitt’s kitchen, every day I made the famous Highland’s Bar grits; McEwen & Sons Grits. I learned what it was like to slow cook your grits. I’m still not sure what kind of magic happens in the pot. But, a little bit of salt and water and McEwen & Sons grits produce the fluffiest, thickest, creamiest grits I’ve ever eaten. Now I find excuses to eat grits… like, “oh… I forgot to go to the store… guess I’ll have to eat some more grits for dinner.” If you haven’t tried McEwen and Sons Grits then you haven’t really had grits….at least not the way they should be. (www.mcewenandsons.com)
I first tried Icebox Coffee at a party. I must admit, I am not a coffee drinker. I know, I know… what?!?!? I thought, “here we go again… more coffee” To my delight, from somewhere in the kitchen emerged a creamy, alcoholic coffee cocktail. Truly delicious. But, Icebox isn’t just for sippin’. Icebox Coffee is a cold coffee concentrate. It blends perfectly into a plethora of drinks: mochas, eggnog, lattes. It adds an entirely different depth to fudge and cheesecake and homemade ice cream. What about savory dishes? Icebox Coffee has already brewed a complex, flavorful coffee that will make an out-of-this-world coffee marinade or mole. Icebox Coffee is more than just a coffee… it is the perfect tool to transform otherwise boring dishes. (www.iceboxcoffee.com)