VA Made: Greenheart Organic

Posted by Editorial / Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015

Photo courtesy of Greenheart Organic

Photo courtesy of Greenheart Organic

GIST:  Organic cold-pressed juices, handmade nut milks and gluten-free granola

WHO:  Potomac Falls native Alicia Swanstrom, 28

STARTED:  After Swanstrom’s fiancé was killed in action in Afghanistan, she quit her public accounting job in pursuit of a career helping others, earning a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University with plans of becoming a war reporter.

INSPIRATION:  While at Northwestern, Swanstrom also enrolled in a health coach training program at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. “I just really wanted to feel good. I felt so bad emotionally that whatever I could do to feel better I tried,” says Swantsrom. She ended up creating Greenheart Organic. “I really started focusing on self-care, and juice was so accessible.”

DETAILS:  The Greenheart roster includes: cold-pressed juices ranging from the fruity Sassy Sunshine (orange, turmeric, ginger, cayenne) to green-based The Rooster (spinach, kale, cucumber, broccoli); handmade nut milks using almonds and cashews flavored with medjool dates, Ayurveda spices and cacao; and granola with gluten-free oats, macadamia nuts, cranberries and coconut chips.

NEXT:  Currently selling at local farmers markets, Swanstrom hopes for her own space “that creates a sense of community around healing and personal growth with clean foods that go along with that lifestyle.”  Emily Cook

VA MADE: Shamali Hummus

Posted by Editorial / Thursday, August 13th, 2015

VA Made online

By Mia Finley

GIST: Hummus made from a 50-year-old family recipe.

WHO: Accountant and Falls Church resident Haitham Ibrahim, 25, with his parents and four siblings

STARTED: “We always had my mom’s hummus for breakfast,” Ibrahim says. “You know, you dip the bread in the hummus, then scoop it with egg yolk and eat it.”

INSPIRATION: Since Ibrahim was young, his parents talked about opening their own business. “But nothing ever happened,” he says. “My grandma tried to open up a store [in Jerusalem], in our town of Mount of Olives, but passed away suddenly.” “Around 4:30 p.m. over 20 vendors of only hummus would come through our neighborhood like a daily farmers market,” says Ibrahim about his most recent visit to Mount of Olives last July. “That’s when it clicked.” He started the business later that fall.

DETAILS: “We keep the texture pretty thick. At the end of the day, it’s not a dip; it’s an appetizer,” he says. Though they use canned chickpeas now, they will move to fresh chickpeas and possibly grow their own. The $4, 8-ounce tubs are offered in plain, garlic and original (garnished with mild chili powder and olive oil). Every batch is made by his mother, Rima, with flavors layered on top rather than mixed in.

NEXT: Ibrahim wants to add yogurt and pickles to the Shamali brand—Shamali is a family nickname—as well as a new spicy chili hummus flavor. This month the team will start producing their hummus out of a distribution facility with hopes of selling at nationwide retailers, but for now it’s sold at the Del Ray, Arlington, Westover and West End farmers markets. / 


VA Made: Falling Bark Farm

Posted by Editorial / Friday, June 26th, 2015

Falling Bark Farm

Photo by Mike Ramm.

Gist: Syrups made from hickory bark foraged within Virginia forests

Who: Retired married couple and Clarke County residents Travis and Joyce Miller

Started: The Millers turned their syrup-making hobby into a money-making venture by selling at local farmers markets starting in 2011. Signature flavors include vanilla hickory, brandy hickory and a 100-day, barrel-aged version using Catoctin Creek Distilling Company’s rye whiskey barrels.

Inspiration: Dedicated to self-reliance—gardening, heating their home with wood, hunting and fishing off their land, producing homemade goods like herb butter and flavor-infused salts—the Millers, on a whim, decided to fill a neglected niche at farmers markets by making hickory (not maple) syrup.

Details: After bark is foraged from the shagbark hickory tree, which sheds its bark naturally, thereby not harming the tree, “the process is quite simple,” says Travis. They clean the bark of dirt, roast the bark on an open flame to impart a smoky flavor, process it under pressure to extract flavor and age for several days before filtering and adding a small amount of cane sugar.

Next: This year expect seasonal flavors, like a holiday spice blend, and a bigger presence down the East Coast. The syrups are currently available in food shops, restaurants and farmers markets, and increasing local opportunities is another goal. “I think this will be our breakout year for the Washington, D.C., area,” says Travis. / wildwoodshickorysyrup.comSusannah Black

(June 2015)

VA Made: Lindera Farms Vinegar

Posted by Editorial / Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

Lindera Farms Vinegar

Photo by Mike Ramm.

Gist: Vinegars made with ingredients from Virginia farms

Who: Daniel Liberson, who turns 28 this month, is a former chef and self-proclaimed vinegar geek. 

Started: Liberson’s family bought Lindera Farms in Delaplane in 2006 as an environmental restoration project and began repairing the land by planting herbs, berries and flowers, all perfect ingredients for vinegars.

Inspiration: While working in restaurants, Liberson saw the easy access chefs had to raw ingredients, like produce and meats, but couldn’t find local options for pantry staples like vinegar. Most chefs source vinegars from abroad. When buying vinegars from unknown suppliers, says Liberson, “quality assurance, sustainable sourcing, fair labor standards are all leaps of faith for a chef.”

Details: Vinegar is typically made using machines that speed up the process with heat and oxygenation, resulting in “acidic and usually far from palatable” vinegar, says Liberson. Liberson starts his vinegar with base ingredients of water, honey, yeast and foraged botanicals, slowly making a wine that will take up to a year to convert into vinegar.

Next: Liberson turned into a full-time vinegar-maker last fall and plans to experiment with savory flavors like ramp and wild carrot; his signature flavors include mulberry, elderflower and honey. Lindera Farms Vinegar is available in markets locally (Alexandria’s Society Fair, The Plains’ The Whole Ox), and Liberson plans to expand throughout the East Coast. / linderafarms.comSusannah Black

(April 2015)

VA Made: Twin Hearts Bakery

Posted by Editorial / Tuesday, February 10th, 2015

Twin Hearts Bakery.

Photo courtesy of Twin Hearts Bakery.

Gist: Home-based, gluten-free bakery of flourless fruit-and-nut cakes

Who: Dietician-turned-baker Theresa Bergida, 59, of Front Royal

Started: “I really should have died,” says Theresa Bergida. After a car accident in 2005, Bergida, a former registered dietician who was then a stay-at-home mom of seven, decided to take better care of her health.

She read Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s “Eat to Live,” lost 40 pounds and, tapping into her previous work helping heart patients, started inviting friends over and teaching them nutrition basics.

“That’s when I started thinking,” says Bergida, of the candy-laden Christmas fruitcake she made for the previous 30 years of holidays, “this recipe is awful.”

Inspiration: Bergida won Dare to Dream, a grant for area women sponsored by Front Royal Women’s Resource Center, and took that $700 as entrepreneurial inspiration. “It gave me enough courage to make that step. I had a little zip to get going with.”

Details: Adapted from a family friend’s recipe, Bergida replaced the candied fruit with dried ones and experimented with different types of nuts and loaf pans for a gluten-free dessert. “It’s a healthy dessert. But it is dessert,” says Bergida. She works almost 40 hours a week out of her home kitchen, which is USDA-certified.

Next: Open for seven years, Twin Hearts now sells in three states and the District of Columbia. Her son, who lives in England, and her daughter, who is moving to Canada, both want to help expand the business internationally./ twinheartsbakery.comStefanie Gans

(February 2015)

VA Made: Together We Bake

Posted by Editorial / Monday, December 22nd, 2014

Photo by Mike Ramm.

Gist: A non-profit teaching female ex-offenders personal development and life skills, plus training in food safety, baking and running a business.

Who: Stephanie Wright and Tricia Sabatini, stay-at-home mothers who combined their expertise—social work and baking—says Sabatini, to “use our talents for good in the community.”

Started: Wright and Sabatini met through their children and became running buddies, completing four marathons together. Over many workouts, the two decided that after more than 10 years out of the workforce, they would start a business helping their Alexandria neighborhood.

Inspiration: A self-taught baker, Sabatini used to run a business out of her house. She taps two recipes from her repertoire—chocolate chip cookies and cinnamon pecan granola—to teach baking. The business component includes food safety certification, labeling, packaging, marketing and social media training. Treats are sold at the Alexandria Whole Foods, Del Ray Farmers Market, Market 2 Market and Cheesetique, among others.

Details: They found partners in Friends of Guest House, a non-profit housing and support system for ex-offenders, and Downtown Baptist Church, which provides rent-free space and a commercial-grade kitchen with a 20-rack oven. (They only use 10 racks at a time: cookies need air flow.)

Next: Wright and Sabatini are looking for more business partners, especially local businesses willing to employ graduates—71 women since January 2013—and finding more outlets to sell cookies and granola. /  —Stefanie Gans

(December 2014)

VA Made: The Popcorn Bag

Posted by Editorial / Thursday, October 16th, 2014

The Popcorn Bag

Photo courtesy of The Popcorn Bag.

Gist: Sixty-plus flavors of popcorn

Who: Jim Ford, 57, a retired Marine Corps musician

Started: In 2009 “when the economy tanked, people couldn’t afford beauty treatments,” says Ford, so his girlfriend (now wife) Helen Ford, an esthetician and massage therapist, looked for a new line of work.

Inspiration: When Helen visited Dallas with her sister and left a popcorn store, surprising herself by spending $25 worth of kernels, her sister suggested they open their own shop in Houston. Now married and living together in Fredericksburg, Ford replicated his wife’s business model and opened The Popcorn Bag in January 2013; Helen is back to esthetics.

Details: “We can match any kind of food, or dish, in popcorn,” says Ford, who employs oils, seasonings, spices—and the real thing—including actual bacon, chocolate and cheese, to create wide-ranging flavors. His time stationed in Japan influenced his next batch of flavors: wasabi soy ranch, seaweed and green tea. The Popcorn Bag makes three types of flavored popcorns: savory (bacon cheeseburger, coconut curry and chicken and waffles); candy and caramel; (sour watermelon tastes just like a Jolly Rancher); and specialty (birthday cake, orange creamsicle and salted dark chocolate caramel).

Next: By the end of this month, Ford hopes to open his second location, also in Fredericksburg, in a bigger space that will allow him to double capacity and introduce online ordering. /  —Stefanie Gans

(October 2014)

VA Made: Balsamo’s Family Kitchen

Posted by Editorial / Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

Balsamo’s Family Kitchen (The Extended Balsamo Family)

The Extended Balsamo Family. Photo courtesy of Balsamo’s Family Kitchen.

The debut product, 7 Salad Dressing, also works as a dip, marinade and sauce for pasta.

Tamara Gallik, a single mother of seven children between the ages of 12 and 31

When Gallik’s husband died suddenly five years ago, she had never worked outside the home. The first two years “I was in shock,” she says, then her oldest son Jonathan Balsamo “tried to encourage me to go out into the workforce and I was hesitant. I always told him, ‘Find what you love to do and figure out a way to make money doing it. And you will love what you’re doing and it won’t feel like work.’ And he kind of turned that around on me.”

Based on her sister’s red wine vinegar and oil dressing, Gallik reworked the recipe to be “spicy, yet sweet,” says Gallik—adding cayenne and turmeric—and has been making it for the last 10 years for family and friends. “They want it in an IV,” she says. Gallik officially started the company last fall and sells the dressing online and at area farmers markets.

The name represents many sevens in Gallik’s life, the number of spices in the dressing; the number of children she has; she’s the seventh youngest in her family of 20 brothers and sisters; and it’s “God’s favorite number,” says Gallik, “it means angelic perfection.”

“That’s up to God,” says Gallik. As for her business, “try another dressing.” / balsamosfamilykitchen.comStefanie Gans

(July 2014)

VA Made: Shenandoah Spice Company

Posted by Editorial / Monday, June 23rd, 2014

Shenandoah Spice Company

Photo courtesy of the Shenandoah Spice Company.

Gist: Herbs and seasonings, blended by hand

Who: Nick Crabill, 33, and childhood friend Josh Burrows, 34, started the company in the early aughts and Burrows’ wife Megan, 28, joined the operations a few years later. When the two had been dating for a couple of months, Megan remembers seeing: “random things that said ‘Rub It In’ and I was kind of thinking to myself, ‘Alright it’s been long enough, I can find out what this is about.’” Once she learned about the spice company—and its naughty tag line—she encouraged them to sell at farmers markets.

Started: Canoeing on the Shenandoah River, Crabill told Burrows he needed to fill shelf space and boost retail at his family’s butcher shop, Crabill’s Meats, opened in 1962. Burrows, a recent culinary school graduate and then-chef at Bryce Resort in Mt. Jackson, suggested selling private-label seasoning blends at the butchery.

Inspiration: From that conversation on the canoe, Crabill and Burrows developed three initial blends to enhance different meats at the butchery, including selling pre-seasoned meats.

Details: Many of the spice blends start with customer requests, especially salt-free concoctions. Burrows researches using spice encyclopedias and barbecue recipe books and then tests each blend using grilling, baking and sauteing methods.

Next: Jalepeno-based Hot Monkey Sauce, the company’s first foray outside of spices, will debut this year. /  shenandoahspicecompany.comStefanie Gans

(June 2014)

VA Made: Virginia Chocolate Company

Posted by Editorial / Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

By Stefanie Gans

Virginia Chocolate Company Habanero Chocolate Bar

Photo by Mike Ramm.


Virginia Chocolate Company Peanut Butter Bacon Chocolate

Photo by Mike Ramm.

Gist: Chocolates (40 flavors), truffles (400 flavors), jellies, brittles, barks and fudges handmade in Stafford

Who: Former paralegal Tim Douglas, 42, opened Virginia Chocolate Company ten years ago.

Started: “I hate to admit it, but I was really good at my job,” says Douglas at his time at the (now defunct) debt-collecting firm Mann Bracken, where he helped sue 40,000 Virginians in one year alone. After almost a decade there, he quit right before Christmas. Needing money for presents, he sold hand-dipped truffles, a skill he picked up from a French chef at his foster mother’s restaurant Le Petit Chef in Vermont, more than 25 years before.

Inspiration: When a customer requested a rose-flavored truffle, Douglas thought it was too floral: “It was like getting my mouth washed out with soap.” He remedied the garden-overload by resurrecting the scented memories of his two months living in India, mixing cardamom with rose oil.

Details: Labeled “Very Hot!,” the Spicy Habanero milk chocolate bar uses chilies from the Falls Church Farmers Market, cream from a small farm in Pennsylvania and for extra heat, the notoriously capsaicin-concentrated ghost pepper. “I’m a little sadistic with that one,” says Douglas.

Next: Expanding into a bigger facility, opening kiosks in local malls (Springfield, Fair Oaks, Tysons) and offering calico (combining milk, dark and white chocolate) Easter bunnies.

(April 2014)

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