Boulder’s own, Esoteric Food Company, takes its budding popularity to Boulder’s Farmer’s Market. The raw, organic, and probiotic line of pickles, offers vegan and traditional varieties of traditional Asian flavors, and some unconventional creative pairings that fit into Boudler’s veggie and health-centric culture.
Esoteric’s line of pickled produce, aptly named Zuké, short for the Japanese word for “pickled,” includes all from the traditional pungent Korean delight, kimchi, to the innovative concoction of beets, haijiki seaweed, and kale. Friends, co-owners, and masterminds behind the line, Willow and Mara, started Esoteric Food Company “as a result of a years worth of weekly get-togethers, where we would experiment with raw cheeses, butters, cured meats, ferments, spirits, beers, meads- you name it. We ended up really loving fermentation and the alchemy of that process and from that zuké was born.” Thus far, there are four flavors available for retail purchase, but the pair incorporates seasonal farmer’s market finds into their concoctions. Being from Hong Kong, Mara, a professional sushi chef for many years, draws inspiration from Asian flavors and combinations.
I was lucky enough to speak to Willow King about their deviation from the American notion of what constitutes a pickle.
“We use the word pickles in a more universal sense- in most parts of the world when anything is made sour from fermentation it is “pickled.” In America we have come to equate the pickle with a vinegar treated gherkin or cucumber- but that is just a sliver of the possibilities. We do love those cucumber pickles too- and will certainly do some late summer at the Farmer’s Market.”
Apart from the briny lure of the pickle, I was intrigued by the health benefits in result of the fermentation process:
“Our zuké are all highly probiotic, which gives them myriad health benefit. They are of great support to the intestinal flora, which supports healthy digestion and immunity.” Willow and Mara also write a blog that address the health benefits if you would like to read more in-depth.
“We are a very small company and still make most everything with our own hands. As we grow we want to hold on to the hand cut feel of the veggies and the artisanal fermenting process.”
Ultimately, regardless of the impressive ingredient list and health benefits, I can attest to the great flavor of their line. Having lived in San Francisco, I had the opportunity to test many variations of pickled veggies and kimchi, so I consider myself to be fairly picky in regards to the craft of pickled foods. Esoteric Foods offers both a vegan and traditional form of kimchi, which incorporates anchovies. While the flavor of both is slightly less pungent than traditional Korean kimchi, the less aggressively sharp flavor pairs nicely with a contrasting element like rice. Personally I could eat the beet, haijiki, and kale on its own.
Esoteric foods is locally produced in Boulder, and you can find them at The Boulder Farmer’s Market, Whole Foods, Alfalfa’s, Cured, Dish, Lucky’s, and Back to Basics Kitchen.