I've been kicking off my day with a nip of Irish whisky ever since I met Isabelle Allen. And it's a tradition I intend to keep.
OK, full disclosure: I'm not tossing back the hard stuff before I step into my car and head to work. You see, Allen created an Irish Whisky Marmalade that she sells at the Colorado Farm and Art Market and at her store, Sweet Izzie's Kitchen.
I'd never been a fan of orange marmalade until I tasted her recipe. The addition of whisky (which you can taste) balances the bitter twang of orange peel, and it's not overly sweet. No wonder it's one of Allen's best-sellers, even though it's one of the more expensive jellies in her array of flavors, at $9.50 for a jar.
What inspired Allen to start making marmalade with whisky?
"It was a customer request," she said. "A lady came by my booth at one of the markets a few years ago and asked if I made Irish whisky orange marmalade. I've never been to Ireland and I don't drink whisky, but I knew how to make marmalade."
So she got to work tinkering with recipes until she found the perfect formula - a veritable pot of gold. The customer got what she wanted, and Allen continues to reap the benefits by winning over more and more marmalade enthusiasts.
"I have a lot of people tell me they don't like orange marmalade," she said, "but when they taste my Irish Whisky Marmalade, they come back again and again."
In addition to the marmalade, I have two other delicious food finds to report: Karami Japanese Salsa and Spice Island Grill sauces.
The jar of Japanese salsa looks like it's filled with super-hot green chiles. I admit that although I love spicy foods, the sight of all those pepper seeds struck me with the fear that it would be too hot to enjoy. Boy, was I wrong. Karami, which translates to "beautiful heat," is the perfect flavor balance of roasted green chiles, rice vinegar, soy sauce, blue agave, garlic, bell peppers and the secret Karami spice blend. I pile it on everything, but it is especially good on grilled meats.
When the Japanese immigrated to the Pueblo area to work on farms, they missed their traditional foods, including a sauce made with seaweed. They discovered that when green chile was prepared and seasoned with Japanese spices, it was a close substitute for the seaweed-base sauce. For more than 100 years, local Japanese have had a jar of this condiment in their kitchens, mainly to use on hot rice.
A couple of years ago, Kei Izawa and Jason Takaki, two Japanese Americans who live in Boulder, started bottling the salsa. Now we can all enjoy it. I found my jar at Nourish Organic Juice, 303 E. Pikes Peak Ave., for $9.50. Or visit karamisalsa.com.
As for the sauces, I saw Claudette Hutchinson, an owner of Spice Island Grill, 10 N. Sierra Madre St., at the Vegan Fest in Denver. She was selling her new line of Jamaican products: The Real "Jerk" Sauce, Merry Me Jerk Marinade, Hot as Hell Peppa Sauce and Mango-Tango Chutney. The sauces vary in heat, but none is dumbed down to suit tender tongues. Be especially careful with the Hot as Hell Peppa Sauce. A little bit will more than liven up anything.
Want to cook and eat like you're on a Caribbean vacation? Visit Hutchinson's eatery, where she sells her excellent sauces for $8 to $10. Call 473-8280 or visit spiceislandgrill.com.