Crooked Birch branches out
Sauces, oils and more find their way into new kitchen and Whole Foods
By Linda A. Thompson-Odum firstname.lastname@example.org
Crooked Birch Kitchen started as a way for owner Marisa Daly to meet people in her new home town of Lee.
In just a little more than three years, the business has outgrown her home kitchen and moved into a new production facility in Rochester. Sales of her products have expanded from that first Lee Country Fair to New England Whole Foods Markets.
“We’re still a family business,” Daly said. “I’m still a fanatic about our products. I do the cooking and I worry about the quality.”
Locally, you can find Daly’s products at Bella Vino wine shop in Londonderry and Meat Houses all over the area. In past sumers, Daily’s has had a booth at the Nashua Farmers’ Market. Daly started out selling salsas made from her family recipes. The product line has now expanded to include sauces, dipping oils, drizzles and jams. Recently she added pancake mix, maple syrup and ketchup to the list.
“I was amazed at how well the products sold. I never said I want to make salsas for a living, but it’s nice. And I’ve always loved to cook,” Daly said.
The love of homemade food is in Daily’s blood. Her mother is from Italy, and the family grew up with huge dinners prepared at home. “Nothing came from a can,” Daly remembers. “It was all cooked from scratch. When I wanted something to eat, I would cook it from scratch.”
Daly’s products were discovered by Whole Foods when a buyer tried the products at Allandale Farm. Her items can be found in the cheese and specialty department. This year she did holiday baskets for all 28 New England stores with her new pancake mix and maple syrup.
The business’s growth has made it more difficult for Daly to conduct in-person demonstrations of her products, but when there is something new to introduce, she makes every effort to go to each store for a demo. And though she’s excited to be in a large natural foods chain, she is just as proud of her long-time customers.
“Many of the accounts I have are ones I’ve had from day one,” she said.
One of Daly’s two most popular items is the three-pepper and black olive salsa, which was one of her first products. She said it is great tossed with angel hair pasta or on top of chicken — her Web site gives a recipe suggestion for each of her products. Also popular is the newer pineapple and chipotle salsa.
“If we get an e-mail, they are always looking for either the three-pepper or the pineapple-chipotle,” she said. (Online ordering will be available sometime in 2009.)
Like most talented cooks, Daly finds inspiration for new recipes in almost any circumstance. She said she always tries something at a Christmas party that gets her taste buds going and her imagination cranked up. She also tries to keep up with the newest food trends.
Anything new Daly creates has to pass a taste test by her husband, Paul, and herself.
“We both have to agree to like something before I will sell it,” she said. “I love everything I sell. If I don’t, I can’t get excited enough about it to sell it.”