Winter holidays wouldn’t be the same without festive food and drink. This Foodie’s Diary is devoted to an in-depth look at three locally made products to brighten spirits this season and beyond.
Spiral Rock Kombucha, an alternative spirit
Kombucha has gone from little-known health beverage to grocery store staple in recent years.
Recognizing its popularity, Spiral Rock Vineyard of Lewiston added kombucha to its winery list a year ago and went one step further last spring, creating a line of hard kombucha.
“We work all year to get one harvest of grapes. Nationally kombucha is getting tons of recognition. It’s delicious and healthy, so we thought, ‘why not give a shot at making it,’ ” said Stuart Davis who runs the vineyard with his partner and friend, Shane Hyde.
Spiral Rock’s alcoholic and nonalcoholic kombucha comes in a variety of flavors made from locally grown fruit. It’s available for sale in bottles and on tap at locations in Lewiston, Clarkston and Moscow (find a list at the bottom of this story).
Kombucha’s purported health benefits and low sugar content have contributed to its popularity. Davis was introduced to the drink about five years ago while visiting his daughter in Hawaii. One of her friends was brewing it and he taught Davis how to make it. Davis struggles with diabetes and switched from drinking diet soda to kombucha.
Kombucha starts with a sweet tea fermented with a living organism called a SCOBY, which stands for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. The yeast consume the sugar, creating carbon dioxide and alcohol. The bacteria in the SCOBY eat the alcohol and make acetic acid, which is vinegar.
“Brewed properly, it has tang. Brewed too long and it’s really tart,” Davis said.
A lot of people tell him they don’t like kombucha, but kombuchas vary widely depending on brewing time. Often these people have tried only a brand that was very sour, he said.
Spiral Rock’s kombucha is on the fruity side, without a lot of sugar content. The soft kombucha has 40 calories per 8-ounce serving, while the hard kombucha has 105 calories, most of those coming from alcohol, he said.
Spiral Rock fortifies its hard kombucha with grain alcohol to bring the alcohol percentage up to about 5 ½ percent ABV — roughly the equivalent of a craft beer, he said. After experimentation, Davis decided to add alcohol instead of the alternative, adding more sugar to the drink to create alcohol. Adding sugar mushroomed the sugar content and it tasted “nasty,” he said. Added alcohol provided consistent results in terms of flavor. He sees Spiral Rock’s hard kombucha as a playful version of their soft kombucha.
“I’m not a purist. I wanted to create something that was fun to drink.”
Spiral Rock hard kombucha is sold bottled in two flavors: TripleBerry Kicker, a blend of blackberries, blueberries and raspberries; and Plum Cherry Bomb, made from plums and cherries picked from an orchard at the vineyard. Cost is $11 for a 25-ounce bottle.
Spiral Rock soft kombucha is sold bottled and on tap and comes in a variety of flavors, including rotating seasonal options. For the holidays, they made a wild apple cranberry-flavored kombucha with wild apples grown outside Genesee, Davis said.
“We try to push local whenever we can and use fruit that comes from my property or other people’s property.”
Claims about kombucha’s health benefits include support for digestion and the immune system, but Davis said none of this has been substantiated by the Food and Drug Administration. Some people have told him it’s a great hangover cure.
“I don’t know anything about that. I just love the way it tastes,” he said.
Spiral Rock soft kombucha sells for 20 cents an ounce on tap at both A&B Foods locations in Lewiston, Amsterdam Coffee Club in Clarkston, the Moscow Food Co-op, and Mystic Cafe and Imua restaurants in Lewiston.
Hard kombucha is sold in bottles at the co-op, A&B Foods locations and Rosauers in Moscow. Plans are in the works for it to also be sold at Rosauers in Lewiston, Davis said.
Toasting with chocolate that dances
For many people, New Year’s Eve wouldn’t be the same without raising a glass of champagne to what’s been and what’s to come. Dancing Chocolates make that toast a bit more memorable.
The small heart- and star-shaped chocolates were especially designed to both taste good and “dance,” bouncing around in the bubbly depths of sparkling beverages.
The chocolates were invented by Vicki Leeper of Pullman and her business partners Pat Jones of Sacramento, Calif., and Diane Amos of St. Petersburg, Fla. It took two and half years of research and development to create chocolates that would consistently dance, Leeper said.
“They work best in Brut champagne, but work in other champagnes and sparkling wine. They also work pretty good in nonalcoholic ginger beer. They work OK in sparkling cider,” Leeper said.
Leeper imports Ecuadorian chocolate that has a fruity grape flavor that pairs well with champagne. It arrives in Pullman as little discs that she shapes into hearts or stars and sells online. She says they’ve been well-received since marketing began at the end of 2017. Her clients tend to be women ages 45 and older.
“There’s no one else in the world that’s doing it, so it’s a really unique product. Give it as a gift with champagne, and you’ve upped your game.”
Dancing Chocolates also sells Spuffles, alcohol-themed truffles on a spoon that come in 18 different flavors ($1.75 to $3.50 each depending on size). Leeper said she can convert any cocktail into a Spuffle. She does custom flavors for events. Recently she created a Fireball whiskey Spuffle for a firefighters’ ball. January’s flavor of the month will be raspberry mojito.
Dancing Chocolates are $5.95 per 0.75 ounce bag. They’re also available in bulk for special events. All her chocolates are available online at dancingchocolate.com. For people who live in the Quad Cities of Lewiston, Clarkston, Moscow and Pullman, Leeper will provide free delivery within two days. To arrange delivery, one should enter a Moscow or Pullman ZIP code online to skip the shipping cost. She’ll follow up with an email to arrange a time and date for delivery, she said. Dancing Chocolates also are for sale at the Pullman Chamber of Commerce.
When you’ve had too much holiday fun
With the wide array of food and drink the holidays offer, it’s so easy to overdo it. If that tends to happen to you, I recommend the Hangover Helper Tea sold by the bag ($2.50 each) at Sam’s Apothecary in downtown Pullman.
This tea is made in the shop using several Chinese herbs. It’s designed to alleviate discomfort caused by too much alcohol or overeating. I steeped a bag and drank the tea after a rich, late-night holiday dinner. Not only did it taste great, I felt it helped me digest my food. End result: I didn’t go to bed with an uncomfortable, overstuffed belly facing a night of misery tossing and turning. Ingredients include hibiscus flower, which provides the overriding fruity flavor. Some other ingredients are Kudzu root, Gall of Chinese Sumac, Chrysanthemum flower and Chinese Hawthorn Berry.