Meet Your Neighbors: Pepper & Salt, an artisan food delivery business (and real good soup)

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We’ve had the soup from Pepper & Salt and can attest it is, indeed, delicious. If you’re in the neighborhood, you can pick then up at the Warrior Room and Mix N’ Match.

Describe your business?
Pepper & Salt has reinvented ready to eat meals. Each unique menu item is a mixture between a visit to your local farmer’s market and personal catering. We hand craft small batches of organic, local and seasonable cuisine so everyone, regardless of how busy or tired they are, has access to nourishing meals.  We are a unique, boutique business described as an artisan food delivery business – which is pretty accurate.  While we offer the convenience of pick-up locations in different areas, we also deliver to a large number of “Soup Groups.”  Delivery is free for Soup Groups ordering $60 or more a week.  Our meals are $10 and $12 each, along with a variety of sides that range from $4.00 – $8.00.  So a group of 4-6 people can easily meet the minimum order for free delivery.  Soup Group delivery is great for groups in an office, gym, school, city building ~ even for a group of neighbors who want the convenience of delicious, nutritious ready-to-eat meals.

Do you deliver around here?
Where can people pick up? We do deliver, specifically Milwaukie, Oak Grove, Gladstone, Oregon City, West Linn, and SE Portland.  We are hoping to expand deliveries to parts of North Portland, downtown Portland and possibly the Sunnyside area this summer.  Details will be posted on our website.   We currently have pick-up locations at the Warrior Room [1928 SE Washington, Milwaukie 97222], Mix n Match Creamery in Oak Grove [2144 SE Oak Grove Blvd, 97267], The Marylhurst School in Oregon City [817 12th St, 97045], and Eastham Community Center in Oregon City [1404 7th St].  Delivery days will be Monday and/or Wednesday depending on location and menu item ordered.

 

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What made you choose to live in the area (roughly Oak Grove/Oak Lodge/Milwaukie)? We moved here from San Francisco 16 years ago.  My husband and I are both from Eugene originally, and chose this area because it felt like home to us on our first visit.

What are some of the advantages to living here?
What do you like about it? Our neighborhood is speckled with big old historic homes on large lots – we loved that aspect of the neighborhood we chose to move it.    We are close to the river, we have easy access to the city, we have great schools, and we’ve have enjoyed seeing this area develop community through urban farms, the Farmer’s markets, new parks, and The Trolley Trail.

What was the need you saw that needed filled?  
We don’t have enough good choices for food where we live.  We have a lot of fast food for sure, but not many restaurants in the area that serve healthy, locally sourced foods for their menus.  Which is why we grow a lot of what we eat.   The concept of making soups came to me when I was working out with a small group of kettlebell maniacs.  Our trainer and owner of what is now The Warrior Room in Milwaukie, asked if we could offer pre and post workout meals to the then 15 members.   I knew soup was one of the best foods for refueling, nourishing and satisfying a craving. If handcrafted, soups can fulfill not only a craving but any dietary need one may have.  Everybody loves soups – kids and adults alike, so with that in mind, I started making them and selling them in quart containers to this small group.  I had a regular clientele that quickly grew.  Members were buying for their post workout meals, for dinner for their families, or to take to work the next day.  They were my testing ground for approximately 40 recipes.  Since then we have grown to have over 125 in our catalog.

Tell us about your partnership with Schoolyard Farms? How did that develop?
Our children attended elementary school at Jennings Lodge and Candy Lane.  I had been growing a large garden for years, but really wanted my kids to get the full experience of growing and farming through specialized curriculum, so as a parent I jumped in with both feet to help our 6th grade teacher, Keely Rock, get this program off the ground.  The garden was inspired by our Green School certification, but we truly became a unique school program when a friend of ours who was farming in the area,  helped us launch an actual organic farm right at our school.  At the time the farmers were operating their own CSA and looking for more land to farm. I invited them over one day to “advise” us on our raised bed garden and to consider the possibilities of farming the unused school land.   It was an exciting moment for all of us when we realized what we were about to embark on.  Keely proposed the idea to the school with a five year plan that included offering some of the food in the cafeteria and in exchange for use of the land, our farmers would provide (5) CSA boxes to families in need, as well as a comprehensive garden/farming curriculum for the 4th, 5th and 6th grade classrooms.  We raised money through small grants and our fabulous PTA made the garden a “line-item” on their funding agenda each year so we could buy tools, gloves, soil, building materials, the green house and the shed. Throughout the year, the kids were hands-on in the building of 30 raised beds, a green house, planting of all the foods, as well as a blueberry hedge and 2500 square foot pumpkin patch, and replacement of all school ground plants with natives for the beds around the classrooms.  They also built bat and bird houses to encourage habitat and researched rainwater harvesting, winter cover crops, and natural soil enhancements.

During the few years that I helped run the garden, I saw first-hand how many of our children didn’t have access to fresh, nutritious foods and many had never tasted fresh vegetables.   We had one little boy pull a carrot out of the ground and ask us what it was.  Many of our kids not only had no idea where food came from, or how it grew.   I worked in food services for years as a marketing director and culinary consultant, so this wasn’t new information for me, but to witness it first-hand really changed what I wanted to do.  I know the impact the farm had on the children that helped start it.  I still see these kids who are now in high school   They have carried that experience with them and now know how to access and even grow fresh, organic foods and how to make good choices in what they eat.

The partnership with school and the farmers has grown even more since then.  Schoolyard Farms now runs the farm at the school and works with the kids each week.  Foods from the garden will be featured in the cafeteria this coming year so kids can truly experience the rewards of their growing efforts in their own cafeteria.   My partnership with Schoolyard Farms has continued and I now buy produce from them for many of our menu items.  I encourage people to come see the farm and see what can happen with a little bit of land and a lot of enthusiasm from children and good teachers!

 

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What’s your biggest seller?
The biggest sellers are our Tom Khaa, Lemon Tarragon Chicken with Wild Rice and our “Mellow Yellow,” a ginger coconut curry lentil soup.   The Tom Khaa starts with a very traditional Thai vegetable broth that we make in-house and then add bok choy, local kale, local carrots, shiitakes, grilled chicken or tofu — its loaded!  We serve it with lemongrass infused jasmine rice.  The Lemon Tarragon Chicken with Wild Rice is made with savory organic chicken stock infused with organic farm eggs so it has a creamy richness and added protein [great for kids!].  We add grilled citrus marinated chicken, organic sautéed zucchini, organic wild rice, organic fresh thyme and fresh lemon.  It’s heavenly year round!  Our Mellow Yello is made with organic yellow lentils, organic squash, organic yellow curry, organic carrots, shallots, onions, limes, fresh ginger, organic veggie stock and coconut milk.  Its amazing and one of my favorites.  We grow many of the tomatoes and basil that goes into our Creamy Roasted Tomato Basil soup ~ another one that people ask for all the time!

Future plans?
We are reaching out to more of the community via First Friday, personalized tastings, and wellness fairs.  Our hope is to expand our pickup sites and delivery locations.

 

 

 

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