Spices have always brought variety to Dana Parson's food. After years of experimenting with unique flavorings on food, he is introducing his latest creation, Bridgeview Olives, to consumers. The fledgling company offers marinated olives with flavors such as pizza, tamale and smoked garlic.
Spices have always brought variety to Dana Parson's food.
After years of experimenting with unique flavorings on food, this rural Avon, Ill., resident is introducing his latest creation, Bridgeview Olives, to consumers. The fledgling company offers marinated olives with flavors such as pizza, tamale and smoked garlic.
"I was making my own flavored sunflower seeds, and next thing I know somebody's got flavored sunflower seeds out there (in stores)," Parson said. "I used to put different flavors on popcorn, and now they've got flavored popcorn. Finally, I came into the olives and said, 'I'm going to do this myself.'
"I've got an idea, and I want to see what I can do with it."
Parson, 41, began adding habanero peppers from his garden into a marinade. He added in green olives -- the common pimento-stuffed manzanillas -- and stirred the mix daily for about a month.
The union electrician began bringing the finished product, which had a nice kick, to work sites. Parson was working on a job in East Peoria alongside electrician Jason McKenzie, who sampled several varieties of the olives.
McKenzie finally asked to buy more.
"After that, I thought maybe I had something here," Parson said.
"It's kind of like Jones Soda," McKenzie said. "They've got all those crazy flavors. Some of them you wouldn't think would be any good, but they are. That's kind of how it is with the olives. They're all really
Other olive flavors include hot, sweet-hot and western, and experimentation continues on others. Parson declines to identify specific ingredients other than to say the olives marinate in a "liquid" -- a few gallons per batch.
Some attempts, such as beer and black pepper, were failures.
"We've dumped out a lot of olives," he said. "Some of them are pretty nasty."
Establishing their own company also has involved plenty of trial and error for Parson and his wife, Stephanie.
The company name comes from the 1800s-era iron bridge the family's home overlooks. A photo of the bridge appears on labels printed on the home computer by Stephanie, who also does most of the company's paperwork.
After navigating complicated health codes and marketing procedures, the Parsons hope to see their olives available to the public sometime this summer.
A series of phone calls eventually led Parson to employees with the Illinois Department of Agriculture and the Illinois Department of Public Health, who guided him through the hurdles.
Parson took classes to receive a sanitation license, found an approved food processing facility and learned he isn't permitted to use garden-grown ingredients for olives he sells.
Instead, he will purchase Spanish olives in 55-gallon drums from an importer out of Chicago and will buy ingredients from Excalibur Seasoning Co. in Pekin, Ill. Six-ounce jars are ordered online.
The ag and health departments also helped Parson with details such as nutritional analyses, scanner codes, food warranties and liability insurance.
For now, Parson will produce and package the olives himself. That involves stirring the marinade daily for a month or more. Eventually, he could go the more costly, efficient route of hiring a contract packer to process and package the olives.
Then there's the matter of how to get the product onto shelves.
To get them in grocery stores, Parson will either need to sell and distribute them himself or will have to hire brokers and distributors. He eventually could try to sell olives from their Web site: www.bridgeviewolives.com.
Then there's the matter of identifying a niche.
Parson said he enjoys the olives on salads or in relish trays. He plans to distribute samples at local grocery stores.
But when he appeared via Web camera on the CNBC show "The Big Idea With Donny Deutsch" in February, the show's host recommended exploring a new direction -- coming up with a specialty drink, such as a martini.
Since then, Parson has talked with a liquor distributor about marketing the olives for use in martinis and bloody marys.
The complicated process of developing a new product leaves Parson neither shaken nor stirred.
"It's very educational," Parson said. "There's a lot you have to go through. I'd like to see our product out there.
"It would be great if everybody liked it and I could say, 'Yeah, I came up with that.' "
Peoria Journal Star writer Ryan Ori can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Black cod with olives and potatoes in parchment
1/2 pound small Yukon Gold potatoes
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons finely chopped oregano, divided
2 1/4 teaspoons fine sea salt, divided
8 (5-ounce) pieces skinless black cod, Pacific cod, or haddock fillet (about 1 inch thick), bones removed
1 lemon, very thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 cup Kalamata-style black olives, pitted and cut into slivers
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
Preheat oven to 400 degrees with a baking sheet on bottom rack.
Cut potatoes into very thin slices with a slicer. Toss potatoes with 2 tablespoons oil, 1 teaspoon oregano and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt. Divide potatoes among parchment squares, arranging them in center, slightly overlapping, then top with a piece of fish.
Sprinkle each fillet with a scant 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, then top each with a lemon slice, a few garlic slices and olive slivers, parsley leaves, 1/2 teaspoon oregano and 1/2 tablespoon oil.
Gather sides of parchment up over fish to form a pouch, leaving no openings, and tie tightly with kitchen string. Put packages on hot baking sheet and bake until fish is just cooked through, 15 to 22 minutes.
Makes 8 servings.
Cook's note: Fish can be assembled in parchment 4 hours ahead and chilled.
(Recipe courtesy of Gourmet magazine, April 2008)
20 pieces of French bread, crust removed
1 dozen eggs
3 cups skim milk
Cheddar cheese, enough to cover one layer
Parmesan or jack cheese, enough for one layer
Chopped green and black olives, enough for one layer
Chopped onion and pimentos, enough for one layer
Chopped Italian salami, ham or bacon, per your preference
Chopped Italian parsley for garnish
Oil a large baking dish. Line bottom with 10 pieces of sliced French bread. Add layer of shredded cheddar, then a layer of chopped green and black olives, pimentos and onion (save 10 tablespoons of mixture for garnish).
Sprinkle garlic powder and Italian herb seasoning on top.
Optional: Add chopped Italian salami, ham or bacon.
Cover with 10 pieces of French bread. Add a light cheese layer on top of bread, jack or Parmesan work well.
Beat 1 dozen eggs with 3 cups of skim milk and pour around the bread. Press each layer down with a spatula to cover with the egg mixture.
Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes, until souffle'd and bubbly.
Cut and loosen from baking dish and neatly place serving on center of each plate. Place a tablespoon of reserve olive mixture on each serving.
Drizzle a sharp Tuscan oil over the top. Dust borders of plates with chopped Italian parsley and serve.
Makes 10 servings.
(Recipe courtesy of Celeste Carducci of McClelland-Priest Bed &
Breakfast via www.oliveoilsource.com.)