Lori Krieger grew up in a busy family, helping her dad in his veterinarian clinic. Really, she says, she thought she'd become a vet herself, but the hours were long and midnight calls and occasional doses of porcupine quills were all in a day’s work.
Because both of her parents were busy, she always had to cook. “I had to do it, but I considered it a chore,” she says.
Along the way, however, she began watching the Food Network and chores suddenly transformed into creative challenges – then passion. “I just got this fever for cooking,” she said.
That fever turned into a business -- but it happened over years, not overnight.
With her family at her side, Krieger launched Taste Elevated at the Emily Morgan Hotel’s Oro on Sept. 19.
As a crowd of well-wishers, friends, media, food professionals and associates picked up glasses of wine, they sampled Krieger's flavorful condiments with an array of hors d’oeuvres and charcuterie from Oro chef Chris Cook and his team.
This scene probably wasn't anything Krieger anticipated after attending Texas A&M and receiving a political science degree -- something her father, David Carter, was dubious about as far as her employment opportunities went. She married Benny Krieger, lived for five years in Washington, D.C. and had three boys, now ages 1, 2 and 4.
But, her fervor for cooking had not relinquished its hold, and sent her on an unexpected path after she returned to Texas from Washington.
Taste Elevated's Fig Chutney
After working with the plentiful figs that grew on trees on her parents' property, she came up with a chutney so good that it inspired her to think of producing it commercially.
"People tasted it and really loved it -- I got a real high out of that," she said.
Thus began the rigorous task of developing not just the fig chutney, but eventually a line of high-end condiments that would sell under the Taste Elevated label.
"I spent endless hours in the kitchen trying to make a business ... and learned a lot of hard lessons along the way," she said. This dose of reality is faced by all good cooks who decide to take the next step -- dealing with the FDA and health departments, addressing shelf life and other technical details.
Taste Elevated condiments on crostini at Oro.
The first six products are versatile, but especially suited to the spicy, salty flavors of prepared, often cured meat products called charcuterie. These include salamis and pate, terrines, sausages, soppressata, pepperoni, confit and more. Cheeses, artisan breads and fresh seafood, such as salmon and shrimp are also natural partners with Taste Elevated condiments.
Taste Elevated’s introductory line includes: Roasted Eggplant and Red Pepper, with red bell pepper, pine nuts and spices; Fig Chutney, with raisins and spices; Sweet and Spicy Mustard Seeds; Caramelized Onion Spread, with balsamic vinegar and a touch of the spicy Sriracha sauce; Spicy Candied Oranges; and a buttery Pear and Fennel Compote.
The idea for the name was to suggest that each of their products can take any dish to that next culinary level.
The Sweet and Spicy Mustard Seeds are like tiny, crunchy pickles that adorn a hot dog as deliciously as they do a slice of Spanish chorizo or manchego cheese. The Caramelized Onion Spread has a little heat from Sriracha, as well as a touch of flavor from ginger and a little garlic. The Spicy Candied Oranges works as topping for a triple cream cheese, or roasted salmon.
The original condiment, her Fig Chutney, is good just spread on a biscuit, says Krieger, but really shines with pork or a chicken panino. A buttery Pear and Fennel Compote went well atop duck confit canapes. The Roasted Eggplant Spread, also touched with spice, is a warm red color from the bell peppers and, says Krieger, works as a condiment, a spread or even spread on a homemade crust for a "really, really good pizza sauce."
Taste Elevated condiments are produced and packed by state's top gourmet food producer, Fischer & Wieser Specialty Foods, Inc. Fisher & Wieser ordinarily would not have produced Taste Elevated products, as the company doesn't produce private labels, according to company founder and chairman, Mark B. Wieser.
Wieser stood at the far side of the room at Oro, looking on as Krieger welcomed guests and delivered a short talk about Taste Elevated. His niece, Jenny Wieser, the company's CEO, was Kreiger’s taste critic and eventually champion at Fisher & Wieser, he said.
After sampling Krieger’s condiments several times and sending her back to the kitchen, the products won Jenny Wieser over, and the work of turning kitchen creations to high-end product began.
The Kriegers also make mesquite serving boards, large and small, to sell as companion products for Taste Elevated.
Krieger's dad offered moral support as well as financial. And, she thanked him and her mother, especially, at the launch party. She will now be seeking locations to place the products, looking particularly for specialty and gourmet shops rather than grocery stores.
"They are excellent and high quality, Wieser said. “With her enthusiasm, I think she can make a go of it.”
"The launch was a wonderful start to what will be a phenomenal company started by two entrepreneurs that I love very much," said her mom, Jan Carter. Her dad, also there to see Lori off to a good start said, "It was very gratifying to see the interest by the people that attended, it was a nice crowd. It was obvious that they were all foodies," he said.
Taste Elevated's line of condiments, designed to be especially good with charcuterie
Taste Elevated products are (so far) carried at Das Peach Haus, Fredericksburg Winery and at Koch Ranch Gourmet Country Store. In San Antonio at Groomer's Seafood and Bolner's. The prices range from $8-$11. Look for Krieger and her Taste Elevated product tastings at stores in the near future, too. Visit her website by clicking here.
Launch party at the Emily Morgan Hotel.