John Ireland Wins 2012 Iron Chef Challenge

Date: October 9, 2012
Author: marketeditor

Note: All photos used here were taken by Nicole Kroll Photography, 518-307-5986.

Two of Saratoga’s favorite chefs, Max London of Max London’s and John Ireland
of Panza’s, faced off in the Saratoga Farmers’ Market’s fifth annual Iron Chef
Challenge on the morning of Saturday, October 6. Grey skies did nothing to deter
the crowd of onlookers who tried to learn about the techniques and flavor
combinations used by the professionals.

Recognizing the diverse culinary preferences of its customers, the market
this year asked the chefs to develop separate meat-centered and vegan plates,
and an optional third plate of their own creation.

“Since our market’s first Iron Chef Challenge in 2008, this has become a
favorite annual event among our market customers. It’s inspiring for home cooks
to see what our area’s talented chefs can create with autumn’s fresh, local
ingredients,” noted Jeff Bowers, President of Saratoga Farmers’ Market

The chefs were allowed to bring butter, flour, oil, salt, pepper, three other
ingredients of their choice, and cooking utensils. The cooking equipment was
provided by Adirondack Appliance, including a flat-top EVO grill.

Shortly before 9:30 a.m., each chef received a basket of several “mystery
ingredients” from the farmers’ market. This year, those items included lamb
chops from Elihu Farm, kale from Otrembiak Farm, fennel from Denison Farm, and
Gar-La-La, a vegan garlic-potato dip sold at the Wednesday markets by the

Ooh La La
The tasty dips of Zorbas Natural Food
Cari SCribner lif, Times UnionCopyright 2013 Times Union. All
rights reserved. This  material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or

By Cari SCribner life@home
Published 8:09 am, Friday, July 2, 2010           

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In France, they say ooh
  la la
, but locally, it's "Gar-La-La." The catchy phrase is the product name
  for a line of dips and spreads based on traditional Greek recipes, designed to 
give people a healthy option in modern times of fast food abundance.

Colleen and Foti Zorbas of Clifton Park are partners in the grassroots but forward-thinking company Zorbas Natural Food. The couple lives with their three young children in
  a spacious, tastefully decorated home nestled on a forested lot in Clifton
Park.  Signs of their creativity are everywhere, from the intricate molding with
  columns and arches around the fireplace, hand-plastered by Foti, to the 
photographs and line drawings of unusual subjects, including Albert
. A row of thriving houseplants basks in the sun near a set of 
French doors. Come summertime, their backyard will become a garden for fresh 
herbs and the mainstay of Gar-La-La, fresh garlic.

 The story of how the couple launched a small but increasingly successful 
product line of garlic dips begins with Foti's childhood. Growing up in Colonie,
  Foti's parents, John and Demetra
, prepared foods that were fresh and full-flavored, including the 
traditional Greek Skordalia, a Greek potato and garlic dip. "We always had it in
  the fridge growing up," Foti Zorbas says. "A couple of years ago, I decided to 
make my own, and I took my mom's recipe and tweaked it. To this day she tells me
  it's not hot enough, because her recipe would literally burn  our mouths."

Is the family recipe a secret? Not when the simple, fresh ingredients are 
listed on the bright green label on every tub of Gar-La-La. The ingredients are 
purified water, potato, canola oil, raw garlic, dill, lemon, sea salt and 
pepper. Foti says recipes using these ingredients have been enjoyed by families 
of all ethnicities for decades; many versions of the recipes can be found on 
the Internet. 

But if the average person took these ingredients and tried to recreate Foti's
  Gar-La-La, they'd come up short. "It's the process I use to make the dip that's
  a secret," Foti says. "People are always asking how I make it; we even have 
people that have spent months trying to make it come out like mine does, but 
they can't come close."

 Since any food product sold to the public must be made in a U.S. Health 
Department certified facility, Foti prepares and packages the dips at area 
commercial kitchens, including My Other Kitchen in Ballston Spa. The dips don't 
contain dairy ingredients, but the 8-ounce package is preservative-free and must
  be refrigerated, even before opening. This packaging issue currently limits 
mass production.

"We have an extra fridge at our house, and we still store it at my father's 
house," Foti says. "Eventually we'll think about growing the business, building 
a kitchen in our basement, but right now, we like being small and managing every
  aspect of it ourselves."

Launching a new business, even with a product they believed in, doesn't come 
without lots of sleepless nights. "Starting out was like jumping off a diving 
board," Colleen Zorbas says. "Our first week selling outdoors, I pictured 100 people in
line  to try it, but at my first market, I stood there thinking, 'what am I
doing?'  Then we hear from someone who loves it, and that's enough encouragement
to  keep going."

The couple practices the wholesome eating habits they promote through their 
dairy, gluten and soy-free garlic dips. They adhere to a strictly vegan diet, 
use fresh produce grown in their garden or at local farms, and swear by the 
health benefits of eating plant-based foods.

Gar-La-La varieties include original, horseradish dill, roasted red pepper, 
and a new flavor, sun-dried tomato basil, out this summer. Their company slogan 
is "spread it, dip it, love it!" "It's mainly a condiment to be used as a dip 
for crackers or raw veggies," Colleen says. "But we hear back from people who 
add it to meatballs, soups, or as a sauce for cooked asparagus."

 Onto the obvious question asked by most would-be customers of the zesty 
garlic dip: What do you do about garlic breath? "Have your friends eat it with 
you so you all smell the same, or chew parsley afterwards," Colleen says. 
"Actually, after you eat garlic for a while your body adjusts and you won't have
  any aftertaste on your breath."

This summer, you can buy Zorbas Natural Food products at farmers' markets 
around the Capital Region, including Saratoga Springs at High Rock Park, 
Ballston Spa at Wiswall Park, and Delmar on Kenwood Avenue. A handful of health 
food stores also carry it, including Four
in Saratoga Springs, Honest
  Weight Food Co-op
in Albany, It's Only Natural at Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany,
  and also the Price Chopper at Shoppers
  World Plaza
, Clifton Park.
If you stop by one of the markets, you'll meet Colleen or Foti Zorbas, 
because they believe in personally greeting every customer. "We want to talk to 
people about why it's so healthy, and we want to see their reaction when they 
take their first bite," Colleen says. "We stand behind our promise that once you
  try it, you'll love it."

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