Meet 3 vets in the food and drink in­dus­try

The Phoenix - - COMMUNITY - By Emily Ryan In­gre­di­ents In­struc­tions RECIPE COUR­TESY OF EIGHT OAKS CRAFT DIS­TILLERS In­gre­di­ents In­struc­tions RECIPE COUR­TESY OF EIGHT OAKS CRAFT DIS­TILLERS In­struc­tions RECIPE COUR­TESY OF THE HAPPY PITA Source: U.S. Small Busi­ness Ad­min­is­tra­tion

A fter 25 years of ac­tive ser­vice from Apache he­li­copter me­chanic to Army pi­lot, Chad But­ters changed course, swap­ping sor­ties for stills.

“Life is re­ally short, and if there are dreams and things you want to do, you need to get up and do them,” said the co­founder of Eight Oaks Craft Dis­tillers, who re­tired from the mil­i­tary to help his wife bat­tle can­cer.

“We wanted to spend more time with friends and fam­ily,” he ex­plained. “We wanted to do some­thing with agri­cul­ture. We wanted to be home ev­ery night, and we wanted to have fun.”

The re­sult: a “seed-to-bot­tle” dis­tillery in New Tripoli, Le­high County, where they grow grain and mill it on-site to make whiskey, vodka, rum and more. So, this Vet­eran’s Day, raise a glass!

“I think it’s im­por­tant to sup­port lo­cal busi­nesses,” But­ters stressed. “And it just so hap­pens that some of these lo­cal busi­nesses are owned by men and women who served their coun­try.”

Take ARO Hill Farm in Jami­son, for ex­am­ple. Jim Wert­man, a re­tired Navy chief petty of­fi­cer, trav­eled the world be­fore join­ing the ranks of “Troops to Trac­tors.”

“I de­cided I wanted to farm. That’s when I went crazy, I guess,” he said with a laugh.

Wert­man now sells or­gan­i­cally grown fruits and veg­eta­bles, raises chick­ens and hosts events, draw­ing on 21 years of mil­i­tary ex­pe­ri­ence.

“I think most of life is just hard work and be­ing able to adapt and change to be suc­cess­ful,” he noted. “And the mil­i­tary does that ev­ery day.”

An­other im­por­tant skill: “at­ten­tion to de­tail,” said Ma­rine Corps vet­eran Valen Cianci of The Happy Pita in Malvern. “The at­ten­tion to de­tail in the mil­i­tary and as a CPA trans­lates into the restau­rant in­dus­try.”

Fol­low­ing two com­bat tours in Iraq, he joined long­time friends in busi­ness.

“We’re con­sid­ered to have the best falafel def­i­nitely in the Ch­ester County area,” Cianci de­scribed. “Ev­ery­thing’s home­made, fresh. We buy our pro­duce lo­cal, and we buy our drinks lo­cal. We’re in­volved in our com­mu­nity.”

Back at Eight Oaks Craft Dis­tillers, But­ters’ wife, still in treat­ment, “is do­ing well” and their “prod­uct line con­tin­ues to grow” – 11 spir­its and count­ing.

“I don’t think I have ever smiled less,” he said. “My face gets tired from smil­ing.”

Pump­kin Spice Mar­tini

2 ounces Eight Oaks Amer­i­can Vodka

2 ounces house-made pump­kin spice syrup (see below)

1 heap­ing ta­ble­spoon of pump­kin puree

In a shaker, add ice, vodka, pump­kin spice syrup and pump­kin. Shake well and strain into a mar­tini glass. Top with whipped cream and a dash of pump­kin pie spice.

House-made pump­kin spice syrup: Bring wa­ter to boil. Stir in equal parts sugar. Once sugar is dis­solved, add vanilla and pump­kin pie ex­tract. Let cool com­pletely.

Note: This is a fun syrup to play around with and fit per­fectly to your taste. Add some cin­na­mon or nut­meg for a fun twist. PHOTO COUR­TESY OF EIGHT OAKS CRAFT DIS­TILLERS Spir­its age in bar­rels at Eight Oaks Craft Dis­tillers. PHOTO COUR­TESY OF ARO HILL FARM Greek yo­gurt poppy-seed dress­ing tops The Happy Pita, an award­win­ning com­bi­na­tion of chicken, av­o­cado and straw­ber­ries.

Log Cabin

2 ounces Eight Oaks Au­then­tic Ap­ple­jack

1 ounce fresh le­mon juice

1 1/2 ounces rose­mary-honey syrup (see below)

3 ounces lo­cal ap­ple cider Fresh rose­mary

In a shaker, add Eight Oaks Ap­ple­jack, le­mon Juice, rose­mary-honey syrup, ap­ple cider and sprig of rose­mary. Shake well and pour into rocks glass. Gar­nish with rose­mary sprig.

Honey-rose­mary syrup: Mix equal parts warm wa­ter and honey. Once honey is dis­solved, re­move from heat and add fresh Valen Cianci, co-owner of The Happy Pita, served two com­bat tours in Iraq.

rose­mary. Once cool, strain and store in an air­tight con­tainer in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.

Greek Yo­gurt Poppy-Seed Dress­ing


2 1/4 cups, plus 1 1/2 ta­ble­spoons yo­gurt

2 1/4 cups, plus 1 1/2 ta­ble­spoons may­on­naise

1 cup and 1 1/4 ounces white vine­gar

3 1/2 ta­ble­spoons poppy seeds 1/2 cup sugar

Whisk all items in a big bowl for 5 min­utes. Be sure to scrape the bot­tom of the en­tire bowl to pre­vent clumps and pock­ets of in­gre­di­ents.

By the num­bers…


It’s Na­tional Veter­ans Small Busi­ness Week.

Did you know? There are 2.52 mil­lion vet­eran-owned busi­nesses PHOTO COUR­TESY OF ARO HILL FARM in the United States.

That’s 9.1 per­cent of all Amer­i­can busi­nesses.

They em­ploy 5.03 mil­lion peo­ple and gen­er­ate $1. 14 tril­lion in re­ceipts.

More than half of vet­er­a­nowned busi­nesses, 57 per­cent, are home-based.

Cal­i­for­nia, Texas and Florida lead the way with the most vet­eran-owned busi­nesses, fol­lowed by New York and Penn­syl­va­nia.

When Chad But­ters re­tired from the Army, he launched Eight Oaks Craft Dis­tillers.

Try Au­then­tic Ap­ple­jack and other spir­its from Eight Oaks Craft Dis­tillers.

ARO Hill Farm spans 13 acres in Jami­son.


ARO Hill Farm runs a CSA (com­mu­nity sup­ported agri­cul­ture) and farm stand.


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