Meet 3 vets in the food and drink industry
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.
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…
PHOTO COURTESY OF EIGHT OAKS CRAFT DISTILLERS PHOTO COURTESY OF EIGHT OAKS CRAFT DISTILLERS
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.