A chat with Chris Crawford of TART Vinegar

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TART is a raw vinegar project by Chris Crawford. TART partners with farmers practicing regenerative agriculture to make vinegar that tastes exceptional and is thoughtful, fermenting everything in 4-gallon batches and monitoring the pH, acid, and flavor until the moment of “oh shit this is so good." 

It's a taste unlike most vinegar: bright, complex, and delicious.

We teamed up with Chris on our latest limited-release bundlewhich features her Lavender Vinegar and is all about playing around with acid, salt, and sweet to find your perfect Salty Lady Soda recipe ratio. This week, in celebration of May flowers and cool moms, Chris answered a few of our questions about product hits + misses, her favorite vinegar, and what she loves most about being a mom.

1. Who has inspired you the most in the food business? Did you grow up around this world?

I am always inspired the most by my friends and peers who are sitting around after a 10 hour shift to obsess over how to make something better. I am obsessed with obsession, not the actual easy to measure success. I grew up with parents who worked really hard and had multiple “shitty jobs”, and hustles. I did not grow up eating dungeness crab and fresh brussels sprouts but I can make something special with very little, and I know what matters the most when cooking for someone. 

2. Do you have a favorite product from your current and/or past lineup of flavors? 

Actually, it is lavender vinegar. It is the one that surprises people the most because they have this idea of what a lavender vinegar will taste like and it’s not good. Not to be gross, but the underwear drawer of a grandma is the typical image in someone's head. A satchel of dried potpourri is what I am trying to say. The actual flavor of this is more like flowering fresh thyme with pepper and herbs blooming. This is so great for drinks but really to me it is so universal in food when you don’t have fresh herbs and need a little flower power. I just love how it surprises people. 

3. What is a vinegar flavor you tried but was a miss? 

This is a great story. My friend Tara, who is a radical chef and activist and forager and basically everything, dropped off some goldenrod for me to play around with, and the final product tasted just like the smell of rubber tires peeling out. When I looked it up I found out that Thomas Edison invented natural rubber using goldenrod and he was called the Rubber Wizard. 

4. What trends are you most excited about in the pantry space? 

I am not the person to reach out to for trends but I love everything Diaspora is doing and how they are doing it. At work I am eating a lot of Minnow tinned cod fish, or this super small batch of perfectly caramelized onion jam from FAM JAM with some sharp cheese. I use instagram to mostly stalk and discover poems, I know that isn’t part of the question but it feels important to mention. 

5. What is your favorite unexpected way to use vinegar? 

Splashed on a fried egg, all the credit to Fanny Singer.

6. You used to live in Portland, what do you miss most about the Pacific Northwest?

I went to the high school my mom and my grandmother went to and my great grandfather was in the Bricker Union that built that school in Southeast Portland. It's a completely foreign place to me when I visit now but it always smells the same, like a familiar laundry soap. It’s comforting in that way, but what I miss the most is the woods and my friends, the PNW is just the best. 

BONUS: Mother’s Day is coming up! What is your favorite part about being a mom?

Pranking my son is my favorite thing to do. Our apartment has almost become a dangerous place to walk into because there are so many places to hide and he has become an expert at the long game. It’s a lot of laughing and negotiating, and I didn’t know it would be this good.

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