Inside CM: Meet the Foodies

These giftable goodies make our mouths water — and they’re all made right here!

Here’s a more in-depth look at the folks who produce the delectable sauces, seasonings, sweets and other selections featured in our We Love: Giving Local.

Red Light Chocolates, Fuquay-Varina
The birth of their daughter inspired Kirstin and Robert Neira to launch Red Light Chocolates, as an avenue to enjoy time together as a family. Kirstin attended the Callebaut Chocolate Academy in Chicago to learn artisan techniques and hone her chocolate-making skills. Robert supported the business as a dish washer at first and learned the craft from Kristin with lots of practice. Red Light Chocolates are as beautiful as they are delicious, with colorful coatings and shimmering garnishes denoting the different flavors. The couple insists on using the finest, freshest all-natural ingredients available, sourced locally when possible. Artisan Chocolate Collection, $30.


Boogie Bean Coffee Roasters, Holly Springs
Cary’s own Java Jive inspired Kevin and Ali Littlewood to experiment with roasting their own coffee beans. Using green beans from the local coffee shop, the couple home-roasted a few batches and were hooked. Word of mouth helped the fledgling business grow, and now Boogie Bean Coffee Roasters imports the finest, freshest beans from around the world and roasts to order in small batches. Purchase their coffee online, in fine eateries throughout the Triangle or from the Boogie Bean coffee truck, which sets up shop at food festivals and events in the Southeast. Fair Trade Organic Papua New Guinea, $14 per pound.


Vesta Fiery Gourmet Toppings, Cary
Ben Tuorto was tired of feeling limited by hot sauce or dried chili flakes, so he created what he calls “dry hot sauce,” intended to add smoky, spicy flavor without overpowering other foods. A spice enthusiast, he was impressed by the variety of peppers available at local farmers markets after moving to Cary from New York City, but found they were often too hot for less seasoned palates. In an effort to share his love of chilies with others, he combined peppers with caramelized onions and bread crumbs for a dinner party, and Vesta was born. Peppers from around the world are grown in Cary and at Bailey Farms in Oxford. Hot Vesta Fiery Gourmet Topping, $7.


Hillsborough Cheese Co. , Hillsborough
Former accountant Cindy West trained for a year — and graduated second in her class — at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in Paris after deciding to pursue her true calling: food. She brought her love for French cuisine when she returned to the Triangle. Today, she produces handmade European-style cheeses on the former tobacco farm where she grew up. In order to focus on cheese production and support other local producers, dairy is sourced from Maple View Farm in Hillsborough Wilderness Trail Dairy in Trinity, from free-range goats and cows. Assorted Cheeses, from $4.


Cackalacky , Chapel Hill
Everything about Cackalacky Spice Sauce oozes fun. The unique condiment is made from sweet potatoes to yield a distinctly Southern flavor, rounded out by a spice blend so secret, founder Page Skelton claims his wife and children don’t even know them. Skelton has taken to firing sweet potatoes out of cannons to illustrate how he packs so much flavor into a small jar. His one rule is, “Whatever you do with Cackalacky Sauce, it has to be fun.” Cackalacky Spice Sauce, $4.50



Jim’s Own Sauce , Cary
The recipe for this fundamentally North Carolina sauce has been a 50-year tradition. Jim’s original Mild tomato-based barbecue sauce hit commercial shelves in 1997, and has gained national kudos ever since. Jim’s Own was even named one of the best 13 barbecue sauces in the South by Southern Living in 2012. Jim’s Own Mild Sauce, $6.




Gentlewoods Naturals, Cary
The Gentlewoods line of sauces and rubs was created by the founders of Jim’s Own, as a response to increasing demand for products free of additives and fillers. The brand has a number of barbecue sauces, table sauces and grill rubs that are free of artificial flavors and high-fructose corn syrup. Gentlewoods Smokey All Purpose Rub, $5,




olifant+castelo , Durham
Lynne Berla is passionate about global flavors, and local flavors. Her company, olifant+castelo, aims to bring all the flavors of the world to the Triangle in conveniently packaged gift sets. She sources some of her herbs from as nearby as Durham, Efland and Greensboro. Other selections bring the tastes of India, France, Italy and more to local tables. Berla is an advocate of local farmers markets, and sells her gift boxes along with single spice selections at the Downtown Raleigh, Duke University and N.C. State farmers markets, among others. Local Basics Gift Box, $15.

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