Chef Andy Ricker
Andy Ricker - mastermind behind the PokPok endeavor + James Beard Award recipient for his take on regionally specific Southeast Asian cusisine, crafted a robust and flavorful drinking vinegar, harnessing the tastes of local Asian markets.
Continue reading to learn about Andy's inspiration, story + favorite way to utilize his drinking vinegar (hint: it involves booze).
What Inspired You To Start Your Company?
We were buying product for the Pok Pok restaurants that were manufactured in Asia, the supply was inconsistent and the quality was questionable. Since the flavor profile and ingredients were similar to colonial American “shrubs”, I just figured we could make them ourselves but tailor the flavors to our needs and the products that were available to us as a Southeast Asian restaurant and because of our location in Oregon with all of it’s amazing agricultural bounty.
Tell us about your products.
Drinking vinegar for health reasons is an age old practice in many cultures around the world including here in the USA, dating back to colonial times when "shrubs" were a common tonic. While we do not make any claims as to the health benefits of our product, it is a delicious and refreshing drink with a nice tartness coming from the vinegar and concentrated flavors of fruit, vegetable and aromatics.
Here at Pok Pok, we have been serving these vinegars since 2006, both diluted with soda water as a soft drink and at full strength as a mixer in several of our house cocktails. Som is handcrafted in Portland using natural flavoring, organic cane sugar and quality natural vinegars.
What Does Being A Small-Batch “Craftsman” Mean To You?
It means making our product with care and a conscience, with quality taking a front seat to quantity.
What is your favorite small-batch treat?
What Drew You To Food?
I have been in the food industry since I was 15 years old (about 35 years) in one way or another. It’s what I know and love best.
Where Does Your Food Inspiration Come From?
What Products Are You Working On Now?
I’d like to do a Som gummy candy, like a wine Gum.
Latest Ingredient Obsession?
What Did You Have For Dinner Last Night?
Roasted duck, roasted pork, roasted chicken and stemed rice rolls with fish paste at King’s Kitchen, Sunset Park, Brooklyn
What Person, Living Or Dead, Would You Most Like To Have Try Your Product?
My grandmother, Edith “Bunny” Ricker. She passed many years ago but I think she would have gotten a kick out of it.
What’s The Best Piece Of Advice You’ve Gotten In Building Your Business?
What Advice Would You Give Other craftsmen? “Just tell your story”-Willy Vlautin, author, musician and one of my best friends.
What Other Local Food Craftsmen or Chefs Do You Admire?
Olympia Provisions; they launched their charcuterie company the same time as Som, more or less, and are making some of the best cured meats in the USA now.
If You Had To Choose Your Last Meal, What Would It Be?
Laap Meuang, muu yang, jin som mok khai, jaw phak kad, khao niaw and khanom sot sai, and an old bourbon or rye to wash it down with.
Favorite Restaurant or Food Experience?
Ha & VL, Portland, if I had to choose. That’s not a question that can really be answered with any honesty though. Too many great places, all hard to compare to each other.
What Do You Enjoy Doing Outside of the Kitchen?
What’s Your Favorite Kitchen Soundtrack? Right now? “The Rent I Pay”, Spoon
What is your favorite recipe to make with your Apple Drinking Vinegar?
1 oz any flavor Som, 1.5oz your favorite booze, pour into 14oz glass, top with soda water.
What other product in our February basket would you most want to try?
No idea, what’s going to be in it?