I often write at a coffee shop next to Whole Foods, which is a major job hazard because they somehow make you feel that it's acceptable to purchase $12 juice. (“Six pounds of vegetables are in this tiny bottle! You're amazed, aren't you?” “YES! YES I AM!”)
But it's fun stopping in during lunchtime when all the sample stations are out in full force. Today, I got to try a dollop of Sweet & Spicy Red Pepper Relish made by Merchant & Co., a small batch condiment company based out of Long Beach. Topped on a cracker layered with cream cheese, it's fantastic–sweet and chunky with the subtle burn of habanero chili that lingers just long enough to make you want more immediately. (I kept walking while taking a bite, then immediately took a U-turn back to the table.) It's made from fresh red bell peppers and zero preservatives, only cider vinegar.
So yeah, they sold me. I picked up a jar for about $6 and will be bringing it to my 4th of July barbecues to spread on appetizers, meat, everything. It's available at select Whole Foods and other specialty markets in OC, including Hanson's Market in San Clemente, Irvine Ranch Market, Hi Time Wine Cellars and several other locations.