6 Steps to Building a Nutritious Salad that Satisfies & My “Secret” Salad Dressing

This post is featured on GlutenFreeGigi.com, an incredible resource for GF recipes, ideas and information.  We love you Gigi!!

6 Steps to Building a Nutritious Salad that Satisfies & My “Secret” Salad Dressing

Salad-finWhen you hear “salad”, do you think of a salad bar bowl filled with anemic-looking chunks of iceberg lettuce, a couple of rubbery pale tomato wedges and a ladle of gloppy not-so-good-for-you dressing?

Sadly, that is what some folks call a salad. If you remember the family steak houses that were so popular decades ago, you probably already have an image in your mind of that weak salad I described.

Of course, there are plenty of places to go out for salad these days that put the contents of those tiny black steak house salad bowls to shame. But you may need to be prepared to cough up some dough before you get your greens.

Recently, I spotted a $35 price tag on a restaurant salad. I mean, really, folks… I’m all about quality ingredients, but that is a bit out of line in my humble, budget-minded, opinion.

No way would I order that high-dollar salad when I mix a mean bowl of greens at home nearly every day of the week (if you don’t believe me, just check out my Instagram feed!) Even for those days when work is stacked high and it’s Lunch Al Desko, with the right ingredients, anyone can create an affordable and nutritious salad that will stay with you all the way til dinner time. Here are my 6 Steps to Building a Nutritious Salad that Satisfies (and my “secret” salad dressing that’s not such a secret anymore!).

6 Steps to Building a Nutritious Salad that Satisfies…

and the only dressing you’ll ever need for the perfect salad every time!

salad-11. Go for the green, baby.

A beautiful bed of tender baby greens adds nutrients to your salad bowl with a milder flavor than fully mature leaves. Pile on kale and spinach for a healthy dose of vitamins A, C, E and K and toss in a handful of vibrant mustard greens or young bok choy leaves for B vitamins. Dark leafy greens like baby beet greens are also brimming with fiber and minerals like iron, magnesium, potassium and calcium, as well as carotenoids, a type of antioxidant known to protect cells from free radical damage. Use a mixture of greens for variety in flavor, texture and color.


2. Color it healthy.

Topping your leafy greens with a variety of colorful veggies and fruits adds variety, crunch, flavor, excitement, and nutrients. Choose in-season produce to maximize nutrition and change it up often so you don’t become bored.

Seek excitement with mini San Marzano tomatoes, thin slices of fennel, colorful sweet peppers and anything else that catches your eye at the farmers market or in the grocery store produce section.

avo-chicken3. Power up with protein.

Adding a lean protein element to your salad elevates a bowl of veggies and greens to a balanced meal that can keep your blood sugar balanced and sustain you for hours.

Opt for slices of lean poultry (like my Avocado Roasted Chicken, pictured above), wild caught fish or shellfish, smoked salmon or strips of grilled lean beef. If you prefer a non-meat/poultry/fish option, try sliced or chopped hard boiled eggs, diced tofu or your favorite cheese, depending upon your specific dietary needs and tastes.

toppings-salad4. Get fresh for flavor.

Fresh chopped herbs and elements like sun-dried tomatoes are a terrific way to take your salads to an entirely new level. Choose herbs like fresh basil, cilantro, chives, rosemary or thyme. The possibilities really are endless!

salad-pumpkin-seeds5. Take it to the next level with nutritious textural elements.

A little crunch from toasted sunflower seed kernels, pumpkin seeds or your favorite chopped nuts; the sweet-tart chew of dried cranberries; the subtle nuttiness of flaxseed – no matter what you choose, adding a textural element takes your salad to new heights. Not to mention, these little add-ins also add flavor and nutrients and keep things lively.


6. Dress it like you mean it.

Salad dressings have come a long way from the not-so-good-for-you Ranch, Thousand Island and French, so reminiscent of those steak house salad bars I mentioned earlier. That’s a good thing, too, especially for those of us who require a gluten-free dressing. I remember when I first went gluten-free in 2007 and quickly decided, due to celiac disease and multiple food allergies to soy, peanuts and tree nuts, it just seemed like a better idea to make my own dressings. If I did find a great gluten-free option, there was usually some other ingredient (like soybean oil or xanthan gum) that made it off-limits for me.

Of course, that was no problem since salad dressing is simple to whip up in no time. High quality oil, a touch of acid like lemon juice, a pinch of salt, pepper and herbs if you’re feeling fancy, will definitely get the job done. Or at least that’s what I thought until I found…

6 Steps to Building a Nutritious Salad that Satisfies & My “Secret” Salad Dressing

  • Gluten-Free (Yay!)
  • Dairy-Free (Double yay!)
  • GMO-Free (Woo-hoo!!)
  • Made with 100% California Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Mmmm…tasty & heart-smart!)
  • Free from canola and soybean oils (Halleluja!)
  • Free from xanthan gum (Really?? YES!)
  • Free from the top 8 allergens (Yippeeee!)

Every batch of Alpine Avocado Vinaigrette is made by hand with lots of Colorado peace and love by creator Josh Tukman and his failthul crew of avocado aficionados. You really must taste it to believe it.

And if you’re feeling skeptical like I was when my friends at Alpine Avocado suggested I give their dressing a try, well, try some for yourself.  Right now, it’s easier (and more affordable!) than ever!

If you’re fortunate enough to live in a spot where your local Whole Foods Market or Natural Grocers carries the dressing, it’s time to take that bottle off the shelf and go have yourself the best salad experience of your life.

I order the 8-bottle pack because, well… it goes fast. And I’ve been known to “gift” a bottle now and again. But mainly, it goes fast at our house. That’s because, in addition to all those hearty salads we enjoy, Alpine Avocado Vinaigrette makes an amazing marinade for poultry, seafood and even veggies!

I really am hooked! And it’s not only the salad dressing; it’s the nice folks that carefully craft it and the love and attention they put into every batch of Alpine Avocado Vinaigrette they make. That’s why I’m proud to welcome them as a Gluten Free Gigi partner. Together, we’re spreading the avocado love, one salad at a time.

When you give it a try, come back here, let me know how you love it and tell me, What’s in YOUR salad bowl?

Connect with Alpine Avocado Vinaigrette on Facebook and Pinterest, too!


Gigi 😉

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Posted in News, Nutrition

Why Extra Virgin Olive Oil is The Healthiest Fat on Earth

Author: Kris Gunnars from Authority Nutrition

Why Extra Virgin Olive Oil is The Healthiest Fat on Earth

Fats in the diet are highly controversial. fem-chef-holding-a-bottle-of-olive-oil

You’ll see people arguing about animal fats, seed oils and almost everything in between.

But one of the few fats that most people agree is healthy is extra virgin olive oil.

This oil, part of the Mediterranean diet, is a traditional fat that has been a dietary staple for some of the world’s healthiest populations.

There is actually quite a bit of research behind the health effects of olive oil.

These studies show that the fatty acids and antioxidants in it have some powerful health benefits, such as a reduced risk of heart disease.

Alpine Avocado Vinaigrette uses 100% California Extra Virgin Olive Oil in every bottle.

What is Olive Oil and How is it Made?

Olive oil is oil that is pressed from olives, the fruits of the olive tree.

The process is incredibly simple… you just press the olives and the oil comes out.

But there is still one major problem with olive oil… it isn’t always what you think it is. Some lower quality versions can be extracted using chemicals, or even diluted with other cheaper oils.

Therefore, buying the right type of olive oil is incredibly important.

The best type is extra virgin olive oil. It is extracted using natural methods and standardized for purity and certain sensory qualities like taste and smell.

Olive oil that is truly extra virgin has a distinctive taste and is high in phenolic antioxidants, the main reason why (real) olive oil is so beneficial.

Then we have regular, refined or “light” olive oils, which have often been extracted with solvents, treated with heat or even diluted with cheaper oils like soybean and canola oils.

For this reason, the only type I recommend is extra virgin olive oil.

But keep in mind that there is a lot of fraud going on in the olive oil market and it is essential to buy from a reputable seller. Even oil that is labelled as “extra virgin” may have been adulterated with cheaper oils.

If you want to read more about the olive oil fraud and what you can do to find real extra virgin olive oil, read this article.

Bottom Line: Real “extra virgin” olive oil is 100% natural and very high in antioxidants. Many of the lower quality olive oils have been processed and adulterated with cheaper oils.

Nutrient Composition of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Extra virgin olive oil is fairly nutritious.olive-oil

It contains modest amounts of Vitamins E and K and plenty of beneficial fatty acids.

This is the nutrient content of 100 grams of olive oil (1):

  • Saturated Fat: 13.8%.
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 73% (most of it the 18 carbon long oleic acid).
  • Omega-6: 9.7%.
  • Omega-3: 0.76%.
  • Vitamin E: 72% of the RDA.
  • Vitamin K: 75% of the RDA.

But where extra virgin olive oil really shines is in its content of antioxidants.

These substances are biologically active and some of them can help fight serious diseases (2, 3).

Some of the main antioxidants are the anti-inflammatory oleocanthal, as well as oleuropein, a substance that protects LDL cholesterol from oxidation (4, 5).

Some people have criticized olive oil for having a high Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio (over 10:1), but keep in mind that the total amount of polyunsaturated fats is still relatively low, so this shouldn’t be a cause for concern.

Bottom Line: Olive oil is very high in monounsaturated fats and contains a modest amount of vitamins E and K. True extra virgin olive oil is loaded with antioxidants, some of which have powerful health benefits.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil Contains Anti-Inflammatory Substances

It is believed that chronic inflammation is among the leading drivers of many diseases.olives

This includes heart disease, cancer, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and arthritis.

It has been speculated that one of the mechanisms behind olive oil’s benefits, is its ability to fight inflammation.

There is some evidence that oleic acid itself, the most prominent fatty acid in olive oil, can reduce inflammatory markers like C-Reactive Protein (6, 7).

But the main anti-inflammatory effects seem to be mediated by the antioxidants in olive oil, primarily oleocanthal, which has been shown to work like ibuprofen, a popular anti-inflammatory drug (8, 9).

Researchers estimate that the amount of oleocanthal in 50 ml (about 3.4 tablespoons) of extra virgin olive oil has an effect similar to 10% of the adult ibuprofen dosage for pain relief (10).

There is also a study showing that substances in olive oil can reduce expression of genes and proteins that mediate inflammation (11).

Keep in mind that chronic, low-level inflammation is usually fairly mild and it takes years or decades for it to do damage.

Eating plenty of extra virgin olive oil may help prevent this from happening, leading to a reduced risk of various inflammatory diseases… especially heart disease.

Bottom Line: Olive oil contains oleic acid and oleocanthal, nutrients that can fight inflammation. This may be the main reason for olive oil’s health benefits.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil Appears to be Protective Against Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular diseases (heart disease and stroke) are the most common causes of death in the world (12).

Many observational studies show that death from these diseases is low in certain areas of the world, especially the countries around the Mediterranean Sea (13).

This observation originally spurred interest in the Mediterranean Diet, which is supposed to mimic the way the people in those countries eat (14).

Studies on the Mediterranean Diet show that it can help prevent heart disease. In one major study, it reduced heart attacks, strokes and death by 30% (15).

Extra virgin olive oil protects against heart disease via numerous mechanisms (16):

  • Reduced Inflammation: As mentioned above, olive oil protects against inflammation, a key driver of heart disease (17, 18).
  • LDL Cholesterol: Olive oil protects LDL particles from oxidative damage – a key step in the heart disease process (19).
  • Improves Endothelial Function: Olive oil improves the function of the endothelium, which is the lining of the blood vessels (20, 21).
  • Blood Clotting: Some studies suggest that olive oil can help prevent unwanted blood clotting, key features of heart attacks and strokes (22, 23).
  • Lower Blood Pressure: One study in patients with elevated blood pressure found that olive oil reduced blood pressure significantly and cut the need for blood pressure meds by 48% (24).

Given the known biological effects of olive oil, it is not surprising to see that people who consume the most of it are significantly less likely to die from heart attacks and strokes (25, 26).

This really is just the tip of the iceberg. Dozens (if not hundreds) of studies in both animals and humans have shown that olive oil has major benefits for the heart.

I personally think the evidence is strong enough to recommend that people who have heart disease, or are at a high risk of getting it (family history, for example), should make sure to include plenty of extra virgin olive oil in their diets.

Bottom Line: Olive oil may be one of the healthiest foods you can eat for heart health. It lowers blood pressure, protects LDL particles from oxidation, reduces inflammation and may help prevent unwanted blood clotting.

Other Health Benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Although mostly studied for its effects on heart health, olive oil consumption has also been associated with a number of other health benefits.bottle-of-olive-oil


Cancer is a common cause of death, characterized by uncontrolled growth of cells in the body.

Studies have shown that people in the Mediterranean countries have a fairly low risk of cancer and some have speculated that olive oil has something to do with it (27).

One potential contributor to cancer is oxidative damage due to free radicals, but extra virgin olive oil is high in antioxidants that reduce oxidative damage (28, 29).

The oleic acid in olive oil is also highly resistant to oxidation and has been shown to have beneficial effects on genes linked to cancer (30, 31).

Many studies in test tubes have shown that compounds in olive oil can help fight cancer at the molecular level (32, 33, 34).

Whether olive oil actually helps prevent cancer has yet to be studied in human controlled trials.

Olive Oil and Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is the world’s most common neurodegenerative disease and a leading cause of dementia.

One feature of Alzheimer’s is a buildup of protein tangles called beta amyloid plaques, in certain neurons in the brain.

A study in mice showed that a substance in olive oil can help to clear these plaques from the brain (35).

A human controlled trial showed that a mediterranean diet enriched with olive oil had favorable effects on brain function and reduced the risk of cognitive impairment (36).

Bottom Line: There is preliminary evidence that olive oil can help fight cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, although this needs to be confirmed in human controlled trials.

Can You Cook With it?

During cooking, fatty acids can oxidize. That is, they react with oxygen and become damaged.bottle-of-olive-oil-and-olives

It is mostly the double bonds in the fatty acid molecules that are responsible for this.

For this reason, saturated fats (no double bonds) are resistant to high heat, while polyunsaturated fats (many double bonds) are sensitive and become damaged.

It turns out that olive oil, which contains mostly monounsaturated fatty acids (only one double bond), is actually fairly resistant to high heat.

In one study, researchers heated extra virgin olive oil to 180 degrees Celsius (356 degrees Fahrenheit) for 36 hours. The oil was highly resistant to damage (37).

Another study used olive oil for deep frying, and it took 24-27 hours for it to reach damage levels that were deemed harmful (38).

Overall, olive oil seems to be very safe… even for cooking at a fairly high heat.

Take Home Message

Olive oil is super healthy.

For people with heart disease or at a high risk of getting it in the future, olive oil is most definitely a “superfood.”

However… it is extremely important to get the right stuff. That is, extra virgin olive oil that hasn’t been diluted with cheaper oils.

The benefits of this wonderful fat are among the few things that most people in nutrition actually agree on. Now that’s something you don’t see often.

We want to thank Kris Gunnars over at Authority Nutrition for this incredibly thorough and informative article.  He really nailed it.  And as you can tell, we included EVERYTHING in this repost!

Posted in Nutrition

Spike an Avocado!

Spike an Avocado!

SpikeAnAvocadoHello AAV community!   Ok, so this is one of our favorite bite-sized snacks that involves very little preparation (if any at all).  I’m sure it comes as no surprise when I say we spend ALOT of time hanging out with fresh avocados, shuck’n and juggling pits.  Every now and again, an avocado wedge magically disappears (gulp) and you can be darn sure there’s a bottle of Spike Seasoning nearby.  A light dusting of this “gourmet natural seasoning” on a slice of avocado and you’re in for a treat.

OR…splash a little Spike on the next avocado salad you put together and you will not regret it.

A bottle of Spike costs around $3.29 and is sold at most grocery stores or even online here.  For the record, we have no affiliation with Spike or it’s parent company. We just like to eat the stuff. :)

Posted in AAV Team Banter, Nutrition

Salad Season Has Begun!

Salad Season Has Begun!

It’s official, salad season is here and we are in full-scale production mode.  A lot of customers ask about the Alpine Avocado production facilities so we thought it would be appropriate to share some “behind the scenes” pics off the AAV Team in action:  Aaron, Jim and Josh.   So feast your eyes on this well oiled human-machine-of-3 as they  crank out 750 cases of the finest vinaigrette you ever did taste (read that last part with a wild west accent)…


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Exhibit A…. “el avocado”.  You can’t make a killer avocado vinaigrette without the freshest of fresh avocados, and they ain’t gonna peel themselves!  So here is Aaron and Jim shucking avocados at an expert pace, one after the other, pits and skins are fly’n.  They work in a dead-locked stare. Not a word is spoken the entire time except slight movements of their eyebrows as they race to the finish line.  Intense? Yes. True story?  Definitely not. They’re fully relaxed and probably talking rock climbing or chicks.






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After we combine the super secret INGREDIENTS it’s time to tease a 12oz portion of the sauce into a boat load of bottles. If you’ve ever had an AAV bottle in your pantry or fridge, you already know the mixture will separate because we don’t use unhealthy products like xanthan gum to counteract this NATURAL separation process.








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We’re not fans of putting labels on things, but this is one of those exceptions.  First step is to slip a white hoodie on each bottle and then shuffle them through the steamer that magically shrinks the hoodie into a snug new beanie.  BUT…before they hit the slopes, they need a bright red coat in the form of a label so they’re easy to spot in the crowd.







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The finish line is getting closer!  Now that we have 1000’s of bottles sitting around catching a cold, time to organize them BY NAME and find a home for them.  No joke, we name each bottle!  For example, this last batch had a little smarty pants we named “mr #75,169″…kept goofing off and wouldn’t keep his cap on!!  Mr smarty pants…





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Roll the closing credits… queue the “friends” music… applause from the audience… guy in front row throws popcorn at the screen.

THE END.  Same time, same place, tomorrow.

Posted in AAV Team Banter

Spring 2014, Back to Colorado!


Back to Eagle, CO for Salad Season!

Spring 2014, Back to Colorado!

It’s been a long winter on the road as Josh traveled the southwest region of the U.S. launching AAV with our partners via in-store “demo’s” and marketing.  Now, keep in mind that “winter” in the southwest is nothing compared to the winter weather that took place in the central and eastern states this year. In fact, this year was MUCH more mild, dry and warm in the lower left hand states.    But all of that incredibly comfortable weather didn’t distract Josh from his goals.  Plus, he had the unbeatable company of “Lucile” by his side riding shotgun, his trusted pooch and man’s best navigator. Not a bad gig, right??

But alas, the winter has ended and salad season is ready to begin which means lots of work to do back on the home front.  So Josh headed back to AAV headquarters in beautiful Eagle, Colorado, but not without a few stops and no less than 10 selfies along the way.

After a few chest bumps, bear hugs and butt slaps with Aaron…”I love you man!  I love YOU man!”… the pair dug their heels in to brew up 100’s upon 100’s of cases of the Alpine Avocado Vinaigrette for a monster promotion in the Whole Foods Rocky Mountain region stores.

If you’re in the Colorado area or happen to be at the Vail Farmers Market in June this year, chances are you will bump into one of us. Please stop by and say hello!

~ AAV Team

…for the record, there were no butt slaps…just bear hugs  :)

Posted in AAV Team Banter

Hail to the Avocado!


Senior Avocado!

Hail to the Avocado!

Maybe you’ve been hearing a lot about super foods lately but what does that mean? For a food item to be considered a super food it must have a range of nutrients and health benefits that go above an beyond just their nutrient value. Most super foods are also loaded with a combination of essential fatty acids, antioxidant phytonutrients and amino acids. Well guess what, hail to the avocado as it tops the list of one of the best super foods to consume!

Recent research has demonstrated that this amazing fruit –yes the avocado is a fruit! –offers some shockingly powerful health benefits. The avocado is one the most nutrient-dense foods –rich in healthy fats, antioxidants, fiber and nutrients such as oleic acid, lutein, folate, vitamin E.  Ounce for ounce the avocado tops the charts of all fruits for folate, potassium, vitamin E and magnesium.

Many people trying to eat a healthy diet may have shied away from the avocado fearing that it’s fattening, but shy away no more! The healthy monounsaturated fat content in the avocado is one of its primary super food health claims. Simply put, monounsaturated fat is the good fat naturally found in food and it actually helps increase fat metabolism! Monounsaturated fats also helps improve blood cholesterol levels, reduce risk of heart disease and research also shows it may benefit insulin levels and blood sugar control. The only other fruit with and even comparable amount of monounsaturated fat is the olive. The monounsaturated fat in avocados is called oleic acid and a recent research study found that after 7 days on a diet that included avocados, significant decreases appeared in both total and LDL cholesterol as well as increases in the “good” HDL cholesterol.

Above all this health and nutritious value of an avocado, avocados are also delicious and versatile and can be eaten alone, as a creamy spread or dip like guacamole, as an ingredient in soups, smoothies, dressings, you name it, the avocado is good in almost anything. The best is probably when it’s used as a complement to a vegetable based meal. Most vegetables, particularly in their raw state, contain a high amount of carotenoid-based antioxidants. Studies have shown that these antioxidants are lipophilic (fat-loving) and best absorbed in the body when combined with a healthy fat such as the oleic acid of the avocado.

A study published in the Journal of Nutrition showed that adding avocados to a salad increased absorption of alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and lutein 7.2, 15.3, and 5.1 times higher, respectively, than the average amount of these carotenoids absorbed when avocado-free salad was eaten. Hmmm so maybe it’s time to pour that avocado on your salad more often!

And just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, avocados are not only a super food but a super skin care agent too! It’s considered an anti-aging, beauty food that can prevent wrinkles and slow the aging process in the skin. The sterolins found in avocados has been shown to improve the skin epidermis by boosting collagen which is vital structural protein for strengthening blood vessels and giving skin its elasticity and strength.

The amazing avocado – a super fruit, a super food, and a super friend to your skin, your health and well-being!

Posted in Nutrition

Surprise… Avocado Tattoos!

Surprise!… Avocado Tattoos!


Avocado Tattoo!

Back in January, Aaron was giving a demo (tasting) at the Whole Foods Cherry Creek in Denver, CO when he was “one-upped” by a customer:  BAM!  Avocado arms!   She had an avocado sliced in half and tattooed on each arm.  It was very cool of her to share her love of avocado’s with us. For what it’s worth, we think she’s right handed because the pit is in the slice on her right arm.  Details folks…details!

If you’re wondering if this delightful young lady took a bottle of Alpine Avocado Vinaigrette home with her, the honest answer is WE THINK SO!   Let me explain… it gets a little crazy when we’re doing a demo with a crowd of people around the table scrambling for a taste of the sweet sweet goodness.  80% of the people that taste AAV walk away with at least 1 bottle.  And our ball park statistics are accurate at least 95% of the time.  :)

Have a great day!!!

Posted in Demo Days

Avocado Shortage?

What?….Avocado Shortage?avocado_shortage_pic

So mother nature is putting avocado lovers to the test with the super dry weather throughout California.  Boooooo!  Avocado production cut by 40% according to an article in the New York Daily News (http://nydn.us/1hQw02H).   Double boooooo!  Have no fear folks, the Alpine Avocado Team has a secret stash of avocados that could fill an entire football stadium.  Phew!  Now, your probably wondering “How do you hide a football stadium sized pile of fresh avocados?”  Good question.  First, we chop those puppies up and create a delicious avocado MUSH mixture…. then we sprinkle in magical amounts of the healthy INGREDIENTS that make up Alpine Avocado Vinaigrette, coax it into a bottle and then we send them to each of our retail partners. So to answer your question: they’re hiding in plain site!!

And of course, you can order directly from us  and get some of the freshest Alpine Avocado Vinaigrette you’ll ever eat.   Are you tasting what i’m saying?!?  :)

Cheers!  ~AAV Team

Posted in News

4 Days of Demo Thunder!

4 Days of Demo Thunder!

Josh and Aaron are two of the hardest working guys on the planet. When they’re not at a one of our partner locations drizzling the sweet green nectar on the tongues of people lucky enough to show up on a tasting day, they’re busy in the AAV production facility brewing up the next batch of sauce and fulfilling online orders.  Sleep? Nope.


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Posted in Uncategorized

Aaron @ Whole Foods, Fort Collins CO


Aaron…handling it.

When Aaron isn’t busy roughing up some avocados, you’ll find him spreading AAV love throughout CO.

Posted in Demo Days
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