Interview: Andi Oakes - Dipping The Vine

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The chocolate & wine nuts that you are about to experience have been crafted by hand and created from the heart with love - Dipping The Vine

The Nut Lady
I met a fun and fabulous new friend who has a truly original and irresistible online gourmet shop called Dipping The Vine. Her name is Andi Oakes and she makes artisanal nuts - gluten, dairy and peanut free!

We're not just talking a bag of mixed nuts here, DTV (link to facebook page) features delightful recipes of chocolate, wine and other savory spices, mixed with the nuts to create a flavorful nosh to have with drinks, accompany a cheese plate, dessert or just as a favorite snack.

The original idea came to Andi while in that open state of mind just before drifting off to sleep - although she was more than satisfied with the menu she'd prepared for a dinner party she was to cater the follow evening, this sudden thought of adding a chocolate and wine cocktail nut to the courses, just couldn't be ignored. So she got up out of bed and started mixing and baking until - Voilà:Dipping The Vine was born!

I met Andi, appropriately in wine country, at a wedding in Napa Valley CA; although she resides in NY, so we conducted our interview via e-mail:

T & T: So, how long were you in the kitchen before the right recipe was met that night?

Andi: When the idea for chocolate and wine cocktail nuts popped into my head, I started experimenting at 11pm -The batch that hit the mark was at around 1:30 in the morning!

T & T: How long did it take to start marketing the product after they became a hit at the party?

Andi: I obtained my business license about 2 months after the party and then began dropping samples and business cards off at various vineyard tasting rooms, wine bars, cheese shops, anything that I felt was a click with the nuts.

Then I started taking photos and working on text for the online store, which took another couple of months. Marketing is really an ongoing process and I'm learning how important it is to stay active with it as much as possible - I learn something new just about every day

T & T: At this point you feature 3 varieties of Dipping The Vine mixes:
  • The original recipe of Mixed Nuts with Red Wine, Cocoa & Spices: Walnuts, almond and pecans are coated in full-bodied red wine, earthy cocoa, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and fresh lemon zest.
  • Cashews with White Wine, Cocoa & Curry: A bit more on the savory side, large raw cashews are blissfully coated with crisp white wine, cocoa powder and a tingling array of curry spices.
  • Hazelnuts with Port Wine, Black Cocoa & Espresso: Natural hazelnuts are coated in rich port wine, black cocoa, espresso with a touch of fresh orange peel.
T & T cont: (All available I see, in a handy 3-pack).  Are you in the process of trying out new combinations?  And if so, anything you are ready to reveal at this time?

Andi: Absolutely! Right now I'm celebrating my second holiday season and it's fantastically busy - I will keep the original three flavors through the new year and then when things quiet down a bit, I'll have more time to experiment with new flavors. I plan on doing an Asian inspired cashew with cocoa, ginger and wasabi which is spiked with sake. And a sort of "romantic" almond with dark cocoa, lavender and champagne. The third new flavor is up in the air but I'm pretty sure it's going to involve chocolate and Mexican chilies!

 T &T: All of those sound amazing Think I'm most intrigued by the lavender and champagne.
a: What is the hardest part of running an online culinary business?  b: What is the most satisfying part of running an online culinary business?

Andi: a) Getting it all done. In addition to hand-producing the product, I also do my own packaging, which is almost as labor-intensive as the nut making! Then there's packing supplies, bookkeeping, invoicing and always being ready for orders at all times which absolutely have to be fresh.

b) When a customer tells me how much they enjoy the nuts or that they were a hit at a party or a perfect gift, all of the hard work is worth it. Upon tasting the nuts for the first time, one woman's eyes lit up and she said "They taste like LOVE!"-I'll never forget it.

T & T: Do you still cater private parties?

Andi: When I have time, I will still cater private parties mainly because I love it. I really enjoy personalizing events -The planning, the execution, even the hectic moments are so rewarding when a vision becomes a reality.

T &T: Anything else you'd like Tinsel & Tine readers to know about you and Dipping The Vine?

Andi: I guess that Dipping The Vine Chocolate & Wine Nuts go really well with a movie :-)

T &T: What is your favorite Holiday Movie?

Andi: I'm still a sucker for Rudolph!

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is about discovering what I find pleasing in screening & eating - in case you missed it, the name is a play on Tinseltown using the Tines of a Fork.

Feel free to send me info on a film or new restaurant you'd like me to highlight.

Will there ever be a cap on movie prices?

Will we one day pay $20 a pop?

Why don't we pay on a scale?

A crap movie like everything Adam Sandler has ever done should cost about $4.50.
Big action movies like"Lord of the Rings", "Iron Man," "Transformers" are worth $10.
Woody Allen movie or something like "Silver Linings Playbook" $6-$7.
A chick flick or light comedy $5.75 and most Indie Films $5.25.

You could even do it by seasons - all summer block busters from May to August - $10
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Back to $10 for Thanksgiving and Christmas etc...

Or you can do it by A Actors ($9 - $10), B Actors ($6 - $7) TV actors on the big screen ($3.50 - $4)

Surely I'm not the first person to realize this makes sense. Has it been voted on in the Motion Picture Industry and then vetoed? If so, why?

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