By CHRISTIANA ROUSSEL
It has been said that when you do something you really love, it will never feel like work. Not many of us get that lucky, but when you meet someone who has, it is almost immediately evident.
Tiffany Denson is one of those people.
If you’re like other readers, you’ve probably picked up a jar of Denson’s T-Lish Dressing & Marinade on a visit to the Pants Store in Crestline. And as Denson can tell you, you weren’t the only one who bought a bottle and then came back for more.
What started as a little something she could whip up in the kitchen for friends turned into something so much bigger. Denson and her husband, Rush, moved to Crestline in January 2006. By Christmas that year, the family had hit their groove, and Denson was looking to share the holiday spirit with a plethora of family and friends. Bottling up her beloved dressing was a natural choice for this busy mom of two who is so fond of entertaining and cooking.
“Listen, I was the nerd in high school who had subscriptions to House Beautiful and Veranda,” Denson said. “In college, I threw wine and cheese parties when everyone else wanted cheap beer and chips. I just love to cook for friends, entertain and share good food. I can’t help it!”
John Gee, co-owner of The Pants Store and Denson’s neighbor, admits he eats at her house at least four nights a week.
“She is always making huge meals, and I can fix a plate and watch a football game with Rush or even take it home to my house,” he said.
“We always have extra people around at dinner time,” Denson said. “The boys (her sons, Rush and Quinn) will have friends over, and it’s just easier to feed everyone.”
It wasn’t long after New Years that Denson was getting requests for a “few more bottles here or a few more bottles there.”
Denson’s Christmas gift list continued to grow and in 2009, she sent out an email to friends, taking requests for the now-famous T-Lish dressing. She had tons of orders and at least one neighbor with a brilliant idea. Gee suggested she put some bottles at The Pants Store.
Soon she had people from Hoover, Dallas, and Atlanta emailing her for bottles of the dressing. Gee said his store sells at least two cases of dressing a week.
“It’s crazy, but I swear I don’t go 24 hours without someone sending me a request for the dressing,” Denson said.
So what makes this stuff so great? For one thing, it is just the right balance of vinegar and canola oil, garlic and herbs. There are no preservatives or artificial flavors or colors in those bottles; as the tag says, it’s “all natural, all good.”
This recipe dovetails with Denson’s personal philosophy on food, keeping things natural and avoiding processed foods. The dressing is obviously great on salads (“the one dressing that will make men eat salad,” she claims), but it is terrific used as a marinade or blended into other dishes.
Denson is constantly getting feedback from folks on how they enjoy T-Lish, either on her blog (http://tlish.typepad.com/tlish) or her Facebook page.
As her business has boomed, Denson found a co-packer to help her make the products on a larger scale and started developing new products.
Denson no longer has to bottle all the dressing herself. You can find the newly packaged bottles all three Western Supermarkets, V. Richard’s and Piggly Wiggly Birmingham locations, Modica Market in Santa Rosa Beach, Fla., and stores around the state.
“I had several requests for us to carry Denson’s dressing,” said Brett Hubbard, Director of Deli, Bakery and Floral for Western. “When I tasted it, I was like, ‘This is great! We gotta get this.’ She’s done an incredible job on her blog of introducing her product to people and showing them how to use it for more than just salad.”
So, until a house comes up for sale on the Denson’s street and we can become their neighbors, we’ll have to be satisfied with buying T-Lish and bringing it home to our house.
Christiana Roussel lives in Crestline and is a lover all things food-related. You can follow her culinary musings on line at http://www.ChristianasKitchen.com or on Facebook or Twitter (christiana40).