Anybody can put salt on something to make it taste “better.” Salt helps balance sweet with bitter, so it’s commonly used as a flavor enhancer. Heck, it’s used worldwide.
Now there’s Dan-O’s Original Seasoning, a local product created by former bartender Dan Oliver. As the story goes, about five years ago, he was preparing a roasted chicken, using a blend of herbs and spices he created years earlier. A friend told him it was the best chicken he’d ever had, talk turned to marketing the spice blend for retail sale and Dan-O’s Original Seasoning was born. (You can now make that roasted chicken dish using a recipe printed on the label of every container of seasoning.)
I heard about it and decided to expose my taste buds to the spice blend. The verdict: It’s pretty darn good.
Wait — to share the goofy marketing message Dan-O’s employs, I should probably say, “It’s Dan-good.”
There’s also, “Dan, that’s good,” “It’s Dan-tastic” and “It’s Dan-O-myte.”
Yes, it sounds like an ad campaign your dad came up with, but that’s part of the fun of the image Oliver seems to be going for. Just look up Dan-O’s on Facebook to see what I mean.
But let’s get to the flavors. My first experiment with the blend was to add liberal amounts of the spicy version (there’s also the not-as-spicy regular version) to a simple, chicken stir fry. I tossed some chicken breast strips into a pan lined with olive oil, along with some garlic cloves, red and green peppers, onions and a couple of hot peppers and did my thing.
The “hot” version has only slight heat, and the basic flavor profile is pretty much the same as the original version. My first impression was that I got a distinct citrus quality and, sure enough, both lemon and orange peel are part of the secret spice blend, according to the label.
Garlic is one of the stars here, with onion and cayenne as a couple of the other recognizable basics. But there’s a distinctive brightness that goes even beyond the citrus qualities. It’s just a unique and pleasing blend of flavors that linger but don’t take over a dish.
And there’s so much going on that I can’t accurately pick out individual aromas and flavors in the blend. Pretty sure there’s some rosemary in there. Probably oregano. Is that a hint of cumin I detect? What about dill?
I put some of the regular blend on an avocado and had it for a light lunch the next day. The nutty, earthy quality of the avocado also was a fine vessel for the bright flavors, and, once again, the Dan-O’s spices stayed out of the way of the main dish, choosing to walk hand-in-hand rather than lead the way.
Later that same day, I liberally applied the spicy version to some Pacific cod, with similar results. Even though I probably overdid it on the seasoning application, what I ended up with was tender, mild fish with a layer of flavor popping in each bite. There was only the slightest bite of heat to go with the flavor, and I happily gobbled up every morsel
But wait — there’s more!
Oliver said what truly makes Dan-O’s “special” is that salt appears in limited quantities in his spice blend (and it’s Sicilian sea salt, at that). Better yet, there’s no sugar, which is a minor miracle in an age in which everything we eat is sugar-infused to meet our palates’ expectations.
In fact, there’s just 50 milligrams of sodium per serving of Dan-O’s and no chemicals, so it’s heart-friendly, zero-calorie, gluten-free, MSG-free and generally low on the stuff your doctor tells you to leave alone. It’s just a bunch of well-cultivated spices to help accentuate your food. I hear it works well with steak and pork, too, and my guess is that eggs and baked potatoes, among other dishes, would welcome a little Dan-O’s into their lives, as well.
Currently, you can get Dan-O’s in Paul’s Fruit Market, Fresh Thyme Farmer’s Market, Lucky’s Market and in several independent butchers and delis around Louisville. In addition, Oliver expects his spice blend to be available in Kroger stores soon.
But he isn’t stopping there — his next target is to try his best to get an appearance on “Shark Tank,” a reality TV show that airs on ABC and features budding entrepreneurs who feel they have a product or idea worth launching on a grand scale.
Hey, if salt can adorn darn near every table in the world, it sure as heck could happen for Oliver’s concoction. Shake it, Dan-O.