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Posted: 12:00 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013

Food Matters: After almost 40 years, Lorilee’s Gourmet owner is the queen of peanut brittle, plus new projected opening date for Whole Foods at the Domain



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Ask Addie: After almost 40 years, Lorilee’s Gourmet owner is the queen of peanut brittle, plus new projected opening date for Whole Foods at the Domain photo
Addie Broyles
Since 1975, Lorilee Dodson, left, has been making and selling peanut brittle through her company, Lorilee’s Gourmet. Her daughter Wanda Escobar, right, now helps her in a new storefront on Sam Bass Road in Round Rock, where they sell, in addition to peanut brittle, confections including candied walnuts, pecan brittle, cocoa mix and even chocolate-covered strawberries.

By Addie Broyles

American-Statesman Staff

LOCAL COMPANY

Peanut brittle company almost 40 years in the making

Lorilee Dodson has been selling peanut brittle, candied nuts and other confections since 1975, but it wasn’t until recently that she started to embrace the idea that candymaking was the right career path.

In fact, she didn’t even know how to make peanut brittle until one day in August 1975 when she and her then-new husband found themselves in a tight financial situation and were about to be evicted from their home. A friend of hers from church suggested that she sell peanut brittle to make some extra cash.

“I told her, ‘That’s a great idea, but I don’t make peanut brittle,’” Dodson says with a gentle laugh. “My friend said, ‘Well, I’ll teach you.’” That day, she walked Dodson through how to make a beloved recipe that her friend had grown up with, and together, they made enough brittle to fill 100 packages.

Dodson went up and down North Lamar Boulevard selling to people who worked in the businesses in the area.

“I made my rent in one day,” she says. With that influx of cash and spark of inspiration, “I thought, ‘I can do this’, and I have been doing it ever since.”

Through her new business, Lorilee’s Gourmet, Dodson sold to an ever-growing network of friends and customers, even as she had three children, went through a divorce and worked full-time jobs off and on to pay the bills.

But all that time, she was making brittle. Peanut brittle, pecan brittle, even flavored varieties like hot chocolate brittle and jalapeno brittle. She added a line of candied nuts and even a nutless brittle made with coconut.

For many years, Dodson used the kitchen at Promiseland Church on 51st Street to make her confections, which she was delivering to gift shops and markets across Central Texas, including the Old Mill Store in Wimberley, Whittingtons in Johnson City and Austin Gifts Company.

Even though Dodson had worked and lived in Austin all her life, the opportunity last year to rent the shop in Round Rock was too good to pass up. The little storefront at 1510 Sam Bass Road has a sizable kitchen, where she can experiment with all the flavor combinations rolling around in her head.

In recent years, she’s added even more non-brittle products, including cocoa mixes, toffee and, for Valentine’s Day, chocolate-covered strawberries, but no matter how many new products she creates, Dodson says she never worries about running out of ideas.

“The main thing that keeps me doing this is that is allows me to be creative,” she says. “It was something I was good at.”

Wanda Escobar, the middle of Lorilee’s children, who recently quit her job to help her mom in the Round Rock store, says that she was always proud of her mom growing up because she watched her run a household as a single mom and operate a successful food business while she was doing it.

“Everything I’ve ever been good at I learned because of this,” Escobar says, standing in the store’s kitchen with her mom.

Dodson says she never thought that she’d still be making brittle after all these years, but she’s now starting to see it as her gift. “I just needed to embrace that I’m the peanut brittle lady,” Dodson says, with a smile and a shrug.

You can buy some of Lorilee’s Gourmet products, which range in price from $1.25 for chocolate-covered marshmallow pops and $5 for a bag of peanut brittle to $56 for a large gift pack, on the website (810-3858, lorileesgourmet.com), but the store at 1510 Sam Bass Road has a wider selection. (She’s also selling gourmet coffee and dips, as well as jewelry, bags and other gift shop-type items from local vendors.)

The store is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

ASK ADDIE

A recipe request, plus information on the new Whole Foods at the Domain.

Do you know why construction seems to have stopped at the new Whole Foods on N. MoPac? Haven’t seen any activity in about a month; the building looks mostly finished. I can’t find any information about an opening date.

— Susie Calvin

The much-delayed Whole Foods Market at the Domain won’t open until this fall. The Austin-based grocer has opened two stores in the past year, one at the Galleria in Bee Cave and another at Arbor Trails near South MoPac and William Cannon, but store officials are now saying that this third store, which will technically be a relocation of the store that is currently open in the Gateway shopping center, won’t open until the third or fourth quarter.

Since you have a vast network of foodies, would you inquire, do they know the traditional recipe for Italian Chocolate Rice Pudding? My Sicilian mother-in-law (now deceased) made it every Christmas but refused to share the ingredients with the family. Her family immigrated to the U.S. from Randazzo, Italy. My husband is very fond of it.

— Cheryl Stewart

I’d love to pass along any recipes for chocolate rice pudding to Cheryl, so if you have one, please email me at abroyles@statesman.com or mail a copy to Addie Broyles at 305 S. Congress Ave., Austin, TX 78704. I’m also happy to take other requests for recipes or share recipes that you think other readers would want for their own collections.

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