When Sara Marshall moved from Texas to New Jersey in 2000, she was disappointed by the Mexican food options available in the Garden State. So she started making her own, and got into the habit of bringing Tex-Mex style salsa with her to parties and giving jars of it as gifts. Then when she lost her banking job, a friend suggested marketing her salsa. Marshall used the members of her darts league in Hoboken as taste testers for several months before she was ready to launch.
Saucy Sara's Salsa, the resulting business, sells three kinds of Tex-Mex salsa: spicy, mild, and verde. "Tex-Mex salsa is not chunky," Marshall explains, "It's a little more processed. People in the Northeast are used to the chunkier style."
In addition to the textural differences, Marshall says that the salsas she tended to find in New Jersey were much more dependent on tomatoes for the bulk of the salsa than her products. "Two of my flavors are tomato based," she says, "but there's so much else in there. You really taste the peppers and the onions and spices just as much."
The non-tomato salsa verde is made from tomatillos, which are not indigenous to this part of the country, but which have a bright, fresh flavor that goes well with jalapenos and cilantro. Marshall is especially fond of using her salsa verde with chicken enchiladas.
She plans on keeping her product line to three salsas for the time being, partly to avoid overtaxing herself, but mostly because she feels strongly that she's putting out the best Tex-Mex salsa she can and there's no reason to mess around with them. "Simplicity works," she says, "Pineapple or mango in your salsa is not really Tex-Mex."
One area where she sees a bit of potential expansion, however, is in the tortilla chip department. When she sells at markets, she serves a particular brand of chip that's available in Texas, but not here. She hopes to partner with them in the near future and complete the Tex-Mex snack experience for deprived northeasterners.
"I'm making the highest quality salsa for the lowest possible price," she says, "I would love to provide a chip that works on the same premises."
About the author: Stephanie Klose has more mustard than you. You can follow her on twitter at @sklose.