CONTRIBUTING WRITER Maura Alia Badji
The original batch of fresh produce and herbs harvested from his grandmother’s garden that would one day lead to the award-winning “fire-blended” Sabrosa Salsa, was whipped up by Duane Thompson in his Virginia State University dorm room in 1991.
Then a football player and criminal justice major, Thompson found that hunger was the mother of invention the night he returned from a losing game to find his room-mates had eaten almost all the garden bounty his grandmother had dropped off for him. Scrounging around for a meal, he boiled up a hot-plate full of onions, celery, peppers, and tomatoes. The resulting salsa satisfied him and sparked his curiosity about this essential Latin American condiment tracing its roots to Aztec cultures.
While researching his new-found passion, Thompson, a self-described “salsaholic”, found that what most run-of-the-mill salsas had in common was an acidic tomato base and preservatives which often led to heart-burn and acid reflux. Many batches and years of research later, Sabrosa, Spanish for “great flavor”, is an all-natural, all-local, low-pH, low acid salsa with a rich, smoky taste imparted by its distinctive fire-roasted bell pepper base.
Blended with aged balsamic vinegar, cilantro, onion, and tomato puree extracted in a unique process which lowers the natural acidic level, Sabrosa Salsa packs a powerful punch. Humble corn tortilla chips accompanied that first prototypical condiment in Thompson’s dorm room, but today’s Sabrosa Salsa is a versatile gourmet treat and a flavorful addition to roasted chicken, beef brisket, or grilled fish or vegetables.
An energetic proponent of sustainable agriculture, Thompson says, “We need to support our local economy—we have so much here. We need to support our local farms, and by extension, local jobs.” True to his word, the Hampton, VA, native uses only select produce from local Hampton Roads farms and packs the tasty salsa in a pristine co-packing plant in Pungo.
As part of his “go local” philosophy, Thompson also supports the local community by volunteering his time, business expertise, and knowledge about healthy eating to children in area schools from early childhood programs with An Achievable Dream, to Biz4Kidz, an international entrepreneurship program which developed The Edible Garden project at Norview High School in Norfolk, VA in partnership with Regent University in Virginia Beach.
Local, however, does not mean small potatoes. Sabrosa Foods, Inc. has garnered national attention on MSNBC’s “Your Business” and CNBC’S The Big Idea with Danny Deutsch. Sabrosa also won the Best New Food Product Diamond Award at the 2008 Virginia Food and Beverage Expo. Thompson’s positive outlook and attention to detail have kept Sabrosa Foods growing, even in a rocky economy; look for Sabrosa Foods to go international and national in the next few years.
Available in mild or medium heat, Sabrosa Salsa is sold on www.sabrosafoods.com and at Duane Thompson’s store in the Five Points Community Farmer’s Market (2500 Church Street, Norfolk, VA) for $6.50 per 12 oz jar.
The naturally colorful, and very addictive, condiment is also stocked throughout Virginia by Farm Fresh (Hampton Roads), Ukrops Grocery (Williamsburg to Richmond), many specialty shops such as Kitchen Koop and Organic Depot (both in Portsmouth, VA), The Sauce Shop (Virginia Beach, VA) and in the Farmers Markets in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Hampton, Yorktown and Williamsburg.
A native New Yorker living an dworking in Virginia Beach, VA, Maura Alia Badji is a poet, writer, teacher and mother. Her article originally ran on her blog at Skirt!