Tag Archives: spicy

Crazy Gringa Hot Sauce

April 26, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Mary Current and her son, Anderson Current, started making hot sauce three years ago. She never planned on being a commercial food producer despite working the front and back of the house at restaurants, studying culinary arts, and being married to a retired food and beverage director. “It just kind of happened,” she says of Crazy Gringa Hot Sauce’s origins. One day this foodie and home gardener decided to make hot sauce from her bumper pepper crop. She had made pico de gallo and salsa, but never liquid hot sauce. Friends and family loved that first spicy concoction and wanted more.

Her four main sauces became habanero, jalapeño, datil, and chipotle, each with notes of poblano, anaheim, vinegar, citrus, garlic, and onion. Specialty sauces have followed. She only arrives at a recipe after much research and experimentation. Finding the right complementary combinations, she says, “is what I really like doing,” adding, “That’s what I get a kick out of. It’s like a gift.”

The initial strong reception got mother and son thinking, especially after the savory micro batches proved popular with Anderson’s friends in Colorado, where he lived with his wife, Constance. The couple worked for Whole Foods. When they moved to Omaha, Anderson helped his mom turn her food hobby into a business. Constance designed the logo with a Medusa-like head sprouting chili peppers. The two shopped the sauces around to trendy eateries like Block 16, and found that chefs and patrons also enjoyed the homemade spicy condiments.

Crazy Gringa has come a long way since Mary cooked and bottled the sauces at home and sold them out of the trunk of her car. Her condiments are now made in a commercial kitchen and are staples at the Omaha Farmers Market, select Whole Foods, Natural Grocers, Hy-Vee stores, and some restaurants. She plans on keeping things small.

Working together allows the family more quality time, which is the main reason why Mary likes keeping it all in the family.

“When we make hot sauce, that’s our bonding time together,” Mary says of her and Anderson. Her husband, Doug, helps with receiving.

Mary also likes maintaining a small operation because it allows her to pour as much of her heart and soul into the operation as possible.

“It really is a labor of love. I’m never going to be rich, but I love to see the joy on people’s faces when we’re back at the Farmers Market and they say, ‘I can’t live without this hot sauce.’”

Just as Crazy Gringa showed up on store shelves, City Sprouts board president Albert Varas sought an area food manufacturer with whom he could partner. He realized these simple sauces with complex flavors have, as their base, items interns can grow and cultivate at the City Sprouts South garden at 20th and N streets. He contacted the Currents and found they shared a passion for building the local food culture.

The Crazy Gringa Hot Sauce maven partners with Omaha City Sprouts on a social entrepreneurship project that may spur more collaboration between for-profits like hers and the nonprofit urban agriculture organization.

City Sprouts South grows various peppers for Crazy Gringa’s signature hot sauces. The boutique company, in return, donates a percentage of sales over four summer weekends to support City Sprouts programs. Meanwhile, Crazy Gringa works with other local growers to supply the peppers City Sprouts can’t.

“We just hit if off,” Varas says. “They are all about community service, engagement, and sourcing hyper-local food with a mission behind it. It was always my dream we would partner on bringing a value-added product to market. It’s a great way to engage our interns.

“The relationship adds revenue and relevance to what we’re doing.”

Having the hand-grown peppers picked and processed in Omaha fits Crazy Gringa’s emphasis on fresh, local, and artisanal. Current also creates limited-run small batches for City Sprouts and other nonprofits to give away as gifts or prizes.

 

Anderson helped build the raised beds for the peppers at the site that community activists turned from a dumping ground to a garden.

Mary loves that her product helps a community-based ecosystem.

“So many kids don’t know where their produce comes from and City Sprouts helps educate them about how things grow,” she says. “Those interns learn how to garden, so they learn how to sustain themselves and their families. We’re happy to support good things in the community like this.”

Interns gain a sense of ownership in Crazy Gringa’s success.

Varas says, “The interns need something to do and something to believe in. One intern, Rafeal Quintanilla, is a mentee of mine and he really digs the idea that he has a stake in the finished product because he waters and cares for the peppers and harvests them. He has pride in being a part in creating this delicious hot sauce.”

The partnership with Crazy Gringa “has far exceeded my expectations,” Varas says, adding, “It’s not just transactional—it’s been an incredible reciprocal experience.”

Mary Current concurs, vowing the relationship will continue as long as she’s in business. “It’s an amazing concept. They’re wonderful people to work with. I can’t think of a better place to give back your money.”

More collaborations like this one may be in the offing.

”I think this is a model that could and should be replicated,” Varas says. “My hope is that we will be able to recreate this next growing season with Crazy Gringa and possibly other food businesses.”

Visit crazygringahotsauce.com

This article was printed in the Spring 2017 edition of B2B.

Jazz: A Louisiana Kitchen

December 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Walk through the wrought-iron gates of Jazz: A Louisiana Kitchen, and the beads and feathers tell you you’re no longer on 15th and Farnam. You’re on Bourbon Street. “I’ve had more offers than I can count for that,” says Jordan Jackson, nodding at a huge white show cape pinned to a wall. “Shangri La” it reads, letting diners know this is the place to laissez les bon temps rouler.

Jackson has been letting the good times roll as the general manager of Omaha’s Jazz for two years. “We have a full-on Cajun menu,” he says. “Like ètouffèe, it’s just not something you find much outside Louisiana.”CrawFish copy

The original Jazz in Lubbock, Texas, (and consequently all five other Jazzes scattered across the nation’s middle) was heavily inspired by celebrity chef Paul Prudhomme. The Louisiana native popularized Cajun cooking with his restaurant, cookbooks, and TV shows. Omahans can enjoy his time-honored flavors as prepared by head chef and co-owner Justino Gomez, who’s cooked for Jazz for 20 years. “I love the Cajun food,” Gomez says. “It’s healthy, and it’s just good, you know?”

How does the food compare to what you’ll find in The Big Easy? “This is a little more Midwestern,” Jackson admits. “Cajun food is spicy, and that’s not what everyone up here is looking for.”

Those looking for authentic heat need not sweat the Midwestern standard. Each dish is made to order down to the sauce. “You want it mild? I’ll just put in the garlic and chives,” Gomez says. “You want it spicy? I’ll add more cayenne.”Untitled 2

Night owls know that finding decent food downtown can be a chore with most kitchens closing at 10 p.m. Jazz’s full menu is available until two hours before closing (which is 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and midnight the rest of the week), but Jackson swears by the late-night menu. Basically the only part of the regular menu not included is anything using the sauté station, like pastas, house specialties, and the (of course) sauté menu. “You can still get a good meal late,” Jackson says. Get the crab cakes a la mer. The best appetizer, in his opinion.

If you’re the type that insists on unique drinks to go with your unique food, Jackson makes sure local craft beer is in good supply. “Whoever’s got the better beer menu, that’s where I’m going for dinner,” he says. Usually all but two of the restaurant’s 12 taps are craft brews like Keg Creek, Chefs in Black, Blue Blood, and of course, Lucky Bucket.20121116_bs_4037 copy

What is dinner without a little music? Jazz brings in local musicians to complete the ambience every Thursday through Saturday. “It’s mostly jazz and the blues,” Jackson says, “but we do have one Dixieland band.” The Street Railway Company performs every third Friday of the month. Bands play on a stage overlooking the dining area from 7 to 11 p.m. Diners looking for a mellower evening should come on Thursdays, when the music only lasts until 10 p.m.

“Downtown’s becoming more than just the Old Market,” Jackson said. “If someone’s going to a show at the Orpheum, I want them to just know, oh yeah, Jazz’s right around the corner.”

Jazz – A Louisiana Kitchen
1421 Farnam St.
402-342-3662
jazzkitchen.com