Once in a while I am asked to sample and give my opinion of a new product that is about to be launched on a wide scale for retail in the Ottawa Region. While attending Savour Ottawa I had the pleasure of meeting with many of Ottawa's best producers of local products and one of those producers was Kawal a professional by day, closet salsa wizard by night.
When we met, Kawal offered to bring me samples of his new product that he was clearly very proud of and if I liked it would I post something about it here on my blog. I told him that I would be happy to sample his concoctions and would pen my thoughts whether I liked his product and even if I didn't! Nervous laughter aside he didn't seem worried and I had the samples delivered to my door the next day.
I am not a big snack food fan, really more of a healthy food proponent so we talked food philosophy before the tasting, which I did privately with friends. Kawal took me through his process of sourcing only local ingredients in season for the salsa, stockpiling for production all year long and the challenges of consistency with your main ingredients coming from an area with a relatively short growing season. His passion for producing an anything other than "standard"-ized product keeps him busy throughout the year sampling, mixing, reinventing and test marketing.
Kawal notes proudly that all of his products are all natural, gluten free and vegan friendly. Also key to the health properties of his salsa's are 0% Fat, 0% Transfats, 0 Cholesterol and only 50g. of Sodium (the over hyped to be unnamed national brand's equal portion contains 240g. sodium), only 10 Calories per 30ml. and NO MSG.
Ok great, so is this stuff actually going to taste like anything at all with seemingly nothing in it?
The first sample was the Kawalsa Smoked Spicy Salsa. Poof, open the lid and an instant waft of hickory attacked my olfactory sensors, it was like walking into a fine Indian restaurant. The texture was chunky, not runny a relief from the supermarket slurry types. I can easily identify the multi-coloured peppers, onions, tomato. The taste is immediately there, no waiting around for the heat and the suppleness of the sugar, vinegar and herbs balances wonderfully. It is deliciously addictive.
I tried the product first crudo and then on fresh shucked oysters (hello new summertime best friend), on poached sea bass and in a cold chicken breast wrap in bib lettuce. All delicious and the sky is the limit to where it can be used.
Second I sampled Kawalsa's Fruit Salsa. The label says "scoop, savour and smile" so I opened my second audition with a spoonful and down the hatch. In immediate contrast to the first, although texturally identical there is a recognizable sweetness of summer ripened pear, peaches and apples (three items I am intimately familiar with having grown up in the Niagara area). The peppers are still there, but so is the slight acidity of vinegar, mild heat from what the label says is jalapeno. It is sweet without being over sweet and robust enough never to be wasted on bagged, over salted tortilla chips.
Served over grilled baguette with a dredging of garlic and olive oil was delicious, but spooning over not yet in season heirloom tomato with a leaf of fresh basil and wedge of bufala mozzarella was heavenly. But don't let your imagination stop you, this can work on so many hot or cold plates and kids are undoubtedly going to love this complex adult treat.
Kawal has a third prototype he is working on made up of smoked pineapple and habanero peppers. Although still in the works, the sample I tasted had all of the characteristics of the others and I really think the contribution of smoked ingredients sets them apart from competitors.
I thoroughly enjoyed sampling this new product that I suspect will become a local favorite and then who knows, perhaps this entrepreneur will give up his day job for clearly what his real passion is.
Kawalsa will soon be available at Life of Pie and the Manotick Village Butcher with more to come in the near future.
Please check the website: www.kawalsa.com for ordering, product details and new retail locations.
Home delivery within the Ottawa area is available.
Please Contact Kawal @ 613-864-6613 for distribution.