Vitali + Lorena Meschoulam
Photo via Edible Brooklyn
In a (successful) effort to revive the "art of small-batch, traditional salsa-making", Lorena + Vitali have crafted a line of salsas that are free of preservatives and full of fresh, mouthwatering ingredients. All crafted by hand. Bringing salsa back to its roots, La Fundidora follows Mexican time-honored traditions in crafting their salsas.
What Inspired You To Start Your Company?
Many separate things. Being from Mexico, we've always been naturally drawn to our country's rich, diverse (and often misunderstood) culinary traditions. Salsa is emblematic because it is omnipresent in our cuisine. But because of that, it is often undervalued and overlooked. So the first driver was to tell the real story about salsa and the alchemy behind its elaboration. The second, which fit nicely into things, is that my husband had already taken a step in that direction by producing a few jars a month as a hobby, amidst his several day jobs and other interests. And finally, finance was the last straw. Having worked for a large Wall Street bank for a few years I quickly realized that continuing on that path would be the end of me (and my soul). So I eschewed my mathematics training and I set off on this very different adventure.
Tell us about your products.
We have three core products for the time being... all of them traditional salsas using particular combinations of chilies.
1) Fresca: A tomatillo-based salsa using fresh chiles. It has bright overtones and pairs well with fish, cheese and even greasy offerings like chorizo (it's acidity helps balance the grease!).
2) Fuego: We use Arbol and Guajillo chiles to make a very versatile salsa that pairs well with eggs, chicken, quesadillas or grilled cheese and just about anything else you can think of.
3) Humo: The word means "smoke" and this is exactly what you get with this offering. Hand-dried chipotle and Pasilla chiles give this salsa uncanny depth and complexity...allowing it to stand well with heavier meats (burgers, chops...) or spicing up the mundane like spaghetti sauce.
What Does Being A Small-Batch “Artisan” Mean To You? It means caring about what you do and the lives you affect while you do it. Our producers have names, as do the dedicated people that help us craft every jar.
What Is Your Favorite Small-Batch Treat?
Salted caramel... and ice cream. Better yet, salted caramel ice cream.
What Drew You To Food?
It was inevitable. In Mexico food is intimately linked to culture. 3-5 hour lunches are commonplace. It was just a matter of time before I focused on it. But there was also a practical side to the story...I became increasingly frustrated by the lack of authentic salsa when I moved to the US!
Where Does Your Food Inspiration Come From?
The grandmas and mothers that have been making salsas for eons. Small fondas and taquerias strewn throughout forgotten towns all over the country, each with a distinctive and sometimes subtle difference. And my husband helps. He has studied food and is passionate about mingling food, design and culture.
What Products Are You Working On Now?
We are looking to expand our salsa offerings by introducing a non-tomato based salsa that is pungent yet very approachable. It is traditionally eaten in the north of the country. We are also looking to add another salsa that combines elements from central and south-east Mexico.
Beyond that, we are in the initial exploratory phase of looking to expand our offerings beyond salsa. But more on this later!
Do You Have a Favorite Product?
That’s a tough one… I guess it's like thinking about your own children, you love all of them in different ways.
Latest Ingredient Obsession?
Heirloom chilies. Varietals that are almost impossible to find nowadays even in Mexico.
What Did You Have For Dinner Last Night?
I had machaca and beans tacos in handmade flour tortillas. Machaca is salted dried meat commonly eaten in the north of Mexico. Flour tortillas are also typical of the northern region.
What Person, Living Or Dead, Would You Most Like To Have Try Your Product?
My husband's grandmother. She may have been the inspiration behind the magic of La Fundidora.
What’s The Best Piece Of Advice You’ve Gotten In Building Your Business? What Advice Would You Give Other Artisans?
Coming from a different background than the food industry (I’m a mathematician who used to work in finance) and given that this was my first entrepreneurial project, I had a chat with a friend who was involved in several food-related startups. He suggested that we started small and not invest crazy amounts in marketing or trying to reach the big retailers. Looking back I can´t think of a best way to do it. You need to be able to deliver the best quality product and let people try it and love it on their own terms. Word or mouth will always be our best marketing strategy.
My advice to other artisans would be to be passionate and patient. If you have a great product and you keep enjoying and loving what you do, people will notice and your business will show.
What Other Local Food Artisans or Chefs Do You Admire?
Probably comes down to Mast Brothers. We feel they have a similar philosophy - help communities, craft the best product and do it in a way that is artistic and tasteful.
If You Had To Choose Your Last Meal, What Would It Be?
I guess I´d go for something Mexican and it would definitely have to involve some corn tortillas and salsa. I´d choose something simple, a meal that reminded me of my childhood. I´d have to say tinga tostadas topped with queso fresco, crema, avocado and chipotle salsa. I´d pair that with horchata (rice and milk based beverage with a touch of cinnamon).
Favorite Restaurant or Food Experience?
Itanoní, a small restaurant in Oaxaca city. They are focused in heirloom corn varieties and their whole menu revolves around traditional Mexican finger foods involving artisanal nixtamal masa. You´ll find blue, yellow, red and white corn tortillas and their flavor is beyond this world. They work with small farmers and families in Oaxaca and pay homage to the important role that corn has had in the Mexican culture since the pre-Columbian era.
What’s Do You Enjoy Doing Outside of the Kitchen?
I love nature. I love to be surrounded by trees, listening to running water and enjoying some peace and quite. Add a good book to that equation and I´m in heaven.
What’s Your Favorite Kitchen Soundtrack?
Music is a must in our house; we love listening to all kinds of music both in and outside the kitchen. I guess our kitchen soundtrack depends on our mood and the time of the year. Right now we can´t stop listening to Alt-J.
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