Saturday, June 7, was significant for most south Louisiana residents because it was the first truly blazing hot, water-logged day of the season following an uncustomarily long and mild spring.
It was significant for chef William Mauk and Katie Ferguson Gray, proprietors of the New Orleans Tomato Co. because their “Creole” Shrimp Creole tied as the “Healthiest Dish” in the culinary competition at the French Market Creole Tomato Festival and their young upstart business turned a year old.
Last year Mauk’s Lakeview garden churned out a bumper crop of Creole tomatoes and fresh herbs so he created a fresh pasta sauce using only nine ingredients — tomatoes, onions, red wine, roasted garlic, extra virgin olive oil, basil, oregano, salt and black pepper. He jarred the sauce and began passing it out to friends and neighbors as fast as he could. Enthusiastic response led to an entrepreneurial “ah-ha” moment and the New Orleans Tomato Co. was born.
One year later Mauk’s and Gray’s little backyard baby is a growing toddler with FDA approval, a manufacturing facility, growing popularity and bright future.
Demand for the sauce necessitated supplementing their backyard harvest with tomatoes grown by Becnel’s Produce in Plaquemines Parish. They use only Creole tomatoes and that, they say, makes all the difference. They add no sugar nor artificial flavors or colors, and the sauce is slow-cooked, resulting in a rich product with clean, clear flavors.
The colorful, distinctive label for the sauce was designed by popular Southern folk artist Simon Hardeveld, further tying the product to its local roots.
Plans for a cane sugar ketchup, fresh salsa, tomato basil soup and Bloody Mary mix are in the works.
New Orleans Tomato Co. products are currently available in New Orleans at Terranova’s Market, Swirl Wines, Tartine, Hollygrove Market, Langenstein’s, Dorignac’s, Whole Foods, Good Eggs and through GoodEggs.com/nola.