In a world consumed with Internet reviews and targeted advertising, it is rare to find a new favorite food by pure serendipitous discovery. But that's what happened a month ago when I was shopping in Publix for taco night at my house.
As I strolled down an aisle, I decided to see if there were any jarred salsas I'd be interested in. I wanted to try something different from my go-to choice, Publix's fresh, refrigerated salsa. I did not have high hopes for the jarred kind, but then I spotted the whimsical cursive branding of Cigar City Smoked Salsa.
Being a fan of all things Tampa, I grabbed the jar to see if it was produced in the area. The label provided a Tampa address and boasted that it was all natural, listing a total of seven ingredients that I could find in my own kitchen. I was sold.
Cigar City Smoked Salsa is now a trending item in my household.
According to CEO Mark Adwell, the local delight was started in 2012 by a group of Tampa guys. The friends were doing what Tampa locals do so well, barbecuing, when they decided to smoke some veggies on the grill and make a homemade salsa. They tried the salsa, then their friends and family had a taste, and now Cigar City Smoked Salsa is sold in all Publix locations, at several bay area Walmarts and at 25 local food markets. The product will make its debut in 150 Central Florida Winn-Dixies in December.
The name is an homage to its original production roots in Ybor City, but with its successful growth the salsa is now cooked and packaged in Largo.
Made from tomatoes, onions, peppers, cilantro, garlic, lime juice and salt, Cigar City Smoked Salsa contains no preservatives or additives and is gluten-free and vegan-friendly. Currently, the salsa comes in Hot, Medium and Mild flavors. I'm a baby when it comes to spicy flavors, so I've only tried Mild, but I love it with Tostitos Cantina Tortilla Chips, on salads and on tacos. Adwell says a lot of people enjoy the smoked tomato goodness on pizza, so I'm going to give this a try in the near future.
Amber McDonald, Times staff writer