Local rocker Jay Moran (Know-It-All Boyfriends, Steely Dane) has launched a Caribbean-inspired hot sauce line called Wisco Tropicál. Moran received his food license in November of last year, and has since been making small batches of the sauce and bottling it at the Farm Market Kitchen in Watertown.
Farm Market Kitchen is a food-grade rental facility similar to the Food Enterprise and Economic Development (FEED) Kitchens planned for Madison's north side.
Moran started the business after his sauces caught on with friends. "My inspiration was the Matouk's Calypso Sauce I liked at Jolly Bob's," says Moran. "I tried copying the sauce for a few friends to give as gifts, and they began to ask when I would make more."
To add a unique and local angle, Moran uses cranberries for a base and balances their natural tartness with pears. The result is a bright magenta sauce that comes in two varieties, hot and sweet.
Of his sources Moran says: "The cranberries are from Habelman Bros., a cranberry grower for more than a century out of Tomah, and the mustard I use is Koops' from Pleasant Prairie." This summer he plans to grow his own Scotch Bonnet peppers, and is in talks with a farmer to also grow for Wisco Tropicál.
Expansion has been exponential. After selling out the first case at Metcalfe's West Towne location, 7455 Mineral Point Rd., in less than a week, Metcalfe's ordered an additional ten cases for both its West Towne and Hilldale locations. Wisco Tropicál can now also be found at Hy-Vee on East Wash, Steve's on University, Underground Butcher, the Weary Traveler and Cortadito. The sauces are currently being reviewed for retail by Whole Foods Market.
"Originally, I was going to sell online," says Moran. "But now I'm just working to keep up with demand."
Moran cites Madison's supportive food-entrepreneur environment as a crucial part of his success: "Everyone has been so friendly and helpful and willing to share information -- Peter from RP's Pasta, Matt and Clare from Quince & Apple -- it's been an amazing experience so far."