Four years ago, Incline Village, Nev., locals Erik Castaneda and Andy Brimm were at Diamond Peak’s mid-mountain Snowflake Lodge taste-testing barbecue sauces. Brimm was the concessionaire running the food service and Castaneda often took his breaks in the Lodge in between running the lift operations at Diamond Peak. They both loved food and Brimm often asked Castaneda for advice on what he thought of new flavors.
“He’s the one friend out of all of mine who loves to cook as much as I do,” Brimm says about Castaneda.
Together, they started experimenting with barbecue sauce flavors, as well as making green and red enchilada sauces because there aren’t too many of them on the market. Feeling like they were on to something, the duo officially created the Small Batch Sauce Co.
“We’re a little company and it’s as local as it can be, we make it right here in town. … and it won’t hurt our feelings if you don’t like it. We just want you to try it.”
– Andy Brimm
Meanwhile, the Mountain High Sandwich Co. was opening up and the owners wanted to put small batch sauces on their sandwiches. The tri-tip is one of their most popular.
“We started in 2014 when my brother John and [his wife] Ashley were building out Mountain High and they needed us to be legit because they wanted to use Small Batch sauces for their sandwiches. [Mountain High] was our first and only wholesale account at the time,” Brimm says. Currently the sandwich shop goes through 3 to 4 gallons of Small Batch Sauce a week to put on their smoked tri-tip and tofu sandwiches.
Along with the Mountain High Sandwich Co., Small Batch also now sells its sauces at the Tahoe Food Hub Farm Shop in Alpine Meadows and Tahoe Central Market in Kings Beach. Brimm and Castaneda will also be selling 16-ounce jars of their sauces at Truckee Community Farmers Market on Sundays this summer.
What makes Small Batch Sauce Co. sauces different from the rest is that they are made from natural ingredients. Unlike other companies that use a ketchup base or tomato paste from a can, Small Batch Sauce Co. takes whole tomatoes and smokes them, then purees them.
“We know that not everyone is going to like it; it’s thick and fresh unlike other store-bought sauces,” Brimm says. “We wanted to create a smoky flavor without using fake liquid smoke. We’re adding two days to the process by using all-natural ingredients. It’s more difficult and challenging, but our goal is to stay small and sell handmade sauces the way it should be.”
Working out of a commercial kitchen that the Brimm family built 11 years ago, Brimm and Castaneda use a smoker that smokes up to 40 pounds of organic tomatoes from farmers in Fallon, Nev., and Nevada City.
According to Castaneda, the red enchilada sauce pairs well with seafood and the green enchilada sauce is excellent with chicken. They use Hatch Green Chilies in the base of the green enchilada sauce; the Hatch Green Chilies give off a subtle kick within the solid flavor.
“It goes great in rice bowls, fajitas, tacos, nachos, chicken tortilla soup, pretty much anything,” Castaneda says. Small Batch Sauce Co. also makes a seasonal applesauce with handpicked apples from Guerneville.
While it’s challenging to try to grow a business while having full-time jobs, Brimm and Castaneda have a commitment to keeping their products organic and locally made.
“We make sauce two to three times a month and that’s just skating by,” Brimm says.
It takes about two hours to make a batch of red or green enchilada sauce and four hours to make their barbecue sauce — and that’s only after days of creating the base, smoking the tomatoes, cooling them, storing them and pureeing them. However, they wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Right now, we’re trying to keep it our own and small. We’re happy doing what we’re doing and are slowly growing it to the next level,” Brimm says. “Our goal is to keep it simple. We’re a little company and it’s as local as it can be, we make it right here in town. A lot of people know Erik and a lot of people know me and it won’t hurt our feelings if you don’t like it. We just want you to try it.”
“We have a good thing going and it’s not gonna stop,” Castaneda adds.
Gringo Green Chicken Enchiladas | From the kitchen of Kayla Anderson
Makes 2 Servings
½ rotisserie chicken, shredded
½ onion, chopped
A sprinkle of garlic salt
Six 8-inch tortillas
4-oz. Mexican cheese, shredded
1 jar of Small Batch Sauce Co. Green Enchilada Sauce
Toppings such as olives, avocado, sour cream
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a skillet or saucepan, brown the onions and mix in the rotisserie chicken and garlic salt. In another skillet, cook the tortillas until they soften and roll the chicken mixture and some cheese into each one to make enchiladas.
Place them into an 8-inch-by-8-inch casserole dish and smother in spicy green enchilada sauce. Top with leftover chicken and cheese.
Bake for 20 to 30 minutes and top with olives, cilantro, avocado and sour cream, if you wish.