Local Vendor Spotlight: Pura Vida! Gourmet
“It’s flavor with a kick!”
Traditional Mexican salsas and tortilla chips from Ana Maria Valenzuela
(Pictured: Sigona’s local vendors)
“About four years ago I decided it was time,” said Ana Maria Valenzuela, founder and creator of Pura Vida! Gourmet, LLC. “I decided it was time to do my heart’s desire.”
Ana Maria grew up in Kansas where she learned to make traditional Mexican salsas with guidance from her mother. She later moved to California where she worked in various fields and earned her Master’s degree in Bi-cultural/Multi-cultural education at Stanford University. She always knew, though, that she had a deep desire to produce and share her salsas with the community.
(Pictured: Ana Maria with her gourmet chips and salsas.)
“I took certain small steps, which led to bigger steps and the creation of my trademark,” said Ana Maria. “I met with a consultant in Atherton who believes everyone has their own symbol. After just the first meditation meeting with her, the symbol I use now as my Pura Vida! Gourmet trademark popped out in my first drawing! That image gave me a lot of mileage. ”
It didn’t take long to get going. Ana Maria first produced her red, tomato-based salsa, which she tested at local farmers markets. She quickly began producing her green, tomatillo-based salsa, and started selling them at Sigona’s in July 2007.
Both the red and green Pura Vida! Gourmet salsas are great for dipping (with Pura Vida! Gourmet tortilla chips) or used as simmering sauces. Just imagine how flavor-packed your flank steak would be after it’s simmered in the tomatillo salsa!
Ana Maria’s focus with Pura Vida! Gourmet is to create low-fat, traditional Mexican food products. She now has an entire menu of product ideas, including dessert, and she’s also working on a sugarless Mexican beverage. Her goal, she says, is “to have Pura Vida! products contribute in healthy, delicious and elegant ways to the table.“
To do so, Ana Maria keeps her recipes simple. The salsas, which are made at her state-certified kitchen in Belmont, contain only 5 ingredients each and have no preservatives. The Pura Vida! Gourmet tortilla chips (a private-label product made for Ana Maria) are made from 100% California-grown stone ground corn, and they’re also low fat (only 4g!), very low sodium, light, crunchy and come in a stand-up, ziplock pouch!
(Pictured: Pura Vida! Gourmet salsas and chips. Pura Vida!, which literally means Pure Life, was used in Ana Maria’s household growing up to mean ‘full of life.’ Ana Maria remembers saying, “Mom! This is pura vida!” when her mom would make something delicious.)
“I remember when Ana Maria came to pitch Pura Vida!,” said John Nava, specialty foods buyer at Sigona’s. “I was actually taking a lunch break in my car, listening to a game, when she tapped on the window! At the time we already carried a few different salsas, but I’d done my research I knew hers would do well because it’s a true Mexican-style salsa — Jalisco style, actually — and is used for dipping and cooking. One of my favorite Mexican restaurants has this style of salsa, and Ana Maria’s makes me feel like I’m sitting down at the restaurant with a basket of fresh, warm chips.”
“I could tell John Nava had extensive experience as a buyer,” said Ana Maria. “He knows food products and pricing. He has been helpful and supportive to me and I’ve learned from him. “
“Sigona’s really believes in a sense of community, just as I do,” she continued. “There are so many tastes, experiences and palates in our community, and Nava treats his local vendors with the same sense of integrity and appreciation for what they bring to the market, on an equal playing field. I admire him for that.”
Ana Maria’s Pura Vida! Gourmet products are now sold at seven different Peninsula locations, and this October she will ring in her forth year of business! In celebration of the approaching fourth year mark, Ana Maria is offering $1 off all Pura Vida! Gourmet products at Sigona’s during the month of September as a way of saying thank you to the community and the support received from customers.
Congratulations, Ana Maria!