The Story Behind the Spice: Meet the Bonache Hot Sauce Company

Photo courtesy of the Bonache website.

Photo courtesy of the Bonache website.

Many Portage Bay customers might not know that the cafes’ dedication to highlighting local farms and businesses isn’t limited to its regionally sourced dishes.

That dedication extends to items as seemingly accessorial as hot sauce.

Though Portage Bay showcases a number of sauces and dips in its entrees and appetizers, some of the tastiest come from a partnership with Bonache, an in-demand hot-sauce company based in Ballard. The business was founded by Marc Olsen, who is also a musician (he played in the Seattle psych rock group Sky Cries Mary for a short period), in the early 2010s.

"’Bonache’ is a word our son made up when he was 3 to describe many, many things,” says Olsen on the company website. “We have no idea either.”

According to a post on the business’ Facebook page, Bonache’s inception was an effect of a spur-of-the-moment decision. After Olsen had participated a hot-sauce-making competition with a friend about five years ago, he decided to take his atypical culinary interest to the next level.

"It's one of those things I've been playing around with for ages," Olsen told Seattle Weekly in 2013. "And then some friends returned from Belize and were raving about the style of hot sauces down there. The carrot, lime, habanero… all bright, fruity sauces."

Since the company’s genesis, Bonache has continued to take inspiration from the mouth-watering tastes of Panamanian and Belizian sauces, and has offered numerous flavors that strikingly deviate in their ingredients and piquancy. Currently, Bonache offers four distinct products, several of which rotate at Portage Bay.

Kinds include Habanero, which uses a trio of base ingredients including carrot, habanero, and lime juice; Hatch, a green sauce made from the company’s famed Hatch chile pepper as its foundation; Piri, a Portugal-inspired red sauce distinguished by its lemony edge; and Socorro, a tangy sauce made with New Mexico chiles.

All can be purchased for $4.50 each on the company website, or at community supporting grocery stores like Whole Foods. Including Portage Bay, the hot sauce company has extended its reach to more than 50 restaurants and stores in the area.

And the number, as popularity grows, continues to rise.

By putting a spotlight on Bonache, Portage Bay seeks to showcase an innovative, thoughtful company. At the end of the day, turning customers on to high-quality products produced and distributed on the local level is just as important as offering organically made, farm-to-table brunch entrees.

Ultimately, Bonache, like Portage Bay, values evolution, and stepping out of your comfort zone.  

“There'll be joy in having explored your curiosity,” states one of the company’s Facebook posts.  “You never know how far it could take you.”