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NJ BBQ Sauce Good Enough for the French Laundry

March 29, 2010

By Pat Tanner

The story of Jim Barbour’s West Windsor-based FunniBonz Barbeque Sauce goes way beyond “local boy makes good.” Barbour and friend Ryan Marrone launched their line of sauces – a ridiculously crowded field already – in late 2008, when they began conducting tastings at local food markets. In no time, their line of sauces – all made without artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives – grew from the original sauce, which has a pronounced sweet note, to include mellow spicy and fiery chipotle versions, and well as a sweet & tangy mustard.

Even better, in my opinion, are their newly launched all-natural versions. All-natural indicates that they do not include high fructose corn syrup. You don’t have to take my word for how good and wholesome they are: Whole Foods markets throughout New Jersey now carry them. (The original line is available at 140-plus Shop-Rites, and all FunniBonz products can be ordered at funnibonz.com.)

But when Jim Barbour told me about his recent experiences in California, where he had a booth at the San Francisco Fancy Food Show, even the Whole Foods coup pales by comparison. First off, he managed to score a table at virtually the last minute at The French Laundry, Thomas Keller’s acclaimed restaurant in Yountville. When Barbour arrived, he was asked if he happened to have any samples of his sauce with him. He retrieved some from the back seat of his car, at which time they disappeared into the kitchen. Midway through the meal, the kitchen produced a dish of pork cheek and pork tongue resting on a puddle of polenta, beneath which was smeared – you guessed it! – FunniBonz sauce.

Oh yes. After he returned from California, Barbour was contacted by one of Oprah’s “tasters,” who had tried his wares, unbeknownst to him, at the show. She asked him to send samples. Barbour has no idea where this might lead, but if the past is prelude, stay tuned.

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