Mexican state recognizes Bend-made mole poblano

Barcelona’s Gourmet Sauces mole praised for its quality

By Rachael Rees / The Bulletin

The secret to making a good mole sauce is grinding the ingredients with a stone, not chopping them, explained Enrique Riquelme, co-owner of Bend-based Barcelona’s Gourmet Sauces Co.

That technique, along with the other steps the company takes to make its Mole Poblano sauce, obviously works. The proof came this year when tourism officials in the state of Puebla, Mexico — reportedly the birthplace of mole poblano — recognized Barcelona’s sauce for its quality and adherence to tradition.

Barcelona’s Mole Poblano, made from a recipe Riquelme’s family has made for decades, is one of six signature sauces prepared in the company’s kitchen on Southwest Wilson Avenue.

“We are preparing something that is surprisingly exactly what tradition calls for,” Riquelme said.

“It’s very complex. … This is blending together 21 ingredients, many of them very exotic, and keeping them balanced so all of those flavors actually unfold in your mouth.”

Riquelme said Barcelona prepares all of its sauces with an appreciation of culture and tradition in an effort to introduce Americans to real Mexican flavors.

Bette Fraser, chef and proprietor of The Well Traveled Fork — a Bend catering and culinary tour company — said making mole is very difficult.

“I copied down the recipe from Rick Bayless, who made mole for the state dinner when the president of Mexico went to the Obama White House,” she said. “It was probably three pages long! It is not for the young or the weak. You have to be willing to roll up your sleeves to make mole.”

Riquelme said he’s not sure how the recognition from Puebla will affect sales, but the company is growing regardless.

When Barcelona’s Gourmet Sauces began in 2009, employees made 60 jars of finishing sauces per day. Now they produce 1,500 jars per day. In 2011, Barcelona’s sauces were sold in about 15 stores in Central Oregon, according to The Bulletin’s archives. Today, they’re in about 120 stores in Oregon, Washington, California and British Columbia.

Jason Valdez, marketing and community relations leader for Whole Foods Market in Bend, said the store has carried Barcelona’s sauces since mid-2010.

“The family behind Barcelona Sauces (is) producing an amazing and unique line of artisan products,” Valdez wrote in an email. “We believe buying locally produced products bolsters local economies by keeping that money in the pockets of community producers.”

Riquelme said he has no intention of slowing down. In fact, the company would like to double its size, by either expanding into neighboring spaces or relocating, by the end of the year.

Fraser said Barcelona’s rapid growth is an inspiration to every food entrepreneur and it puts Central Oregon on the map for its culinary products.

“Not only have they expanded outside the confines of Central Oregon and the state, but now they’ve gone outside the United States as well,” she said. “Everybody who puts their label on their package should be so lucky.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7818, rrees@bendbulletin.com