The founder of Boulder’s Winking Girl Salsa, Julie Nirvelli, spent her college years experimenting with salsa making, much to the delight of her hungry schoolmates. One day, one of her friends asked her to bring the green tomatillo salsa to a family gathering. “Why would I bring salsa where there were first- and second-generation women who made the most unbelievable Mexican food I’ve ever had?” Julie says. “I felt like I was taking sand to the beach.”
Julie politely declined. But her friend was persuasive, and Julie eventually took her tomatillo salsa to the gathering. “The family devoured the entire bowl immediately.” Julie says. It was then and there that she knew she was onto something.
For 15 years, Julie took her signature salsa to parties where it would disappear. She made massive batches but couldn’t seem to make enough to last through the night. She would even make a special batch for the host of the party to enjoy later, only to find that someone had swiped it from the fridge.
People kept asking her to sell the salsa, so in 2009 she started selling it at Front Range farmers’ markets. After selling 5,000 jars in 4 months, she approached Whole Foods, who not only decided to carry her salsa but even gave her a local producer loan to help grow her business. And that she did. Today, Winking Girl Salsa is sold in 1,500 stores in 49 states.
Door to Door Organics sells three of her five varieties—mild tomatillo, cranberry mango, and hot tomatillo—the one flavor that Julie admits is even too spicy for her palate. No matter the flavor, this is one salsa with a taste and personality you won’t soon forget. Winking Girl can be great in recipes too, like Julie’s Crispy Fish Tacos with Avocado and Cranberry-Mango Salsa recipe that’s pictured above. To add some heat to your Cinco de Mayo fiesta, visit the Shop.