Around two years ago, Newport native Cindy Kerr went on a date. Her date, David Fairclough, decided the best way to impress her would be by cooking her a meal, complete with pasta sauce he had worked to perfect over the course of 17 years.
During the date, Fairclough told Kerr how he dreamed of bottling the sauce and selling it. So, over the next year and a half, they worked to make that happen.
They faced plenty of obstacles along the way, from getting schooled on the pH of tomatoes to how to safely can or bag them. Kerr jokingly referred to it as “one big ‘adventure’ with the FDA.
“There wasn’t one day since [the first date] we didn’t talk about it,” Fairclough said.
Finally, in December they were ready to sell.
“We’re moving into the market as fast as we can, but with caution,” Kerr said.
She explained that they use as much organic, local product as they can and are working to get closer to a completely organic product.
The partners taste tested a number of imported olive oils before they decided on a favorite from Italy, and Fairclough raved about the garlic they get from California, “When you get done prepping, you could touch a knife and it just sticks to your hand.”
“We use fresh herbs and it’s as good and close to homemade as you’re going to get,” Kerr said. Eventually she hopes to grow her own herbs for the sauce.
Kerr’s background is in healthcare, so part of her input with the marinara was ensuring there was no salt or sugar added.
“That’s what’s so impressive. You can always add [salt or sugar], but you can never take it away,” Kerr said. “So many tomato sauces are filled with sugar. We have the lowest sodium in comparison with any others we can find.”
A 16-ounce jar of Newport Rustic Sauce has 230 milligrams of sodium and 4 grams of sugar.
The pair has come up with a number of recipes using their prized product. Fairclough, who they’ve dubbed the “Sauce Boss,” recommends dumping it in a crockpot with sausage and peppers. “Let it simmer for about four hours, and oh my goodness,” he said.
“It really makes seafood pop. It’s a workable sauce. We took half the work out of it for anyone,” Kerr said. It’s pantry life and versatility are part of the reason boat owners have taken a liking to it, she added.
Currently, they’re producing and canning at Sandywoods in Tiverton. They’re hoping to move to a facility in Newport, however.
The logo features an image of the Pell Bridge, an indication of Kerr’s love of Newport. “Newport is my home. When I grew up here, there was not a bridge. And once there was, my father said that bridge means freedom,” she said.
The side of the bottle says: ”‘In Sailor Style’ Send a taste of Newport to your family and friends. Allow the delicious aroma of our Newport Rustic Marinara Sauce to fill their hearts and homes.”
The image and message is on the Newport Rustic van they drive, too. The couple has matching license plates — SAUCE 1 on Kerr’s car and SAUCE 2 on Fairclough’s.
“We want to educate people not only here, but all the people from around the world about the history of Newport,” Fairclough said. “We’re going to have some other images, historical images on the labels of future products.”
Those interested can find Newport Rustic Sauce at Ash Mart, Preservation Society stores, Litl Rhody Pasta in Tiverton, and other select specialty stores and farmer’s markets. The sauce has also been picked up by The Peninsula Hotel, with locations in New York, Beverly Hills, Chicago and Paris, and the Newport Rustic team is working to get it into the hands of local restaurants, businesses and boat and yacht chefs.
As for the future? The duo says they plan to delve into Newport Rustic bloody Mary mix and a sop, to use as marinade or to dip bread in.