Last summer, Dave Forbes opened up a pop-up shop on West St. selling an assortment of vegetable-based sauces on a lark.
“My goal was to fill my garage with sauces,” he says of his venture, Monkeyboy Consumables, which was forced to close last November to make way for the upcoming Founders Row development.
Forbes, who admits he never really liked retail, knew the pop-up was only temporary and he wanted to have fun with it. And he confirms he did indeed meet his goal of a sauce-filled garage.
But now Forbes and his sauces are back with a new location, a new name and a new attitude.
“This is me taking it seriously,” he says of his latest operation dubbed Disturbingly Delicious Foods, now open in 570 sq. ft. of space at The Lincoln at Tinner Hill.
Equipped with a three-year lease, Forbes says he’s more focused this go-round and learned some things from his first foray. “I’ve tweaked the operation a little bit,” he says as he shows off a new industrial blending machine he uses to make his signature sauces like the kale-ketchup hybrid Kalechup, and the mayonnaise substitute Mayonot. “I’ve ironed out the process, workflow and technique.”
During his time without a storefront, Forbes made 38 new product flavors over the winter.
“It’s experimental. I make them just to see what I can do.”
Most of Forbes’ sauces have a base of kale, cauliflower or cabbage, which he then builds on to create something new.
There’s a cauliflower-based tartar sauce with vinegar, cucumber and horseradish; a mole sauce made up of cabbage, porter beer, vinegar, plantains, onions and a host of spices; and a smoked spicy strawberry sauce made with tequila.
There’s even a vegan queso alternative that was born from a contest when a customer asked Forbes to make his own version of Taco Bell’s lava sauce.
“My goal is to recreate traditional flavors but make them healthier,” he says.
Forbes divides his customer base into three main types: 1) the health conscious who use his sauces because they’re low in calories, carbs, sodium and fat; 2) those on specialized diets but want to add flavor to their meals; and 3) those who just love sauce.
When he’s not in the food lab, Forbes runs a software consulting business which he can be seen tending to from time to time at his shop on S. Maple Ave. In fact, his experience in IT, designing systems and data visualizations, he says helps tremendously in the sauce-creation process.
“Food is no different [from system design]. You have a limited data set [ingredients] and your variables like color, flavor and lethality,” says Forbes. “The question is how to make a set of ingredients taste like ‘X’.”
Forbes searches the internet to research different flavor profiles which he then uses to develop formulas for his products. It’s how he created a satay sauce that nixes the peanuts and instead uses sesame and pumpkin seeds to recreate the traditional flavor, and a tomato-less marinara sauce made with cabbage, vinegar, beets, carrots, onions, figs, garlic and spices.
“I’m a non-traditional traditionalist,” he says before quickly adding, “Well, I’m also a non-traditional non-traditionalist, too.”
Another source of inspiration for Forbes, the book “The Flavor Matrix: The Art and Science of Pairing Common Ingredients to Create Extraordinary Dishes,” which uses numbers crunched by big data to find flavors that chemically pair well together. It’s helped him in sauce creation but also with developing flavors for a brand of artisanal sodas.
For sale by bottle or on draft at the shop, Veggie Pop is another one of Forbe’s creations, available in unique flavors like tangerine basil, soursop elderberry and fig habanero. And at 60 calories per 12 oz., it’s, again, a healthier alternative to mainstream options.
Alongside its own products, Disturbingly Delicious also carries an assortment of locally-sourced foods including meats, cheeses, ice cream, produce and eggs. Forbes, a weekly participant in the Falls Church farmers market, says his most popular items are Georgetown-based Stachowski’s sausages and pies from Arlington’s Acme Pie Co., and compares his store’s offerings to items one might find at the City’s Saturday morning event.
“Last summer, I didn’t really care about retail,” he says, “Now, I care about carrying what people want.”
Forbes also hopes to collaborate in the future, too, making sauces with local businesses and non-profits or for events like weddings. “I’d love to custom-make sauces.”
As for his lineup at the store, it shows no signs of slowing. Forbes showed off several concoctions currently in development in the back of his shop and if anybody has any suggestions, he’s always up for a challenge.
“I can make cauliflower or cabbage taste like anything,” he says. “For me, it’s fun to make sauce.”
Disturbingly Delicious Foods (455H S. Maple Ave., Falls Church) is open from 11 a.m. – 6 p.m., Tuesday – Friday and on Saturday from 1 – 4 p.m.