Dirk and Sarah Marshall prepare a hot sauce taste test at their SE Portland home

Image: Karen Brooks

Shopping the Saturday Portland Farmers Market is a competitive sport these days. Only one carton of multihued eggs up for grabs? Go on: fight me. But I didn’t expect to receive a flagrant foul, at 8:30 a.m., while jostling for position in front of a hot sauce vendor. Then again, Marshall’s Haute Sauce is more than it seems.

You can’t miss the booth, its bottles lined up as though posing for a Warhol print, each hand-stamped with batch numbers. Or owners Dirk and Sarah Marshall, so chirpy and organized you almost hate them. I come to the market in a rumpled hoodie, but Sarah—canning teacher and Preservation Pantry cookbook author—always looks resplendent, flashing bright red lipstick and an arm tattoo like Fannie Farmer in an indie band.

Still, after the Marshalls’ seven years at the market, it’s easy to walk on by, figuring you know what’s there: the couple’s four core flavors, plus seasonal specials and chef collaborations. Nothing wrong with that. I’m a fool for the signature Habanero Carrot Curry hot sauce, its sneaky heat lying in wait beneath waves of sweet, roasty, rooty tones. Sarah approaches hot sauces like a chef, not as a tongue-death purveyor. Respect. I just don’t need a bottle all that often.

Marshall's Habanero Carrot Curry hot sauce

Image: Karen Brooks

But as it turns out, in the first week of every month the Marshalls offer a new, fresh condiment of uncommon deliciousness, made with an underlying goal: to introduce us to a farm ingredient languishing in a market stall because we don’t know how to use it. Batches are limited, which is why insiders swarm at the opening bell. One month it was Ghost Chile Apple. This time, the swift found a spicy mint chimichurri, intricately laced with little-used lovage. “It’s like the better parsley, with a punchier bite,” says Sarah. It upgraded everything I ate for a week.

So what did I miss about Marshall’s Haute Sauce all these years? It’s not merely a local product sold at a local market—the market is the product, and the Marshalls are its unofficial ambassadors. Nearly every ingredient in every sauce, tomatoes to heirloom apples to chiles, comes from a farmer working their own booth nearby. The Marshalls’ mission is to stand among them, create something special from their food, and hand it to you. “This is us,” says Sarah. “We wouldn’t, couldn’t do it on a huge scale. I still make every batch.”

Coming in October: Sarah’s cult, coffee-scented bacon jam, thick as thieves with Tails and Trotters excellent meat, sold a few paces away. I’m no fool: I’ll be there ... at 8:25 a.m. marshallshautesauce.com

The Marshalls' Guide to the PSU Farmer’s Market

The Marshalls source many of their raw ingredients Springhill, SuperNatural, and Winters Farm. We asked Sarah Marshall where else they shop at the market. Here’s what she said.

Greens from Foodwaves
“They are my favorite farm to support because they teach new generations how to farm, I think I talked to you about farmers disappearing and we need more farms! These guys are so rad, plus have some of the greatest leafy greens, lettuce, and wasabi greens (my heart is into spicy salads).”

Sauces from Groundwork Organics
“Everyone loves their produce, first stop for most chefs, but I love all the food products they offer, sauces, horseradish paste, hot sauce powder, tons of fun stuff. Always an inspiration to see farmers making something with produce that might go to waste. Matthew Todd Garrison, does all of this, and is the greatest! (we source from them as well)”

Almond milks from Amylk
“Amy is new to the market and will be there all year. She makes fancy almond milks with pearls, gold, and algae. Super fun flavors, and she takes her bottles back, so green!”

Saffron from Cyruss Saffron
"Locally grown saffron and barberries"

Fresh milk from Lady Lane Farm
“We have not had a fresh milk vendor at the market in years. It is exciting to have this new option!”

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