Santa Maria Sun / Eats
Hot dog!: Chase the taste with Runnin' Dog Ranch Salsa
BY HAYLEY THOMAS
Dogs represent many things to many people. Vicki and Randy Weimer’s pair of happy-go-lucky Labradors served as true members of the family, teaching their children life lessons while always keeping an eye out for opportunities to roll in something interesting.
When the couple moved from Southern California to the Central Coast about 22 years ago, they purchased 10 acres where their dogs, cows, and pigs could roam free. Naturally, the ranch was dubbed Runnin’ Dog Ranch, an homage to black lab Sonny and yellow lab King.
“The dogs just loved to run around the property, and Vicki came up with the name right away,” Randy said. “We like to say that those dogs helped raise our kids.”
Although the family’s four-legged companions have long since passed, Runnin’ Dog Ranch Salsa—the Weimer’s boutique salsa business—lives on as a testament to that special human-canine bond. Naturally, the salsas are bold and joyful, with many layers of playful nuance.
“People are drawn to our salsa because it’s got such a deep flavor,” Randy said. “This is not a runny, watery salsa.”
I found that each flavor—Greengo, Spicy, Hot Dog, and Mild—boasted its own distinct personality and heat profile. A handy spice gauge found on the side of each jar hints at the range of firepower lurking within (Hot Dog is for those who declare: “The hotter the better.”). Although each flavor is quite different, all were impressively thick, fresh, and zesty. The gluten-free salsa is filled with the highest quality produce, herbs, and spices.
The Orcutt-based couple loves finding new ways to incorporate Runnin’ Dog into new and stimulating meals. Tomatillo-based Greengo is refreshing and superb when mixed with a touch of mayo and served alongside sweet potato fries.
Sweeter, mango-tinged Mild makes a bold impression when left to simmer in a slow cooker filled with pork shoulder, broth, bacon, and a little barbecue sauce. Award-winning Spicy is the perfect blend of Serrano pepper heat that just begs for a huevos rancheros, chips, or even pasta sauce.
“Our goal is not only to create a really delicious, flavorful salsa, but to help others that are in need,” Randy said.
Eventually, the couple aims to generate funds to go toward helping recovering addicts, victims of domestic abuse, and needy children within the community.
Until then, Runnin’ Dog will continue to churn out orders—100 cases of each variety at a time.
“When we started, the question was, ‘Who makes a tasty jarred salsa with a longer shelf life than those found in the deli section?’” Vicki said. “We discovered the need for a rich, versatile salsa. Randy began to experiment with fresh ingredients blended in the traditional way, then jarred them to preserve their natural flavors.”
Randy is a humble man—especially for someone who created such delicious recipes out of the blue. An innocent dip contest held a few years ago spurred on the full-fledged business.
“Some people know me as ‘a white guy who makes good salsa,” Randy said with a chuckle. “The recipes just came to me bit by bit.”
Four years in, the little company has gained a big following across the Santa Maria area and beyond.
The fresh-tasting, complexly flavored, and satisfying dips have made a home in the local section of area Albertsons, as well as California Fresh Markets on the Central Coast, JJ’s Market in Arroyo Grande, El Rancho Market in Solvang, Old Town Market in Orcutt, and Woody’s Butcher Block in Santa Maria.
A plethora of local wineries, including William James Cellars in Old Orcutt, proudly showcase (and sometimes even pairs) Runnin’ Dog’s offerings.
For the couple, each new customer is yet another member of the Runnin’ Dog family (which recently grew by one thanks to the arrival of new grandson, Colton Lane). Randy believes that it only takes one spicy taste to become part of that clan.
“Once, a sweet, little elderly woman refused to try the salsa due to the fact that it was jarred,” Randy said. “After being urged on by her daughter, she tried it. She then bought two jars on the spot.”
If that isn’t proof of a salsa worth getting fired up about, I don’t know what is. At home, I’ve already enjoyed Greengo on morning eggs and Spicy on weeknight enchiladas made with leftover chicken and veggies.
However, I won’t stop there. Like the Weimers, I plan on adding a dash here and a gob there until I find my own unique recipes.
Sometimes you just need to light a little fire under your “regular” dishes, eh?
For Randy, that sense of adventure marks the difference in “being different.”
“I didn’t want to make just another salsa,” he said simply. “We’re not just another pretty label on the shelf.”
Hayley Thomas is feeling spicy at email@example.com.