Adrienne and Mark Ciaburri are dedicated to sharing their culture and history through food by honoring the Spanish tradition of sobremesa. | Photo by Ashley Rose Stanol

Sobremesa is the Spanish tradition of spending time and relaxing with family and friends after a hearty, delicious meal — the feeling of being able to share not only a good meal, but a good time with loved ones.

It’s something Adrienne and Mark Ciaburri believe in, and hope their new products can bring to the table at home.

Former owners of Congress in Mount Pleasant and Ciaburri’s Mexican Flavors pop-up, Adrienne and Mark are sharing their love of Mexican culture and flavors with Sobremesa Mole & Salsas, a small-batch mole and salsa company bringing Ciaburri’s own recipes and flavors into people’s homes.

“We believe in taking the time to do things right, from the thought and care that goes into crafting our products to pressing pause and enjoying them with family and friends,” the couple said in an email.

“Because to us, food is not just something to eat — it’s an experience to savor.”

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Education on culture, cuisine and flavor have played a big role in the Ciaburri’s culinary journey and is one of the driving forces behind the new brand. After Congress and Ciaburri’s Mexican Flavor pop-up, Sobremesa felt like the next step in their lives. 

“When COVID shut our pop-up down, we decided this is what we needed to do,” Mark said. “This was the time.” 

Growing up in El Paso, Texas, and travelling across the border to Juarez, Mexico, with his mom and grandma, Mark Ciaburri was exposed to the variety of traditional Mexican flavors and ingredients, but it wasn’t until his culinary years in Austin at school and in kitchens where he really learned about not only how to properly utilize the ingredient, but the culture and history behind them. 

“Chili peppers are a good example of that,” he said. “I didn’t really like chili peppers before, but when we opened [Congress], I spent hours researching and digging my head in books to learn about the flavors and where they come from.”

“It’s been an educational journey,” said Adrienne Ciaburri. “Charleston hasn’t been historically known for its diversity in food. Only more recently have we seen more authentic Mexican restaurants.” 

“I said this five years ago,” Mark added. “But I think we were a little bit too early for these flavors that are now showing up in these new Mexican restaurants.”

“The more we can expose people to these kinds of flavors, however, the better.”

Sobremesa will sell four different products: its signature mole poblano, a 25+ ingredient sauce, two tomatillo-based salsas — roasted tomatillo and smoky oaxaqueña — and a citrus-jalapeno hot sauce, all developed and prepared by Mark. 

“We’re using the same salsas and sauces that were so popular at the restaurant and the pop-ups,” Adrienne said about the new business venture. “And after COVID kind of shut us down, we decided to jar them, figure out how to make them shelf stable and get them out to home cooks.”

“I’ve been working the past year trying to get [the mole] shelf stable,” Mark added. “We did it, and [now] we’re pretty excited about it.” 

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Making the mole is no easy process, requiring time, energy and a whole lot of toasting and grinding. A process at least five years in the making, Mark spent countless hours researching and perfecting the recipe.

Mark’s mole takes three hours to make, using a variety of chilis, onion, garlic, tomatillos, whole spices, nuts and seeds, all toasted and ground separately to release each ingredient’s maximum flavor and aroma. “There’s probably about four different procedures before I actually start blending everything together,” Mark said about the process. And once those ingredients are blended together, the sauce simmers and reduces, with the addition of salt, sugar and dark chocolate.

The final product is then jarred and ready for home cooks, a feat the Ciaburris take pride in.

“There’s not much mole that you can find out there as it is — even on Amazon,” Mark said. “And what you do find is a lot of pastes, where you have to add a bunch of chicken stock, sometimes tomatoes or even the chocolate.”

“Our product is heat and serve. All we ask is to add two ounces of water when they heat it up and it’s ready to go.”

In addition to the launch of their new products — available online this weekend — Sobremesa will be at the Mount Pleasant Holiday Market and Sea Island Night Market, selling the different sauces and salsas. 

At the Mount Pleasant Holiday Market, said Adrienne, they will offer ready-to-make, family style meal kits in addition to the Sobremesa brands. 

And the possibility of the Ciaburri Mexican Flavor pop-up is still on the horizon, as an opportunity to showcase the mole, salsas or hot sauces, “exemplifying what you can do with the products.” 

Sobremesa Mole & Salsas will officially launch this Friday, Dec. 3.