Saturday, October 3, 2015

General Update Q3 2015

As regular readers of this column (or its archives) will know, TSAAF is greatly inspired by Scott Robert’s website (if you’re a chilehead, you should already know it, but if not, it’s and he has undergone another site renovation, as he is periodically prone to do, in an effort to both improve and keep things fresh. If you haven’t been there in a while, go check it out. I think it’s his best one yet. 

Obviously, the TSAAF has done little to none of this sort of thing since in the inception, it being the sort of thing that one has to make time to do so, as finding that time is out of the question. Scott works, I believe, in the field and is well immersed in the technology, which lends itself nicely to that task whereas I have no such interest, experience or facility to change things up greatly. The blog itself is not so far off from what I had in mind, as it is, aside from whatever change comes to pass (spoiler: probably adding a picture of the actual sauce bottle to the reviews - if anyone has any suggestions, I’m still wide open to those…) when it finally hits 100 sauce reviews. 

That number is fast approaching. As of this writing, it now stands at 97 (out of 129, including this, posts total), so doing the quick math, 3 more reviews in 3 months isn’t out of the question…I won’t, however, say it will be easy. Simple to type, sure, but not easy, given a shift in my job a couple months ago that has me traveling far more than at any other time in my professional career. Unlike Scott, I don’t now, never have and never will carry hot sauce with me into restaurants, so it will have to be when I’m home…I’ve also resumed an earlier diet shift from the spring that I temporarily dropped. Real talk here for a minute, the number one thing we put hot sauce on is meat and/or pizza. I haven’t had pizza at home in many months and can’t remember the last time there was a frozen one here at all. As to meat, my wife has elected to try on the vegetarian/vegan hat on again.  Since I eat out every day, if not more often, I try to make things easier by greatly tapering my meat intake at home. My son isn’t really a mega meat eater, either, so that just means there is less of it around in general. That then means a lesser opportunity for sauce, so there can frequently be a considerable lull in finding a use for hot sauce. On the plus side, open bottles are at a pretty low point, which means lots of room for new ones as the opportunities come up.

Less positively, I still don’t have any real contenders for Sauce Of The Year, with now 9 months gone. I’m not in full-on panic mode just yet, but I may wind up opening it up to previous years and get more bottles of previous contenders, both to see how they have held up and also to hold a “showdown” of sorts, possibly, where instead of trying to fit them in to whatever I happen to be doing, I make it a point to thoroughly test all of them. If it comes down to that, I will furnish a blow by blow breakdown of that testing. 

Wine blog is also churning along. I think that one is up to 32 different wines reviewed. I anticipate that one getting to around 40 or so by the end of the year.

In the arena of Yelp, my anniversary date of signing up is September 13th and in the 2 years and 2 weeks-ish I’ve been on, I’ve hit 880+ reviews. I’m not going to breakdown the full stats until the end of the year, but I do an odd thing and typically write a fast review of a place if I haven’t reviewed it yet, but don’t always post it. Sometimes I will jot notes for a placeholder setting, sometimes it will be an actual change to an existing review or rating, but I frequently let a lot of those sit and sometimes gel for a bit. Where I’m going with this is that at any given time, I’ve got probably a couple dozen of those things waiting…I also have now 6 separate lists of places I want to get to, so that train will keep on rolling for some time to come…feel free to add me by following the widget and clicking through if you’re also on there and care to do that.

Next General Update will be the End Of The Year one, unless I hit 100 before that, in which case, that may get its own special post…stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Devil's Gold Hot Sauce Review

Hellfire Devil's Gold Hot Sauce

I like these Hellfire kids, not so much because of the sauces (so far), but because they put a lot of thought and time and effort and probably money into their labels and I'm always entertained by them. This time, we have a sort of fallen angel mixing something into a cauldron, which is sort of inexplicable, as this is a fruit-based sauce and as far away from bottled molten lava as you can get.

There are 17 ingredients, including 3 different varieties of superhots, but the thing I taste most is the very last ingredient, which is cinnamon. Cinnamon is a very assertive spice, of course and a little goes a very, very long way. The second taste is probably the pears. If you're thinking to yourself either that those are weird items to taste first in a hot sauce, as opposed to maybe an applesauce, you're right and if you're thinking that's probably not so good, you're right again. The third thing is the superhots themselves, so we have a "nice" element of that abrasive bitter aspect that all the superhots seem to share. This one is more predominantly Scorpion of the superhots in there.

For all of those, this is not a very picante sauce, not at all, in fact. It has enough presence that you certainly wouldn't substitute it for applesauce, but it is not at all challenging, either. The first ingredient is pineapple, which is quickly drowned out by everything else, but seeing a first ingredient as anything other than a pepper usually means a pretty mild and tame "hot" sauce, which this is.  Flavor-wise, it fits in fairly well with anything you'd use a fruit-based sauce, so things like fried foods come immediately to mind. I don't find the flavor profile too wonderful, though and may not wind up making it through this bottle.

Bottom line: This is sort of a neat experiment, I guess and if you're into fruit-based hot-sauces you may like this more, but for me, it's one and out as their neither enough heat nor compatible flavor for me to consider re-upping on this one.


            Heat level: 2
            Flavor: 4
            Flexibility: 4
            Enjoyment to dollar factor: 3

Overall: 3

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Belligerent Blaze Hot Sauce Review

CaJohn's Belligerent Blaze Hot Sauce

CaJohn Hard certainly doesn't need me to sing his praises. As the most awarded hot sauce company and as the creator of many of either my favorites or very well-liked sauces, it's easy to see why that would be the case and that he richly deserves it. Now, some of his sauces get a little outlandish for me, which is why sauces seemingly more...mundane is not the word, but call it "stripped-down", hold a certain appeal for me, as he always does an exceedingly good job, execution-wise.

Here we have what seems to be a very basic Habanero sauce and looking at the ingredients, it seems very straightforward. What is sort of surprising is the blast of citrus (lemon) here, which gets to be very assertive. It's not quite acidic, given that the vinegar is so heavily prominent as well, but it does give it a light and lively sort of aspect, perhaps more towards astringent. This also rather notably cuts down its flexibility.

It's not a bad-tasting sauce, but it really needs to accompany a food where you would want citrus. Fish seems a very natural fit here, maybe even chicken. In many ways, it is reminiscent of the El Yucateco Red, as both are very forceful Habanero sauces, coming out of the gate with a (relatively minor) heat blast and then quickly leveling off, but unlike that other, this one lands with a thud on anything that needs a more forceful sauce, such as tamales, for instance, rather than a very assertive lemon, which would need to be a grace note to work here.

Bottom line: I'm tempted to call it a one-note sauce and oh, what a note, but the lemon is nearly as equally distinct as the Habanero, probably due to using an extract for the fruit, so that description is out. Fans of Habanero and citrus will find much to enjoy here, but as for me, the use must be judicious and the appeal is thereby somewhat limited.


            Heat level: 3
            Flavor: 5
            Flexibility: 4
            Enjoyment to dollar factor: 4

Overall: 4

Friday, August 7, 2015

D.I.L.L.I.G.A.F. Hot Sauce Review

Crazy Jerry's Biker Trash D.I.L.L.I.G.A.F. Habanero-Garlic Hot Sauce

Runaway winner for the longest title (at least in my memory) of a hot sauce name, way longer if you break out the D.I.L.L.I.G.A.F. acronym ("Do I Look Like I Give A Fuck", in case you need the translation, though that phrase really doesn't particularly need an acronym and having an excessively long one sort of defeats the entire purpose of acronyms anyway and I digress...).

It took me a while to place this sauce but it finally struck me tonight...this is essentially a doctored sauce, in that it starts with an unnamed Lousiana-style hot sauce and that is one that is very heavy on the vinegar side and then mixes it with an approximation of something like A1, so you have basically a very vinegary steak sauce. It isn't bad, per se, just very unusual. Perhaps unique is more the word. It does have a very black peppery aspect, which I do like quite a bit.

The bottle says it's sauce made by bikers, for bikers...and then for everyone else, which is meaningless copy. Given the earlier description, it's probably not much of a stretch to envision it as relatively tame, which it is entirely. Given the blend, it also doesn't really mesh extremely well with a lot of foods, but generally adds more than it detracts.

Bottom line: I can't imagine bikers making this a staple more than anyone else, but I suppose the copy and hype might work for some...doesn't for me. Interesting, but still one and out.


            Heat level: 2
            Flavor: 5
            Flexibility: 4
            Enjoyment to dollar factor: 3

Overall: 4

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Arizona Gunslinger Chipotle-Habanero Hot Sauce Review

Arizona Gunslinger Chipotle Habanero Pepper Sauce

Ever since I ran into that delectable Adobe Milling version of this type of sauce, I've been trying to find something a lot like that, in flavor and balance, only a lot more available. I truly hoped I'd had it with this, since Arizona, while not generally making jaw-dropping sauces, do seem to do a pretty good job of hitting some market penetration.

This version, while a lot less bright than the O' Brother version that it sets next to in the refrigerator door, is a poor substitute, unfortunately. The O' B sauce, while a bit livelier than I was looking for, at least tastes good. This one isn't bad, per se, but is a definite step down and the balance is off in favor of the Habanero. The initial smell is of the Chipotle, but somewhere in there, the flavors get twisted around and it more makes me wish it was something other than what it is. It does acceptably with foods, but often, the difference between having it on and not having it on winds up on the slight side, unless you load it up and then you generally will have ruined the dish as the taste of the sauce by itself is none too wonderful.

Heat is also a bit on the lower side, as well. It does have a decent consistency and thickness to it, but I'm not sure why they bothered with a dropper cap. That part is wholly unnecessary.

Bottom line: This probably would do in a pinch, particularly if I wanted that style of sauce, but this is one of the lower-rung entries in that category.


            Heat level: 3
            Flavor: 3
            Flexibility: 4
            Enjoyment to dollar factor: 3

Overall: 3

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Lingham Hot Sauce Review

Lingham's Hot Sauce

Lingham, not to be confused with the Indian (country) word "lingam", as some websites seem apt to do (I'll let you discover the differences yourself), has been making hot sauce for a very long time, over 100 years or so. While I strongly suspect Tabasco from the earlier years would not be markedly different from the current version, this one strikes me as that it probably has changed and this has much to do with the nature of the sauce itself.

This one is thick and gloppy, almost like if you took one of those bright red mall "sweet & sour" dipping sauces, the ones that are a full-on sugar hit with not a trace of sour and gave it more or less the consistency of a really thick ketchup. What you would have is then not so far off from this, although this one, given that the base is unspecified chiles, does have a more notable kick, though it is slight.

This one would lend itself nicely as a dipping sauce, then, for fried egg rolls or shrimp or something along those lines, wherever you would use that other mall sauce. You could also sub it out for a sweet chili sauce, which it more or less is already, though the consistency is a lot thicker. I have not found a lot of use for it, as others do the sweet chili sauce better, I don't eat fried egg rolls and eat fried food sparingly these days, if at all and it doesn't mesh with anything else, with the overpowering sweetness threatening to choke off and kill nearly all other tastes. I'm glad I tasted it, as I like to be able to hit those sort of "historic" sauces, but I will definitely not be the one to finish off this bottle.

Bottom line: Sweet is the strongest sensation here. Very little heat. Super-thick, almost gloppy consistency. This sauce has its uses...just not really a fit much for me.


            Heat level: 1
            Flavor: 6
            Flexibility: 3
            Enjoyment to dollar factor: 2

Overall: 3

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Devil Drops Hot Sauce Review

Dat'l Do It Devil Drops Hot Sauce

I've been excited to try something with the Datil peppers for a while, but these jokers have a propensity for sticking onions in everything, including the Captain Sorenson sauce they do for the Firehouse sandwich chain, which makes them pretty much an immediate no-go.

I found this one not too long ago and picked it up, as it was one of the few sauces from them that didn't have that nasty element to things. As it seems somewhat unquantifiable, it took me a while to get to it and I still can't quite decide exactly where to place it. It's a very thin sauce, with a restrictor cap, most reminiscent of a Louisiana-style sauce, but is definitely not that kind of sauce at all. It has none of the characteristics there, aside from a high vinegar load. Habanero, carrot and tamarind, among others, also all show up, which nicely adds to the confusion.

Taste here is really its own thing and it's pretty pleasant, though rather mild overall. It works fairly well in settings where you would normally choose a Louisiana-style sauce, though on fried foods, a Cayenne-based sauce does much better. Conversely, on a creamier-sauce, sort of a mid-range to a Carbonara, this one did better in a direct comparison. With a heavier fat/richness element, such as a very good and cheese macaroni & cheese, the Cayenne-based sauce would be a bit necessary to cut through and make its presence know, but in places where the flavor isn't quite as encompassing, this would be a reasonable choice.

It is not one that you would reach for if you wanted heat, however. The mildness in flavor is rather readily matched a mildness in piquancy.

Bottom line: I did enjoy the flavor here quite a bit, when I could get to it, as it's one of the very few sort of unique sauces I've run across. It isn't especially useful, overall, though and certainly does not carry much of a heat load. While enjoyable, it's hard to see a reason to keep this on hand.


            Heat level: 2
            Flavor: 8
            Flexibility: 5
            Enjoyment to dollar factor: 5

Overall: 5

Saturday, June 27, 2015

General Update Q2 2015

After starting the year off to a blazing (*ahem*) start, the following months tapered off significantly, down to about a 1/3 of the review total for the prior period. Partially this had to do with work trips, partially to illness, partially to a desire to use up more of the open sauces, partially to a diet change and partially to vacation. It’s still possible to hit 100 reviews by the end of the year, as the total now stands at 91 and I have many more than 9 on deck. I also went through a full fridge purge prior to leaving for vacation, so the open sauces have been cut down significantly. 

Of perhaps more concern is that I haven't really hit on one that is much of a contender for Sauce Of The Year, which is looking like a very light competition this year. At the half year point, I basically candidates. 

Even once I do hit 100, it will be a far cry from Scott Robert’s total, which I think he pegs somewhere at 3,000 various hot items. My own total is well over 1,000, but I don’t include things in reviews like snacks (chips, nuts, etc.) or wing sauce or BBQ sauce or dry spices or restaurant items. This is not a knock on him at all and he definitely takes his place of prominence in the halls of spicy promoters. It’s likely he means more to that movement than I ever will…definitely in terms of draw. It’s more a description of our respective reviewing styles.

Speaking of restaurant items, I’ve tried several of the spiciest that various restaurants have to offer (I will do this if I have the time and nothing pressing - mostly because of the possibility of gastric distress from elements other than the ones intended to add piquancy. Though it has never happened, I don’t chance it if I can’t afford for there to be a first time) and fired through a few challenges. I don’t generally find much of interest in the challenges as they are invariably either ingesting mass quantities (these I don’t pursue at all as I need to generally eat less, not more) or are on the high heat end of things, which means usually a decided lack of flavor or bad flavor with cheats, such as extract. I don’t really have anything to prove and when I go out to eat am infinitely more interested in the food tasting good. 

One of these days I might go through the restaurants in the area and try to find a spicy challenge or menu item I’ve missed, but for many, if not most of these, I have spicier sauces in my fridge and definitely on my shelf. For many, many of these, the hottest they will get is Chipotle seasoning. For some, it’s only up to Jalapeno, maybe a Serrano, unless they use extract. That is very difficult to mask well or easily and even though I’ve choked through a few of those, I don’t repeat them and if it comes with regular food, I sometimes will stop, but will always make note never to have again. Ghost pepper is gaining some prominence, but it is sriracha that is really going nuts lately and I’m passingly, if at all, interested in that. I’m at the point of life where if it’s not worth consuming, I won’t finish for the sake of finishing.  This gets borderline on some of the sauces, but much less so with restaurants and is one of the more useful attributes for Yelping.

Speaking of that, I’ve hit a few benchmarks, but nothing too notable there. As always, if you want to add me as a friend, I’ll add you right back.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Zombie Gut Garnish Hot Sauce Review

Zombie Gut Garnish Habanero Hot Sauce

I happened upon this and a few other zombie-themed sauces the other day and despite the somewhat joking nature of this, picked up a bottle, figuring it was sort of like some of the other themed-bottles from Ass Kickin', whereupon most of the novelty would be in the label, but for all that, would still be a pretty decent sauce. This one, however, packs a pretty solid wallop.

Looking at the label, you've got what is ostensibly a fairly standard Habanero-carrot sauce, which, by and large, tend to be tasty but also fairly tame. This one, while decent-tasting, also has a notable amount of heat. Now, it's certainly not up there with the big boys or anything but for being a Habanero sauce, does do quite well and it's one of the hotter Habaneros I've had in recent memory, doing a very good job of utilizing the backburn of that pepper. It is probably a poor example of what a Habanero-carrot sauces if capable of, however.

It's not a particularly well-rounded or especially tasty sauce, though, the makers very clearly going more for the impact of the heat than any great flavoring. As such, it's not awful, but far from smooth and definitely in the lower tier of what I have open in the refrigerator right now. It's still a fairly pleasant surprise from a bottle I expected little from and for $3, not a half bad deal.

Bottom line: The more you enjoy abrasive sauces, the more you will enjoy this one. While not as caustic as a vinegar sauce and not as scorching as one of the higher SHU sauces, this one does a fairly respectable job of making you take notice, though the taste is not so wonderful. Best use is as what the intent appears, which is sort of a novelty/gag gift sauce.


            Heat level: 5
            Flavor: 4
            Flexibility: 3
            Enjoyment to dollar factor: 3

Overall: 4

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Irazu Cayenne Hot Sauce Review

Irazu Volcanic Cayenne Pepper Sauce

I've got to say that I'm really becoming an admirer of Irazu. I think they make some very high quality and quite tasty sauces in a variety of categories. The devil's in the details, so the saying goes and Irazu seems to make some very clever twists to differentiate their offerings from the norm in those categories. Take this one, for instance.

Now, it's no secret that a good Lousiana-style sauce is one of my very favorites and there are a few things that they need if they really want to win me over. The first one is to use Cayenne as a base. Cayenne, as a pepper, has long been one of my most favored and possibly my very favorite overall and if any other pepper is used as a base for this sauce, other than Cayenne, I inevitably wind up thinking that it would have been better if Cayenne were used or how much I missed the Cayenne in it. Choosing a vinegar requires some care, for if it's too harsh, it will tend to run the food. Heat tends to be a bit minor on these sauces, because spiking them tends to ruin the flavor or the balance.

What Irazu did here was a very clever thing. To combat the lack of heat that these sauces frequently run into, they added Naga Jolokia pepper pulp. Not a ton, to be sure, but just enough to give it a little edge, thereby accomplishing both the spiking and leaving the phenomenal flavor that Cayenne is known for and imparts, intact. This, in fact, may be one of the best uses for the ghost pepper I've yet seen. It definitely is the smartest, as it avoids the somewhat noxious taste that ghost peppers can sometimes have.

Bottom line: If this is not the best Louisiana-style sauce out there, it's in the running. This one is very well-designed and though there's not a whole lot of heat, there's noticeably more than usual. Flavor is everything you'd expect from a Louisiana-style sauce.


            Heat level: 3
            Flavor: 8
            Flexibility: 8
            Enjoyment to dollar factor: 8

Overall: 7