Saturday, December 20, 2014

Ass Kickin' Cajun Hot Sauce Review

Ass Kickin' Cajun Hot Sauce

The tagline on the bottle claims it is "Kick Yo' Ass Hot!" but what we're dealing with is a fairly successful blend of a Louisiana-style sauce with something more along the lines of one of those Habanero sauces that relies on a blend of carrots to help smooth it out. Like Scorned Woman, this one features both white and black pepper, but where that one turned right to bitter, this one is concocted to be a lot more creamier, sort of like one of those Buffalo sauces that is silky to the palate rather than harsh and abrasive (for wings, I personally prefer the latter, incidentally). All of those are mild, of course and this one racks in some very solid Habanero to boost up the heat build decently. Because it is the slow-burn Habanero, it also carries on for a good lingering bit afterwards, though never really gets anywhere near a level I'd consider challenging to chileheads.

It is a very good-tasting sauce that does a great job of melding the two aforementioned sauce types, that of the Habanero-carrot and a more typical Louisiana-style, but the addition of Habaneros does not automatically incline it to Mexican food. In point of fact, it clashes heavily there, so it's best used in places you would use a Louisiana-style sauce, which is more closely resembles ultimately. Habaneros do have an aspect of overpowering and diminishing the overall taste in various sauces, though that is definitely not the case here. Here, they are a welcome accent.

Bottom line: This is a very solid sauce more akin in taste to a Louisiana, though notably hotter than sauces typically in that vein. It also has an appealing smoothness, also atypical for that type.

Breakdown:

            Heat level: 4
            Flavor: 8
            Flexibility: 6
            Enjoyment to dollar factor: 7

Overall: 6

Friday, December 19, 2014

Zenso Sweet Chili Sauce Review

Zenso Sweet Chili Sauce

Regular readers will know that long and hard, high and low have I been searching for one particular kind of sweet chili sauce that was one of the greatest sauces I'd had. It was sweet, yet had an excellent balance of garlic to offset that and just enough kick from the chili peppers to really set the others off nicely. I never found out the exact brand and so began the search some time ago. In that search, several have come somewhat close, but none have made it exactly...

...including this one, but it is not very far off, either, perhaps in sibling range rather than cousin, by this point. This particular sauce is exceeding well-done and has all those characteristics mentioned. One of the best attributes about that sauce was the ability to eat it solo, which can also be done here. I'm not a huge fan of it that way, as I wasn't the other, either, but slap that with some Asian food and a bit of soy sauce, maybe a touch of chili-garlic and you're in business.

Of course now that I discovered it on the shelves of a Big Lots, I'll never see it again, but at least now I have a name when I run out again. The main difference here is that there's precious little heat, despite the presence of the cayennes, so you'll have to add more yourself...a small price to pay, I'd say. While slightly less hot than the Maggi, this is overall a better-tasting sauce and now the current leader in this category.

Bottom line: I'm so tempted to cheer that I've found it, the vaunted holy grail of sweet chili sauces and maybe I have, as I have no idea if I'll ever come across that other or if they still make it yet, but this is truly an excellent sauce, the right consistency and all the flavor notes...just needs a touch of heat to really bring it up.

Breakdown:

            Heat level: 0
            Flavor: 8
            Flexibility: 8
            Enjoyment to dollar factor:9

Overall: 6

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Scorned Woman Hot Sauce Review

Scorned Woman Original Hot Sauce

McCormick's makes a fine seasoning called Hot Shot, which I've spoken about before. The ingredients here are fairly simple, basically granulated black and red pepper. This adds a very nice dose of heat to things, but must be used in moderation, as it tends towards the bitter. The reason I bring this up is that this basically tastes a lot like a liquefied version of Hot Shot.

So, tasting this solo, in conjunction with the vinegar base, is a nearly immediate effect of a bitter astringency. This is one that is horrible outside of a food context. With the food, again, it must be used sparingly as it tends towards the bitter and very easily overpowers food. As this is not a particularly good-tasting sauce by itself, this can frankly wreck more subtle dishes like cream-based hot dishes, for instance or some of the lighter Greek dishes.

As to the heat, ramping up the dried peppercorns (and there are lots of black flecks in this sauce...in fact, black pepper appears twice in the ingredient list) will definitely put a kick in it, but while it contributes a modicum of heat, it is offset considerably by the unpleasantness of this sauce in high doses. There are also dried Tabasco, Jalapeno and Habanero in there, but those are difficult to pick out, odd considering how strong Tabasco can be. If anything that, should give you an idea of how overpowering the peppercorns are. It does have a decent amount of lingering heat, but it never really builds up especially high. What is there is present nearly immediately, though.

Bottom line: Yes, yes, Hell hath no fury like this, etc. etc. Wherever you use black pepper, you could use this, though probably in much lower quantities. It's hard to see a need for this kind of sauce, though and I don't imagine I'll ever be picking up another bottle.

Breakdown:

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

Overall: 2

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Louisiana Gold Red Hot Sauce Review

Louisiana Gold Red Pepper Sauce

This is an interesting idea, on the surface, taking a Louisiana-style sauce and then un-harshing the bitter bite of vinegar and in this case, the blast of Tabasco. Tabasco makes an appearance here, ostensibly as accent, but it winds up quickly asserting itself, as is the norm with that pepper. Evidently, there is a blend here, of what I'm assuming is Cayenne and possibly red Jalapenos and if so, those are good choice to soothe the sting of the other two main components. What you have here is a sauce that seems to allude to the smoothness, say, of some of the wing sauces out there.

The problem I have with this is the idea. I don't mind them attempting to do that, but one of the reasons I like to use the Louisiana styles sauces is for the punch in the face I can get, especially with more creamy dishes, when you need that to cut through. This one blends far too much and mostly just gets lost. A couple other problems are also that it has no real heat to speak of and further is not especially pleasant-tasting. So, it's hard to use it as either an accent or as lead when putting it on food. I like it better than Tabasco, but I've never been much of a fan of Tabasco to begin with, so not saying much there. It is categorically a candle next to the sun in comparison to Red Devil.

Bottom line: If the choices are scant, this will do in a pinch, but a neutered Louisiana-style sauce is a very sad and useless thing.

Breakdown:

            Heat level: 0
            Flavor: 3
            Flexibility: 3
            Enjoyment to dollar factor:1

Overall: 2

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Arizona Pepper's Organic Chipotle Habanero Hot Sauce Review

Arizona Pepper's Organic Harvest Foods Organic Chipotle Habanero Pepper Sauce

Right out of the gate, this one started with a bold assertion of flavor. With Chipotle, a little goes a very long way and while the label starts by leading with "Chipotle", the actual first ingredient is Habanero. It's a very difficult thing to try to mix those together, much more complicated than it might seem, as Habanero can be a fairly subtle flavor and Chipotle is about as dainty as a wrecking ball. There is also Jalapeno in the mix, apparently, but that one gets lost completely.

While Habanero is definitely not the dominant flavor here, edged out, but not lost entirely to Chipotle, as it is prone to do, it builds a noticeable back heat. It doesn't continue to build and build, however and caps off fairly readily. There is no real lasting heat here, but once it comes up to the level point, it maintains a nice, solid, steady, though low, burn. All in all, quite pleasant, but certainly not above 10K.

The flavor here is fantastic. This is a more complex sauce than expected, with fruity grace notes, probably courtesy of the Habaneros and just the right amount of astringency to it from the dual vinegars as part of the formulas. This is definitely one of the tastier sauces I've had this year and I fully anticipate it working well across a wide variety of foods.

Bottom line: With all the "organic" wordspace in the label, if you guessed this was from Whole Foods, you'd be on the money. This is yet another of their very worthy additions to the stable there and while it does seem more like primarily a Mexican style sauce, I wouldn't hesitate to use it nearly anywhere that could use a dash of smoke flavor with a touch of heat.

Breakdown:

            Heat level: 3
            Flavor: 8
            Flexibility: 8
            Enjoyment to dollar factor: 7

Overall: 6

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Gringo Bandito (Green) Hot Sauce Review

Gringo Bandito (Green) Hot Sauce

I may as well just come out and say it. The comparisons here to El Yucateco are obvious. Like EY, the red sauce is the far more abrasive of the two and the green is somewhat hotter, though only slightly here. It is also on a very definite slow build and takes a considerable time to work up a lather. I suspect they are using very mild Habaneros as the taste there is very smooth and almost only in passing. Unlike EY, the red is probably the better tasting of the two here, though, in that I would consider buying it again whereas the green sauce of Mr. Holland is reminiscent, in several respects, including color, of more of a tomatillo sauce, though there are no tomatillos listed in the ingredients.

This one is much less flexible than the red sauce, perhaps predictably and it's best with one of the white meats, either chicken or pork. I suppose you could also use it on a white fish, but there are much better alternatives there. It's mild enough that it may not get noticed on other foods with stronger tastes unless and until you use quite a lot more of it, almost enough to then interfere with the flavor, if it's not one of those two meats. It also works better if you have a Mexican-based dish, of course.

When you do get enough to get a taste of it, there is a smoothness and a taste that reminds me most of a spiked tomatillo sauce, which isn't necessarily unpleasant, but once again, think of how many things you use tomatillo sauce on. If you wouldn't use it on a given food, basically don't use this as it will either clash or disappear. In point of fact, making tomatillo sauce with a hefty dose of this is probably the best use of it I can think of. I think I got this for a bit over a buck and at that price, certainly is a respectable, if not solid, deal, but I don't imagine I'll be repeating this one.

Bottom line: Again, we have a fairly well-crafted sauce, albeit one that is extremely limited in use. This one is several notches below the competition in this category, falling well short of either El Yucateco Green or the Serrano Salvation sauce, which are both runaway winners.

Breakdown:

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

Overall: 4

Sunday, September 14, 2014

General Update Q3 2K14; All Blogs & Yelp

Slightly early for the end of Q3, but I wanted this to coincide with my Yelp anniversary, which I'm oddly unable to celebrate on the Yelp site itself...

There's no denying that as I mentioned earlier in the year, posting has fallen way off in this blog. Out of 97 total posts, including this one, 14 of them have been this year. In the first year of this blog, which started in September 2012, I clocked in with 21 posts. That amount will likely not be matched in all of this year. This blog will make it to 100 total posts before the year is out, as clean-up effort of my door sauces has yielded me some empty slots and I've still got a few new sauces on the shelf to work through, as well as the Best Sauce Of The Year year-end wrap-up post. 2015 will be when I look at finally hitting 100 sauces reviewed (I think). Currently, that total stands at 70. If I get really ambitious, I will do a statistical breakdown in the end of the year update with ratings, etc. There is no end in sight to the current pacing of posts here, though.

The wine blog, while drawing far, far less than this one, is much more regularly updated, with 1 less post than this blog has done in 2014 and almost all of it reviews. That one, however, has not had a full year, starting in March of this year. I try to maintain a fortnightly (post every two weeks) posting schedule there. Given that I have a pretty steady backlog, it will be 2016, if I write no more entries for it, before I run out of material and I have a fairly hefty backlog there, so that one will be in good shape for some time to come. As I don't currently spend column space in that blog writing updates as I'm doing here, any statistics, metrics and/or analytics will probably wind up appearing here, if at all. I may do something for the end of the year recap...if it picks up and there is demand, I may add more non-wine list entries as well.

Yesterday was also my one year anniversary of joining Yelp, which was almost a year (to the date) of when I started this blog (this one was oddly enough started on 09/11/12). Since Yelp has no blogging area, this blog will also get some commentary in that regard.

In that time on Yelp, I wrote 448 reviews and 54 updates, which is a total of 502 reviews, all told. Only 448 of those reviews and updates actually influence the given ratings for a business. Of those, I was "First To Review" 46 times (and in some cases, still the only to review) or slightly over 10% of the time.  I also had 234 "Friends" (feel free to add me, if you wish), 3 "Fans", submitted 1 Event, which was one I'm enormously gratified to have been able to take part in (Inland/Outland from Svavar J√≥natansson) and created 8 Lists. Rounding this out was 390 "Useful" votes, 104 "Cool" votes, 120 "Funny" votes and 28 Compliments. The review total in that 1 year span will not be duplicated in the next year cycle of my time on Yelp. Of the others, I have no idea, as most of them are not directly influenced by me.

My distribution of ratings falls in the order of: ~5% at 5 stars, ~34%  at 4 stars, ~42% at 3 stars, ~16% at 2 stars and ~3% for 1 star. I'm not going to get into a discussion of the categories or cities represented, as some of that info is listed erroneously on Yelp and it would take me more time than I care to spend to correct it all. I will say that that distribution has statistically fallen more or less where I had anticipated when I started it, with the majority falling dead center or in the "Average" rating, with the next highest variances in the two categories next closest to that. 

Now, I try to choose places I hope to enjoy (I really am hoping for at least a 4 star experience, most of the time), since I'm obviously spending money on this, so the ratings are skewed higher than they would be if I simply reviewed everything I encountered or likely would be if I was paid to review a bunch of random places. For instance, I tend away from reviewing most chains because I don't find it fair to them. Most fast-food places in my experience will only hit Average, comparatively, on a very, very good day for them and most of them do not have very, very good days. Only if something is extraordinary one way or the other will most chains wind up showing up in the review list. There are other reasons. I don't want to pad my totals nor have people have to wade through a bunch of shit to get to reviews for places interesting to them. It sucks when I have to do that; no way do I want to repeat that same bad tendency. There is also the location issue. If I review one Chili's out of say six in a city, but have been to them all (I haven't; this is just an example), it strikes me that if I'm going to get in that pool, it has to be more than just a foot and I simply don't care to write that many reviews, particularly for places I don't think are deserving of both my effort and general attention on that level. Let's face it; the Yelp reviews are definitely advertising of a sort.

My original mission was to utilize that site nearly exactly as I do this blog, which is more or less a running tally of the hot sauces I've tried, aggregated to include nearly all of them and as to which are worth me spending money on for repeat buys. I meant to apply that site more strictly to a database so I could increase my general restaurant knowledge and have it be useful to me when taking clients out to business lunches, but it has evolved somewhat to include additional information, including some categorization by me in the form of the Lists. The goal of having it be useful information of the sort I wanted when I tried to use Yelp on vacation a few times has not wavered at all. The year end post will be include updated information current as to the end of the year.

If there's anything anyone wants to see there, as here, send me a message and I'll try to get to it.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Heirloom Chiltepin Pepper Hot Sauce Review

Heirloom Chiltepin Hot Sauce

The guy on the label reminds me a lot of Billy Mays and this is the first, to my recollection, of any hot sauce featuring the so-called "Bird's Eye" chili. Regrettably, the actual Chiltepin powder is the very last ingredient on a list of 8 or 9 other things, including water and vinegar, so it's difficult to place them in this actual sauce.

What we have here is another random entry from the inconsistent offerings at my local Whole Foods. In this case, what we really have here is a somewhat vinegary and far more watery version of a Mexican table sauce. Vinegar is definitely the dominator here, so imagine a sort of Cholula with a much thinner texture and greater degree of vinegar presence.

As much as this label touts the idea that Chiltepins contain a greater arsenal of heat, the actual sauce does not show this off in the slightest and the heat here is very mild, at best. The taste is not bad, but if I'm buying basically Cholula, I may as well just get that, which is a more controllable sauce as far as spread and save myself the extra money.

Bottom line: There is nothing wrong with this sauce, per se, but there is also little reason to get it. The territory upon which this sauce treads is not only covered, it is well-covered.

Breakdown:

            Heat level: 2
            Flavor: 7
            Flexibility: 4
            Enjoyment to dollar factor: 3

Overall: 4

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Gringo Bandito (Red) Hot Sauce Review

Gringo Bandito (Red) Hot Sauce


Joining the ranks of the celebrity (and possibly vanity) hot sauce lines comes this beauty from Dexter Holland, who you may know as the lead singer (and probable leader) of The Offspring. That aside (and it's a big aside for me), what we have here is an intriguing blend of different peppers, including one, a Japanese red chili, that I don't often come by.

The result is a sauce that looks, pours and even tastes a bit like a highly stepped-on Cholula, which is not a bad thing, in my view. Cholula is definitely not a bad sauce and I've definitely eaten my share, in fact, probably overeaten it, to the point where it's not anything I'll reach for, unless there's nothing else at hand and I'm in dire need. I definitely have long thought it could use a boost in the heat department and that's where this comes in.

While not a clone, in any way, this is most similar to that style of sauce. It's no scorcher, but does pack enough of a charge to be noticed. The taste of Habaneros is also a welcome addition, though it seems to rely more on Jalapeno and the Japanese red chilis, though I also noticed what I'm pretty sure is Arbol in there as well. This is very clearly intended at the Mexican-style table sauce market and given that it's joined a couple national chains (Wal-Mart and Whole Foods, specifically), I have little doubt that it will do very well, as I can't think of any other sauce in that category I'd rather have, with the possible exception of some Born To Hula entries.

Bottom line: This is a very well-done, well-rounded sauce that is very clearly aimed squarely at the Mexican-style category. While it isn't making me do backflips, it has been enjoyable and definitely done a nice job of adding to everything I've tried on. For that kind of flexibility, even with somewhat moderate heat (though again, over nearly everything else in that category) and below $2/bottle, it's hard to go wrong here.

Breakdown:

            Heat level: 4
            Flavor: 8
            Flexibility: 8
            Enjoyment to dollar factor: 7

Overall: 7

Monday, June 16, 2014

Iguana Cayenne Pepper Hot Sauce Review

Iguana Red Cayenne Pepper Sauce

This is one that I've had to take some time assessing, partially because I wasn't necessarily eating a lot of food that worked with it and partially because it is somewhat outside of what I was expecting and sometimes wanting from a Louisiana-style sauce. It's hard to find where it fits.

To wit, this is a very thick sauce. Why it comes with a dropper cap is entirely beyond me, as there is little reason for it. This stuff is gloppy, in fact, much more like something squirtable, such as mustard or ketchup or even BBQ sauce than an actual hot sauce. The texture and consistency here is somewhat...let's charitably say, unfortunate, for this style of sauce.

Cayenne is one of my favorite peppers all-time and while what they've done with it here is somewhat unique and slightly on the hotter side of other Cayenne sauces I've had before, it drifts too far from a Louisiana-style, which it is probably still overall closest to, into an arena that is hard to call. The taste has a touch of sweetness that really doesn't belong so much with that style of sauce and in addition to the thickness, which then takes a bit for the heat of the food to penetrate, it becomes somewhat jarring. It's not sweet enough to be used as a dipping sauce and doesn't function well enough as a Louisiana-style sauce, yet that is the application that it's profile best fits.

Bottom line: This is a "lost" sauce, that seems to have a substantial identity problem. It's neither a bad nor especially good-tasting sauce, has somewhat moderate heat and there's not really a place that I can find where this functions well. While I'll probably finish off this bottle, I will not be replacing it.

Breakdown:

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

Overall: 4