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: 5
            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

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Random Hot Sauce Thoughts and General Update

It has been a bit since I've returned to these pages for an update and I haven't had occasion to crack open a new bottle of sauce for some time. Mostly, I'm trying to clear through what's open before I head off to vacation, but also the food I'm largely eating does not lend itself well to the addition of hot sauce. I may be a chilehead, but I'm primarily after taste first and foremost and with a recent change in diet, opportunity for hot sauce has dwindled. Combined with the loss of being able to easily keep any at work, it makes uses for it a lot fewer and further between.

Let's be frank here a moment. Most of the foods that work best with hot sauce are things that are generally less than optimally healthy. I'm speaking here of fried foods and beloved pizzas and chicken wings and wonderful BBQ, though that one is not necessarily strictly a bad option. Since I eat out a lot at work and even sometimes on weekends, I try to temper this by having a lot healthier food at home. This works out to varying extents, but salads and hot sauce twixt the two never the twain shall meet. I also can't bring myself to take it out to restaurants or other peoples houses, as I think that practice is highly tacky.

So, while opportunity, as mentioned earlier, is light now and probably will continue to be so for the year, it's not as though I dislike it and have dispensed with it entirely or anything. It just continues to be a much slower pace, unless I decide to discard several of the opened bottles. As it is difficult for me to be wasteful in that fashion, probably I'll just continue to sludge along, though there are a few on the horizon I have some excitement about and I still troll nearly every one of the aisles at stores that I think might carry something new and interesting. I'm still looking, still have my eyes open, but let's continue to be honest here. If your wife embarks on a new diet, you're largely going along with her and given some moderate health issues she's having, it looks to be a lot later, if ever, that she gets off of this direction. I may start resuming taking some to work and building my lunches again, once things settle down, which will enable me to have a lot more opportunity (and I seriously miss it a great deal at work), but again, down the road.

In the meantime, if you're interested in my scribblings and also interested in wine, I invite you over to my other blog about wine and I'm also still doing the Yelp thing, too, both of which are linked to the right of this column.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Chipotle Raspberry Mango Hot Sauce Review

Maui Pepper Co. Chipotle Raspberry Mango Hot Sauce

Like the Smokin' Mangoes hot sauce (reviewed earlier), this one is built on the platform of the Mango Meltdown. While that one rather diluted down any mango taste that may have been laying around under a heavy layer of smoky Chipotle, this one goes one (or two) better and knocks down both the flavor and the heat with heavy doses of raspberry.

Now, a good raspberry Chipotle jelly/jam/sauce is one of my favorite things with a roasted meat like turkey or chicken or pork or even with some nice cheese and crackers. This is a fairly fruity concoction along those lines, but we have here a battle for supremacy between the Chipotle and the raspberry and though the raspberry is a close dominator, they both sort of lose. I suspect this is just too many things in one sauce and the mango and Habanero seem to be utterly drowned here.

Things get more confused as the vinegar and salt also try to get some traction on the taste buds, which goes a long way towards limiting the usefulness of this sauce. It would still be good on a plain roasted meat, one of the milder ones such as I mentioned and maybe for a nice change of pace on chicken strips or something, but it's too sweet and salty and does not have a particularly wonderful taste enough to be used as daily anything. Heat level is fairly minimal.

Bottom line: In my view, the problem with this is they just kitchen-sinked it too much and there are too many flavors that combine antagonistically to have much of a pleasant sauce.

Breakdown:

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

Overall: 3

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Happy Sippin' Companion is live

Just a short note for anyone out there that may be following and cares about this, but due to the demise of the site for which I was doing my wine blog, the Happy Sippin' Companion, I've elected to take it a temporary home here: d-dubhsc.blogspot.com. I'd invite you to go and check it out if you're at all interested in a building a wine list with entries that are available, for the most part, at under $20 a bottle.

Smokin' Mangoes Hot Sauce Review

Maui Pepper Co. Smokin' Mangoes Hot Sauce

This is ostensibly supposed to be a smoked version of the Mango Meltdown (review elsewhere in this blog) from this same company  and this is accomplished by adding Chipotle peppers. Now, the problem with doing such a thing is you start with a fairly mild tasting fruit, in this case those aforementioned mangoes and then add in a much stronger tasting substance, that being the Chipotle peppers and you pretty much drown out a lot of the subtleties and nuances of the prior sauce, which is what happens here.

That being said, this is not a bad sauce. Enough remains of both the nice bit of sweetness, a touch of the fruitiness and the lovely back heat of the Habaneros, along with the smokiness and front heat of the Chipotles to create something more than a full-on smoked pepper blast. The Chipotle is unquestionably the dominant flavor, however. Heat level is around the same as the Mango Meltdown and uses are about the same.

Bottom line: Given that I really enjoyed the subtleties and complexities of the earlier sauce, it was kind of a shame to see the Chipotle wrecking ball come in to the extent it does here. With Chipotle, a little goes a long way. This is perhaps over a little...

Breakdown:

            Heat level: 3
            Flavor: 6
            Flexibility: 7
            Enjoyment to dollar factor: 6

Overall: 6

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Bell River Caribbean Hot Sauce Review

Bell River Brand Caribbean Hot Sauce 

Bell River appears to be a division of Heartbreaking Dawn. That particular company is probably on the radar of most discriminating chileheads and has been on mine for a while, not least because of its intriguing naming system of using years for the sauce, as well as the descriptive nature of adding descriptors in the form of nicknames, i.e. "Cauterizer", for the different variations. They've made a great name for themselves and they're on my radar, but due to either an unfortunate lust of theirs for using onions in everything or an unfortunate reaction with my own chemistry that reacts negatively and forcefully to onions, I have not seen a product of theirs I've been able to pull the trigger on. With them creating the product line for this entry from Bell River, that has now been rectified.

Using the word "Caribbean" with things lends the mind to a certain direction, which is perhaps best culminated and most renowned in the Jamaican "jerk" seasoning profile, though when I picked this up, I didn't really expect that. It looked in the bottle more like a Louisiana-style sauce to me, just with a lot of other additions. In several respects, that is true. There are at least over 20 listed ingredients to this, including orange and red Habaneros and Datil peppers, though there are probably 10 ingredients that come before the peppers. One might think this would be a not particularly piquant sauce, but one would only be half-right there.

This is certainly no full-throttled SHU rager or anything, but there is plenty there to add a decent amount of punch to things. I also rarely say this, but given the thinness of this sauce, I would have preferred a dropper cap here, as this stuff is definitely right along the lines of Louisiana-style sauce in flavor as well. There are no Cayennes or Tabascos to be found and it doesn't have that nice bit of zing, that tangy harshness that most Louisiana-styles sauces have. Instead, it is a fuller, rounder, smoother, much more complex and slightly sweeter version, which goes a long way towards fulfilling the promise of using the word "Caribbean" as a descriptor. Usage, however, is primarily the same as a Louisiana-style sauce and this works best as a substitute for an existing sauce type, not necessarily a new style all its own.

Bottom line: This is a very tasty sauce and at $5 a bottle, dollar for dollar, one of the best values out there. I don't know that I would use it to replace any of my existing Louisiana-style sauces, particularly if I happen to want a punch in the mouth with my food, but I would definitely not shy away from it, either, inconvenience of no dropper cap aside. I could see myself getting another bottle of this, depending on what else was available.

Breakdown:

            Heat level: 4
            Flavor: 9
            Flexibility: 7
            Enjoyment to dollar factor: 9

Overall: 7

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Mango Meltdown Hot Sauce Review

Maui Pepper Co. Maui Meltdown Hot Sauce

 After a prolonged layoff from the fruit-based sauces, I finally came around back to them on the last shopping trip, picking up a 3 pack from the Maui Pepper Company, all of which largely featured Habanero peppers. Habanero and Mango has sounded conceptually like a very winning combination, but the reality repeatedly has been a letdown, to the point where I just gave up. I wasn't really looking at getting back to any of the fruit sauces and considered all of them a wash...until now.

In this, we finally have someone who has figured out what degree of ripeness in which to use the mangos, so we have a solid base that is neither too sweet nor too sour, but right in the hot zone, where it is a perfect combination of them both, maybe even erring a bit on the sweeter side so that when the vinegar is added, it will cut it down nicely to that perfect level. Now, I may be embellishing a bit, as there are additional sweeteners, but whatever the formula, the effect is excellent. This is one of the more well-made sauces out there.

All of that would be nice, but you'd still have a sort of runny jelly were it not for the heat. Now, this isn't packing a ton of heat, by any means, but there is enough back end head to let you know it's there, maybe even a little past that. It is truly a delight, in many ways and though it won't go with everything, it does go with quite a lot. You could almost arguably use this interchangeably with a Louisiana-style sauce, especially on fried foods, for a very nice change of pace.

Bottom line: This is a very well-crafted sauce and probably the first fruit-based sauce I have really liked and enjoyed enough to want to buy again. Definitely if you're a fan of mangoes and Habaneros, this sauce is right up your alley, but for a first foray into fruit-based hot sauces, this is a fantastic starting point as well.

Breakdown:

            Heat level: 3
            Flavor: 9
            Flexibility: 8
            Enjoyment to dollar factor: 8

Overall: 7

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Irazu Habanero & Garlic Hot Sauce Review

Irazu Volcanic Pepper Fire Roaster Habanero & Garlic Sauce

Habanero and Garlic are one of those interesting combinations of sauces that seems to crop up every now and again, often enough to be familiar but not so prevalent as to quite be its own category. These sauces invariably are best on lighter colored meats, such as chicken or pork and especially seafood and there is a certain similarity among them enough that you know instantly what you're getting into and expect. Having mined that territory thoroughly enough, I wasn't really looking to re-enter it when I picked this up, as Blair's Pure Death covers that nicely enough on its own, but put the words "fire-roasted" in front of something and I'm instantly interested.

For this particular sauce, the Garlic is very apparently upon opening this bottom and is what we would call heavy on the nose. Taste-wise, there is a good blend of that wonderful fire-roasted flavor, along with that of the Habanero and of course, that Garlic, though Habanero is probably the lightest of those flavors. I actually liked the flavor of the fire-roasted Habaneros so much that I now harbor thoughts that Habanero, which is not a flavor I'm especially in love with, should always be fire-roasted.

Despite the fact that this particular sauce is named after an active Costa Rican volcano, the heat here is fairly minimal. It is a very flavorful and tasty sauce, but not particularly hot, definitely not anywhere near what I was anticipating. In a way, this is sort of unfortunate, as it, while no contender for the Ghost Of Ancho currently leading the race for Sauce Of The Year 2014, would be something I would strongly consider keeping on hand and just may anyway.

Bottom line: This is one I'm a bit on the fence about, but the odds are good that when I go back to a hot sauce emporium to re-up, I may wind up leaving with another bottle of this.

Breakdown:

            Heat level: 3
            Flavor: 8
            Flexibility: 6
            Enjoyment to dollar factor: 8

Overall: 6