Category Archives: Spicy Food Reviews

Gringo Bandito Hot Sauce is out to Change the World and Burn it Up!

 

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Gringo Bandito Hot Sauce – Original Red sports the image of creator Dexter Holland!

When you first pick up a bottle of Gringo Bandito Hot Sauce, you see a fun image of a sombrero and sunglass wearing, very white (thus the Gringo part of the name, I assume), blonde, pistol packing, bandolier draped character carefully guarding the contents. What you may not know is that is the image of Gringo Bandito founder Dexter Holland, front man for the punk rock group The Offspring! What you may also not know is that Dexter developed and founded his sauce company in 2004 because it would “be cool” to have a hot sauce, and because people who are into hot sauce are passionate! Before taking the first taste, I already like this guy!  Luckily, I also liked his sauces!

There are three main sauces in the Gringo Bandito lineup- the original red sauce that features habaneros, jalapenos, and red Japanese chile peppers (more on this later),  and two offspring sauces – a green sauce with habs, serranos and “more” peppers,   and a Super Hot sauce with scorpion and jolokia (ghost) peppers. According to their website, there are limited release private reserve sauces that appear annually and a taco seasoning coming out in 2017. The original red sauce is a nice, smooth blend of the habs, jalapenos and the darker, earthier, “chile arbolish” Japanese chile, which is actually a native of Mexico’s Jalisco region. The Japanese Chile is a well known player in Asian dishes, especially Szechuan! How’s that for cultural diversity! With a nice front end playful heat, the red sauce makes very good use of black pepper and spices to enhance the earthiness and complexity of this signature sauce. I’d say it has a  low to medium heat and does justice to eggs, pizza, tacos, fish, chicken, black beans, and I’m sure lots and lots of other things. Given the complexity of flavors, it’s almost like Dexter used the recipe for some sort of doctoral research in Molecular Biology!

Next up is the green sauce, which pairs a mid palate pop of habanero pepper with the bright, citrusy front end annum style heat of the Serrano’s, and, according to the label, adds in the mysterious “more” peppers. What peppers are those? I really couldn’t discern any specific type, so we’ll just let more be less. And while this sauce has a light green appearance that isn’t the most appealing to me, it takes off on a mojo-induced, solo green sauce flight around the world, landing right in the center of my flavor runway! I loved this sauce!!! So much I could see myself getting on a private jet, flying to the Isle of Man, skydive down, and telling the first person I see that I give Gringo Bandito’s Green Sauce my Fiery World stamp of approval!!!!!

 

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Gringo Bandito founder and punk rock band Offspring front man, Dexter Holland

The last entry in this Rock trio of sauces is the “ridiculously rambunctious” (straight from the label) Super Hot! Made with Scorpion and Jolokia, or Ghost, peppers, each known for big hits of heat and flavor, I have to say I was genuinely surprised, as I was fully expecting some super charged, tubular, “nitro” induced blast of heat! However, the Super Hot came across my tongue in a wave of balanced flavor, heat, and spice! It was almost like I had just experienced the Housewives of Orange County- richly flavored, plenty spicy and wildly playful, but still grounded in suburbia!

 

All in all, of the two traditionally styled hot sauces, I have to give the valedictorian award to the original red sauce! I liked them both, but I especially liked the way Dexter used the blend of the earthy Japanese chile with the habanero, jalapeno, black pepper, and other spices. Don’t get me wrong-the Super Hot was also very good, and it had plenty of good heat that made you pay close attention to the ride. I compare it like this-You’re expecting that knock you off your surfboard big wave of heat, and instead it gives a fun, tricked out skateboard ride through the streets of Orange County! But the green sauce, pukey color aside, was a solid home run for me! I really, really liked it and I’m super picky when it comes to green, verde style sauces.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk a little about labeling, since that’s what draws people to a product on a store shelf. According to some random internet sources, Dexter’s choice of label art was a way to pay a bit of homage to a staple of the Mexican sauce world, Tapatio, which displays a similar image, albeit not the very blonde, Dutch looking white guy with punked blonde hair! Gringo Bandito sports a smart, clean, visually appealing label, each flavor with it’s own label color, making it easy to spot on a store shelf. And the witty banter they placed in the contents and nutrition info certainly brought a smile and soft chuckle to this fiery food aficionado. Now found nationwide in several thousand grocery stores, and online at www.gringobandito.com, Dexter Holland’s labor of passion and love is doing quite well for itself.

 

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The Gringo Bandito trio of sauces adorning my egg white omelet! So so good!

So there you have it! A punk rock inspired, three piece band of sauces – each instrument with a unique sound – kind of like a Gibson and an Ibanez, but when connected with a Marshall stack, they come together as a finely tuned symphony of flavor, spice, and heat. El Sabor Gringo Bandito is highly recommended by this blogger and reviewer , and I’m sure it will bring a smile to any hot sauce loving family of Offspring! And never, ever forget, ladies and gentlemen –  It’s a Fiery World!

 

 

 

Katie’s Jerky – Served Up Sizzlin’ and Upside Down!

katies-beef-jerkyWhen Katie Levesque asked me to review her line of jerky  I told her, sure, bring it on! And since I already knew something about Katie and Katie’s Premium Beef Jerky, having had it before, (spoiler alert!!) this will be a slam dunk, positive review.  Well, I was right about the positive part- the jerky is first rate! But not so much with the slam dunk part.  I wanted to be unique! Different! Unusual! Creative! A jerky reviewing master! I wanted to own the jerky and make it my…… well, okay, you get the drift! So I started thinking and decided that I didn’t want the usual, “take a bite, taste and review” review.  I wanted to show you, my It’s a Fiery World audience, what makes this jerky special, and so much more than the myriad of brands you see at the mega-mart. So yes, we’ll talk about the products themselves, but also about Katie, the company, and how I like to experiment in the kitchen.

First, the review. Katie has a full lineup of “original” beef and bison jerky, and flavored pineapple jerky. She uses an excellent cut of meat, lean and savory. But what I didn’t find is a lot of tough stringy, hard to eat, tendon and fat.  This stuff is easy to eat. It is slightly thicker than run of the mill products, with a very pleasing texture, so it feels good in your mouth. Regardless of flavor profile, the jerky is consistently tender without turning to mush in your mouth. This allows the flavors to escape evenly and fully, making your mouth happy, and your teeth not feeling as though they’d just gone 10 rounds with Clubber Lang! I have tried the original and several other flavors, and regardless of flavor (think  original, spicy, more spicy, extra spicy, and holy crap, this stuff has some heat! spicy), the underlying flavor of the meat is preserved, while taking advantage of the various flavors and heat levels. There’s just enough onion, just enough garlic, and just enough of Katie’s special spice blends to make anyone smile. And at around 250mg of sodium (give or take a little), it’s not overly salty, which is a big beef with me. I don’t want to wake up after a jerky eating fest with fingers and ankles that feel like they’re stuffed sausages! I also had the Bison Jerky, and I love that big, full flavor of good, lean bison meat. I actually like bison more than regular “cow”, so having that option is an extra treat! I do wish the bison was available in more flavors! And she has recently teamed up with the Sauce Goddess, Jennifer Reynolds, and added some new, exotic flavors to the jerky lineup, using the Sauce Goddess’s spice profiles! I tasted some in Arizona, and man oh man, was it awesome!

I wanted to play with Katie’s products, so I decided to transform them and use them in

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Marinating with Born to Hula Smokin’ Pineapple did a great job re-hydrating the tender beef

common recipes.  Let’s start with the jerky. The pictures give is away, but I first made fajitas with the original beef and bison jerky. And it was a super easy recipe. I took a couple of packs of jerky and cut the pieces into long fajita strips. Next, I dumped a bottle of Born to Hula’s Smokin’ Pineapple sauce (alas, no longer in production) all over the meat, put it in the frig, and let it sit all day.  By dinnertime, I had sufficiently rehydrated the meat and took in some of the flavors of the marinade, which added a little sweetness and smokiness that I enjoyed. Of course, you could use any vehicle for a marinade, so let your imagination and taste buds be your guide.   I sautéed up some onions and peppers, added the meat to heat it up and blend the flavors (it is fully cooked, remember), and voila! Fajitas were born. The

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Katie’s Beef Jerky Fajitas

hardest thing about it was cutting up the onion! So hard it made me cry! (sorry…couldn’t resist!) My wife and my youngest gave me a big thumbs up, and I gave Katie’s beef and bison an even bigger thumbs up!  Actually using the jerky in recipes helped me to appreciate the quality and inherent tenderness in the cut of beef and bison Katie uses. By the way, this is a great recipe to use for extended camping or backpacking trips.

Now for the pineapple. I know what you’re thinking- how is pineapple jerky different than plain ol’ dried pineapple?  Cause that’s what I thought. But here’s the thing- regular dried pineapple almost always has added sugars that turn it more into candy than simple dried fruit, and I’m not into all that extra sugar. So Katie’s pineapple, available in brown sugar and a myriad of other fun flavors (orange, pina colada, and cherry were the ones I tried), is a great, sweet snack alternative.  Katie takes great care in getting the pineapple to a nice texture and consistency. It may be a little chewier than regular dried fruit, but I didn’t have any problems, and I don’t consider that a negative in the least. But it’s also more tender than some fruit leathers, and it’s not blended into a mush that is dried almost hard.  Simply put, I really like it and it has lots of uses!  What uses, you ask? Well, I’m glad you asked, cause we’re going to take a journey into my culinary creative side.

katie-jerky-cupcakeI needed to make a dessert for a work Christmas party, so I made pineapple jerky upside down cupcakes with a cinnamon cayenne brown sugar butter creme icing!  I didn’t rehydrate anything, and used a pineapple upside down cake mix, and a brown sugar and butter mixture. I lined the bottom of the cupcake tins with the brown sugar/butter mixture and then added a piece of Katie’s spicy brown sugar flavored pineapple and a piece of cherry flavored pineapple. Add in the batter and top with a few diced pieces of the orange flavored pineapple jerky, and bake like normal! Delish!  I added the icing and my co-workers devoured them!  One take away for next time – the jerky wasn’t rehydrated first, so it was chewier than i would’ve liked (it is jerky, after all), so I would dice the pineapple and simply add it to the batter. I’d still get the desired flavors while getting a better texture and pineapple bite with each cupcake. But that’s a minor thing. I had a lot of fun playing with Katie’s beef, bison, and pineapple, and have nothing but praise for Katie’s lineup of products. They are rock stars in the world of jerky!

In closing, let me speak briefly about Katie’s Premium Beef Jerky as a company. Her back story is inspiring, and I don’t have time here to give you all the detail, since this article has already run pretty long (couldn’t help it- I had too much fun and enjoyed the jerky too much to just write a brief, “Spark Note” review).  But long story short, she started like so many artisan, small batch, food entrepenuers, making jerky for her own pleasure and for friends. She received so much encouragement that she started selling, and fast forward a bunch of years, and here we are- a hard-working, passionate woman with a vision and a great product selling her passion full time! It’s fun talking with Katie, as her passion and excitement for her products and her company show in every conversation, whether it’s in person, or via email or text.

So go to www.katiesbeefjerky.com and load up! You won’t regret it and tell them I sent you! Because, we all know, that food is meant to be fun and yes, Virginia, it is a Fiery World!

Jack’s BBQ in Nashville on Broadway in Nashville puts on a good show!!


I was a little leery of BBQ in the middle of the “tourist” section of Nashville, but Jacks on Broadway turned out to be a nice hole in the wall with excellent food! Served cafeteria style, I had the 3 meat combo with pork shoulder, brisket, and smoked chicken. The brisket was flavorful, lean, with a great smoke ring. The pork had a little fat, but not much, and while not as good as the brisket, it had good texture and flavor. The smoked chicken breast was moist gave me a nice smoke flavor. Portions were average size – about 4 oz each. The slaw is a nice vinegar slaw with a light tang and not heavy at all. It paired very well with the pork and the brisket. The cornbread was served as 2 small, thin slices and was dense and just okay. 
Jacks serves 3 sauces – original – their take on a tangy Carolina sauce; Texas – a tomato based thick, sweet sauce; and Kansas City style- darker, richer, with a molasses undertone. I wasn’t a big fan of the Texas, but Kansas City sauce was pretty good, with a slight tang along with the dark, rich molasses tone. My favorite was the original, and it’s slightly thinner, tangier but still “sweetish” profiles worked very well with all 3 meats! 

But the star attractions – the smoked meats, were well worth waiting in a line that wrapped outside the door. Thanks, Jacks, for a good meal!! Next time you’re in Nashville check them out and tell ’em I sent you! Why? Because, Ladies and Gentlemen, It’s a Fiery, and flavorful, World!!! 

People’s Choice Sausage Company is jerking you around…in all the best ways!

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People’s Choice Beef Jerky boasts a great lineup of products!

When I was approached by Brian Bianchetti from Los Angeles about trying out some of People’s Sausage Company’s People’s Choice Beef Jerky, I did some digging around on the world wide interwebs and discovered that he was part of a family business that started making meat products back in 1929 in downtown L.A.  Fast forward to 2016-four generations and almost nine decades later, and they still employ the painstaking, handmade processes utilized when their sausage business first started back in the day. Brian’s dad added beef jerky to their product line along the way, and the rest, as they say, is history!

 

People’s Choice sent me one of everything they offer: Large packs of thin sliced jerky, their three “signature” lines, and their Beef sticks. What do they all have in common? The quality of beef used is excellent. I wasn’t told what exact cut of beef is used for each, but they all had an excellent base flavor and texture, and I knew I was experiencing a higher quality cut of beef than most jerky I’ve eaten (and I’ve eaten a lot of jerky in my day, folks!). Without exception, it’s a great lineup of styles and flavors. I won’t go into significant detail about every one of them, cause I would jerk you one way and then jerk you another, and then you’d start thinking I was a jerk, and well, we wouldn’t want that, now, would we?! But I will touch on all of them and give a little more detail on a few that truly stood out. So let’s talk some jerky!

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The 3 large packs were simply labeled “People’s Choice Beef Jerky” and  came in Original, Hot & Spicy, and Teriyaki flavors. They had larger sheets of thin sliced beef, and while albeit tougher than the others, they weren’t overly tough. The Original had a good flavor, focusing on the natural flavor of the beef with a nicely rounded, traditionally minded use of garlic, onion, and other spices. It was slightly sweet, but not overly so, and while not highlighted, had less than 300 mg of sodium per serving, something almost unheard of in jerkyland! As someone who tries to watch my sodium intake, I was very impressed. The Hot and Spicy also had less sodium, but I didn’t find it much spicier than the original. It wasn’t quite a sweet on the front end, and there was a little more discernible pepper flavor, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call it “hot”. But then again, I’m a chilehead, a lover of heat and spice, so this flavor configuration probably works well for most palates.  The Teriyaki was understandably sweeter, and with a fairly subtle soy and ginger flavor profile, which I enjoyed because it didn’t overpower the flavor of the beef. It also had slightly more sodium than the other two, which I would have expected.

IMG_6778The Old Fashioned line (also in Original, Hot & Spicy, and Teriyaki) was slightly thicker and in smaller pieces, and was dry, but not Sahara desert dry, if you know what I mean. The marketing sheet says this line features old family recipes, and the flavor profiles follow closely with the large, thin sheets found in the large packs. The one exception is that the smaller, thicker pieces were not as sweet on the front end, with the exception of the teriyaki. And the Hot & Spicy brought more spice and heat forward, and after eating an ounce or so, I could tell my mouth was “feeling the burn”(If you’re reading this during the 2016 presidential campaign, well, no pun intended!) The sodium content in this line, while higher than the thin sheets, was significantly lower than beef jerky you find in most stores.

The Carne Seca line also used a thicker cut of meat, but it was still lean. It was mostly dry, but not tough. I tried the Limon and Limon con (with) Chile. IMG_6774The lime (Limon translates lime-most of the time) flavor was very, very mild and hard to pick up, but there was a slight “brightness” of flavor that I could only attribute to the influence of the citrus. The “with chile” version added a layer of spice that wasn’t overwhelming and played well in the sandbox. The other traditional Mexican flavors were pleasant, the sodium again lower than you’d expect, and while not my favorite in the lineup, I sure wouldn’t turn it down if offered to me.

The Tasting Kitchen line focuses on limited edition, small batch, special flavors, that the company changes every so often. I sampled the Orange Honey Teriyaki, Sweet Chile Habanero, Garlic Ginger, and Sriracha flavors. The first three mentioned featured thick cuts of lean, moist beef, and I felt more like I was eating a nice flank steak, or maybe a round steak that was marinated forever and fully cooked, but not tough at all. The Sriracha, while very lean and flavorful, was much drier than the other three. It was hard to isolate a definitive Sriracha flavor, but after several bites, I felt a nice spice, and if I closed my eyes and concentrated really hard, I could tell that maybe…just maybe, I was eating Sriracha flavored jerky.

IMG_6768The Sweet Chile Habanero was by far my absolute home run favorite! I wrote notes on every product and I’ll just tell you what I wrote about this one in particular- AWESOME!!!!! Okay, I only used 2 exclamation marks in my notes, but I’m all excited now that I’m sharing my thoughts! It was very moist and tender with a great base beef texture and flavor and a sweet front end. I swear that it almost tasted like it had been candied! Crazy good! The habanero heat layers in very nicely, sliding in behind the sweet, ramping up to a discernible burn, but very manageable for most people. And the heat lingers a bit, just like a habanero should, but the sweetness of the beef and other flavors tempers it to a very enjoyable level. This one is definitely worth multiple repeat performances! And it didn’t have any more calories or significant difference in the amount of sugars, etc. found in the other flavors. The  Orange Honey Teriyaki was very moist, and slightly sticky. I could discern the orange, and I almost found this one a tad too sweet, but my wife and jerky lovin’ son ( And for the record, no, I did NOT call him a jerk,…even though he did try to steal some before I was ready to fully share the wealth!) really liked this flavor. The Garlic Ginger was also excellent, with subtle Asian tones (I mean, duh, it does have ginger in it) and a well balanced flavor profile.

And the big surprise for me were the Beef Sticks, also in Original, Hot & Spicy, and Teriyaki flavors. I’m generally not a fan of beef sticks because I find them greasy, either too tough or too mushy, and with an artificial tasting flavor. Not this time! They were lean, not greasy or oily at all, and tasted fresh and natural. They had a nice firm casing that was not tough at all, and the meat was just the right texture and consistency. While the Original and Teriyaki mimicked their thinner cousins very closely in their flavor profiles, I found the Hot & Spicy beef stick to be spicier than its cousin, with a nice, layered heat, which I thoroughly enjoyed! I can’t think of a company making similar products that could shake a stick at them! Get it? Stick at them? Beef stick!? Sorry…couldn’t resist.  Anyway, I loved them!

So, there you have it, peeps! A great lineup of beef jerky that boasts something for everyone! From traditional to sophisticated and unique, People’s Choice Beef Jerky lived up to their claim of making things that are made with purpose. It’s very difficult to really get a sense for someone’s emotion in an email, much less their passion, but it was easy for me to tell that this family run business in downtown Los Angeles is proud of their products, their roots, their family, and the handcrafted traditions used in crafting some really smart beef jerky. And well they should be! If I have to wrap the company up in one rating, I’d have to give People’s Choice Beef Jerky and all their collective goodness 4.5/5.0 Fiery Worlds!!! And I promise, I’m not jerking you around! I know! I know! But I just couldn’t resist. Go visit their website at www.peopleschoicebeefjerky.com and tell them that “It’s a Fiery World” sent you! Because we all know, Ladies and Gentlemen, that it truly is a Fiery World!

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