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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month – Time for a Sweet Sauce and a Worthy Cause

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Our collective Fiery World means a lot of things – usually, for me, it’s a fun tagline for my blog celebrating all things hot and spicy. But on a serious note, sometimes people live in a World filled with a Fiery challenge…an intense fight with great struggle and consequences. Such it is with Breast Cancer.

While I was in NOLA for the Chile Pepper Extravaganza recently, I spent some time with Michele and Tom Was, owners of Intensity Academy. I reviewed their Chai Sweet Chili sauce on Hot Sauce Daily early in 2012 and also re-posted here that May for a Mother’s Day special. To refresh your memory, the sauce is dedicated to Michele Northrup’s mom, Barbara, who lost her personal battle to cancer! On a personal note, I lost a sister-in-law to Breast Cancer, so it’s also very close to my heart, as well.
So, given that it’s one of my all time favorite sauces, and October is Breast Cancer awareness month, and Intensity Academy donates a portion of all sales of Chai Sweet Chili Sauce to Breast Cancer related charities, I’m running the review for a “third time’s the charm” to highlight a great opportunity to order a wonderful sauce, honor two wonderful women (and millions of others), and help fight the fight faced by so many. Please follow your heart, readers, and support the fight against Breast Cancer any way you can!

My original review of Chai Sweet Chili Sauce is re-posted below in Hot Sauce Daily’s style and format, where the review originally appeared in February, 2012.

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Michele Northrup, who puts the Intense in Intensity Academy, told me I just had to try out her new sauce.

She proceeded to share that the sauce was dedicated to her mom, Barbara Northrup, who Michele lost not long ago. And even cooler still, Intensity Academy donates a portion of the profit from sales of their Chai Sweet Chili Sauce to cancer related charities. And then, later that night, this sauce won a Golden Chili in the Asian sauce category. And with that as our backdrop, let’s give Chai Sweet Chili a ride around the block and see what’s under the hood.

Ingredients: Organic brewed Chai Tea, Thai pepper puree, distilled vinegar, garlic, rice wine vinegar, tapioca starch and natural spices.

Texture/Appearance: – This is a medium thickness sauce with a nice, reddish hue that gives away its Thai Pepper pedigree. The texture is varied, believe it or not, due in large part to the pepper pieces and parts you get when you eat it. Now mind you, I’m eating spoonfuls of this sauce before and during my review, and the difference in texture wouldn’t really be noticed in regular application. Now, the fresh pepper flakes in your teeth might give your friends a feel for texture (not really….well, okay, one did make an ugly display between my teeth, but a quick water rinse nipped that little problem pepper in the bud!) The pepper puree and the tapioca starch give the sauce some body, which is useful when using it as a glaze for salmon, chicken, etc. And as you can see in the picture, the appearance of Chai Sweet Chili is attractive when mixed with the stir fried shrimp I cooked.

Taste/Flavor Straight Up: – While the first taste might lead you to believe that this is a normal asian style stir-fry sauce, the Chai tea quickly jumps up and says, Hey You!! You taste me!? That’s right! Chai Tea is in the house! Do we have a problem? I swear that’s what I heard! Okay… not really, but it could have been. However, the Chai tea did not come in as the upfront flavor. That distinction came from the sugar and spices, who won the footrace to be first flavor out the bottle. The cool part of this sauce and its hipster Chai Tea influence is that the tea is almost an afterthought flavor… a middle note surrounded by a chorus of flavor. But you can hear it, loud and clear, and it’s a clean note-fresh, unassuming, and amazingly bright. I tried this sauce on my home made stir-fried shrimp and veggies, and it tasted as good as the accompanying picture looks. I put it on fish, veggies, and started to drink it on the rocks, but then I remembered about the pepper flake in the teeth incident, and decided to back off of that idea. The Thai pepper influence, however, is apparent, but in a subdued, muted horn sort of way. You’d expect something a little different, which brings us to heat.

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Heat Level: – Please don’t take this rating as a negative, because this sauce wasn’t designed to be hot. But on a 5 star scale, I can’t muster more than a level 2 in heat. And that’s what is kinda neat and unique about it. One of the major ingredients is Thai Pepper puree, and while it gives a fun little zing that hits your taste buds on a slight delay, it’s a muted zing. And no zang. And definitely no zowee! Go back to that muted horn thing. Here you have a huge horn section (work with me here- thai pepper is a major ingredient that equates to a large horn sec… oh never mind… you get the picture), and you’re expecting hot Thai Pepper notes that sound loud and bold like a good Chicago tune. But no – the heat is subtle, muted, and blended seamlessly into the other flavor profiles that I enjoyed so much.

Label/Graphics: – I liked the label, and loved the little write up on the side about Michele’s mother, Barbara. It is inspiring and pleasing, and I liked the pink background mixed with the grass and muted sun. The peacock on the label is a great representative for this sauce, and not just because it is a beautiful bird on a sauce honoring a beautiful lady. If you know anything about Peacocks, you know that they are loud and fearless and will get up in your face if you threaten them and scare the beejeezus out of you. They weren’t used to guard palaces for nothing, you know! I can’t help but think that this is Michele’s tongue in cheek trophy to her beautiful, protective, strong mom, Barbara.

Overall Impression: – This is an excellent asian style chili sauce. I would even call it fun. That’s partly why I infused some fun into my review. It just seemed to fit this sauce and Intensity Academy overall! If you know Michele Northrup and her husband Tom, you know that these folks have fun with their products. But they’re all business when it comes to flavor. This sauce can be serious on stir fry, casual on plain green beans, classy on fish, and always fun. While I don’t know for certain, I have to think that when Michele created this sauce, she was in the kitchen reminiscing about her mom, and thinking about how Barbara Northrup could be funny, serious, classy, not so classy (hard to be classy running after kids, wiping dirty noses, and cleaning bathrooms), and look as good in jeans as she did in sequins. I never met Michele’s mom, but that’s the image I get. How cool is that? And how cool to create something unique, fun, and amazingly tasty. Chai Sweet Chili is just that cool. Get you some. Enjoy. And if you’re blessed to still have your momma, call her up and tell her you love her.

About the company: Intensity Academy opened for business in 2007 in the Tampa, Florida area. According to their website, they have won multiple awards for their diverse line of sauces, including Scovies, Golden Chiles and Fiery Food awards. Check out their website at http://www.intensityacademy.com and be greeted by a school motif (the name is Intensity Academy, after all). Use the contact info on the website for questions that the site doesn’t answer.

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“Why Hot Sauce Doesn’t Taste Good When You’re Sick!…..A bedroom tale…

Well, I told myself when I launched last week that I would try and post at least 3 times a week.  It’s already Wednesday of week 2 and this is my first post, and it’s a commentary, not a review or a recipe. “So what’s up with that?” you might be thinking.  Actually, the post title gives it away.  Last Friday night I found myself in a hotel room in Monroe, LA, and not feeling all too good.  I was on the way home from Little Rock, where I experienced some fine BBQ at Whole Hog Cafe (see the blog post), and had planned to stop for the night in Monroe, La.  An extra treat was spending time with Tracy and Kristi Carter of Jac’s Tailgater’s, who live in Monroe.  We went to dinner and had a wonderful visit.  And then, my night took a turn for the worse. Some might even label it bizarre!!!

By 10pm, I was coughing, fever, chills, stomach churning, etc etc etc. I’ll spare you all the graphic details. I was officially sick.  All of a sudden sick.  The kinda sick where you go, “what did I eat?”, “what’s wrong with me?”, “Was the movie “Contagion” really true after all?”, and finally, “man, I sure wish I’d have gotten my flu shot!”. And after a few hours of misery, I drifted off thinking something bizarre like, “hotsauce doesn’t taste good when you’re sick”, and then, everything got a little blurry……..

I vaguely remember the yellow bhut brick road, with a fresh layer of volcano dust (a recent eruption, I was sure), and it was lined with habaneros, bhuts and red peppers.  I danced through red fields of ripe moruga scorpion peppers, and frolicked among the Cayenne’s, Serrano’s, and Pequin’s!!!  And then I turned and saw flying Thai Monkeys coming after me – throwing apples and murmuring something about me calling them Monkeybutts and messing up their sweet apple harvest! I ran from them shouting, “Holy Jolokia”, i’ve gotta get my BigFats outta here!!!!  And a hula girl was there, and I asked her why hot sauce didn’t taste good when you’re sick, and she said, man, you sure got some bigfats! How many you got? Is that 108, or 208….no, you got 808 bigfats….Daaaaang!!

And then it got even stranger…..I ran into a salty pirate carrying a white zombie, with a red hot robin perched on his shoulder.  And I asked him, Cap’n? Why doesn’t hotsauce taste good when you’re sick? And the robin looked at me and said, “I’ll Jacks yer Tail, Gater!  stay out of that bayou…its gold and thick like mustard. What!? I exclaimed! I’m losing my mind….What kind of Intensity Academy is this? Then these guys come walking up…one in a suit that looked like it was on fire, and kept saying, Hi, I’m Zane….no, I’m Zack….no, I’m Zane! no….I’m Zack!!!! And his buddy, Joe, had a head full of hair and it was flaming huge flames!!!!! He was asking Zane…no…Zack…. no, Zane, no…..  anyway, this flaming joe guy was looking for his red hot robin.  I started to tell him and his schizophrenic pal that they were some kind of loco gringos, when the refining fire department showed up in their Hazmat outfits, talking about going to Defcon 3, or something like that.  Ole Ray asked them if they had a plan, and they said they’d just wing it.

Well, I kept on down the road, looking for the answer to my burning question, and took a break under a silverleaf tree, next to some howling peno’s,  when I smelled something to my side.  I turned and saw some garlicky greengo pouring something that looked like evil ooze all over everything!! I took off down the road and made a hotline to Melinda’s. Surely Melinda would know why hotsauce doesn’t taste good when you’re sick. That’s where I saw the black mamba….and more surprisingly, an angry cock and a happy beaver were fighting over it, and then a fiery cajun swooped in and zapped ’em…..murmuring something about turning them into voodoo ash, then laughing and saying mercy beaucoup…..anyway, I had reached the crystal city by this point and wanted to see the fieri guy behind the curtain! I explained to the man at the door, who wouldn’t stop talking and kept telling me he loved it spicy, that my night had gone from mild to wild, and I never had my questions answered, and I had to get home.  I told him I had to get to my address, 1851, or was it 1498……darn, can’t remember, but anyways, I had had a dia de los muertos, and I had to get home before the heartbreaking dawn. And I still needed to know why hotsauce doesn’t taste good when you’re sick. And then the cajohn man behind the curtain told me I always had the power to go home….just repeat the Q…and rub.  And he was starting to answer my burning question when everything went blurry again…..and that’s the last thing I remember before i woke up….

I was sick until yesterday, and even then I was still a little weak.  I still don’t know the answer to my burning question, ” why hot sauce doesn’t taste good when you’re sick!”  Maybe on my next adventure…

In the meantime, take your vitamins, get your flu shot, wash your hands a lot, and remember….It’s a Fiery World!!!!!!

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