At this spring’s New York City Hot Sauce Expo, John Hard (aka CaJohn) came up to me and said, Ken, I have a new sauce I want you to try. I think you’re gonna like it! Well, I don’t know if there’s been a creation from CaJohn’s Flavor & Fire that I didn’t like, so it was a safe bet. But I didn’t expect to be enchanted!!!!
Okay, so I’m making a little play on words here. If you’ve looked at the picture, you know I’m referring to Enchantment, a mole’ style sauce and one of CaJohn’s most recent culinary creations! I’ve had this sauce since the week after the show (thanks to Sue Hard, who graciously boxed up and shipped my hot sauce booty for me, since it’s kind of hard to take 40 bottles of sauce and products through as a carry on!) and it has become one of my go to sauces for anything Mexican or Latin, or anything I want to highlight with the flavor or Old Mexico!
If you know CaJohn and Sue, you know they love New Mexico, and they pay homage to their affection in the label write up of the sauce. They reference their enchantment with the state (get it? Nice word play, CaJohn!) and wanted a sauce that created a fusion of North American Indian, Spanish Mission, Mayan, and Chuck Wagon styles in the tradition of the old Mexico Mole Poblano sauce made famous in the mountain city of Puebla, Mexico (there’s some controversy about the origin of mole sauce, but I’ve been to Puebla, and those folks are pretty darn convincing!). A traditional mole sauce has a pile of stuff in it, from various roasted nuts, to dried bread and fruit, and a finishing of dark chocolate, and cooks for hours and hours. This sauce celebrates that richness, but uses a different flavor and ingredient profile.
Enchantment uses several different peppers: New Mexican chile, Ancho, Guajillo, Chile de Arbol, and Pequin. Add in distilled and cider vinegar, garlic, agave nectar, cumin, salt and oregano, and you have a dark, rich, complex sauce that masterfully layers its flavors and it’s oh so subtle heat. This is not a hot sauce to me. It is a finishing sauce for meat, or a base to slow cook and simmer pork, chicken, or beef. And it took my Spanish omelet to a whole new level! If I have any suggestions for CaJohn based on my using it these past few months, is that my batch is really thick and doesn’t always want to easily pour out of its flask style bottle. But that is a small issue, and after all, a mole is supposed to be thick. Another thing I learned while playing with it is that it doesn’t always play well with others, and mixing it with other powders, spices, rubs, etc. could alter the flavor profile enough to mess things up. So for those that like to use multiple sauces, powders, rubs, etc. in your dishes, don’t be surprised if you’re not thrilled with your results. In other words, make your life easy and don’t use anything else- it’s not necessary.
Now I’m sure there are those of you that are much more skilled in the kitchen than yours truly, and can use it with other spices and products, but I appreciated the stupid proofness that Enchantment gave me. And like I said, while it’s not a true mole sauce (CaJohn will be the first to tell you that it’s a mole “inspired” sauce), the deep, earthy tones of the Arbol chile, combined with the mildly acidic guajillo and New Mexican, the sweetness of the ancho (I think they’re sweet, anyway!), and the playful heat of the pequin combine in masterful fashion to provide my taste buds and smell buds (do we even have smell buds? Remind me to look that up!) with a trip to old Mexico!
So Enchantment earns itself a full 4 Fiery Worlds from this author. I enjoyed the cool way it uses so many different peppers so smartly, the simple list of other ingredients that celebrates the flavors without muddying it all up, and the fullness and richness that makes the sauce “mole-like”. Add in a first hand appreciation for John and Sue’s love for New Mexico and I wish I was on a mesa in New Mexico watching a beautiful sunset, chowing down on some slow cooked pork wrapped in a homemade tortilla, smothered in Enchantment! Ahhh….some enchanted evening that would be! And why, Ladies and Gentlemen? Because…….It’s a Fiery World! (Note: At press time, I didn’t see Enchantment listed on Cajohn’s website, so you may need to inquire as to availability)
I think everyone knows the Tom Hanks’ movie Cast Away! You know….Fed Ex guy in the plane crash who is on a small island for 5 years hanging out with some volleyball named Wilson! Everyone thought he was lost forever, but NO! He turns up, not really any worse for wear, and resumes his life. Well……..I have a kinda sorta similar story about Sweet Heat Gourmet, Michelle Mierwald’s State College, Pennsylvania’s work of love, who sent me sauces to review a looooong time ago. How long ago, you ask? Well, I ain’t sayin’, but it’s been a while! Not Tom and Wilson’s 5 years, mind you, but long enough. There’s a genuine back-story that comes with the delay – but that’s no excuse, and I am dutifully ashamed and embarrassed, and publically ask forgiveness. So here’s where I attempt to make amends!
Right after I received a generous sampling of her creations, I used them, abused them, played with them, made notes about them, enjoyed them, and never finished my formal review of them! Kinda like when, in Cast Away, packages never made it to their final destination…except one, at the end of the movie! Just like this post! (I know it’s a stretch, folks, but work with me a little, okay?!)
Sweet Heat has a great lineup of products. I thought it was especially cool that she sources some of her local ingredients in her online product descriptions, much like Tom gave credit to his ol’ straw headed buddy Wilson! So what was in those lost packages? What’s Sweet and what’s the Heat in the Gourmet?
I received the following: Honey Jalapeno BBQ Sauce, Habanero Peach Hot Sauce, Pineapple & Ghost Pepper Hot Sauce, and Moruga Scorpion Hot Sauce. I have a little left of all of them (testimony that I was saving some for the formal write-up), and they all still have a great fresh flavor and complex profile. Not a bad sauce in the lot! I found my notes, and here’s where it gets eerily similar to Cast Away…..just like Mr. Hanks was creative, ingenious, practical, and opportunistic with the ingredients he had to work with, so goes Ms. Mierwald and Sweet Heat Gourmet!
The Honey Jalapeno BBQ Sauce is fresh, and actually packs a little heat which is unusual for a jalapeno sauce. It has just enough soy and Worcestershire to give it some pop without being salty, a wonderful use of the pepper which you can feel and taste, and a spice compliment that worked well with pork, beef, and chicken.
The Habanero Peach played the cumin and ginger card nicely, creating a unique flavor profile to accompany the peaches and habs, a pleasant medium heat, and the black pepper created a nice earthiness that I really enjoyed. Think fish, veggie medleys, and a Sunday brunch frittata! The Pineapple & Ghost Pepper made a mean salad dressing, with that slow crawling, back palate bhut jolokia burn (but not too much!), and totally faked me out with the raisins, which added a fullness to the flavor profile! I really liked that one…a lot! And the Moruga Scorpion sauce was no-nonsense, front end hot! But not mind numbing hot…just a nice hot! A polite hot! A Tom Hanks nice guy, but tough as all get out to survive 5 years on a deserted island hot! I’m not a big scorpion pepper fan, as I find it a little harsh, but Sweet Heat blends the scorpion with other unnamed red peppers, tomato, a little sugar, and spices to create a Scorpion sauce I could use in chili, spaghetti, meat loaf, and on chicken. I’m sure it has veggie uses if you think about it. After all, Tom tied a raft up with VHS magnetic tape, for goodness sakes!
Short and Sweet – these are great products! They all get 4 Fiery Worlds, except for the Pineapple Ghost, which earns itself 4 1\2 Fiery Worlds!!!! After being lost in the back of my frig, my Sweet Heat Gourmet sauces are still very much present and accounted for! So go to their website and order some today! Or catch Sweet Heat March 29 and 30, 2014 at the NYC Hot Sauce Expo! Why, you ask? Because, It’s a Fiery World!
Okay, not really, but they could stop a Vampire invasion! Silverleaf International, the Missouri City, Texas based company owned by Neal and Adriane McWeeney, is home to some of the best gourmet salsas, olive oil, jellies, and marinated garlic on the planet. I’m telling you, folks! This is vampire stopping good garlic! I’m talking garlic so good that even Edward Cullen and Count Dracula couldn’t resist! Plus, when you factor in the whole silver leaf thing, those guys don’t stand a chance (Get it? Vampires…silver…silver can kill a vampire….ok, fine…. I thought it was clever..)!
Silver? leaf? What’s that got to do with anything, you ask? Well, maybe you didn’t ask, but I’m gonna tell you anyway. When I was visiting with Neal and Adriane in New Orleans, I learned a little about the back-story of their company. They had gone to Italy on vacation some years ago, and while walking in a monastery olive orchard one morning (sounds like a cool vampire movie setting, doesn’t it? Just sayin’!), they loved the shimmering silver hue of the olive tree leaves. That’s right, the same olives that you buy at the store, or press for oil have cool silvery, shimmery leaves. When they were ready to start their business, the memory of those shimmering olive leaves reappeared, Silverleaf International was born, and the rest is history!
And that history has been richly rewarded. Their ghost pepper salsa, made with fresh roasted tomatoes and fresh diced garlic cloves, combined with the super hot ghost pepper, is a perennial favorite and winner at the Houston Hot Sauce Festival, and won awards there from 2009-2012. And their Ghost Pepper Salsa Verde, a green sauce made with fresh garlic, tomatillo, and ghost peppers, won a coveted Golden Chile award! Seeing how both those awards come from Texas, where you best be on your game when it comes to salsa, that’s saying something! Just tonight, I had breakfast burritos for dinner, and their Fiery Hot Garlic Salsa was a perfect compliment, with just the right amount of Habanero heat combined with their fresh California grown garlic and spices. I highly recommend their salsa for any occasion, including watching old Bela Lugosi Dracula flicks, or for you trendy, modern types, a Twilight marathon…
So if you’re like me and get a little twitchy watching all those vampire flicks (I’m really not a monster movie kind of guy), and need some protection, Silverleaf’s wide selection of marinated garlic simply blows me away! If you go to their website, you’ll see there’s a flavor profile for everyone, from Mediterranean, to sweet bread and butter, to chipotle, and more. I love the bread and butter garlic and the ghost pepper garlic. If you’re not familiar with a ghost pepper, it reminds me of a bell pepper on steroids, so the sweet pepper flavor combined with its substantial heat marry beautifully with the garlic’s savory notes. Smashed onto a piece of bread, added to any dish, or simply munched as a snack, the ghost pepper garlic will brighten your day, bring a mild (or wild) sweat to your brow, and a big smile on your face. Unless you’re a vampire, in which case you’d pretty much be hosed.
So check out Silverleaf International’s great selection of gourmet quality products. I’ll give everything I’ve tried to date (several types of garlic, all of their salsas, an awesome peach jelly, and their ghost pepper infused olive oil) a minimum of 4 Fiery Worlds! They will be at the New York City Hot Sauce Expo March 29 & 30, 2014, so if headed to the expo, definitely make their booth a must visit! For the rest of the world, check out their website, pick up some garlic for your next vampire slaying expedition, and tell ‘em I sent you! Why? Because, Ladies and Gentlemen, It’s a Fiery World!
When I tell you that Steve and Lisa Seabury’s High River Sauces is heatin’ up the New York skyline, I’m not kidding! Their newest creation, Foo Foo Mama Choo, is made from the latest pepper to be recognized as the hottest on the planet by Guinness World Records- Smokin’ Ed’s Carolina Reaper! The “Reaper” clocks in at an average of more than 1.5 Million (yes, Million with a capital M!) Scovilles! So it takes a lot to make a sauce that celebrates the sweetness of the Carolina Reaper while acknowledging the “Kung Foo Foo Fighting” nature of it’s heat! And that’s exactly what Foo Foo Mama Choo does!
For those not familiar with High River Sauces, the sauce company was born a few short years ago with the release of Hellacious, a great sauce with a rich flavor that travelled the heavy metal circuit with Steve. After adding the likes of Tears of the Sun, Rogue, and Grapes of Wrath, this latest offering does not disappoint.
I absolutely love Foo Foo Mama Choo’s label! Just like the sauce, it’s simple and complex, from the name to the logo of the fired up dragon out to save the princess! I know..I know!! Dragon? Fire? Princess? What’s up with that? I’ll tell you in a second….But back to the label- great graphics, easy to identify on a shelf, and fun! High River has won awards for their label graphics and marketing, and with good reason! The label makes a great marquis for the concert of flavor inside.
Foo Foo Mama Choo is a complex sauce. But it comes off simple. The label says it’s a little Asian, a little Southern Country, but I say it’s a lot unique. The natural blending of new flavors with favorite ingredients creates a veritable concert of smooth flavor. Kinda like when Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones played with the Foo Fighters in 2008 at Wembley (get it? Foo Fighters? Foo Foo Mama Choo?! Ok, fine….never mind..). Complex notes of “secret spices”, ginger, reaper pepper, roasted red peppers, and soy sauce, along with the more simple harmony of roasted tomato, onion and garlic come together nicely thanks to the backup band of rice wine vinegar, brown sugar, and white pepper. And did I mention it’s HOT!? The Carolina Reaper, with it’s world record heat, packs a big punch. But it is a sweet pepper, with a great citrusy note, and High River has managed to layer it, control it, and deliver it with the finesse of a fine sound board engineer! Yessir, ladies and gentlemen, just like the music legends I mentioned, Foo Foo Mama Choo masters its sound and harnesses the raw energy of the world’s hottest pepper in unique and memorable fashion.
So, to sum it all up, Foo Foo Mama Choo comes in with a 5 Fiery World rating! My highest, and rarest, score! It’s really that good, folks. This is a sauce that creates a fire breathing, high flying dragon that rises up, brings serious heat, and saves the Princess from the evil Witch! I know…I told you earlier that I’d explain. Steve and Lisa’s daughter created the inspiration for the sauce when she tried to cast a spell to turn Steve into a dragon to save the princess from the evil Witch. But, instead of Bippity Boppity Boo, she came out with Foo Foo Mama Choo – and history was made!
Foo Foo Mama Choo makes it public debut on February 28, 2014. Do yourself a favor, and go to High River Sauce’s website and order some. It can also be found at iBurn.com and at Peppers.com. Order more than one- trust me on this one! Why, you ask?! Because, Ladies and Gentlemen, It’s a Fiery World!