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Summertime in the South and Hot as Hellfire…..Or Is It?!

Hellfire Hot Sauce Chilimaster's Reserve on veggies and fish

Hellfire Hot Sauce Chilimaster’s Reserve on veggies and fish

Two things I know….it gets really really hot in South Louisiana in the summertime. And the other thing I know is that who would’ve thunk that Lake Geneva, Wisconsin would produce a hotsauce that rivals a South Louisiana summer?! That’s right…..Wisconsin! Home of Brats, Cheeseheads, the Packers (one of my fav teams, by the way!), and Hellfire Hot Sauce! Born out of a steaming cauldron of chili (award winning chili, I might add!), Hellfire started producing gourmet caliber, artisan sauces back in 2008! And if you haven’t seen any of their collectible artwork bottle pieces, you are in for a treat! Merle and Diana sent me a couple bottles of their newer sauce creations recently and I took ‘em for a hot, sweaty, spicy spin around the bayou. So let’s check ‘em out!

The first sauce we are reviewing is Hellfire’s Chilimaster’s Reserve, which must have been born from Merle and Diana’s chili competition recipe book, because I bet it would make a dynamite chili flavor base. From the color to the flavor profile to the heat, it’s all there. Smacks of chili! Hot chili! Really, realllly good, hot chili. Cause this is a realllly, realllllly good hotsauce!! And it’s not just for chili! You can tell it’s a well thought out, complex sauce that packs some serious heat, but blended with a sweet mix of ingredients.

Get a load of what’s in this sauce: Chocolate Habanero, Scorpion, Jolokia, Naga, & 7-Pot peppers; Black Raspberries, Black Plums, Cherry Juice, Blueberries, Premium Chocolate, maple Syrup, Honey, Vanilla Bean, Cinnamon, Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey, Black Death Vodka, Salt, Vinegar, and “Spices”!!!!

Holy cow!!!!! Merle and Diana are either mad scientists, geniuses, or both! This sweet heat combo of flavors blends masterfully, belying whatever evil imagery Hellfire’s marketing is trying to concoct. There is nothing evil here, folks…well, except for the big heat punch that crawls up and scares the beejeebers out of you!! If it wasn’t so beautifully hot, I’d have to call this sauce Heavenfire….okay, that sounds weird, but you get the point! The peppers hit every sensor point….front end heat, middle of the palate, back of the throat, slow crawl, quick draw, you name it, it’s there type of heat! Probably a 4 Fiery World level heat! But while it lingers a bit, it isn’t so hot that you can’t repeat the experience bite after bite (as long as you aren’t drinking the stuff, but hey, that would be tempting!) And while you have a touch of vinegar tang, it’s tempered by the smooth bourbon note that compliments the chocolate, vanilla, honey and syrup so nicely; The raspberry, plums, and blueberries marry with vodka and the salt, and the cherry and cinnamon tag along for the gloriously hot and wonderful ride! While Dan Norton may carve some stunningly intricate, amazing collector bottle art for Hellfire, The dynamic duo of Merle and Diana match that artistry note for glorious note with this sauce!

Artist Dan Norton Creates Unique Collector Bottles for Hellfire Hot Sauce

Artist Dan Norton Creates Unique Collector Bottles for Hellfire Hot Sauce

Overall Impression: I LOVE THIS SAUCE! It gets a whopping 4 ½ Fiery Worlds – a huge score for this reviewer. I have rarely given any hot and spicy product over 4 Fiery Worlds! This sauce is that good, folks! I would be tempted to give it a full-on 5 Fiery World rating, but it’s a limited release sauce, which pulled it down a tad! This sauce has gone on so many things I can’t list them all. I’ve had the sauce a couple of months, so it’s been in stir fry, fish, veggies, baked potato, pork, chicken, steak (makes a pretty fine steak sauce!), on bread just plain, ice cream (not my fav use, but it worked), eggs, etc etc etc! Surprisingly, no chili! It’s too dang hot in South Louisiana for chili these days. But just wait….it’ll happen, and it’ll be a sweet, spicy party when it happens!

So head on over to Hellfire’s website, www.hellfirehotsauce.com and get this sauce and any of the other fine creations hailing from unsuspecting Lake Geneva, Wisconsin! And when you do, just remember, Ladies and Gentlemen, tell them Chilehead Ken sent you and yes……It’s a Fiery World!

High River Sauces Goes Rogue and Gets Blood out of a Turnip……errr, I mean Orange

High River Sauces Rogue ,has a beautful color and texture to match it's incredible flavor!

High River Sauces Rogue ,has a beautful color and texture to match it’s incredible flavor!

Rogue Blood Orange Moruga Scorpion sauce on Pizza!Steve and Lisa Seabury’s High River Sauces has scored a major victory with their Rogue Moruga Blood Orange Scorpion Pepper Sauce. As the label states, this is a sauce with attitude! A blend of Moruga Scorpion, Jolokia (Ghost), and Red Serrano peppers, Rogue marries the peppers with Blood Orange, apple and pear, creating a unique blend of heat, sweet, and flavor! I have to think that Steve’s mixologist wife and High River partner Lisa had a little something to do with the flavor profiling on this one!I’ve never had a sauce made with blood orange before, and I’m not really a fan of the flavor. But I have to tell you, from top to bottom, this sauce is first rate!

As is the norm for my reviews, let’s look at the label. Clean, bright, with a nice bold graphic of “Rogue” that sports a neat scorpion tail incorporated in the “G”, Rogue would be eye catching on a grocery store shelf, and isn’t that the point? The label coloring matches the sauce color, as I’ve found to be the case with all of High River’s sauces, Hellacious, Tears of the Sun, and Grapes of Wrath, and it makes a very eye appealing package. And unless customers have a chance to try a product at a show, or demo, etc., the only thing that sells it is packaging and accompanying marketing. I need to say that I think Steve Seabury has one of the brightest sales and marketing minds in the hot sauce biz! From great labels to catchy product names, to the way he markets and capitalizes on his heavy metal roots, is just genius! And not to mention, the man (and his lovely mixologist bride, who I’m sure adds to the creative gene pool here) has some serious flavor and heat profiling chops!

Speaking of heat and flavor, Rogue does not disappoint! I’m not a big fan of blood oranges, because I find the flavor normally heavier and bitter compared to a “normal” orange. But High River has done a masterful job capturing the full flavor of the blood orange without the bitterness by masterfully pairing apple cider vinegar with just enough apples and pears and brown sugar with the blood orange. It kinda reminds me of a good heavy metal concert – a hard, edgy look, and the promise of serious sweat-inducing head banging, but with a serious front end fake!! Rogue starts off softer than expected, like a nice acoustic ballad, and just as you wonder if it’s gonna get real, the Serrano peppers start a little lead heat rif, with a front end heat that serves to introduce the Marshall stack rattling full on heat of the Moruga Scorpion and Jolokia peppers. The background percussion rhythm section is rounded out with the ginger, lime juice, and garlic. But just like a good hard rock fan likes his music, there’s a great balance and flair to the flavor of this sauce. So many people criticize hard rock and metal for not having any sophistication or finesse, but just like High River’s Rogue Blood Orange Moruga Scorpion sauce, serious rock and roll comes with complexity, often times with very sophisticated classical and folk backgrounds, but using them to create a fullness of sound, or in this case, flavor and heat!
This sauce is worthy of an easy 4 Fiery Worlds! I would’ve scored it a little higher, but I felt it could’ve had the heat linger a bit longer than it does before having to get another dose! But don’t misunderstand, this is a great hot sauce, unique and flavorful, and definitely worth a trip to High River’s website! And while you’re there, check out their other great sauces, like Hellacious (reviewed previously by this blogger for Hot Sauce Daily), Tears of the Sun, and Grapes of Wrath. Tell them Chilehead Ken sent you, and remember ladies and gentlemen: It’s a Fiery World!

Smokin’ Good! Jac’s Tailgaters Bayou Gold Chipotle Mustard Sauce is Back!

Jac's Chipotle Mustard sauce in the 5 oz. bottle

Jac’s Chipotle Mustard sauce in the 5 oz. bottle

I love mustard. There…I’ve said it! And I’m not sure why, but I’ve always loved mustard. Maybe it’s the color since, afterall, yellow is my favorite color. Maybe it’s the tang and tartness. Or maybe the low fat, low calorie nature of the beast. However, as human nature dictates, some things get routine…normal…mundane….ho hum….okay, I’ll say it – boring! And this includes my beloved mustard. And while a turkey sandwich isn’t the same without a little yellow goodness, it can get a bit ordinary after a while. Until now! Jac’s Tailgaters has revived one of their original offerings and after tasting it I saw stars! Fireworks! And I heard angelic voices! And Boston singing “Smokin'”! Wait! What? Boston? Smokin? What’s up with that!? I’ll tell you what’s up – Jac’s Tailgaters Bayou Gold Chipotle Mustard Sauce is a little touch of smoked mustardy sunshine in an otherwise mundane, boring, cloudy mustardy day! Okay, so I’m mixing up my song metaphors, but you get the point!

When I was dieting last year, I was bummed out because I couldn’t enjoy Tracy and Kristi Carter’s Bayou Gold Mustard Sauce, because it had more than a gram of brown sugar in it and a couple of other ingredients that weren’t on my diet. And as I was chatting to Tracy about it at the Houston Hot Sauce Festival, he said he had a solution- his Chipotle Mustard Sauce which has almost no sugar at all – well within my self-imposed stringent dietary no sugar rule! So armed with a couple bottles, I proceeded to learn just how smokin’ hot (as in cool…nifty…swell…appealing…not flaming, scoville topping, scorching, etc.) this mustard sauce is on just about everything it touches.

Jac's Chipotle Mustard Sauce is an excellent gourmet style mustard sauce

Jac’s Chipotle Mustard Sauce is an excellent gourmet style mustard sauce

Using regular, prepared mustard as its base, Bayou Gold Chipotle Mustard adds lemon juice, cider vinegar, worcestershire sauce, garlic sauce, chipotle pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, white pepper, brown sugar, and the ever undefined “spices”. I can’t discern the brown sugar, and with only 1 gram of sugar in an oz, it’s just a wisp of an ingredient. But the chipotle, or smoked, pepper is so masterfully blended that it completes the rest of the ingredients into balanced perfection! Adding the smokiness to the flavor profile made a beautiful marriage of flavors-complimenting the other ingredients like the yin to the yang, the Rob to the Laura, the Barney to the Andy, the Dagwood to the Blondie, the Edith to the Archie, the Jerry Maguire to what’s her name with the quirky cute kid (insert iconic “you complete me” reference here), and any other finely tuned, balanced pairing you can imagine.

I’ve used this sauce on meat (especially pork, chicken, turkey, and ham), veggies (a little of this is crazy good on beans, cauliflower, and more), sandwiches, and still thinking of new uses. And my wife, who does not share my hot and spicy obsession (but is very supportive, I must say), has cautioned me on more than one occasion by stating “You’re not using all of that, are you? I like that one a lot!” That’s high praise, I have to tell you! And who could blame her? One bite and you discover the subtlety of flavors, the smoked pepper mellowing out most of the sharpness that is customary in mustard, but not totally taming the dynamic flavors set apart with hints of onion, garlic, a touch of lemon, and white pepper. Whether straight up on a sandwich, as a base for pork tenderloin, a sauce for veggies, or whatever your application, this mustard sauce is…simply put…..Smokin’!!!!

So what’s the verdict? This sauce, ladies and gentlemen, earns 4 1/2 Fiery Worlds from this reviewer! It’s as close to perfect as a mustard sauce can get, but alas, I marked it down 1/2 simply because it only comes in a 5 oz. bottle!!!! I can suck that down in one sitting! You can find this sauce, and many more excellent gourmet sauces, spice blends, rubs, marinades, dip mixes, chili and gumbo mixes on Jac’s Tailgaters website. I am a huge fan of their entire lineup and encourage you to indulge your palate and your imagination with a variety of his outstanding offerings. And remember, ladies and gentlemen…..It’s a Fiery World!

Just some of the many versatile sauces, rubs, marinades, dips, and seasonings offered by Tracy and Kristi Carter and Jac's Tailgaters

Just some of the many versatile sauces, rubs, marinades, dips, and seasonings offered by Tracy and Kristi Carter and Jac’s Tailgaters

Henry Family Farm Gets David Rosengarten Hot!

Yes, you heard it first right here, folks! David Rosengarten, acclaimed foodie, author, and pioneering food and wine critic (check out his website), got seriously hot after visiting the Henry Family Farm in Virginia! Since Mr. Rosengarten and I haven’t met, I should probably explain or risk him getting hot for an entirely different reason! According to their write-up, the Henry Family Farm (www.henryshotsauce.com) is a labor of love operated by Bob Henry and his father in the beautiful Shenendoah Valley area of Virginia. They grow chiles. Beautiful Chiles. Hot chiles!!! And in this case, African Fatali and Naga Jolokia “Ghost” peppers! David has curated a new line of sauces using the Henry’s signature peppers, and I’m privileged that his publicist, ycmedia, asked me to write about them and share my thoughts with you.

The two sauces I received, Naga Jolokia Ghost Chile of India and Yellow Fatali African Habanero, just look classy. Their labeling is high end and has that artsy, artisan feel. If you can see by the picture, they are called “varietal chile extract” sauces, a fancy dancy way of saying, hey, the sauce is made from a single pepper variety. Add in David’s “gastronomic selection” seal and “2012 Harvest” moniker, and these sauces are destined for high end specialty food and kitchen stores.

Henry Farm Naga Jolokia Ghost Chile of India Sauce is a nicely textured, robust looking hot sauce

Henry Farm Naga Jolokia Ghost Chile of India Sauce is a nicely textured, robust looking hot sauce

And what about their looks? Well, the picture probably doesn’t do these sauces justice. They are pretty. The fatali sauce is a bold, bright yellow that looks fresh and inviting. The ghost sauce is a vibrant red that would look mean on a sports car. Both sauces are a good consistency for hot sauce- not watery looking and having the look of a smooth, strained, non-pulpy sauce that will stick to your food or blend well in a recipe.
Henry Family Farm Yellow Fatali African Habanero sauce is a beautifully colored, fresh looking hot sauce

Henry Family Farm Yellow Fatali African Habanero sauce is a beautifully colored, fresh looking hot sauce

So we’ve determined that we have good marketing and a nice looking product, but hey, the money is in the flavor and in this case, the heat! These are both decent sauces when judging flavor. The ingredients are not complex, and include hot peppers, Acetic Acid (vinegar for you non-scientific types), salt, a thickener and preservative. But it did make me wonder if the sauce is made only from a single pepper variety. After all, these are “varietal” chile extracts! But, nonetheless, they taste the part, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. Not a lot of “WOW” factor here, but they are both good, fresh, solid sauces. And hot!

The Naga Jolokia Ghost Chile sauce brings a good punch, but it doesn’t last long, which is nice. Added to soups, eggs, veggie dishes, sauces, etc. it works well. Not so much straight up on meat, but it worked well as a ketchup additive and so so as a BBQ sauce additive. Ghost peppers remind me of a bell pepper jacked up on steroids! I like their flavor. This particular sauce had a touch of a sharpness to it, but not enough to detract from the flavor. The bottle suggests pairing it with foods such as gazpacho, camponata, and chili con carne.

The Yellow Fatali African Habanero sauce is also appropriately hot, with a little more lingering heat, which is typical for the Fatali. I love the fruity flavor of the fatali more than that of a typical caribbean based habanero fruitiness, and the citrus note makes a great addition to salad dressings, sauces, soups, and also fish. I love fatali on fish! The bottle suggests pairing it with cream curry dishes.

So overall, I give both sauces three Fiery Worlds. I liked both sauces, but at the price point of $24.95 a bottle as listed in the marketing material sent to me, I wouldn’t see myself buying them. After all, they are priced over twice, and even three times what most, if not all, small batch, artisan style sauces cost. If someone can market their sauce in a way to command that price, well, more power to them, but to me they are basically well packaged, basic sauces, and nothing really special to warrant that kind of premium. I’m sure there are those un-informed foodies that will pay for them based on David Rosengarten’s name and reputation, but I wouldn’t expect many, if any, repeat purchases.

I’m appreciative to ycmedia for the opportunity to review these products, and if you see them out and about, check it out! But definitely go to David’s Rosengarten’s website, www.drosengarten.com, and peruse his recipes, store, and stories. But always remember the basic truth, ladies and gentlemen, that It’s a Fiery World!

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