When Hector Saldivar asked about sending me his brand new sauce to try, I have to admit I was busy and told him I only had time for a cursory review on Facebook or Instagram. But I was honest with him and he sent it anyway. And as you might have concluded, the impression it made was enough that here I am with a full on review! The box came quickly with 2 bottles of sauce, some stickers, and a purple hair roller! “Well that’s all kinds of random”, I thought when looking at the roller. Then I looked closer at the Tia Lupita label, then back at the roller, back at the stickers, then at the roller, then back to the sauce, then to the…..okay, enough! Turns out Hector named his sauce after his momma, Tia Lupita. And Lupita always had a purple roller in her hair! What a loving memory of his mom, and what a lasting tribute. So….it made me curious to learn more…Score a point for marketing! Then I went to the website and my heart was touched at the Tia Lupita backstory. Turns out that everyone calls Hector’s mom Tia (Spanish for Aunt) Lupita! And she would give Hector her old school, Old Mexico hot sauce to remind him of home after he moved to the states. And fast forward to everyone begging Hector to make them that sauce! And fast forward to Hector’s entrepreneurial spirit, and just like that, Tia Lupita was born! Born from a mother’s love for her son! (Can you tell I’m writing this around Mother’s Day?)
So, now for the quickie review – this sauce has instantly become one of my all time favorite Mexican style sauces! Holy Majolie is this stuff good! But I’m getting ahead of myself. If you’re super busy, then the review is over. Go forth and buy and enjoy! But if you want a little more detail, read on!
The labeling is smart with a caricature of Hector’s mom on the label bearing her name, complete with signature roller. Nice graphics, easy to read, and the bottle is a short, 8oz squatty bottle, so plenty of product to enjoy in attractive packaging. Good descriptors on the side (non-GMO, Gluten Free, No Sugar, all natural, only 7 ingredients) and the website’s URL, www.tialupitahotsauce.com. The write-up on the label is fun, but a little long for a label and kinda hard to read with less than young eyes! I also enjoyed the hashtag lines, #makehotsaucegreatagain and #curlpower. Very catchy, but be careful making claims like “make hot sauce great again”! There’s lots of really great small batch, artisan hot sauces out there!
With only 7 ingredients, Tia Lupita tastes clean and authentic. Here’s the lucky 7: Red Chili Peppers, Distilled Vinegar, Garlic, Salt, Black Pepper, Oregano, and Cumin. A simple list of ingredients but it provides a full depth of flavor. The type of peppers aren’t specified, but I asked and my suspicions were confirmed: Tia Lupita uses fully ripened jalapeno’s. The flavor, combined with the black pepper and toasted spices like cumin, reminds me of a nice, earthy Arbol Chile, and that’s a very good thing!
Now for the good part! This sauce just tastes old school Mexico! Deep, rich, earthy, full-bodied with a nice texture. It’s a smooth sauce, but not watery. In fact, it’s a thick sauce, with a consistency similar to ketchup. I enjoyed the thickness, as it didn’t run everywhere, stayed where I put it, and coated very nicely. I am very sodium conscious these days and the low sodium content allowed me to hit the shaker and dial in just how salty or not I wanted the sauce, which I thoroughly appreciated. Tia Lupita says it toasts its spices, and the earthy, smoky flavor profile was testimony to that, since they aren’t using a chipotle pepper. The black pepper shined through and makes a great statement, and the oregano and cumin paired really well and provided a nice brightness that screamed, “Viva Mexico”!!! Of course, I tried it on eggs, and it has become my current go to for that breakfast staple! I also used it on chicken, pork, and steak. It worked extremely well with all of the meats listed. Ironically, I haven’t made tacos yet, but I have no doubt it will be superb on any traditional Mexican/Hispanic food choice! And of course, let’s not forget pizza! This sauce will be stellar on a good pizza!!!! The thickness and the toasted spice blend with the garlic and oregano will add great value to a basic pizza sauce.
So given that this post will be released around Mother’s Day, it’s very appropriate to celebrate the awesomeness that is Tia Lupita, as Hector pays respect and homage to his mom, Lupita. She shared herself, her family treasures, and love for her son when she sent him sauce to remind him of home. What a sweet thought and visual image of family and the love that so often revolves around our kitchens and the food we eat! I can almost see Hector spending time with his mom talking about life, food, his messy room, childhood memories, etc. etc .etc. My Mother’s Day wish for everyone is that you all have a Lupita in your lives. A special someone-mother, aunt, friend, or whoever- who loves us enough to share and sacrifice their talents and treasures so that we can smile and be happy and experience a little taste of home and family through the culinary cue cards embedded in our hearts and brains! All while rockin’ a big ‘ol purple hair roller!
You can find Tia Lupita on the web at www.tialupitahotsauce.com and at a few lucky, select locations in and around Marin County, California! This is an outstanding hot sauce! One of the best new sauces I’ve tasted in a long time! So get your hot sauce on! Tell Hector I sent you! And tell your momma you love her! And thanks to Hector for allowing me to share a little bit of my world with you, because we all know, Ladies and Gentlemen, that It’s a Fiery World!
When 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 incommon 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 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.
I 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!
Episode #67 – Indoor Kitchen Inventory with Ken and Scott
What do you have in your indoor kitchen? In an extended Ken’s Fiery World segment, Ken Alexander joins Scott as they give a rundown on many of the essential items they keep in their kitchens, from knives, tools, gadgets, pots, pans, and more!
Note: In case you’re wondering about the numbering of the podcast episodes being out of order, Episode #68 with Benito Maniscalco was edited and uploaded before this one. Sorry about the confusion!
Links mentioned in the episode:
- Ken’s Fiery World Blog
- Scott Roberts’ Blog
- Scott Roberts’ YouTube Channel
- Scott Roberts Facebook Page
- Scott Roberts Twitter Page
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