Saturday, March 16, 2013

National Rag Pudding Week

March 18th to March 24th is National Rag Pudding week in the UK.

Rag pudding is a northern delicacy made with beef suet, stewing beef, kidney and onion.

The stewing beef, kidney and onion are encased in a flour/beef suet 'crust', and the whole thing wrapped in a piece of old cloth and boiled in a pan of water for 3 hours. An old t-shirt, muslin, or even a pair of jockey shorts work just fine for the cloth.

So celebrate National Rag Pudding week by going out and buying the stuff and meckin a puddin.

You can buy the beef suet at or any of that old bird feeder suet works just fine, mixed with plain flower and water.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Waterfront Mary's - Winner of the 2011/2012 Refrigerated Toilet Roll Award!

After much deliberation, the prestigious 2011/2012 Refrigerated Toilet Roll Award goes to:

Waterfront Mary's - Sturgeon Bay WI

The winning food category for Waterfront Mary's is - Hot Wings.

One has to pay homage to their chef for delivering what are perhaps the tastiest and hottest (non competition) wings in Door County.
After a brief discussion with the chef, it came to light that their hot wing sauce, which is also available on a burger and as a side, is actually a compound hot sauce made from various pepper varieties. It's one of those that's always 'alive', it just keeps getting added to from whatever is available. It's a hot sauce of a heat level around 90-92 on the 'Scale of Suffering', which is pretty darn good IMHO.
Now the kicker is, it would seem that the Habanero used in this sauce isn't your typical store-bought pepper which is gas-ripened and well down on heat. The Habanero in their sauce tastes very much like the Habaneros I grow at home, full-strength with a slight 'Bhut Jolokia' after taste.


I can also report on their Burger with the extreme hot sauce, it was diabolically good!

Congratulations to Waterfront Mary's for winning this award. As readers know, we're very selective about issuing our RTR award and would rather skip a year than award it to a business that isn't worthy. But Waterfront Mary's are more than worthy recipients of the RTR award and God bless them for firing up Door County!

Waterfront Mary's
Phone Number 920-743-3690

Mondays: Sushi Night
Tuesdays: Taco Night
Wednesdays: $0.25 Wings
Thursdays: 1/2 price apps. $0.25 shrimp
Fridays: Fish Fry
Saturday: Gyro Specials
Sunday: Bloody Mary Specials

Address: 3662 N Duluth Ave, Surgeon Bay, WI

Awards criteria 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Frankicken Lickin' Chicken....

A spokesperson for Frank, the entrepreneur behind the world famous 'Frank's Hot Sauce', has confirmed that the company founder has recently sanctioned a new project involving the pre seasoning of chickens through various stages of their development.

"By catching them young, we can begin the marinading process and enhance the flavor profile of the bird", said Seth Kanutzen, the Frank's Hot Sauce Spokesperson.

"The birds seem to like it too, we have a lower than 3% rejection rate from a sample of 1000 chickens".
Kanutzen went on to explain "People need to understand that the modern day chicken has no purpose other than to lay more chickens and act as a delivery system for hot sauce. The earlier in the cycle we can introduce the hot sauce, the better it is for the consumer".

Owner Frank pictured above holding his err...rooster.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Where to stay in Door County.

So you're coming to Door County and you're looking for a comfortable yet affordable room. You want to be close to the action, but not so close that you're in the middle of it. My recommendation - The Lull-Abi Inn Motel in Door County WI
Why stay at the Lull-Abi? - It's clean, affordable and located in Egg Harbor, which is just about ideal for getting around Door County. You can walk 20 yards for breakfast or lunch, take a five minute walk down to the new Egg Harbor Marina, or wander around the village and checkout the great places to shop and dine. It's all in easy walking distance from the motel.

Also, if you enjoy live music, Egg Harbor has a couple of great outdoor music venues, both of which are within a few minutes walk of the Lull-Abi Inn. You can stroll down to the park in Egg Harbor and watch a free concert, usually midweek from around 5pm or so. Or, you can walk over to the Peg Egan center on most Sunday evenings in the season and watch National and International touring bands and musicians perform outdoors, completely free.
If music isn't your scene, take a walk down to the Shipwrecked Inn, just a leisurely 10 minute walk from your room at the Lull-Abi, and enjoy a fine micro beer brewed on-premises or a nice local wine made at the Door Peninsula Winery. Then walk back to your motel without the worry of having to drive.
There's simply no good reason to pay a small fortune for hotel accommodation in Door County when you have a gem like the Lull-Abi Inn - clean, comfortable and great value motel rooms right in the heart of the Door Peninsula!
So checkout their website and make a reservation online at

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Contenders for 2011 'Refrigerated Toilet Roll Awards' - Best hot and spicy food in Door County.

I was sitting at the bar last night enjoying a cup of scorching hot chili at the Shipwrecked Inn. I suddenly realized that it's the Holiday period and a time for reflection - so; "what is the best hot and spicy food I've eaten in Door County during 2011?"

Well I have to confess that I haven't been around the county much this year. I've pretty much beaten a path to the same old joints, those within an easy drive of home-base in Egg Harbor. So the question is more one of 'what's changed' at the regular joints.

John Henry keeps on doing what John Henry does best, provide good food, good value and an honest approach to local bar food. His wings are basically unchanged from the recipe he's used for the last 3 years or so, which is fine with me (A Frank's hot sauce side, crunchy deep fried wings, no loose skin or nasty looking fat globules). Now I have to confess that I haven't had John Henry's chili con carne since he moved from the old pad in Egg Harbor, so I need to set that straight before the year end.

The Pen Pub wings have gone through some changes, in fact they do tend to change from time to time. The first time I encountered them the 'Hot' sauce was quite a mild rendition of an in-house sauce, with a fairly heavy butter base cutting the heat. Pretty decent as I remember them. In the Summer of 2011 they seemed to loose the butter and gain a little heat, fine by me. Kyle is kind enough to make me a  'custom' version, which I suppose is available to anyone who asks, but it's basically Kyle's competition wing sauce without the extract, so it's hot, really hot. Great. I loved that. The wings are deep fried but the added sauce reverts them back to their rather soft-skinned texture. Not atypical as far as wings are concerned, but I'm starting to lean away from the soft-skin and more towards wings cooked with a crisper, crunchier exterior.
Kyle's chili is also undergoing changes too. From its first iteration in Summer 2010 to its present guise, it seems to have lost a bit of earthiness and richness and gone to a more traditional blend of minced beef, tomato and the pureed peppers. It doesn't have the heavy, rich consistency that I enjoy from a good hearty chili. I suspect it may change again before the start of the 2012 season.
I should close by saying that there's no shortage of 'heat' at the Pen Pub. They have their own house sauces and also their own house hot sauce (bottled). There's a Golden Habanero option and a Bhut Jolokia, so if you need to kick things up there are good options to do so.

Exit the Pen Pub and head over to Casey's and things are pretty much the same as the past couple years. Their wings are ok, their chili is very much an acquired taste. It's rich and thick and has a deep smoke flavor, the signature taste of Casey's smoked foods. The heat level just doesn't come quite up to scratch and Casey's don't offer any hot sauces capable of boosting the heat. So it's a good chili base, just not quite hot enough for my tastes, and perhaps a little too smoky.

Down the pike to the Shipwrecked Inn and I find myself in the Captains Lair. Towards the end of the season I discovered that by becoming a member of their Captains Club, I could buy my pints of house-brewed ales at only $2 and get a nice discount off appetizers during NFL games! Great, it's worth every penny of the $25 annual fee, I figure it paid for itself in a couple weeks! (thanks to Joe, Caleb and company for not telling me about the membership until the year was almost over :)

But what about their hot foods?
Well here's an odd thing. They have a permanent menu item which is a burger slathered with jalapeno peppers, I forget the name but it's pretty darn good. They also have a smoked hot wing with Frank's hot sauce on the wings, and available with a side of......Frank's Hot Sauce! The kicker with these wings is that they have a light house-smoke, which gives them a nice deep earthy flavor, and the cooking/smoking process results in quite a dry wing with a little outer crunch. I'm more a fan of these than is the wife, but I do like drier wings where most of the fat and skin is rendered down.
On the chili front, as far as I'm concerned the Shipwrecked Inn - Egg Harbor, has scored a home run. It isn't a traditional chili, it actually has large chunks of tomato, green pepper and ground beef. It's chunky, soupy with a nice heat level. In fairness, the heat is a little on the low side for my tastes, but they now have a 'Death Powder' on hand at the bar to kick things up. The powder is none other than a dried Bhut Jolokia pepper, not a blend, but pure Bhut powder. Wowzee. So one can sprinkle the powder on wings, chili, burgers....anything you choose.

Outside of Egg Harbor I've had wings at the AC Tap, Cornerstone Pub, Bayside and one or two other local joints, but there's been nothing out of the ordinary to report from any other location.

So that's a quick brain-dump heading towards the close of the year. I need to make a concerted effort to get around the County a little more before the end of the year and see what's what, but so far there's a close contest between the 2010 winner - Peninsula Pub and the Shipwrecked Inn.

Let's see what the last couple weeks of the year can dredge up.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Free Burt's Bees Competition

Our friends at The Natural Shopper have a competition running - $100+ worth of free Burt's Bees products! This is going to be closed and decided in time for shipping the prize to the lucky winner in time for Christmas

As you know from previous posts of ours, The Natural Shopper are best known for their royal jelly and bee pollen products, with their most popular product being Total Bee Plus. So check 'em out and don't forget to register for the free competition. I just got back from their myself!
If you don't here from my before, have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Few Super Hot Pepper Pics to share...

Hot Chile Pepper Images

These are pics of some super hot chile peppers that I've been processing at home recently. Below is a semi ripe trinidad scorpion pepper going through a beautiful color change.
And more T-Scorps....
This hot pepper looks quite aggressive!
And more..

A yellow Fatalii flanked by Trinidad Scorpions....above.

Processing hot peppers can be fun but you need to get prepared if you're handling large quantities of super hots. I wear latex gloves to prevent skin burn and if you're running a food dehydrator for any length of time it can be a good idea to wear some kind of breathing mask or filter.

I always remove the seeds (not necessarily all of them) to use for future planting. The seeds need to be freed from the placenta then dried a little. Store them in a cool, dark place after drying and they should be good for planting for a year or more.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Review - Knepper's Peppers Tongue Wrapper - "Tongue Wrapper"
Online Order - Yes - arrived quickly via Priority Mail, well packed.

Ingredients -
Carrot, Naga Jolokia, Lemon Juice, Blueberry, Sugar

Color -
The first thing that sets this sauce aside from most of the others is its deepish red/purple color. It has the combined hue of blueberry and red peppers, a really nice and appealing color that tells you that the contents of the bottle are going to be something different than you've experienced before.
Aroma -
The initial aroma from this sauce is a combination of Nagas and blueberry. It really throws off the senses, normally you'd expect to have to dig through layers of vinegary aromas to try and make sense of what lies beneath, but this hot sauce just gives it to you right away - Naga Jolokia and blueberry. Dig a little below the surface and the lemon juice comes through as a very subtle backdrop to the fruits, as does the carrot. This sauce has a great nose, it's a complete surprise but it really sets the pace for what's to come.

Consistency -
The Tongue Wrapper has a medium consistency with a fairly fine puree. It leaves a layer of thin pulp residue on the glass as you invert the bottle then set it upright, which takes 30 seconds or so to clear. So for me this is close to perfect for a good consistent pour, without having to beat it out of the bottle with a stick.

Taste and Heat
This is where the Tongue Wrapper hot sauce gets very interesting. Right away your senses pickup on the blueberries and you wonder what the heck is going on. Should I be eating this with ice cream, on pancakes or what? Then about a microsecond after the blueberry comes the heat, and you're left in no doubt whatsoever that this is a serious hot sauce!
Missing is the overpowering acidity and vinegariness of most sauces and the washed-out flavor. Present is a starburst of flavor and heat as the thing explodes on the tongue. It's intense, but cleverly subtle at the same time. Heck, I don't know what it is, I just know that it's good, great in fact!

Could one describe it as having a "nicely balanced flavor profile"? - I don't think so. It's stacked with fruit, some fruitiness, and then a little more fruit.....and heat. It does have a really nice balance of sweetness and acidity - the blueberries taste a little on the tart side, the lemon and sugar proportions bring it right to where it needs to be.

Taken neat by the full teaspoon the heat is just a little bit too much for me. But that isn't how one is supposed to eat hot sauce. It gives a good burn all over the tongue and onto the lips within 10 or so seconds, then moves slowly to the back of the throat after 30 seconds or so. The heat stays around for about 4-5 minutes then gently starts to drift away, leaving you with a nice endorphin high to savor. As the heat reduced I was drawn to taking another shot just to reinstate the flavor of the blueberries on the tongue, not a full teaspoon, but just enough to bring back the taste sensation.
I think the food options need to be considered carefully with this sauce, more so than with most. It's kinda like a fine wine, a claret or a nice burgundy, you wouldn't want to pair them with deep-fried fish or mac 'n cheese, and you wouldn't want to do that with this hot sauce either. 
My first food sampling came with some nice Danish blue cheese on crackers. The hot sauce works beautifully with the powerful flavor of the blue cheese and the fruity flavor profile worked well also.
Later came a Greek style wrap - feta, lettuce, cucumber, black olives, shredded cabbage and drizzle of olive oil - again, perfect with the Tongue Wrapper hot sauce. You might think that the heat and the intense fruity flavors would overwhelm cold salads and wraps, but it really doesn't. Think about having a raspberry dressing on a salad, with fresh hot peppers in the salad, and that kinda gives you the perspective on flavors.
Over the course of a week I've used the sauce on a variety of foods and find that it actually works best with lighter faire, where the fruitiness is allowed to shine. I've tried it on steak and chicken and it worked ok, but I preferred it on the actual salad that accompanied the meal, rather than directly on the meats. 
Note to self: I must try this on a good vanilla ice cream, soon....real soon.

Conclusion -
I can't think of anything out there that comes close to the Tongue Wrapper. It's a shame in a sense that the level of heat from the Nagas probably puts it too far outside the mainstream for the wider, non-chilehead public to enjoy. But for me, I love this sauce. It will come out on special occasions when I'm cooking lighter Mediterranean foods, Tapas, Greek Salad, Tapenade etc. I haven't had the opportunity to try it with pizza yet, maybe a version of a Hawaiian pizza, I'll bet that would be delicious too.

Highly recommended.

Ratings -
Aroma 4.5 from 5
Consistency 4.5 from 5
Color 5 from 5
Taste 5 from 5
Heat Balance  4 from 5 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Bayou Blend Louisiana Style Seasoning

Heck, I'm getting way behind on reviewing hot sauces, so I've resorted to getting some condensed information out, which I plan to follow up on in greater detail when time permits.

This seasoning comes from Mossy Bayou Foods located in Louisiana. You can find them online at

This is stuff is quite delicious. The label doesn't give much away as to its contents, it merely lists - Black pepper, garlic powder and "other" spices. Clearly from the taste, the "other" component packs a real punch. The first taste to hit the tongue is salt, quite a lot of it, and it surprises me that it isn't listed separately on the ingredients list. So this isn't really a condiment, it's designed to be used liberally at the pre cooking stage on meats, fish etc where the sodium strength will cook down. Buy hey, what the heck, I've started using it here and there as a condiment replacement for the salt shaker, it tastes that good.
The spice blend is hard to break down into individual components, there's a lot going on. Certainly the black pepper and garlic are quite prominent yet there's a little more heat than just black pepper.
I've used this in steaks and on BBQ and it always works with the food, never against it. You can use it quite liberally on meats that take longer to cook and certainly use it successfully as a marinade in a dry rub format.
So it's a really tasty and versatile seasoning and my recommendation is that you check it out. It isn't hot, so you can always throw in a little extra chile powder to build more heat if you wish, but this could certainly form the backbone of a good hot spice rub.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Hellacious Hot Sauce - Review

This isn't a full review in the usual format since I'm pushed for time right now. But the sauce has been sitting on my desk unopened for about a week and I finally gave it a whirl about 15 minutes ago.....and my mouth is still burning!!

This is a really good blend of chipotle and habanero mash. I'm not always a fan of chipotle if there's too much smokiness, but this stuff hits it bang on the nail for my tastes.
The aroma of this is just wild, maybe the best to hit my nose in a long while. It screams out all kinds of different notes, the vinegar is there, but not too overpowering, the chipotle comes next, then the sweetness of the habs, a little garlic and so on. It's a beautiful thing.

I took a dab on my finger to check that it wasn't too hot, then when nothing extreme seemed to happen I slathered it liberally over a large piece of grilled chicken, and began to chow down. Yeah this isn't the usual carefully executed review, but I just couldn't stand it any longer I had to have some, then I had to get this post written, pronto!

 The heat didn't hit for about 30-45 seconds, but wow....what a nice build up and a really nice level of heat!! just creeps in there and takes you by surprise. Yeah it's hot. I've been working on a Bhut Jolokia sauce from Heartbreaking Dawns that has less heat than this bad boy.

The flavor, aroma, consistency are all top notch for my particular taste buds. It pours well, tastes great and packs the heat. The color is an intense chocolate brown, deep and thick, just yelling out "Chipotle", but not overwhelming you with chipotle flavor. Intense stuff.

I love the label too. Damn this is a good hot sauce.
Highly recommended.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Wisconsin Chileheads

Are there any active chilehead communities in Wisconsin? (OK, lets get the spelling variants out of the way, chileheads, chiliheads, chili-heads etc). I've been searching around for a while now but haven't been able to track down more than a couple chileheads through other online forums.

I'm thinking of organizing a chili cookoff, perhaps with a section for bottled hot sauces, but I need to establish if there's sufficient local interest. Location, Door County Wisconsin, date, somewhere around the middle of October.

Anyone interested, shoot me an email.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Review - Habitually Orange Hot Sauce - "Habitually Orange

Online Order - Yes - arrived quickly via Priority Mail, well packed.

Ingredients -
Mandarin Orange, Carrot, Habanero, Brown Sugar, Lemon Juice, Vinegar, Onion, Garlic

Packaging / Labeling
The label design is intentionally clean and basic, which gives it an attractive look.

Aroma -
The first thing to hit the nose is the vinegar with citrus tones from the lemon juice. There's a fruity aroma which seems to be split between the aroma of the habanero and the aroma of the mandarin orange, with neither having prominence over the other.
The aroma gives a fairly good clue to the heat level, there's just a hint of pull-back as you inhale, suggesting this sauce has a nice kick to it.

Consistency -
This hot sauce has a medium thin consistency and shows a fairly good amount of pulp with a little seed, though quite finely pureed. There's some cling to the bottle and you can see the fine solids as you invert the bottle and set it upright again.

Color -
The sauce has a palish red/tan color, pretty much what you might expect from the combination of habs and oranges.

Taste and Heat
There's a really nice tangy zest and fruitiness which is quickly accompanied by the heat from the habanero. It has a medium sweetness and really shows off the subtle differences between the flavor of an orange and the flavor of a mandarin. There's no mistaking this for an orange flavor, the mandarin is very identifiable and very pleasant indeed.
I don't find this hot sauce to have the intense vinegar bite that so many sauces seem to have. It strikes me that the formulation has been carefully worked out to create a balance between sweet and sour with a good level of heat to bring the two together - a nicely balanced flavor profile. In fact I'd say the balance is almost perfect, with the sweetness coming in from the brown sugar and mandarin and the lime juice and vinegar cutting the sweet to just the right level. I don't pick up on much garlic, which suits my taste buds fine. Though I use a lot of garlic in cooking, I prefer my hot sauces with just a hint.

The sauce surprised me pleasantly with its level of heat. It gives you a nice all-round sensation of heat starting from the front of the tongue and working back, without ever getting into the throat in an irritating way.
Taken neat on a teaspoon the heat doesn't overwhelm, but it gives you a good mild burn which lingers around for a few minutes before gently drifting away. There's no esophagus burn to speak of, which makes it a good sauce for an intermediate user, looking to kick it up from the mainstream table hot sauces like Tabasco and Frank's. I like the heat level a great deal, it makes it versatile for use on a wide variety of foods, without ever masking the food flavor through intense heat. So far I've tried this on chicken, mac 'n cheese, cheese/crackers, smoked trout and on a veggie wrap, and it worked deliciously with everything. I was hesitant to use this on something as delicate as the lightly smoked trout, but it didn't overwhelm the fish, it just gave it a nice zesty flavor with a blast of heat.

Conclusion -
I like the versatility of this sauce, it fits my personal heat level preferences pretty well, and the zesty mandarin flavor is really great on just about anything. I have a bottle of HAbermelon and Piney Hab from the same make that I'm really looking forward to giving a try. If they're anywhere near as good as the Habitually Orange hot sauce then it'll be a winning trio.

Highly recommended.

Ratings -
Packaging 3.5 from 5
Aroma 4 from 5
Consistency 3.5 from 5
Color 4 from 5
Taste 4 from 5
Heat Balance  4 from 5

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Throw-down - Hot and Spicy Feature

Sunday 3rd July was the first ever throw down competition for yours truly, a competition organized by a large online chilehead community, and basically conducted over the Internet.
It's a lot of fun. There are rules to establish the authenticity of all entries, a specified cooking 'theme' and various other requirements.
This is a monthly event, and the theme for July was 'Toast'. So it was quite a loose theme, opening up all manner of culinary possibilities. Of course the dish needed to be hot and spicy!, with liberal use of chile peppers.
The rules stipulated that a full list of ingredients be provided with each entry, along with a detailed cooking method. I wont post that here, just a few pics of the work in progress and my finished entry. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Kartanga Hot Sauce Review

One of our favorite hot sauces reviewed - Kartanga! by the Four King Hot Sauce Co. This scored high on flavor and heat balance. This is a great hot sauce with all bases covered - versatile, great flavor, color, texture/consistency and....heat. Check out the review below.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

New Hot Sauce Company - "Four King Hot Sauce".

Just a heads up to our readers, there's a new Hot Sauce kid on the block, with a few (3) killer sauces just released in the past couple weeks. These are a Bhut Jolokia hot sauce, a Habanero and a Chipotle pepper. These look like nice recipes, in fact we've reviewed the "Mumbassa" hot sauce and it was an absolute knockout!

Check 'em out for yourself at

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Four King Hot Sauce - "Mumbassa" Review

Company - Four King Hot Sauce Co.
Web Four King Hot Sauce
Online Order - No

Ingredients -
Apple Cider Vinegar, Chipotle Pepper, China Red Pepper, Water, Reshampatti Chile, balsamic vinegar, Pineapple, Onion, Nectarine, Apple, Tomato Paste, Paprika, Cumin Seed, Garlic, Brown Sugar, Lime Juice, Honey, Bhut Jolokia Pepper, Tamarind, Sea Salt, Black Pepper.

Packaging / Labeling
The label is really bright and bold and just a little 'risque' in its graphic depiction of a King sitting on his throne (toilet). The colors are retail friendly and the design is well laid out. The product is named "Mumbassa" and is labeled as containing the Chipotle Pepper. An amusing anecdote is printed on the side panel along with a heat index showing half way between medium and hot.

Aroma -
This hot sauce has an incredible nose. It's clearly fairly low in vinegar content as the vinegar is one of the last things to hit the nose. The chipotle aroma is bold and fruity and there's an underlying hint of aroma from the tamarind. The heat content is not revealed too much by the nose, but there's a pleasant hint of the acidity coming from the heat of the pepper.

Consistency -
The sauce is thick and fruity with plenty of pulp and seed. The solid matter stays well in suspension and looks very appealing on the inside of the bottle. This sauce needs a gentle shake to get it to leave the bottle but it's very controllable, unlike some of the other more viscous sauces. I would say this is almost the perfect consistency for any hot sauce worth its salt.

Color -
The color and aesthetics of this hot sauce are quite delightful. The color is a darker brown and just simply screams 'Chipotle'. The flecks of seed offer a little contrasting color and it all just looks so toothsome!

Taste and Heat
Wow. This is a very flavorful hot sauce. I'm not generally a lover of chipotle sauces but the Mumbassa hot sauce absolutely nails it. There's a rich tangy and fruitiness which combats the force of the chipotle, creating a wonderfully balanced flavor profile. The balance of sweet and sour is perfect, the sweetness comes from the brown sugar, nectarine, pineapple and honey, and the slight sour comes from the lime juice, balsamic, apple cider vinegar and tamarind. It's a perfect balancing act and it sets the stage very well for the slow build up of heat on the tongue.
The heat is pretty well gauged per the scale on the product label, it's not a hot, hot heat but it does have a nice build and envelops the tongue and lips without getting too irritating in the throat. The flavor profile is a perfect fit for steak, chicken, BBQ and pretty much any meats. It may also work nicely on pizza, though the thicker consistency may make it a little difficult to pour evenly on a Za.

Conclusion -
I can't think of a much better tasting sauce that's come across my table in recent times. This is a deliciously rich and fruity sauce with the smokiness of the chipotle in sensible and balanced measure.
Highly recommended.

Ratings -
Packaging 4.5 from 5
Aroma 5 from 5
Consistency 4 from 5
Color 4.5 from 5
Taste 4.5 from 5
Heat Balance  4 from 5*
[Heat Intensity Scale  2.5 from 5*]

Overall score - 26.5 from 30

Monday, June 13, 2011

Dave's Cool Cayenne Pepper Hot Sauce Review

Company - Dave's Gourmet Inc.

Online Order - No

Ingredients -
Water, red chiles, Salt, Cane Vinegar, Xanthan Gum, onions, garlic

Packaging / Labeling
The label is fairly attractive, and in the "Dave's Family" of product labels, alongside their Insanity Sauces, etc. Graphically it's quite laid back and won't offend those of a sensitive nature, hence perfectly acceptable for mainstreet grocery stores etc.

Aroma -
I really don't care much for the aroma of this sauce. There's the obvious odor of the cane vinegar bit it brings with it an underlying musty smell that's hard to pinpoint. Certainly the pepper and garlic aromas are identifiable but there's some other lingering component that isn't pleasant on the nose.

Consistency -
The Dave's Cool Cayenne Pepper Hot Sauce has a very loose and thin consistency. It's really just a few notches up from water in its consistency and has very little pulp or solid particle matter in the sauce. It really doesn't have sufficient body to utilize it as a dressing on smaller finger foods for example. If you enjoy adding hot sauce to your cheese and crackers, as I do, then it's going to be a fairly messy affair with this offering from Dave's.

Color -
The aesthetics of this hot sauce are quite awful in my opinion. The color is a washed-out murky brown color, not at all suggesting of fresh red chiles, as described on the label ingredients. In fact the color had me searching the bottle for the expiration date, which oddly enough was not present. But I bought this a couple days ago from a high turnover grocery store so I'm pretty certain it's well within it's use-by period.

Taste and Heat
The taste of this hot sauce is a little off the beaten track, to say the least. It has a fairly sour flavor and an acidic bite which isn't really pleasant when consumed neat from the bottle. The acidity causes some mouth pucker but also bites and burns a little in the back of the throat, causing you to want to clear your throat, not from the heat but from the acrid spice sensation.

The pepper flavor is really played down, and is almost completely consumed by the prominence of the vinegar. I would swear there are carrots in this mix, such is the taste (and aroma) profile.

The heat is on the warm side, as the product label suggests. It really doesn't develop beyond the initial 10 seconds or so, after which it subsides quickly and is almost entirely gone after around 2 minutes. So if you're looking to bask in the glory of a hot mouth and lips for a while, then don't bother with this sauce.

Is it bad tasting? no not exactly, it's just very much an acquired taste. The label suggests usage on pizza, chicken or pasta, but personally I would use this as a salad dressing ahead of anything else. Perhaps whisk it up with a little honey and olive oil and use it on a tomato, onion and cucumber salad. I wouldn't want to use it on meats or chicken unless I was cooking for myself or others familiar with the sauce. I used it on grilled pork steaks yesterday and on pizza, and sure enough the finished meat retains that acidic and vinegar flavor, without anything really positive being added in the flavor department. On the pizza, well it just doesn't add much for my tastes.

Conclusion -
I'll use this bottle perhaps as I've outlined above on salads etc, but I won't be replacing it when the bottle is gone. But remember, taste is a very personal and subjective thing, one man's poison is another man's.....or whatever.
The fact that this has been around for a while suggests that there are plenty of people who enjoy its rather unique take on hot sauce flavor, which is just fine with me.

Ratings -
Packaging 2.5 from 5
Aroma 1 from 5
Consistency 2 from 5
Color 1.5 from 5
Taste 1.5 from 5
Heat Balance  3 from 5*
[Heat Intensity Scale  0.5 from 5*]

Overall score - 11.5 from 30

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Busha Browne's Pukka Pepper Sauce Review

Busha Browne's Pukka Pepper Sauce Review
Company - Busha Browne's

Online Order - No

Ingredients -
Crushed Scotch Bonnet Pepper Sauce - Water, Scotch Bonnet Peppers, Cane Vinegar, Modified Food Starch, Salt, Approved Spices, Grapefruit Seed Extract, Gluten Free.

Packaging / Labeling
The label is quite slick and professional. The color scheme is fairly low key with only a small graphic element on the front panel and fairly large red and green fonts. In terms of label concept it's obviously pitched at a more mainstream outlet such as any highstreet grocery store, whereas some of the more esoteric sauces/labels would be generally unacceptable in this type of retail outlet.

Aroma -
The first hit to the nose is the vinegar, which is normal for this type of sauce. The pepper fruits aromatic tones are quite subdued by the vinegar, you really have to inhale sharply to detect anything beyond the vinegar. Doing so reveals a slight floral note depicting a hint of sweet behind the acidity. The aroma isn't unpleasant, it just doesn't give you many cues as to the flavor profile.

Consistency -
The Busha Browne's Pukka Pepper Sauce is a fairly viscous hot sauce, not exactly free flowing, but sufficiently liquid to leave the bottle with very little coaxing.
I like this type of consistency, it clings well to food but doesn't leave the bottle in a thick clump. A good shake is needed to distribute the solid particles, which are clearly evident in the bottle. Solids remain nicely in suspension even after periods of storage. Since there are no added solids, other than the scotch bonnet peppers, the only evident particulate matter is pepper pulp and seed.

Color -
The aesthetics of the Pukka sauce are pleasing. The sauce has a bold and bright orange color with shades of red, and nice color accents from the pulp and seeds. It's certainly an attractive color and draws you in rather than repels you, as some of the darker, murkier sauces do.

Taste and Heat
The Busha Browne’s Pukka Hot Pepper Sauce is primarily made from the Jamaican Scotch Bonnet chile pepper and cane vinegar. There are unlisted spices and grapefruit extract, neither of which bring much to the flavor party. So the flavor of the scotch bonnet shines through nicely, impeded only by the cane vinegar.

There's a touch of sourness that hits the palette before the heat and pepper flavor arrive, creating a slight mouth pucker in reaction. The pepper flavor is really very good, despite the prominence of the vinegar.
The heat is on the warm side, allowing the subtly sweet flavor of the scotch bonnet to remain on the palette through all stages of heat development. This warmth envelops the entire mouth including the back of the throat.
The heat rise is sharp, in contrast to many of the hotter/extract sauces available. So within 15 seconds or so the heat has peaked in the mouth. The heat begins to subdue quite quickly, then reaches a point where there's a mild lingering sensation of heat on the back of the throat, the front of the tongue and the lips, which remains for several minutes after consuming the sauce. It's a very pleasing sensation, mild, but apparent enough to remain with you for 10 or so minutes.
So by no means is this a super Hot sauce at least on the relative scale of heat. Scotch bonnet peppers can top the habanero in scoville units, peaking somewhere around the 350,000 plus mark. This sauce is nowhere near that level of heat, it's perhaps in the 4,000 to 5000 SU range, so obviously the pepper is mostly diluted by the water and vinegar. Actually I'm surprised not to see xanthan gum on the label. Since the sauce has such a thick consistency, usually indicative of a high solids content, and since the only solids on the label are the scotch bonnet pepper, I would have expected this to be a much hotter sauce, or to use xanthan gum to firm up the sauce.

Conclusion -
A  very pleasing hot sauce and very versatile too. When I think of something like a Frank's hot sauce I can only think of chicken wings and chicken strips, as a delivery system suited to the sauces flavor profile. With the Pukka Hot Pepper sauce I can't really think of anything that wouldn't be suitable to douse with the sauce. That's a real strong quality in my mind, what's the point of having a sauce sit in the fridge for a couple of years, waiting for you to cook-up the right type of food. So you can apply this easily to hamburgers, pizza, chicken, chili, cold sandwiches and even eggs.

An all around delicious sauce that does nothing terribly wrong.

Ratings -
Packaging 3 from 5
Aroma 2 from 5
Consistency 4 from 5
Color 3.5 from 5
Taste 3.5 from 5
Heat Balance  3 from 5*
[Heat Intensity Scale  1.5 from 5*]

Overall score - 19 from 30
Awarded 3 from 5 stars

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Hot Sauce Review - Heartbreaking Dawns 1841

Hot Sauce – Heartbreaking Dawns 1841
Company – Heartbreaking Dawns.
Contact – John McLaughlin

Online Order – Yes
Online Shopping Experience – Good, product arrived quickly via Priority Mail

Ingredients -
Pears, applesauce, cider vinegar, Ghost peppers (Bhut Jolokia), water, onion, carrot, lime juice, sugar, sea salt, garlic, white pepper.

Packaging / labeling -
The bottle is a standard 5 fl oz bottle with black heat-shrink cap. The label, though depicting a fairly gory/graphic scene, is quite subdued by modern hot sauce standards. The label does not use process printing so the graphics appear fairly 2-dimensional. The label contains a short story relating to the origin of the name.

Aroma -
Pop the seal and lid on this sauce and you are met with a wonderfully fruity aroma, followed quickly by the acidity of the apple cider vinegar and a hint of garlic. After a second the aromatic identity of the ghost pepper shines through the mix, leaving you with a sense of great overall balance between sweet, heat and acidity.
This is one of the most pleasant hot sauces I've nosed up to.

Consistency -
For my tastes this hits an almost perfect consistency. It's sufficiently free flowing to enable easy pouring, yet has sufficient body to cling sufficiently to foods. Invert the bottle then turn upright and there's a 4 or 5 second run-down of solids on the inside of the bottle, with seeds, fruits and skin pulp particles clearly visible on the inside of the glass. Seeds and particles remain suspended in the sauce, so only a gentle shake is necessary to create an even consistency and solids distribution throughout the bottle.

Color -
The 1841 has a nice red color, a little reminiscent of Tabasco original but without the translucency. The particle suspension creates a nice visual blend with the redness of the sauce, with deeper red slivers of skin/peel accenting the base color.

Taste & Heat -
The initial sensation on the palette is the sweetness of fruit. The acidity of the vinegar and a slight bite of salt quickly blends with the sweetness, giving the sense of a well rounded sauce with good balance. The heat hits in the throat area first then deep on the back of the tongue. The heat builds forward quite slowly into the mouth from the back, catching the sides of the tongue, under the tongue and then the lips. From the first hit of the Bhut Jolokia, to developing a full mouth burn takes around 30 – 45 seconds, with a deeper burn developing over a period of approximately 3-5 minutes before it begins to subside.
The heat has an extraordinary way of making you aware of the potency of the ghost peppers without masking the wonderful array of fruit flavors and the flavor of the chile itself. Approaching the 1 minute mark as the burn starts to take hold and the flavor of fruits diminish, I was drawn to taking another hit of sauce to restore the sweet taste of the pear and applesauce. It's one of the first sauces that I've tried that I would describe as addictive, in the sense that the heat level is tolerable, and you just want to restore the intensity of fruit flavors on the palette as the heat tries to overcome them.
Overall the heat from a single teaspoon sample of neat sauce never overwhelms the system. It remains tolerable through all stages of heat development, with just a slight discomfort from a burning in the esophagus towards the later stages of heat development.

Conclusion -
Don't get me wrong, this is a HOT sauce in every sense of the word, it just doesn't have the killer burn of the hotter extract based sauces.
For those people new to the hot sauce experience this would not be a good place to start out. You certainly need to have the benefit of some 'preconditioning' before venturing down this particular path. But for those with a few different sauces under their belts, the 1841 proves to this reviewer to be the perfect every day sauce. Its flavor profile lends itself to most foods, particularly those of Asian origin. A Thai chicken dish would benefit perfectly from the combination of heat and sweet, as would something like a mango chutney, used to accompany an Indian Phal or Vindaloo dish.
Yet it's versatile enough to go with anything, including BBQ food such as burgers, steaks and ribs. In fact I grilled a ½ pound 'Juicy Lucy Burger' (two ¼ pound patties pressed together with cheese in the middle) for dinner and sauced it with a liberal dose of 1841, and the added flavor was just delicious – and yes, plenty of heat too.
This is an absolute must have for anyone with a passion for hot sauce, I'll be ordering another few bottles in a day or two and plan to keep the fridge well stocked.
Ratings -
Packaging 3.5 from 5
Aroma 5 from 5
Consistency 4.5 from 5
Color 4.5 from 5
Taste 5 from 5
Heat Balance  4.5 from 5*
[Heat Intensity Scale  3.5 from 5*]

Overall Rating - 4.5 from 5
* When I rate "heat" I separate intensity (absolute heat, measured against the hottest available) from heat balance. The heat balance is an indicator of how well the heat level compliments the flavor of the sauce as a whole. It's a more subjective measurement of my own personal preference for the level of heat intensity, and not the rating of heat intensity measured against an absolute. In producing the final rating for the product, I omit the Heat Intensity Scale from the rating, since it is misleading in the sense that a lower score does not necessarily indicate a below par performance.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Spicy Delight!

Had to share a picture of dinner! - Grilled chicken thighs with chili rub, habanero Mediterranean style pizza,  habanero tapenade using premium quality Lindsay Olives, spicy pico de gallo with Feta, honey roasted asparagus....
Recipe to follow...

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Finding The Perfect Chicken Wing...

Can such a thing really exist?

First off, you know my general thoughts on chicken wings...they should be used to propel fat chickens around the coop, and not for anything food related. Unless of course you slather them in a good hot sauce, which is surely what God intended when he created the chicken.
So how would one set about creating the 'perfect' chicken wing? Well obviously it requires the addition of sauce which perfectly compliments the wing. The wing should act as a delivery system for the sauce, but it's important that the two form a perfect marriage.

These are the things I look for when eating a sauced wing -
  1. There should be a good deep fry on the wing, a little residual crisp and crunch to take away some of that undesirable skin texture.
  2. There shouldn't be any loose skin on the wing, it isn't pleasant.
  3. The deep fry oil shouldn't leave behind any prominent flavor or additional greasyness
  4. The sauce should be deep in color with a heavier consistency, almost like a puree
  5. The flavor should be quite complex, with fruity undertones and perhaps a little chipotle smokiness, though easy on the smoke
  6. The sauce should have a slight acidic bite to cut any sweetness, and have sufficient salt, to excite the appropriate part of the tongue.
  7. The heat level should be sufficient to cause sweat beads under the eyes, but not so hot to cause actual mouth pain
  8. The heat shouldn't take away from the flavor of the sauce to a large extent
  9. Yes I like 'em Hot, but there's a time and place for competition level heat, and I don't want to suffer through an ordeal when I'm just out for a few beers and some good bar food
So these are all considerations, which of course are quite subjective. We all have a different tolerance for heat, and different flavors and aromas excite us, so it's hard to tell someone that you've found the perfect wing, and expect them to agree with you.
But reviewing is all about the opinion of the reviewer, and in my opinion I think I may have found the perfect chicken wing at the Peninsula Pub in Door County, about a week ago.

I've written elsewhere on this blog about my fondness for the food at the Pen Pub, and we all know that they were the recipients of the 2010/11 Refrigerated Toiled Roll Awards for Door County WI. So these were good indicators that their chicken wings might be something special. And yes, the regular hot wing menu item has evolved into something very good....but they're not the ones I'm referring to here.
Kyle (chef/owner) makes up a pepper base which is the foundation for his Hot Wing Challenge sauce. He simply adds a few drops of Bhut Jolokia extract to the pepper base to take the wings into nuclear mode for the challenge. But it's the pepper base that I'm excited about here, prior to the addition of the extract, which makes it strictly a competition style sauce. The pepper base is made from a puree of 9 or 10 different peppers, including Habaneros, all blended for taste and heat, with various spices and additions to boost the flavor profile. The result is what I would call a near perfect sauce, balancing flavor with heat, sweetness with acidity and just presenting an altogether rounded taste experience.
Heat may be a notch too high for the uninitiated, but that shouldn't stop people from at least sampling it for its incredible flavor properties.
So about a week ago Kyle cooked me up an order of wings, using the pepper base in place of his regular menu hot wing sauce...and boy were they ever good.
The heat has a nice steady build up quality and doesn't try to rip out your throat on the first taste. The flavors just wash around the palette leaving you with a big stoopid grin on your face as you start to break out into a slow sweat. The afterburn is very manageable and controllable with a couple of White Russians. The endorphin rush is mild but pleasing, lasting at least 20-30 minutes.
So an absolutely excellent accompaniment to the chicken wing, though in realty, the sauce is too darn good for a wing.
Get on down to the Pen Pub and ask Kyle to sauce your wings with his special pepper base reserve!


Monday, May 23, 2011

A Shout Out for John Henry's in Egg Harbor, Door County WI

John Henry has moved from his old location downtown Egg Harbor, and is now running the bar and restaurant at the Stonehedge Golf Club on County E, just east of town.

This place has a really warm and inviting atmosphere, and you can always rely on John Henry himself to provide a friendly greeting and a large serving of friendly banter at the bar. The restaurant runs parallel to the bar area and overlooks the golf course, a lovely setting from which to enjoy popular staples such as a Friday fish fry, burger, steak or a delicious sandwich. John Henry plans to expand the menu to include pasta and other dinner menu items, which are now possible due largely to his expanded kitchen facilities.
With daily lunch and dinner specials, the John Henry mantra of 'really great food at really great prices' has carried over from his old location, so you can be sure of good food and a few drinks and not get hit with an outlandish bill at the end of the day.
So check it out, perhaps enjoy a round of golf then kick back and enjoy the hospitality provided by John Henry / Anne Marie.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Isn't it time to kick it up a notch?

There's a hot chili craze going on in America, and restaurants need to get in on it.

When Columbus brought the chili pepper back from the New World, it was planted and cultivated in Africa, imported into Europe and England, and quickly adopted as a staple in diets across the Western hemisphere. Though originating in the New World, chilies did not land on the shores of North America until 1621, when they were introduced by English traders who brought them from Bermuda. Chilies have featured in North American cuisine since then, yet North America has always viewed the hot chili as being something esoteric and on the culinary fringe.
Fools. Your cousins south of the border are light years ahead in understanding the true power of chilies and it's time that North American restaurants got in on the game. The evidence for the power and attraction of 'heat' in cooking is quite profound, yet still our mainstream restaurants treat it as something taboo. If you look at a raw chicken wing, covered in unsightly skin, white/yellow fat globules hanging from every square inch, sinewy tendons holding together the small amount of edible substance, it is surely one of the most revolting sights that could be presented on the meal table. Yet cover it in paprika and chili powder, deep fry it for a few minutes, then roll it around in a bowl of Frank's Hot Sauce, and it becomes the most desirable menu item in taverns and restaurants around the world. Why? - because when you go out to eat, you go out to enjoy yourself. When you eat hot and spicy foods, your body releases natural endorphins to help alleviate the physical pain caused by the capsaicin in the hot peppers. The release of these endorphins is a stimulant causing a pleasurable feeling, or 'high'. So we eat spicy foods, we feel pain and we get high!
So if you can dredge a chicken wing in hot sauce and sell it by the millions, what if you added hot sauce to food items which are not so darn revolting to begin with? - So come on bars / restaurants, you really could cash-in by adding a couple of spicy items to your menu, beyond the venerable chicken wing.
So far in Door County, there really isn't much action. Most bars and taverns have hot wings and a Chili (Con Carne), but they tend to play safe on heat levels. Noticeable exceptions are Husby's in Sister Bay and Peninsula Pub in Bailey's Harbor, both of whom have the capacity to kick things up to a higher level, you just need to ask.
So it's about time other restaurants got with the program - if you need some menu ideas, just ask!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Best Ever Chicken Curry Recipe

Best ever chicken curry - serves 4 fatties

There's a bit of faffing around involved in this, but it's worth it.

Boil a whole large chopped onion with 6 cloves of fresh garlic and teasp fresh chopped ginger in two pints of water for 10 minutes. Remove from water with slotted spoon retaining water - puree.

Boil 4 large chopped carrots and a whole chopped fennel in the onion water for 10 minutes - puree with some of water and add 1 cup of cream 'till a smooth paste.

Retain remaining water in pan.

Melt i tsp ghee in big frying pan, add the pureed onion/garlic/ginger mix and add -
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp corriander
1/2 tsp fennel seed
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp methi seed (optional)
1/2 tsp fenugreek leaves (optional)
2 bayleaves
1 star anise (optional)

Saute the above until onion starts to darken a little, about 5 mins - remove star anise.
Add pureed carrots to the above and saute - season with salt/pepper, add more garam masala to taste.

add fresh chilies or crushed red chili to desired heat level
add 1 cup cilantro chopped
add half pack spinach
cook for 30 minutes

Brown diced chicken breasts - add to mix and cook for 30 mins. Add more pan water to desired consistency if required.
Serve with basmati rice, nan bread and garnish with cilantro