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May. 26th, 2007 @ 01:30 am Column: Best Sauces to Satisfy Chile Lovers
Published in the Daily Beacon April 23, 2007

The famed culinary writer Brillat-Savarin observed that “The discovery of a new dish does more for human happiness than the discovery of a new star.” For those of us in the “Chile Head” community, these discoveries are a regular part of our lives. Chile peppers and hot sauces are a real passion of mine. I eat them almost every day in some form or another. A touch of heat will add an entirely new dimension to meats, vegetables or even desserts!

After dealing with some pretty intense subjects these past few months, I thought this might be a fun way to round out the semester. For those of you who are “uninitiated” and want to learn more about the subject of fiery foods, a good place to begin is to simply recommend a few of my favorite sauces. If, once you have sampled some of them, you decide to pursue the hobby further; you are in for a fun ride! Whatever your food preferences, hopefully you will find at least one you like. So fasten your seat belts, put a roll of bath tissue in the freezer (you’ll need it later, trust me) and give some of these a try!

1. Melinda's XXXX Special Reserve- A simple, but delicious habanero sauce, this is great on burgers or tacos. Melinda’s is a good starting point for those who are new to the hot sauce world. If you want to sample the flavor of the mighty habanero in a more “controlled” setting, this one is for you.

2. Busha Brown's Pukka Sauce –This is a Jamaican sauce made from the fiery Scotch Bonnet pepper, which is a relative of the habanero.

3. Blair's Original Death Sauce- Blair Gardner invented this legendary sauce to rid his Jersey Shore restaurant of annoying late night drunks. It has an excellent habanero flavor with smoky chipotle undertones. Although there are hotter variations available (i.e. “Sudden Death,” “Mega Death” and “New Jersey Death”), none of them come near to the original in terms of quality and taste. It makes a great dipping sauce for chicken tenders or seafood.

4. San-J Schezuan Sauce- Oriental foods, especially Thai and Schezuan Chinese, are well known for their fiery potency. In my experience, San-J is the best sauce of its kind. It adds an excellent fiery flavor to any Asian dish.

5. Krakatoa! by CaJohn- Pure Red Savina habanero mash. Need I say more? Legendary sauce maker John “CaJohn” Hard does a great job of capturing the intense heat and wonderful, fruity flavor of one of the world's hottest peppers. It goes great in a bowl of chili on a cold day!

6. Tabasco-An American icon for over 130 years, I would be remiss if I didn't pay tribute to the sauce that started it all. Sure it’s not overly hot, but its sunny flavor compliments most any dish, plus you are tasting history every time you use it!

7. Dave's Original Insanity Sauce-No collection is complete without this legendary creation. Made with pepper extract (the key ingredient in pepper spray) this sauce was actually banned from a fiery foods competition, and is responsible for a whole new category. It is probably the most influential hot sauce since Tabasco.

8. Marie Sharp’s Fiery Hot Habanero Sauce-Although not quite as “fiery” as the name suggests, this unique, carrot based sauce still has a nice flavor which will compliment a wide variety of foods. It is a little too salty for my taste, but its versatility will make it a worthwhile addition to your collection.

9. Vicious Viper- In the tradition of Dave’s Insanity, CaJohn offers this brutal, extract based creation. Yes, it is incredibly hot, but it also has a tropical fruitiness which will quickly prove to be addictive!

Unfortunately, some of these might be a bit hard to find in store shelves. Here in the East Tennessee area, by far the best source is the Pepper Palace in Gatlinburg (www.pepperpalace.com). In Knoxville, the best selection I have found is at the Gourmet Market in Bearden. Regardless, you should easily be able to find all of them on the internet. Happy hunting, and have a great summer!

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