Okay, folks, I really wanted to talk about today’s trio before christmas, when they were at their most relevant, but december is a hectic month and most of my time was taken up by my christmas recap. As well as catching up on everything else, afterwards. I didn’t have time to talk about today’s three then, no matter how much I wanted to, so here’s to making up for lost time:
What we have here are El Niño Hot Sauce, Karyo’s Satan’s Gravy and Fair Dinkum Fare’s Crumbs. And, while Fair Dinkum and Karyo’s products have booze and a band connection going for them, respectively, the main selling point of all three is still their flavour. A rich, dark taste that they all achieve in different ways.
First up, the El Niño Hot Sauce. A name which its creators make no attempt to explain, yet seem to have incorporated into their labelling, all the same. Tornadoes, sharks and tidal waves of flame all loosely harken back to the warm pacific undercurrent that dictates a surprising amount of our weather, while the art’s use of earthier tones than one would normally see in such an ocean-scape reflects the colour and flavour of what we find within:
Thick, dark and reddish-brown on my spoon, this sauce’s ancho chilli content is blatantly obvious in its equally rick and dark, savoury taste. Yet that isn’t the first thing that I pick up on.
No, despite its ancho, soy sauce and browned onion aroma, it’s actually the celery that stands out most, when it comes to flavour. Followed closely by the cumin.
Both help to reinforce the savoury elements of the sauce but the greenness of the celery also does a tonne to offset those strong, dark, rich undertones. Even a bit too much, if you ask me. It leaves El Niño begging for you to bring that richness back.
How? Why with roasts, burgers or even maybe the steak that we see flying out of its artwork. With something that’s got a dark, rich, meaty quality of its own, even if it’s actually as meat free as mushrooms, a bean burger or december’s chestnut roast.
I don’t see this one going with pizza or cornflakes, like its makers suggest, but bangers and mash sounds like a perfect fit to me.
As for its heat, well, it’s hotter than I’d expect of anything ancho, yet weaker than just about any other reaper sauce, at a mere
that tingles the tongue gently, before providing its more solid kick to the throat.
It’s hot but not even close to super hot, despite its inclusion of the world record pepper.
Moving on, though, it’s time to tackle the Satan’s Gravy, made by the band “Karyo” to sell alongside their unusually catchy, upbeat and retro-inspired brand of hip hop.
To my eyes, their art is as asian-looking as their name, featuring an all but submerged demon that reminds me of the japanese kappa. Its red standing out bold amidst the otherwise dark blue colours of what appears to be a night time pond.
On top of this, though, sits the most interesting feature – An assortment of leaves from nearby plant life, all rendered in semi-transparent turquoise to give an almost watercolour effect.
It’s unlike anything else that I’ve seen on a sauce and, for that, I really like it.
In terms of telling me about the contents, though, it does next to nothing, since I’m all but certain that its asian vibe comes largely from me projecting my own interests onto it. The bottle makes its red chilli content clear but fails to say anything about whether or not I should expect a real gravy flavour.
So let’s see what it tastes like:
Before I do, though, I’d like to quickly note the far thinner consistency and vast quantity of spice shreds. It’s no surprise, when it hits my tongue, that I’m getting cumin again.
Cumin and malt vinegar, along with roast garlic and another dark flavour that I can’t quite place, before the richness of slow cooked tomatoes and scotch bonnets takes a hold.
Despite the dark and malty flavour of that chip shop favourite vinegar, though, this isn’t nearly as dark or as savoury as the previous sauce. And nor does it share that slight touch of bitterness.
Instead, Karyo’s creation lets its tomatoes shine, with just a touch of sweetness, and kicks up the tartness until I feel it in my throat. A decision that could prove quite divisive but will probably work wonders over fish and chips.
And, while Satan’s Gravy may not be the gravy-flavoured hot sauce that I was hoping for, it, too, will go beautifully over a roast or over roast potatoes and I strongly suspect that it’ll work its way into a gravy of some sort. Just give me time to figure out the recipe.
Heat-wise, though, that throat kick is as misleading as the name. The tang is from the vinegar, as much as the chilli, and this sauce’s habanero content soon provides me with the pepper’s signature, spiky burn, all around the front half of my mouth.
It’s a slightly stronger
than the last sauce but it hits me oh so very differently.
What about the third of this week’s bold, dark line-up, then? What does the Crumbs from Fair Dinkum Fare bring to the table?
Well it certainly doesn’t bring any fancy labelling, that’s for sure, with its blue on white, text-heavy design. And yet, despite that, I can’t help but be reminded of the Megalodon when I see that road sign or lakeside warning that they use for the sauce’s name. Which is kind of cool.
To call that sign’s lettering the sauce’s name could be a little bit of a misstep, mind you, because it’s actually a borrowed one – A description of where this sauce comes from, as much as an actual name for the product.
You see, this is actually Fare Dinkum Fare’s Crumbs chilli sauce in the sense that its their chilli sauce made with Crumbs Brewing Co. So to just up and slap on the name of the company that ‘s collaborating with them seems like a pretty lazy choice.
Combined with the rest of the bottle’s appearance, it looks as if very little effort has gone into this product but, contrary to common interview advice, appearances aren’t everything. It’s the taste that really counts.
This sauce – Possibly the thickest of the bunch – brings together two tastes that I never thought could meet: Sweetness and dryness.
It’s not overly sweet – Not nearly as much so as its dark, lightly caramel-tinged brown might suggest – but there is some sweetness to it, despite the strong impression that there’s also sweetness missing. A pointed absence that I only get from beers, stouts and fermented foods.
The word that I most want to use is “cloying” but, in this instance, the way in which that dry flavour from the porter clings to my mouth and cries out to be sensed is unusually welcome. A surprising top note to the otherwise deep, dark flavour that, this time, stems from (mostly) unbitter coffee and unsalty malt.
It’s as much what isn’t there as what is, with the porter in this sauce, but the large quantity of garlic, beneath the surface, is most certainly a part of what is. Its well-cooked richness forms the base on which everything comes together.
And it really does!
The Crumbs, despite its small touch of bitterness and the lack of any obvious chilli flavour, is most definitely my favourite of the day. And, while it will find its way onto roasted meats and potatoes, like the others, I can see it doing a whole lot more.
Fair Dinkum Fare suggest that I use it like a brown sauce, over the eggs, bacon, beans and sausages of my full english breakfast. Or that I pair it with pies. Both of which sound like great ways to get the most out of their product but they’re missing another option.
I can tell, just from tasting it, that the intense richness of this collaborative creation is going to carry well through foods and add all those same dark undertones that you’d get from black garlic.
Have you ever had coffee in your casserole or con carne? ‘Cause, if not, now’s the time to try it. And, while Crumbs lacks the perfect texture for the pairing that Upton Cheyney’s Roast Garlic sauce had, the flavour of this sauce is still going to be great in ramen. It definitely reminds me of those same not-quite-black garlic flavours.
It’s the weakest of today’s trio, at a mere
in my throat, but it’s also the most complete and well-rounded flavour. Fair Dinkum Fare have clearly put a lot more effort into their cooking than they have their labels.
Here’s what goes into it:
Chillies, Garlic, Crumbs Brewing Rye Coffe Porter (Water, Barley, Rye, Oat and Wheat Malts, Rye Breadcrumbs, Coffee, Brown Sugar, Hops), Hot Paprika, Sugar, Apples, Salt, Red Wine Vinegar, Water
While El Niño hot sauce contains:
Red Peppers, Onion, Ancho Chillies, Celery Salt, Soy Sauce (Gluten), Apple Cider Vinegar, Garlic, Carolina Reaper Chillies, Cumin, Liquid Smoke
And Karyo’s Satan’s Gravy is made from:
Barley Malt Vinegar, Habanero Peppers, Tomatoes, Water, Scotch Bonnet Peppers, Brown Cane Sugar, Salt, Cornflour, Garlic, Mustard Seeds, Cumin, Turmeric
I enjoy all three but, well, I think it’s pretty obvious that I saved the best and most usable for last.