Spicy Week II: Medium

We’re on a roll now, and are discovering exactly how many McNuggets two mid-sized women can eat before they reach a threshold that they can never return from. Answer: roughly seven. Yeah, we’re no Furious Petes. But we prevailed, and went to the gym, and took a hot soak, and now we’re on to Day II of Spicy Week II: The Medium. Hartford Medium. Medium-sized Appetites. There are no more puns.

I introduced the feature last night, and wanted to take some time today to tell you how our testing works. Taking a few notes from famed hot sauce critic Scott Roberts and the team at Chile Pepper magazine, we decided to divide the sauces into categories: mild, medium, hot, xxx, eclectic sauces and snacks, and fruit-based sauces, with an extra day at the end to rank the winners of each category and crown an overall winner of Spicy Week II.

We ranked the sauces using the website’s 0-10 rankings. For reference, 5 is the midway benchmark for rankings- average, run-of-the-mill hot sauce, like what you’d find at a restaurant next to the salt and pepper, and the ratings move up from there.¬†We tried to explain our reasoning in each blurb, along with what we liked and didn’t like about each sauce.

Sauces tasted: 31
Sauce total: 55DSC_7001Cayucos Hot Sauce: Silly logo, but a really solid flavor, very ripe and robust from the sun-dried jalapeno peppers, with a sweet aftertaste. 8/10
Spag’s Vintage Hot: Good balance, nice heat. Definitely the best vinegar-based sauce we’ve tried so far. 6.5/10
Howling Monkey Original: Has a strange, soy-like aftertaste, like sauces on Chinese food. 5/10
Rooster Tail Jalapeno Tequila: Mainly mustard, really mild in heat and flavor. Didn’t get tequila or lime. 5/10
Dragon’s Blood Elixir Garlic Paprikash: The Bedfellow’s favorite- heavy on the paprika, with a delicious smoky aftertaste and roasted garlic sweetness. Very smooth heat that sneaked up on the back of the palate. 8/10
Greene’s Gourmet Hopi Hot: Green jalapenos- grassy on the forefront, basic, tasty. 5/10DSC_7005
Keenan’s Killer Chipotle: The best chipotle sauce so far, with a deep chocolate flavor and earthiness. 9/10
Crazy Gringa Jalapeno: Another basic medium sauce- mild, grassy. Overwhelmed by the chicken. 4/10
McCoy’s ‘THIS’ Sauce: Like a really good hot ketchup. Decent level of spice. 6/10
Crazy Gringa Chipotle: Fleeting and smoky, pretty average. 5/10
Defcon Heat Level 2: Entry-level wing sauce, but too thin in texture, and mild in heat. 4/10
Tabanero: Decent, nice fruit zest bite, despite that the type of fruit was indistinguishable. 5/10DSC_7017
Cajun Snapper: Pervasively gritty texture, like eating a spoonful of pure ground chile powder. 0/10
Savoreaux: More herbaceous than the Cajun Snapper, but still very gritty. Heat-forward. 2/10
Dave’s Gourmet Roasted Garlic: Buttery, rich roasted flavor, with a strong garlic flavor and excellent heat. 7/10
Hank Sauce Cilanktro: Buttery and smooth, very savory. The fattier flavors in this make me want to spoon it over pasta. 7/10
313 Foodie Sauce: Really indistinct flavor, but with a tart, lemony aftertaste. 5/10
Chicago Johnny’s Dark Sauce: Inoffensive (as a result of the mushrooms) and earthy, heavy on red-wine vinegar. 6/10DSC_7020
Pika Sauce: Really natural and vegetal flavor, and a thick texture that would lend itself well to sandwiches. Heavy on cumin and more Indian-style flavors. 6/10
Wrecked Junction Hot Sauce: So fresh! Gorgeous roasted apple and pepper flavor. Impeccable balance of heat and fruit. 9/10
Empire Mayo Sriracha: Solid, creamy mayo with a great heat that crept up at the end of each bite. 7/10
Jojo’s Sriracha: Really grassy and fresh, with a rich, fermented note at the end. Atypical of sriracha, though- it tasted like it was in a different category of hot sauce. 7/10
Chameleon Chipotle: No distinction from the original Chameleon, and it still has those muddled mulling spice flavors, no heat, and an added layer of earthy chipotle flavors. 1/10
Kitchen Garden Brand Sriracha: Really tasty, with a sweeter flavor than Huy Fong sriracha, and a heavy garlic flavor. Definitely some of the best packaging, too. 9/10
Eddie’s Sassy Citrus Kicker: Strange aftertaste, with a gritty, very bitter flavor and no sweetness to balance it out. 0/10
Buffalo Tom’s: Heavy curry flavor- clean, tomato base…but devoid of tomatoes. That flavor might be evoked from the addition of celery salt. It tastes like a bloody Mary. 6.5/10DSC_7026
Rocky’s Garlic Sauce: Definitely the best garlic sauce. The sweet ingredients, like molasses and honey, really coaxed out the roasted garlic flavors. Decent, lingering tingle of heat. 8/10
Grinder’s Molten Sauce: This was remarkably less successful than the Wimpy sauce, with an oddly stale note that lingered on the palate. It was sharp in an acidic, discordant way, despite having wonderful ingredients and a fruity nose. 2/10
Panting Dog Hot Sauce: Good hot pepper and peppercorn flavor, but it tasted more like a salad dressing than a hot sauce, with a very watery texture and more Italian flavors than I would have expected. 4/10 (Also, note that I have lovingly and incompetently attempted to ‘shoop their logo on- they’re still in development, so they do not yet have a label.)
Saucy Mama Hot Garlic Wing Sauce: Good heat, but bitter. 4/10

Medium hot sauces ranged across the board, but we really preferred sauces that balanced heat and flavor, with a heavy emphasis on sweeter notes and a lingering, back of the throat spice. Our top three were Keenan’s Killer Chipotle, Wrecked Junction, and Kitchen Garden Brand Sriracha- two out of three from Etsy! Great job to all the medium contestants. Check back tomorrow for our taste test of the hot sauces.DSC_7013Again, thanks to McDonald’s for fostering what might be a lifelong addiction to McNuggets. These sauces are not available at McDonald’s, but on the bright side, we’re cultivating an eight-strong collection of hot mustard and barbecue sauce. Midday snack of champions.

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