The Taste Bud: In search of the special sauce
Once upon a time, Liquor Barn in the Springhurst shopping center had an incredible selection of hot sauces. It was a place where I could always find my Blair’s Death Sauce, Dave’s Insanity Sauce or something brand new and untested.
Sadly, in recent years, that selection has been whittled down to a few (mostly local) barbecue sauces. As a result, I’ve been relegated to either living without or buying via the Internet, which can be costly. Yes, it’s convenient enough, but shipping is almost as expensive as the hot sauce itself. And aside from that, there’s nothing quite like staring down a wall of hot sauces and picking out a new flavor of tongue-scalding goodness.
So when a recent Google search uncovered the Chili Hut (www.thechilehut.com), which features “the best hot sauces and salsas in Louisville,” I nearly fell out of my chair. How had I missed this? I excitedly clicked on the link provided, and as my eyes scanned the page — featuring a photo of a shelf filled with hot sauces of all kinds — I read these tragic words: “The hottest little store in Colorado.” Wait … Colorado?
But this installment of The Taste Bud isn’t about that. It’s about a certain special hot sauce to which I am hopelessly addicted: Pain is Good Batch #37. I recently paid (including shipping) $15 for a 7.5-ounce bottle of this stuff, and I’m prepared to do it again when I run out — it’s like really spicy crack or something. No kidding.
It’s also a great party favor. Many years ago, I hosted a party with my then-girlfriend, and we thought it would be fun to give selected guests a taste of Batch #37. One friend in particular, whom we’ll call “Greg,” didn’t hesitate to put a sizeable glob of the bright orange sauce on a cracker and pop it into his mouth.
In fact, I recall him saying, as I placed a small dab, “C’mon, you can give me more than that.”
That was the first and last time I ever saw “Greg” cry and hiccup at the same time. It was the day his bravado died.
But truthfully, Batch #37 isn’t really all that hot — at least not when used correctly. (Ahem.) A true chili head won’t even break a sweat with this sauce, because it isn’t one of the heat-for-heat’s-sake entries in the hot sauce world.
Rather, Batch #37 succeeds on its blend of flavors, with plenty of garlic and carrots and a tart note of lemon and lime to balance the heat of the vaguely sweet habaneros.
Because it’s so tasty, it’s a pretty universal condiment, and it goes well with tortilla chips, used almost like a salsa — if you’re brave, and aren’t “Greg.” Some people like it on pizza, even seafood.
For me it goes best with chicken. I love it on chicken tacos or in wraps, or, if I’m feeling adventurous, as a marinade for chicken breast. I’ve even used it with seafood — dipping shrimp in it isn’t a bad way to go, and my guess is it would go well with crawfish or even oysters.
But then there’s the problem of scarcity. I almost feared writing this column because of the possibility that you, dear reader, would beat me to the punch and buy up all the yummy habanero-laced deliciousness.
Fortunately, I’ve found a couple of promising links online — www.originaljuan.com has it priced on sale at the moment and has a great selection of the other Pain is Good flavors, such as the Jamaican version, Batch #114. The Batch #37 salsa is particularly tasty, and the thick and chunky Batch #37 Bloody Mary mix isn’t bad either.
I have nearly a full bottle at the moment, though, so I’m good for at least two or three weeks. So long as I don’t share any with you-know-who.