Sometimes, it’s about the sauce

Jun 22, 2016 at 10:45 am
Sometimes, it’s about the sauce

I’m the type who gets addicted to certain flavors, especially when they come bearing spice. For instance, I go through so much Pain is Good Batch #37 Garlic Habanero hot sauce that I have six bottles on reserve in my cupboard.

It’s that important to me.

But lately, I’ve not been dipping into my Batch #37 stash as much, and it’s because of a new, locally-made sauce I’ve found. That sauce is called, simply, The MexA Roasted Habanero sauce, and it’s one of the most wonderful recent discoveries my taste buds have made.

Yes, I’m addicted.

You can only get it at MexA Tacos, a new-ish eatery in St. Matthews (located at 3701 Lexington Road) that specializes in steak tacos, quesadillas and nachos. That’s right: all steak, all the time. I go at least once a week, in part, because the signature sirloin tacos are delicious, but also to have access to the roasted habanero sauce.

Why is it so special? That’s a good question. When I inquired about the magic of the stuff, MexA owner Lorena Casas-Ostos happily shared the ingredients: roasted habanero peppers, onions and olive oil. That’s it. The main ingredients are minced down to almost a grain, and the flavors permeate the smoothness of the olive oil like, well, magic.

The stuff looks like no other pico, or salsa, because when it sits for a while, the minced vegetables sink to the bottom, leaving a thin yellow layer of oil on top (MexA typically serves its sauces in small, clear plastic containers).

So, when you pour it — unless you stir it up first, which is probably the recommended usage — the first layer onto your taco is something that feels and tastes like a cool version of melted butter that happens to be made from habanero peppers.

The aroma is a revelation, with hints of butter, but with a light sweetness from the onions and, of course, a bit of the signature fruity spice from the pepper. Honestly, I can just sit around and smell the stuff, and be happy.

But when you pour it on your taco — it doesn’t matter which taco you order, because they’re all good — the sauce begins to coat the ingredients, adding a yellow shine. When the minced onions and peppers begin to pour out, they end up in little clumps of goodness randomly placed amidst the steak, cheese and whatever else happens to be there.

And the flavor meets the aroma perfectly, with a big roasted habanero burst, with only moderately-high heat, balanced by the flavor of lightly-sweet onions and a texture that is creamy, and yet has just a touch of a grainy consistency. The flavor is unmistakable and, to my palate at least, unique. Of course, Casas-Ostos has apparently been making the stuff for years, so, apparently, it’s only new to me. Or perhaps to Louisville.

I think what keeps me coming back is that uniqueness I find in it. For instance, El Mundo has a delicious habanero salsa called Red Hot Mama — I buy a bottle every time I go, and I just love the stuff. And The ‘Ville Tacqueria also has a unique habanero salsa that is creamy and orange, with a mild heat. I always eat and enjoy that when I go. El Molcajete has a dark brown salsa that I adore, as well.

But none of these has turned into outright addiction.

The MexA Roasted Habanero has gotten into my head. It’s like crack. I went on vacation last week, and I swear I thought I was going to go through detox. Here’s the best news I’ve heard all month: Casas-Ostos told me she is considering bottling the blessed pepper nectar for retail sale, but she hasn’t decided when she will pull the trigger.

This would make my life complete.

Meanwhile, the friendly folks at MexA Tacos are always happy to oblige when I ask for an extra container (or two) of Roasted Habanero when I come in for lunch. I love it on chicken, on tortilla chips, whatever. It would probably taste delicious on a fistful of dirt. Maybe next year before I go on vacation, if the stuff isn’t available in bottles yet, I’ll just get a sack full to take to the beach with me.