Move over mayonnaise. Step aside ketchup. Summertime is the right time to meet the heat of local hot sauces. As consumer tastes reflect a growing interest in global flavors, hot sauces serve up the diverse flavor profiles we’re craving now. Multiculturalism is a huge part of our current culinary mindset, and a little drizzle of hot sauce is an easy way to experience the flavors of Mexican, Caribbean, Asian, and Creole cuisines.
Deliciousness aside, there’s a physiological payoff to consuming pepper-based hot sauces—a rush of endorphins.
Capsaicin, found primarily in the seeds and membranes, gives chili peppers their fiery quality. This substance kickstarts the chemical reactions of our bodies and brains when we consume them. Our tolerance and taste for capsaicin, essentially the heat level, is highly individualized because our pain receptors react differently. Sauceheads understand that complex, murky line between pleasure and pain, and they can’t get enough of it.
There’s a lot more to it, but we don’t want to get too scientific on you. We’d much rather talk about taste. Several Northeast Ohio entrepreneurs are making their own spicy statements with small batch sauces, and local restaurants are mixing up proprietary concoctions that we love.
In our current (Summer 2017) issue, we curated a list of sauces that rely more on flavor, fire and spice than sweat. Here’s that list, and a few more we want to share!
The family recipe for this Akron-made bold and smoky sauce originates in Durango, Mexico, says Cristina González Alcalá. If picante and a little pepper aftertaste is your preference, go ahead and pour this on your huevos rancheros or, really, anything at all. Find it around Akron, including Sweet Mary’s Bakery.
Randy Carter’s sauce contains Fresno peppers, including the seeds. Fear not, it’s versatile—great with shrimp and grits or a bahn mi, or just on a spoon. Every great diner needs their own hot sauce, and they get it right. Find it at their two Cleveland locations and you can buy some to go.
Don’t let the name scare you. This all-purpose sauce has a sundried tomato and garlic base and a desirable bite that comes from ancho, Fresno, and ghost chilis. Mix with mayonnaise for a spicier cocktail sauce, or splash on top of a slice of pizza for extra zing. Fred packs heat by day as a police officer. By night and on weekends he’s a bonafide hot sauce mixologist.
Charly Murphy’s signature sauce is intense, but not hot. Thick and dark, the richness comes from smoked and pickled jalapeño and smoked salt. Try mixing it with ranch dressing and potato chips. Uniquely packaged, grab a pouch at Stray Dog Café or Stray Dog City Tavern in Akron or at events in the Akron area.
This sauce has a lot of smoke—smoked chipotles, smoked sea salt, and hickory smoke flavoring. It smells like summertime BBQ. Joshua Sheets says the perfect snack is a liberal dousing on a ripe avocado. Find it at Local Roots Market and Meatheads Union in Wooster.
This red and habanero pepper sauce is a perfect match for low country and Southern dishes. Sop up some of this addictive sauce with a house-made biscuit, drizzle on their signature fried chicken, and then take some home for a big ol’ pot of red beans and rice. Owner Nolan Konkoski says the name is a little tribute to his SOHO partner named, of course, Miss Molly.
Here are a few more we want to share!
Cowboy George doesn’t skimp on flavors or creativity, and he knows how to balance heat with flavor. Try his Avocado Jalapeño Hot Sauce on your next taco salad, grilled chicken, or as a creative condiment on a sandwich. He’s even managed to craft a hot sauce with habanero peppers and blueberries called Hot Blueberry Love. It has some sweeter notes from brown sugar and traces of cinnamon and lime, and would complement a pulled pork sandwich. Find many Blaze Gourmet sauces at many local farmers markets and The Grocery in Ohio City.
Not to be confused with his Whiskey River sauce (made with Kentucky Bourbon), Clark Pope’s newest hot sauce features jalapeños and crushed tomatoes blended with Cleveland Whiskey’s Black Reserve Bourbon. It’s a delicious local collaboration that packs a punch. Order online, or find Pope’s Kitchen products at local farm markets, The Wine Spot, and the Cleveland Flea.
Thai Thai might be a little restaurant in Lakewood, but the flavors are big and authentic. Owner Kiwi Wongpeng says their housemade sauce, composed of lots of different peppers and garlic, is her mother’s recipe. Just look for the large jug. Drizzle it into to a bowl of street noodle soup, or mix into their delicious larb. Some of us may eat it off a spoon like soup (hey, don’t judge!)
Founder Fady Chamoun opened his first Aladdin’s Eatery in Lakewood in 1994 with the legendary hot sauce that takes their hummus and other specialties to the next level. It is so secret, few people know what goes into it. But the good news is you can buy it to go in a 12-ounce container and indulge yourself any way you like. While we can’t imagine Aladdin’s famous hummus without it, the sauce is great mixed into scrambled eggs and cottage cheese.
–Story by Lisa Sands, Photos by Laura Watilo Blake