After a bit of a hiatus, we return to our Featured Product cybercolumn with our focus set upon Scorpion Bay Hot Sauce. We were contacted by Rob Burns, who is the president, CEO, and grand poobah of Scorpion Bay Hot Sauces and was asked to give his sauces a try. After seeing the products in person and tasting them for ourselves, we thought that he & Scorpion Bay would be good to focus a little more attention upon so we could find out more about Rob and his outstanding products.
The three sauces we tried are listed below for their component parts:
Chocopotle: tomatoes, water, apple cider vinegar, jalapeno peppers, chipotle chiles, red onions, brown sugar, serrano peppers, cocoa powder, garlic, kosher salt, canola oil, mexican oregano, orange juice, lime juice, xanthan gum, spices
Hotacado: tomatillos, jalapeno peppers, water, avocado, serrano peppers, apple cider vinegar, garlic, cilantro, kosher salt, orange juice, canola oil, mexican oregano, jalapeno powder, xanthan gum, lime juice, spices
De Arbol: tomatillos, diced tomatoes, chile de arbol, apple cider vinegar, onions, garlic, canola oil, orange juice, kosher salt, mexican oregano, cilantro, cumin, lime juice, xanthan gum, spices
One of the great things about the hot sauce business is that there are a bunch of devoted, passionate people in it who are totally in to what they do. Rob Burns is one of those people. Rob was kind enough to answer some questions for us about his business and his love for hot sauces. Here is our interview with Rob:
Tell us a little about how you got into the hot sauce business and the evolution of your enjoyment of hot & spicy food.
Well, I got into the hot sauce business like a lot of other folks. I started out making hot sauces for friends and the demand just grew and grew. Pretty soon I was devoting a good portion of my time just keeping up with the requests from friends.
I would say the inspiration for creating my hot sauce comes from my love of travel. Especially places like Mexico—and Baja in particular. In many places Baja is still reasonably pristine and untouched by American tourism. There are some great secret surf spots and it’s one of the few places left in the world that can give you that spirit of adventure when traveling.
Down there you never know what’s around that next corner. It could be bandits, Federales, a new secret surf spot. Or a remote fishing village where families invite you in for dinner and, if you’re lucky, will show you a few family cooking secrets.
These places have some great original authentic recipes for hot sauce and would definitely be my inspiration for creating my particular style of hot sauce.
As far as my development and enjoyment of spicy foods, I think it was genetics combined with living in a great region for spicy foods. I can remember being a child, sitting on my grandfather’s lap watching him eat dried red chili peppers. Also, my mom pretty much can hang with the best—I still have not seen her eat something that is too hot for her liking. That includes some of the pure cap extracts!
As the former owner of the Roberto’s sauce brand, please tell us what it was like getting back into the industry after your parting of ways with Roberto’s.
I really did not intend to get back into the biz. After I sold Roberto’s Hot Sauce I was ready to move on to bigger and better projects. My old customers, however, had different plans. I kept getting calls from old clients trying to place orders with me and complaining that the orders were not being filled.
It was actually pretty heartbreaking at the time, to see my baby I had worked so hard to grow just fade away into oblivion. I had to keep telling myself this is business and not my company any more.
So once Roberto’s Hot Sauce was out of business, a group of Roberto’s fans and investors approached me about a new company. At first I was a bit apprehensive. I wanted to make sure it was done right and making a quality gourmet hot sauce was priority one. Now that I am back in the thick of things I can’t imagine doing something I love more!
How did you come up with the name for your company and how has the creative process been for creating your sauces?
I was sitting around drinking some beers with George, one of my surfing buddies and also a partner in the company. We were brainstorming, trying to think of names that would really capture the feel of Baja, surfing, travel adventure and of course hot sauce. After sipping several shots of Corralejo “Tequila” George blurted out “Scorpion Bay Hot Sauce!!!” Scorpion Bay is the name of a once secret Baja surf spot and world-class long board wave. We all looked at each other with big saucer eyes and that was that!
Why did you opt for the bigger bottles instead of the five-ounce woozies, and were you ever worried that people wouldn’t be able to fit them on regular food shelves that all the other hot sauces fit upon?
Our hot sauces are thicker than most and our co-packers were constantly complaining that it was too thick for them to bottle and that we needed to “thin” the sauce down. Needless to say they were immediately made ex co-packers. There was no way we were going to compromise the quality of our gourmet hot sauces by thinning them out.
It was our great fortune to come across our current co-packer, Sonoma Gourmet in Sonoma California. They are hands down the best in the biz. And I have burned through a lot of co-packers that simply did not make the grade. They manufacture for other big gourmet names like Williams and Sonoma, Dean & Deluca and Napa Style.
We sat down with them and researched a bottle better suited to our sauce. This is how our wide mouth came to be. You also get 70% more hot sauce than a traditional woozie bottle. We are not so concerned with having to fit in with all the other hot sauce bottles or competing for shelf space. We are a gourmet sauce and you probably not going to find us on shelves that have a million other commodity-style hot sauces. You can always buy our sauce on line at http://www.scorpionbayhotsauce.com and if you purchase by the case we give free shipping.
Your sauces seem to have a strong Mexican influence to them. So, are you a tequila person or do you favor mezcal?
Tequila is absolutely the drink of choice. So that said, Corralejo Tequila for sipping, Mezcal if I am looking to get arrested!
Which one of your sauces would you give to someone you’re trying to hook onto your sauces, and why?
Man that’s like asking Brigham Young which wife he liked the best! They are so different and usually if you don’t like one you will really like one of the others (hot sauces, not wives). I would have to say people really like the Avocado hot sauce, but the De Arbol probably has a more universal appeal and has a broader spectrum of uses. The Chocopotle is our newest sauce. It is a Chipotle hot sauce with just a slight hint of chocolate so it is hot and sweet. The response has been really good with that one also.
I would probably give them a sample of each and let them decide (Again hot sauces not wives).
Is there anything new in the works at the Scorpion Bay creation kitchen? If so, what?
Oh yeah, always. Can’t really disclose but can say I am working on some spice and rub combinations and also a Serrano Tomatillo Hot Sauce. Also some new salsas are also in the works!
A dab of all three sauces for show
As we always do, above is a quick picture of what the sauces look like when you pour some out for tasting. Top right is the Chocopotle, top left is the Avocado, and at the bottom is the De Arbol sauce.
Chocopotle: Wow, this is an enticingly thick and chunky sauce with a little sweetness to it. Admittedly, it’s not easy to tell what’s providing the sweetness…the brown sugar, the orange juice, or even the red onions. The chocolate, although not up-front in flavor, does mellow out the chipotle, both in heat and flavor. The sweetness might make you think it’s not all that hot…but au contraire! Another medium-hot sauce, this one builds to a nice steady burn (perhaps 6/10) the more you eat. Linda thought this would be a great sauce to enhance your average Cincinnati style chili, but we both agreed that it’s a phenomenal steak sauce and an even better condiment. In fact, there’s few dishes this would fail to make really, really good. With the “cling” factor this sauce has, it would likely be great with grilled fish…or maybe used as a dollop over some vanilla bean ice cream. Linda really dug this sauce, and even the chipotle-challenged taster like me appreciated it over nearly everything I tried. Yum!
De Arbol: Imagine the best taco sauce you’ve ever tasted. Then imagine one 10 times as good. That puts you in the right frame of mind for this sauce. Admittedly, I knew fairly little about the de Arbol pepper before I tasted this sauce…and could maybe pick it out of a lineup of other peppers. Now that I’ve tried it in this sauce, the question that pops to my mind is….can Rob make more pepper sauces with it? Medium-hot and full of flavor, this sauce was more complex than I thought upon initial tasting. It’s fairly thin and smoky, and finishes with a nice garlicky flavor. While the heat is one that I’d described as medium, it does have a little cumulative build to it. Despite its billing as a “taco sauce,” don’t make the mistake of saving it only for those! We liked it layered into just about any kind chili or soup, and was a good all-around Mexican food sauce…particularly good added to enchiladas. In fact, it’s a good everyday sorta sauce period.
Hotacado: The first thing we noticed about this sauce was the unique, almost slippery, texture to this sauce, and that already separates it from many other sauces like it. The avocado gives it the flavor profile a “fullness” while muting the vinegar taste. In fact, there is scarcely even a hint of tartness from the vinegar at all. Like the other sauces, the heat is right at that medium level that allows the flavors to be appreciated with each bite. This sauce simply screams to be used, and was the one sauce we polished off down to the last drop. Mixed with a bit of sour cream, it was an ideal sauce addition to fish tacos. By itself, it’s great a salad dressing and Linda even used it with cut-up raw tomatoes for a spicy tomato-avocado salad. I liked it with a variety of breakfast foods, particularly any egg dish, and felt it
was a great supplement to nearly everything on the traditional Mexican fare menu as well. (I realize that these suggestions are pretty much verbatim from the recipe suggestion from the bottle itself, but they were really, really good ones.) Honestly, this sauce really does stand alone on the market with its taste profile as there are relatively few, if any, other avocado-based hot sauce by which to compare. While not simply a guacamole-turned-hot sauce, this complex offering is well worth trying it in a variety of foods. That reminds me…my empty bottle needs a replacement. Awesome sauce!
The bottom line: Great recipes with all-natural ingredients. Each is festival of flavor with medium heat suitable for most palates. Well worth your effort to taste and try.
Check out these other reviews and info about Scorpion Bay Hot Sauce: