While we’ve pared down our product reviewing compared to the prolific days in this blog’s past, we still DO them. However, we pick and choose ones that look interesting and/or just plain left-of-center from the rest of the marketplace.
Enter Lucky Dog Hot Sauce
Lucky Dog is a start-up hot sauce company which is the brainchild and passion of Scott Zalkind, who had been making these sauces for about six years before getting them produced out of a production kitchen in Sonoma, CA. Heck, we thought only really good wine came out of the Sonoma area, so surprised we were to get these snazzy-looking bottles of hot sauce in the mail. Scott volunteered this info about what he views as unique about his sauces:
“My hot sauces are somewhat unique in that they’re not mash-based. I LOVE the taste of roasted peppers, so I’ve created a series of fire-roasted pepper sauces loaded with fire-roasted garlic, using a well balanced blend of vinegar, salt, sugar, carrot, onion and dried peppers to create thick, savory and extremely versatile hot sauces.”
Scott also elaborated on his process of getting into the hot sauce marketplace:
“I started making sauces because there didn’t seem to be very many fire-roasted pepper sauces out there. None had the copious amounts of roasted garlic I love, and I grew tired of the “1 drop on a toothpick and it ruins your meal” effect that seemed to be the crux of everyone’s marketing campaign, as though heat were the only component to a hot sauce. As someone who loves to cook, I understand how much love and care people put into preparing a meal – why ruin it with one drop of anything? Hot sauce should be a condiment, and liberally applied to food, in my opinion.
My take: For one thing, the shelf appeal of these bottles are quite good. The labels are clean and professional. The label is a little bit busy, but not distractingly so. At first, the whole label thang threw me for a little bit of a loop. You see, I have always been a bit of an ingredients-hound. I honed right in on those…only to be confused because both the red-label and green-label bottle were the same. (It didn’t help that I am red-green color blind…but that is a story for another day.) The Red Label is habanero, serrano, and jalapeno peppers. It’s a medium-hot sauce. The Green Label is jalapeno, serrano, and cayenne, and in a blend which makes it more mild than medium. Both sauces have that delightful garlicky taste, but not so overpowering that people you come in contact with will KNOW you had garlic…if you get my drift. I like that the aroma is much more peppers than vinegar. Consistency-wise, the Red Label
sauce has it totally nailed. Pours a bit on the thick side, like catsup, and coats food with a good amount of cling. The Green Label sauce is a bit more runny, and seems to separate more upon standing. It mixes well back to a homogeneous sauce, but it is simply thinner, so pouring tons of it carelessly can land a big puddle of it all too quickly.
Certainly, these sauces deserves kudos for their flavor profiles. Whether you like the hotter habanero-tinged red version or the milder serrano-green sauce, both sauces really allow you to taste the peppers. With milder sauces, you can really taste the spices within and those complement the mixtures well. On a level of constructive criticism, I would have perhaps tweaked the salt and other spices to give the sauces a bit more “bite,” but that is certainly all a matter of personal preference. Also, I think it would be interesting to see a version that uses fresh, rather than dried, cayenne peppers in the recipe. As they are, though, they are good enough poured right out of the bottle with no additions.
It’s hard for me to quibble with this sauce. It has all the trappings of a sauce that can be commercially viable. They’re both mild to medium in heat, and thus will appeal to more of the mass-market crowd who are NOT die hard chileheads. Nice representative pepper flavor, even manages to keep that vinegary tartness to an absolute minimum. Scott brags that his sauce is supremely versatile, and I don’t dispute that at all. This sauce’s strengths, besides taste, is in its utility in a variety of dishes…from the mundane to the unique. The biggest question I ask is: would I buy this if it was in my local grocery market? In a word, this is a resounding yes. While not in my pantheon of all-time best sauces, I have to give both these sauces a hearty thumbs-up. Enjoy!