When I was a much younger guy, the Simpsons were brand new. Having seen them on the Tracey Ullman show and again at a weird-animation film festival, I thought it was the new definitive satire of the American family.
And then my family started buying me crap like Bart Simpson boxer shorts. Hey, I like the show, but I don’t need the swag. But hey, they meant well, right?
Well, my well-meaning Mom this past Christmas apparently finally caught on to my hot sauce and all things spicy obsession. This is how I came to be gifted with the Fire in the House hot sauce collection by DesignPac Gifts. The seven-bottle set features brightly colored packaging showing a brave firefighter trying to extinguish a blaze, along with a price sticker screaming $9.99.
Think about that for a moment. If it’s the right sauce, I won’t think twice about plunking down 15 bucks for a bottle of it. (Hell, I’m pressed to pay that much for a bottle of wine.) So, to say I wasn’t expecting great things is to say next to nothing. But I decided, for the sake of being thorough, I would try each one and dive it a chance. Here are my casual, on-the-couch tasting notes:
Expected bright orange color, cute fire dog on the label, but the nose on this sauce is, well, kind of weird. It’s sharp, with more a garlic undertone than a statement. It actually smells more like rubber than garlic. It is made with “granulated garlic,” which may be a clue. Moderate heat, not terrible flavor. Would be best used as an additive to soup, or might be OK on eggs.
Back Draft Spicy Teriyaki
Dark brown and medium thick, it looks like teriyaki, but it has that same weird smell, with very little discernible teriyaki aroma. Flavor has, again, moderate heat with a nice tingle on the back of the palate, but the flavor fails to distinguish itself. A secondary ingredient in this sauce is “hydrogenated soy protein,” while the main ingredient is “aged cayenne peppers.” Main ingredient in the Garlic Inferno sauce was “aged red peppers.” Starting to see (and taste) a pattern.
Singed Cayenne Combustion Fiery Hot Sauce
Aside from the clunky name, this one also has the weird, sharp, rubbery smell. It’s starting to get annoying. However, this sauce actually does have a more pleasing flavor (I can taste cayenne!) and a bit more heat. I could see using a few dashes of this in some chili without messing things up.
Extra Hot Jalapeno Hazard
Ignore the loquacious alliteration; this muddy green sauce isn’t consumed with the weird smell, even though it’s lurking there. At least the main ingredient in this one is jalapeno peppers. However, the flavor never pops and the heat is back to moderate. One of the ingredients is “natural flavors.” OK, if it’s natural, tell us what it is. Not buying this one at all.
Flash Fuel Spicy Pepper
This one has the exact same ingredients as the Garlic Inferno minus one: natural flavors. Sigh. Smells like a rubber glove. Taste isn’t much better. Possibly the worst hot sauce I’ve ever tasted. Terrible.
I looked at the label first, and was happy to learn this one has the most ingredients of the bunch, and the first ingredient is indeed chipotle peppers. (Although, the bold-faced warning “May contain soy and fish” was a tad disconcerting.) This reddish-brown sauce is strangely thin, but the flavor is bolder than the others by far, coming across like a chipotle barbecue sauce. Mild heat. Not great, but the best so far. Might actually be interesting on something like tilapia, but would clearly be OK on steak or a burger.
Firehouse Frenzy Habanero Burn
Aaaand we’re back to the weird rubber smell. Main ingredient is “aged red habanero peppers” (with yet another soy and fish warning), even though most of the habaneros I’ve ever seen have been orange. This one also has a “dried vegetable blend” (carrots, onions and garlic) that never distinguishes itself. Even the heat doesn’t impress. I have so, so many better habanero sauces in my collection that I bet this one will never be opened again, but if I ever need a cheap filler, I may reach for this. Maybe.
My mom meant well. But I sure hope I never get one of these again. At best, it might be a set of gateway sauces, but the weird, off-flavors (which lingered long after I had tried cleansing my palate) might just scare off anyone with a decent palate. This one is best left on the shelf at Family Dollar.