Hot Damn!

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On a recent afternoon, I sat down with some spice connoisseurs to discuss some of Portland’s local offerings of hot sauces. Some of us could take the heat better than others (there were glasses of milk poured for the weak), but we can definitely conclude that Portland knows its spice. Here are our results.
Uncle Dubby’s Jamaican jerk sauce

Gold

Uncle Dubby’s Jamaican jerk sauce

This flavor-packed sauce won almost instantly amongst our judges. We found it particularly delicious for its flavor variants: The combination of parsley, garlic, cilantro and other spices made something so special that one of us claimed, “This sauce makes me want to cook and create things.” The spice level is especially impressive, since it slowly hits you, taking its time to make way to your taste buds. The especially prominent taste of garam masala had our mouths watering and us feeling like it should be called “Indian Jerk Sauce” instead.

Another factor that places this sauce in the Gold position is its maker. Uncle Dubby’s hot sauces are made inside John “Uncle Dubby” Wray’s apartment. This bearded pinball pro/artist/bartender acts almost like a spicy “dealer”; only those who are in the know can purchase his sauces. His sauces—which are vegan—are sold in mason jars, and he said he started making them by taking cookbook recipes and tweaking them: “I liked the recipes, but I knew they could be better,” Wray said. Many of Wray’s friends use the sauces as marinades as well as for dipping. All of his flavors are available for $5, and the only way you can reach him is by going to Hawthorne’s Bar of the Gods and asking.

Silver

Fire on the Mountain’s
bourbon chipotle

This all-purpose sauce came in at a very close second to our winner. The sauce, which originates from the Portland restaurant Fire On The Mountain Buffalo Wings (they have one location on North Interstate and one on Burnside), is more like a BBQ sauce than a salsa.

The heat, unlike Uncle Dubby’s sauce, hits you straight away, then the flavors arrive after, almost like a good wine. The fruit juices (lime and orange) are a nice aftertaste without being overwhelming. One taster said, “It’s not too sweet, which I love. I hate it when BBQ sauces overdo it with the sugar.”

The bourbon flavor is not a major component of this sauce, but only a slight note. This sauce would be delicious on chicken or tofu, or perhaps added to a chili for some extra kick.

The Rest

Secret Aardvark
habanero hot sauce

Although this sauce has been named “crack-like” by many of its followers, our tasters weren’t as impressed. Perhaps it was its sensational competitors that shadowed its greatness, but we found the carrot flavor extremely overpowering in this sauce.

Uncle Dubby’s mango habanero
and chipotle red

Both of these were also delicious, but one taster found the mango habanero “Too much mango and not enough heat.”
As for the Chipotle Red, it had a nice smokiness and heat in the back, but just wasn’t as memorable as its flavorful brothers and sisters.

What’s your go-to salsa or hot sauce?

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