Bitter Grounds - espresso fueled ramblings

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Unboxing is usually the domain of tech and gaming sites or fashion, but I get a bit more pumped over food and espresso.  Just ask my customers. I must be the only computer tech support around who is frequently asked to pick up a special cheese on my way to the customers or if I have a recipe for some cool veggie they’ve discovered.  What can I say, I’m full-service computer support! I’m the type of person who gets excited about grocery stores – even when I’m on vacation I check out local groceries to see what people are buying. I’ve hit grocery stores all over the US, Canada, Hong Kong, Cuba, Germany, Paris, Netherlands, England, Spain … maybe I should contact GUSTO TV and ask them to sponsor a world tour of grocery stores. Ok, I just wandered into fantasy land.

My local Longo’s, a home-grown chain here in Toronto, often has new products to try or tastings set up. I'm an unabashed lover of the store and, although they aren't aware of it, have had a long standing love affair with their produce department since my early years. They are super big on supporting local producers, which always tickles me.  While looking around my eye spotted this:

Longo's Signature Freestone Peach & Ghost Pepper Sauce

Yes, a  bright, shiny, colourful new, hot sauce. I love hot sauces. I mean LOVE hot sauces! OMG I LOVE HOT SAUCES. I’ve never had a ghost pepper sauce because, although I adore hot sauces, occasionally the appreciation isn’t reciprocal. Too much heat and well, acid reflux does backstrokes in my stomach.  I couldn’t resist this one and threw caution to the wind, hoping the peaches would prevent a complete hot pepper mutiny. In case anyone was in the store watching, yes, I was that odd little person dancing near the freezers with the bottle of hot sauce at the Imperial Plaza store. I make no apologies.  

I clutched my bottle, baguette and French brie and scurried home. 

 Photo - A little hot sauce therapy - brie, bread and Longo's Peach and Ghost Pepper hot sauce

First thing I noted were the ingredients. There wasn’t a shopping list of artificial sweeteners and flavours - Freestone Niagara peaches, sugar, white wine vinegar, onions, ghost peppers and pectin. I’ve had some “hot” sauces and dips that are so sickly sweet and artifical, I swear my fillings were popping out.  Or so hot, I couldn’t taste anything for hours after. I want to taste the ingredients, not be overwhelmed by fillers, so this ticked an important box for me.

The aroma is sweet (sorry, can't really think of a better word, so it'll be overworked today) with a hint of heat. If you look closely, you can see flecks and strands of red, which presumably are bits of the ghost peppers. Once the brie hit that perfect runny consistency I took my chances and gave the hot sauce a whirl. So, what’s it taste like?
Photo of Longo's Ghost Pepper and Peach hot sauce spread on brie

Tasting it on it’s own leaves a tingly heat around the mouth that takes a second or two to dissipate. But otherwise, not too hot at all, especially considering the much feared ghost peppers. It leans more towards peachy sweet with a bit of a kick, rather than an in your the face hot and a sweet apology. After trying a few spoonfuls I figured the Peach & Ghost Pepper Sauce needed something to balance the flavours and that’s where something like cheese works so well.  The sauce wedded beautifully with the salty, earthiness of the brie. It needs a little salt to tame the combination of heat ‘n sweet and pull the flavours together.

What’s the verdict?  It’s not a mad, bad hot that will leave you gasping for help, which is good. I’m not fond of food that assaults my taste buds, I want something a bit more complex than heat for the sake of heat. If you chew on hot peppers as a snack, and demand sauces so hot they come with resuscitation instructions, Longo’s sauce will be disappointingly agreeable. The rest of us will enjoy the tingling after heat and the lush Ontario peaches. With the right food, the Ghost Pepper sauce won’t be too sweet, nor too hot. I suspect it will make a killer glaze for chicken wings and ribs. In the meantime, I’ve already plowed through half a bottle on both brie and an excellent veggie stir fry in need of a boost. This is a hot sauce for people wanting flavour, not masochistic displays of bravado. If you’re heat wimp (as one of my friends calls herself), I’d exercise a wee bit of caution, but don’t hesitate to try it. It might be a bit much at first, but pick the right accompaniments and you’ll really enjoy the sauce. Find a smooth, creamy cheese or something that will help domesticate the peppers a bit and enjoy.  I would have liked a bit more heat, but still find the sauce enjoyable as it is. Perhaps Longo's could make a second version with a touch more heat.   

Where can you get it? Any Longo’s store in south west Ontario, or find a friend living near one and get them to send you a bottle.  Otherwise, yea ... sorry about the tease.  

I wonder if Longo’s ever considered mixing in some grated ginger? Now that would push the sauce into divine status.  

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