I enjoyed some Vietnamese food with my old friend Paul and his son David this week. While there, we participated in a hot sauce exchange. I gave him this and this, and he gave me Palo Alto Firefighters XX Habanero Pepper Sauce. This started as the end product of a backyard pepper garden one of the firefighters kept, and has apparently become a viable business. I was delighted to get it, as this is not something I’d have been likely to encounter in my usual travels. Thanks, man.
This is a habanero chile version of the original sauce. Red jalapenos are the first ingredient, but habaneros are the second. This ought to have at least some kick, that being the case.
Tried it straight. It’s a beautiful color, with obvious chile bits and a reasonable viscosity. Then I tried a goodly amount of it in a wrap with grilled chicken and sharp cheddar.
First taste is positive. Vinegar and salt are prominent, but so is a highly familiar gustatory vibe…what is this? Finally, it hit me: this is actually pretty close to Wendy’s chili seasoning in some key ways, which is to say it’s delicious and robust, with hints of cumin and garlic. There is a fruity scaffolding to it that adds complexity and appeal. It closes with a little sweetness.
And do know that this is a salty sauce. It is not unpleasantly so, but whether you’re cooking with it or adding it at the table, I would taste it before you added more salt. It may give you all you need by itself.
Even though this is the habanero variety and presumably the hotter of the two Palo Alto Firefighters offerings, it’s eminently accessible. I would put this near the top of mainstream sauces in terms of heat. It does have a bit of a cumulative effect as you eat, which is a fairly consistent characteristic of the habanero. So your eighth bite is going to be warmer than your second, but I’d still say to anyone who likes Tabasco “try it. It’s not too hot. You can handle it.”
I took an inch and a half out of the bottle on my first go, and indeed, will probably enjoy this as something between a sauce and a dip. So I’ll get through this bottle quickly. I’ll evaluate closer to the bottom of it whether it’s a regular, but its first impression is pretty strong. Perhaps this is the ultimate burger sauce at Casa Williams. We shall see.
(If I need to have it always, it does come in a convenient half-gallon size.)