Welcome to Good Hurts!

Good Hurts is dedicated to the best hurts on Earth: spicy foods.
I'm Russell. I teach English, write poetry, but most importantly, I am a spice aficionado and I dedicate myself to categorizing, reviewing, and torturing myself with the spiciest foods and sauces this great world has to offer, all so you can know about the most brutal, benevolent, and best bangs for your buck. Email me at hotfreakrussell@gmail.com

Enjoy, and feel the burn.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Where have all the Good Hurts gone?

Well, here it is: September 2011, over a year after my last post and about 100 zillion (or so it feels) Twitter followers later. And you might be wondering what I am: Where the hurts at?
The truth of the matter is that they hurt. This site wasn't a gimmick--it was a lifestyle. And after building up the kind of tolerance that would require plutonium to taste spicy food, tearing my insides apart, and giving myself endless heartburn, the time came to walk away. Will I be back? Someday, someway. I met a lot of cool people and still enjoy a quality hot sauce, but I'm inundated with other projects (mostly poetry related, like O Sweet Flowery Roses or my press Strange Cage).
I'm a man of fiery passions, and as those poor folks in Texas know better than anyone, fires can easily rage out of control. Eating those wings in Brooklyn was a real wake-up call. And as I get older I feel a weird, almost instinctual need to try to preserve myself.
Stay spicy, and thanks for keeping in touch. I'll try to come back and do some reviews sooner than later.
Russell Jaffe

Friday, June 25, 2010

Ed's Roadhouse Jerky Inferno Hott Dam Jerky: Why eat anything else?

Ed's RoadhousE (I think the second E is supped to be capitalized) Jerky is as All-American a business as you can get. Their website keeps it simple: no additives or preservatives, simple flash animations, and an ethos the family can get believe: nobody beats my meat. Well, maybe not the family, but you get the idea. They make jerky straight from the fields of Buffalo Grove, IL, a hop skip and a jump from my hometown of Deerfield. And they make it very, very well.

Let's look at the facts: Inspired by a visit to legendary Chicago BBQ hotspot Talbots, Ed Herman has perfected his own spice crafts and USDA approved jerky mastery. The company donates money to American troops and touts their "no bull" policy about how great their product is? But IS it that good? The answer is yes. And I have the good hurts tearing my face up right now to prove it.

Good Hurts: I'm sure Ed and our troops would appreciate me saying this: this beef jerky hot knock your fuckin' head off hot. There is no more eloquent way of saying this. And if you don't believe me, the chilies they use reads like a suspect list of the spice world's most wanted: fresh habaneros, jalapenos, and fearsome Indian ghost chilis, the hottest peppers known to mankind. You can even see fresh, yellow seeds poking up from the mouth watering molasses brown jerky. After one piece, you're entire face is submerged in spice. Your nose runs, your through tingles, your eyes water--and you'll have to eat another piece. Absolute brutality...pounding stampedes of heat stand high atop the flavor. You'll have nothing to fear from meatsweats...you DO have to worry about heatsweats. We're living in a post-Man vs. Food world, so I need to clarify something: when Adam Richman explains how x pepper is x times hotter than y pepper, it's based on a much-outdated Scoville scale. A fresh habanero is insanely hot. A ghost chili is truly beyond insanity. But Ed has found a perfect harmony between crazy heat and must-eat flavor. THAT'S what Good Hurts is all about.

Flavor: Like a proud hot freak, Ed packs his jerky with wallup after wallup. But like a true gourmand, Ed Herman knows that the subtlety of ingredients makes all the difference. You can taste a sweetness brought in in thick, syrupy waves of molasses, sweet apple smoke (possibly the most dominant flavor), and corn syrup. Believe it or not, using anchovy paste (I know you make a face when you read that) adds a robust salty flavor and doesn't taste like its fishy namesake one bit. But because this isn't a hot sauce, it's all about the Angus beef, masterfully jerked (forgive me for writing that) and chewy, but still soft and moist enough to stand head and shoulders about the lousy leather tough cheap jerkys ruling our roadsides.

Availability: Order it from Ed's site. It's cheap, all natural, and a solid local business, and we need more of those than we do more oily, stinky processed jerkies sold at major chains.

Good for: Clearly one element of the American Dream is doin' things your way and gettin' the job done right. Ed's RoadhousE Jerky is something that rides solo off into the sunset. I wouldn't put it on anything, but if you're a real carnivore, I could imagine shreddings being laid on salads or sandwiches. Jerky is such a salty, savory snack on its own that its hard to imagine putting in on anything...and you sure as hell won't need to spice it up.

Heat: *****
Flavor: *****
My Review: 9.8/10

Why eat any other jerky? This is the best it can get. Sweet, salty, hot as hell, chewy but not like eating a bootstrap, robust, flavorful...this surely must be meat nirvana.

Monday, May 10, 2010

We're back from vacation!

Yes, Good Hurts took a month long sabbatical, but we'll be returning strong this summer with new sauces, reviews, videos, and the works!
Looks like we've also had an influx of Chinese porn spammers. Rest assured, Good Hurts is not associated with any of those things. If any bloggers have suggestions of how to get rid of them, let us know!
-Russell Jaffe, editor

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Scorpion Chilli Habanero Extract: Habanero perfection, pure and concentrated

All the way from Fremantle, West Australia comes Scorpion Chilli (yes, with two L's...we just have one here in Chili-ville, USA). Their slogan: "Hot in...Hot Out!" Yes, the connection between hot sauce/farting/traumatic bathroom experiences is in fact an international language. Yet beyond the simple jokes and loveably combative mascot lies a hot sauce company with humble roots, knowledge of intricate craft, and phenomenal flavors.

Let's Look at the Facts: With the (not so subtle) joke slogan and gun-toting, wild eyed scorpion mascot (their other flavors have the scorpion doing different things, like throwing lightning or holding a giant penis [sauce: Morning Glory]), this company seems lewd and crude. In fact, it's more like a "mouse that roared" situation; run by Dave, a social worker and high school principal, and his partner Hannah, a university student and youth volunteer, this company actually helps empower primary school students by getting them involved in their hot sauce business. As an educator myself, I can say honestly that students applying themselves in real-world businesses while still in school is a fantastic idea and boosts student attention, morale, and confidence needed to make the critical transitions from to the real world post-graduation. Dave's a knowledgeable and likable guy. He, like other hot sauce sites, understands the joys of sharing on Youtube:
Oh yes, they make hot sauce too.
The first sauce I sampled was the Habanero Concentrate, which made me nervous because I assumed I was going to be eating, well, pure extract of a habanero. Not so; the velvety yellow-orange sauce is sweet, flavorful, and absolutely packed with heat. It's about as close to habanero perfection as you can get.

Good Hurts: This sauce is really, really hot. It will leave your lips and tongue burning and your nose running for its life. It will leave the sides of your mouth and gums tingling. It is, I believe, as close as you can get to a flavorful hot sauce with crazy heat as you can get before the heat starts to overtake the flavor dramatically. And Scorpion Chilli has a soft spot for the dramatic; of the sauces they make that I have tried, this isn't even close to being the hottest. Typical to chilihead sauces made for--and by--chilheads, Scorpion Chili uses goofy images and jokes to catch attention of hot freaks, knowing that they are trying something really hot. Normal people need not apply...this sauce is that hot.

Flavor: I believe I have formed some sort of wonderful Pavlovian relationship to this sauce; when I unscrew the large red cap, my mouth begins to water and my heart pounds in anticipation. It's not the heat that does this--it's the flavor. Sweet but not too sweet; Rich but almost devoid of calories; Slight notes of salt that are awash in habanero citrus heat. This sauce just tastes so damn good. The locally grown habaneros, lime juice, and ginger mask the tomato and garlic but they don't cover it completely. Sugar rounds out the sweetness. I just tried some amazing habenero sauces from Marie Sharp's that were less sweet and more garden savory, and this sauce is on the same level. What makes this flavor so special? Habaneros are the showcase of this sauce. There are no frills or goofy secondary flavors, no enhancers or preservatives. The other flavors only work to showcase the habanero. In a world of runny, discolored sauces based on possibly the most over-exposed pepper in the world, this is truly the cream of the crop.

Availability: As a grass roots, community-based hot sauce in Australia, you gotta believe that this sauce isn't going to be easy to find in grocery stores on this half of the planet. However, their sauces have won a number of awards, including some internationally. Ordering this sauce is not just helping a growing business...it's helping you get some unique and amazing stuff! Here's their sauces section, the best place to find their sauces in the whole wide world.

Good for: Scorpion Chilli mastermind Dave and I seem to have similar domestic situations: younger girlfriends in higher ed universities who like hot sauce but don't obsess about it like we do. In a must-mention twist, I actually caught my girlfriend pouring some of this sauce into a pineapple salsa because she liked the flavor! I put it on chips, burritos, and, well, peanut butter sandwiches. It's sweet but not overpoweringly so, and it's hot as hell. If you can think of anything that would be good with the citrus burn of habanero, this sauce is great for it. 

Heat: ****
Flavor: *****
My Review: 9.6/10

If you have to search the whole wide world, a sauce like this made by a team with so much passion and dedication, so many community ties, and such a feel-good story is rare. This is one of my top habanero sauces, full of rich flavor and serious heat. Keep your eye on this rising company!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

One person's sauce is another person's grenade

Very exciting hot pepper news has emerged from Gauhati, India today!

The Indian military plans on using ghost peppers to fight baddies!

If I ever run out of hot sauce, I know I can just bring my leftover pizza crusts, burritos, rice + beans, hummus, and basically everything else in my fridge to India and then commit a serious crime that ends in a police standoff. I'll bet one of those grenades would be plenty for even the most hardcore of chiliheads.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Marie Sharp's Habanero Hot Sauces: Finger lickin'/hurtin' good!

Proud products of Belize...Marie Sharp's makes'em. Just ask their website, a shockingly simple, easy to navigate page that lays out the humble history of their family business. But is simplicity bliss? The short answer is yes, and the long answer involves habaneros, fresh veggies, and vibrant near-Caribbean tropical flavor! This is a first for Good Hurts...two hot sauces at once. But mark my words, the sauces are both variations on a theme: excellence.

Let's look at the facts: Founded in 1980 by it's namesake Marie Sharp, whose hot sauces were the talk of her neighbors and friends, Marie Sharp's has grown from her kitchen to a factory in Dangriga, Belize with over 20 employees and international sales. But don't let this rags-to-riches story of the American (well, Belizian) dream fool you: the business is run by Mrs. Sharp and her husband Gerald and swears by high quality and attention to detail. It shows in this, their most simple of sauces: Hot Habanero and Fiery Hot Habanero.

Good Hurts: Belize, for suckers who aren't in the know, is in Latin America, comfortably nudged along Guatemala and Mexico. However, pepper heads will note the proximity to the Caribbean not because they are more geographically inclined, but because they can smell the sweet citrus fire of Scotch Bonnet habaneros. These are this humble reviewer's favorite peppers, and this may be the best regular hot sauce for them.
HOT HABANERO: Not too hot but definitely not tame, this sauce is like that one dependable horse you in the stable that's strong and faithful but retains its wild animal edge. The habanero hurt is muted but it's a sauce that's much hotter than an average hot sauce and it won't let you down. This is a great sauce for people looking to transition from normal hot sauce to the wild world of fiery fury in a non-frilly, gimmick-free way.
FIERY HOT HABANERO: Still frill-free, still flavorful, but a heck of a lot hotter. This is one that will leave your lips and tongue burning and shaking. This is the one with more heat for the hotheads looking for Scotch Bonnet goodness!

Flavor: The Scotch Bonnet is an amazing product of the planet Earth; native to the Caribbean, the hot pepper is a habanero with a sweeter, brighter flavor. It's easy to cook with and the insane may be prone to eating them raw. These sauces are clones: exactly the same flavor, different levels of heat. How much can you handle? Both are bright orange, just like the pepper, and the flavors of lime juice, onion, and carrot are just subtle enough to round out the heat of the pepper while keeping its flavor bold and citrusy. Both a pulpy and thick like a watery puree. Everything in this sauce tastes market fresh. I think this sauce should be a staple in anyone's cupboard who wants something less savory; picante sauces often taste like tomatoes or savory red chilies, and Louisiana sauces have vinegar at the forefront. Think of this as a hot orange pepper sauce, sweet and filled with delicious veggies that aren't green.

Availability: Theses sauces are available...where crazy amounts of hot sauce are sold. It's a small business despite it's inspirational growth, so I recommend you find it online or search the nearest hot sauce emporium. If you like hot sauce and are sick of of the over-savory or watery, this sauce is for you!

Good for: The sky is the limit here, as it is with any truly excellent sauce. I liberally dump it on Mexican foods like chips, burritos, tacos, and even avocado salads. I drench my pizza in it. And what would scrambled eggs be without a lift of sweet pepper goodness? Nature knows exactly the right amounts of sweetness to put in fruits and veggies, so you can go wild with these sauces and STILL not overdo it.

Review (for both sauces)
Heat: **3/4 (Hot) ***3/4 (Fiery Hot)
Flavor: *****
My Review: 9.3/10

The only difference between these sauces is heat; what they have in common is masterful flavor and gorgeous color. Marie Sharp's should be truly proud of these sauces, but something tells me they already are.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Tabasco Garlic Pepper Sauce: 'Nuff Said

This is Tabasco with garlic in it.

Let's look at the facts: This is Tabas...oh, I said it already. Well, that's what you need to know.
This is Tabasco with garlic in it.

Good Hurts: Actually, Tabasco sells the fact that this sauce is less spicy than their original sauce. The original sauce can be slightly spicy for hot heads in massive quantities, so this sauce is gonna take gallons to nail the real freaks. For everyone else, I recommend not expecting anything than what's on the label. There is almost nothing hot about this sauce.

Flavor: At it's best, this is like a heavier, thicker, slightly more smelly Sriracha, a garlicy and bright pepper blend. At worst, this is the tang of Tabasco brought down by garlic. Garlic is a funny thing with hot sauce...it can really overpower a flavor, but it can, if used sparingly, add savory notes to savory sauces. This really, really tastes like garlic. I'd recommend it in place, perhaps, of garlic when cooking.

Availability: Where Tabasco products are sold. On Earth. This sauce, strangely, is the one I've seen least frequently when it comes to Tabasco. However, after a week of Tabasco reviews, you should get the gist.

Good for: Here's the most important part of this review; the garlic is so powerful, yet there's the slightest tangy zings of the pepper mash Tabasco knows and loves so well. It's a sharper garlic sauce, and it amazingly skirts the problem many garlic based sauces have of ending up tasting like chalk. I think this is best in Bloody Marys! Why not? It's slightly spicy and has a garlic flavor that would go wonderfully with tomato. Also, I say liberally dump it in tomato soup for a hearty grilled cheese companion. This sauce is decent on its own, but much better paired with a powerful pal.

Heat: 1/2 star
Flavor: *1/2
My Review: 4/10

Do it for your tomatoes. Otherwise, be ready for a garlic flavor that, as most garlic tends to do, runs the show when it comes to good hurts.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tabasco Habanero Sauce: Tabasco turns up the heat

There are two types of people in this world.
Actually, there are many types. You can break my classification of two different types into a nearly endless stratum...but before I've even gotten to the review, I've digressed.
There are two types of people in this world:
People who like Topple and people who don't.
This, of course, isn't entirely true; some people enjoy the intensity, dexterity, and competition associated with Topple. Still others like the game but prefer to stand on the sidelines and watch. Then there are some that want nothing to do with the game. Is this sauce a well-balanced winner, or is it toppled in its own crazy heat and crazy blends of flavor?

Let's look at the facts: 
Of course, this is a metaphor for Tabasco's Habanero sauce. It's not as delicious as their Chipotle sauce, but it's easily as daring. However, the good folks on the modern day Island of Dr. Moreau, McIlhenny Co.'s Avery Island, have stepped big-time out of their comfort zone of traditional Louisiana sauce to making a much hotter "Jamaican style" sauce. Their website claims that "mango, papaya, and more" to create a "Caribbean touch to any dish you're serving." However, Tabasco needs to make sure people know the special secret; this tastes like Tabasco, except it's super, super, super spicy. However, after the nuclear pepper fallout clears, little dots of a unique flavor begin to trickle in.

Good Hurts: It's Tabasco, but really hot. I'm really trying to be kind here; Tabasco is a tasty sauce that I've said before seems more akin to the UK's love of vinegar than it is about murdering your baby taste buds. This sauce is a brave new frontier for Tabasco: a sauce way too hot for the masses their traditional sauce holds so much footing with. It's a blistering, tongue ravaging heat, the kind that usually accompanies habaneros. This is truly Tabasco's olive branch to the mouths of the hottest hot freaks out there.

Flavor: This is a very funny sauce when it comes to this category. The ingredients are eclectic, ranging from tamarind and papaya paste to regular Tabasco sauce, tomato paste, onion, and garlic. Like a veritable bottle of Topple, this hot sauce balances average Tabasco sauce with an insane amount of heat for the brand, followed by waves of tropical ingredients to try and balance it out. What works is that this sauce is really hot and has subtle notes of sweet flavor after the dust has settled from the tremendous heat; what doesn't work is that "caribbean flavor," as the Scotch Bonnett has a vibrant, bright sweetness like an orange or yellow pepper. Because so many savory things, like garlic, onion powder, and liberal amounts of salt and vinegar dominate this sauce, it's gonna taste a lot like Tabasco. But much hotter.

Availability: This sauce seems to be hardest to find of the "new breed" of Tabasco's products, but it's part of the gauntlet Tabasco throws down on their site: demand it and it shall be in your store in no time. 

Good for: This spicy sauce is excellent for livening up soups and chili, I think, because it has classic combinations of savory and spice, like it's much older brother. Don't hold your breath waiting for a sweet, happy, tropical experience. Use this sauce as you would Tabasco, but hotter. Seriously. I know I repeat this again and again, but this sauce could easily be used to prank someone who thinks Tabasco's normal sauce is really hot.

Heat: ****
Flavor: **
My Review: 7.3/10

For Tabasco flavor with heat from the other side of the tracks, get yourself a bottle O habanero!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Tabasco Chipotle Pepper Sauce: The pride and joy of a president, an instant classic

President's choice: not just another brand name for cheapo bulk grocery stores, but those words bestowed from Paul McIlhenny, president of Tabasco, onto Tabasco's Chipotle Pepper Sauce. Be very careful with this sauce; it's not too hot, it tastes great, and it's Tabasco's best product for hot freaks or foodies. So why be careful? Because addictions can be problems, and this sauce will fly off your shelf and out of your fridge which, consequently, will cause money to fly out of your wallet to get more of this stuff to guzzle down.

Let's look at the facts: According to Tabasco legend, Paul McIlhenny would only share this sauce with his family for some time; now, it's available in many places, though not as easy to find as it's thinner, redder cousin. Why is that? It may have something to do with the fact that the chipotle pepper, while loved by hot freaks and snobbish food-show types who like to use the word "infuse," is still often too damn hot for the regulars. The taste is something different than the French and European style aged vinegar sauces Tabasco is famous for; in fact, to look closer at this flavor, you have to look to Mexico and areas of South America, where red, ripe jalapenos were smoked over a fire and left to dry, creating the maroon/reddish brown, wrinkly pepper we've come to know and love. This sauce is really special for Tabasco for a couple reasons: 1.) it tastes incredible, and that's always special, and 2.) the texture of the sauce is different than what they usually do; this sauce is noticeably thicker and heartier. In fact, if it were a little thicker, one might be inclined to use it like you would a salsa or bean dip. Yes, this one's a real champion.

Good Hurts: Tabasco claims that this sauce is not too mild, not too hot; I think it could stand to be a little hotter. This chipotle pepper sauce is one that won't leave you face-down in a puddle of milk with urine stained pants and no memory of how you got there. A raw chipotle (or one that cones in the delicious cans of adobo sauce--highly recommended) is pretty hot...one that will no doubt see you sweatin' and shakin'. This sauce will leave a lingering burn on your lips and the tip of your tongue, but by no means is it an enveloping or serious heat. The problem is this: while this sauce is meant to be flavorful, it's not a sauce designed to rest on the laurels of taste alone. It should be a little hotter, because a chipotle sauce should be hot like a chipotle pepper unless otherwise noted.
Small complaints about an awesome sauce, I know...but little things can chip away at what otherwise may be flawless.

Flavor: This sauce is a BBQ lover's real dream companion; the bottle makes sure you see the prominent repetition of the word SMOKED across the top. Onion powder, garlic, and hints of sugar round out a flavor not unlike the delicious, full-bodied smell of a campfire. Vinegar and red pepper go into the mix; a lot of the ingredients have overlap with BBQ sauce. The difference here is that this thicker sauce is still much thinner than salsa or molassas/ketsup like BBQ. It's Tabasco's best sauce, full of rich and subtle flavors, all enjoyable. Major kudos to this one, especially for whomever had the foresight to push their company in such an interesting direction with new stuff like this.

Availability: It's easy to find with most other Tabasco products (read: everywhere, all the time), but they say something interesting they can actually back up: if you can't find it, request it at a location and they'll find a way to get it to you. Tabasco is a master of distribution, so they really can ship sauces to local markets that carry their products pretty much at (your) will.

Good for: The smokey flavor of a chipotle is friends with any chef for a reason: it's unique, hot, and compliments such a wide range of foods. I think Tabasco is on to something when they say to use it like a marinade for grilled veggies and meats. Also, because this sauce is sweeter and not too hot, it's a good additive to bean or chili dishes without being too overpowering. If you want a taste of the chipotle pepper that works well for pretty much anyone, this should be your go-to Tabasco sauce. If I were them, history be damned, I'd push this sauce as hard as their original.

Heat: *1/2
Flavor: ****1/2
My Review: 8.9

In a proper chipotle sauce, heat should be showcased a little more. However, this bold (literally) experiment in branching out is nothing short of a monumental triumph. This is a must-have sauce for your pantry!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tabasco Milder Jalapeno: Jalapeno taste with a green pepper heart

It's time to give some Good Hurts attention to Tabasco...that's right, Big Tabasco, the company synonymous with hot sauce for so many people worldwide. As any giant company knows, you have to stay relevant and take risks to be on top. This sauce, the one I think is one of the company's most out-there, is marketed as a mild jalapeno sauce. It's mild and jalapeno-y, but is it any good?

Let's look at the facts: Tabasco is so big and powerful that they can sort of create their own spectrum of hot sauces. In the middle is their standard hot sauce--watery, tangy, and moderately spicy if you enough of it. This sauce isn't spicy at all, but seeks out a pepper rich in flavor but difficult to harness without the heat. Flavor is important here, and this sauce does a pretty good job of capturing the ripe zest of a raw jalapeno while essentially neutering the insane heat.

Good Hurts: This sauce has only the slightest traces of heat...a slight murmur in the back of your throat, a gentle tingle on your lips. This sauce's heat is nearly intangible; without jalapeno on the bottle, you might not know that it's meant to be a hot sauce. One of the big pluses of this sauce is that it tastes the way most Tabasco does (salty, tangy) with only a hint of spice but flavor intact.

Flavor: It's like I said above: this sauce is very salty and tangy, but it has a special quality other jalapeno sauces have a really hard time replicating. A raw jalapeno is a magical thing, full of fresh, green-pepper like acidic flavor and a seering heat. For some reason I don't (and probably never will) understand, most places that make jalapeno sauce end up making it smell and taste strongly of chalk. I've encountered this problem with dozens of hot sauces, but it exists mostly in the jalapeno world. Maybe it has something to do with freshness, packaging, or the aging of the pepper mash...whatever it is, Tabasco is able to effectively side step it. However, the sauce tastes good, not amazing. The salt and acid will command control of your taste buds, hiding some of those subtle qualities that make jalapenos so gol' durn tasty.

Availability: Well, if you live on the planet Earth, Tabasco is probably nearby. Their standard sauce is easiest to find, but this sauce is nearly as prevalent in grocery stores, gourmet shops, and even gas stations.

Good for: You just have to see this website; Tabasco may have a much bigger budget than, say, Bob, who makes sauce out of the muffler of his car and sells it per-order, but it really shocks me that Tabasco is one of the few companies with the foresight to name all the things they think their sauce is good for. This sauce's best and brightest qualities are also the things that hold it back a bit: the salty, tangy pepper zest and lack of heat make it ideal for blander, carb heavy dishes, like rice, beans, tortillas, grits, and more. Without the kick of spice, this sauce becomes a more everyman sauce and less a part of the exclusive world of hot insanity.

Heat: 1/2 star
Flavor: ***
My Review: 6.9

For a decent jalapeno flavor with the the heart of a mild green pepper, Tabasco's got your number.

It's Tabasco week at Good Hurts!

Over the next week or so, Good Hurts will be featuring the primary sauces made by big Tabasco, the #1 hot sauce company in the USA! Since last reviewing their standard namesake sauce, I became interested in their other products. I think you'll find that Tabasco is surprising, versatile, and, despite their tried-and-true legendary formula, "still gots it."

Monday, February 15, 2010

Jalapeno Harissa Batch #112: Jalapeno without the hurt

The good folks at Original Juan's continue their Good Hurts dominance throughout the early part of 2010 with Jalapeno Harissa's Batch #112 sauce. Does it hurt as much as Harissa (if that is Harissa on the bottle) makes it seem like it does?

Let's look at the facts: Well, first of all, it needs to be said: my bottle doesn't have the fun heat-o-meter that the picture shows. That being said, the heat-o-meter needs to be checked (where can you get refills of mercury these days?) because this sauce is tasty but tame as a pussycat.

Good Hurts: It's good, but it certainly doesn't hurt. Harissa must have either eaten a different sauce or gotten an insect in her mouth; this sauce is not hot at all. Even the most inexperienced of spice eaters would be hard pressed to detect even the slightest inklings of heat here. Jalapenos may be in it, but the flavor is more pervasive...not so much the spice.

Flavor: When I tasted it, something was interesting that I couldn't put my finger on. The zest of the jalapeno is there, but the garden-fresh flavor of tomato paste covers it up a bit. It wasn't lime juice of salty vinegar, but something seemed indicative of light, aromatic herbs. Then I looked on the bottle and found it: fresh mint and cilantro! This sauce has the taste of a very runny pico de gallo salsa, garden-packed with the powerful zings of mint and cilantro. Very, very tasty...not quite sweet, but a finely-chopped salsa-like hot sauce.

Availability: These sauces are very easy to find in grocery stores nationwide and on the Original Juan's website. Their "Batch #" series of sauces seems popular, tasty, and welcome alternative to the more easy-to-find Louisiana sauces and big-name Mexican picante sauces.

Good for: Because this sauce seems so much like salsa, I think it pairs really well with pretty much any Mexican food you can think of...chips, tacos, and fajitas would go well with this thin, finely ground flavor. The ingredients are already eerily reminiscent of salsa, so why not treat it like one?

Heat: 1/4 Star
Flavor: ***1/2
My Review: 6.9/10

A member of the salsa family has jumped the tree and landed in the branches of hot sauce, but it will never be a full-blooded sibling; tasty and worth eating, but a far cry from some of the burning beauties Original Juan's is capable of (read: Da' Bomb).

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Da' Bomb: Beyond Insanity...yes, the name of the sauce IS the description

What are the boundaries of our humanity? Are our breaking points more physical or mental? Must we experience physical and mental anguish to understand who we truly are and what we are capable of? The multiple approaches to the human mind, body, and condition are all faced with their mortal limitations by Da' Bomb's Beyond Insanity hot sauce, one of the darkest vortexes in the furthest corners of the hot sauce universe.

Let's Look at the Facts: This sauce is made by Original Juan's...yes, the company that makes the fun bottles with the screaming people on them also produces this military-grade pill of pure pain. The A-Bomb on the front is absolutely fitting for this sauce, and if I ran the company, I'd wrap it in some caution tape, too. In the interest of the hundreds of thousands of families undoubtedly reading this review, this is not S**T to *F**K around with. A tiny bottle of this will go a really, really long way. I plan to be buried clutching my three-quarters full bottle, for example.

Good Hurts: This sauce is explosive and at almost 200,000 Scoville units (Dave's is about 80,000 and still far, far to hot for anyone to realistically consume), it really is way beyond insanity. Here's some Good Hurts advice to everyone out there in the hot food nebula: once you get this hot, how much hotter it can go is sort of negligible. Yes, some super double dog extra special reserves are at nearly half a million Scoville units (or even a million), having just one bite of anything this hot will smash you and isn't meant to be fun food. One drop on your tongue is an explosion of epic proportions...a milisecond tingle becomes a dry, taste-bud tearing blast that lingers for up to 20 minutes(!!!!!!). You can even feel your ears ring, sinuses ache, and tongue-tip cook within a couple tiny, tiny drops. This is made only for real hot freaks like me and you.

Flavor:  Like heat, the flavor is sort of hard to notice when your ears, eyes, and throat are burning violently, with the unrelenting churl of oil-less gears. Unlike Dave's it's not much of a tropical blast, which is ironic because the ingredients actually contain orange juice concentrate! That's like saying napalm is better because it's made with marshmallow, along with industrial toxins. The chipotle puree, which is made from ground up roasted jalapenos, water, and liberal amounts of salt, cuts the tropical flavor of habanero; It's like a sweeter version of red clay. That's the taste of death before the spice carries you away.

Availability: I'm a big mixed martial arts fan, but I think regular people unfamiliar with the sport can follow this metephor: UFC is super popular and their name is everywhere. But they also own WEC, a smaller federation running shows in small buildings almost totally devoid of the UFC name. Da' Bomb sauces are Original Juan's UFC. Original Juan's ubiquitous screaming face sauces are in Wal-Mart, for goodness sakes, but you'd be hard pressed to find it anywhere but at solid, self-respecting hot sauce emporiums or the internet. It's too hardcore for any normal person, but also too hardcore to just go away.

Good on: In this case, on is in, unless you want to be one of those annoying people posting videos of themselves eating hot sauce on Youtube (read: video forthcoming). A drop in chili will make it too hot for the average homeboy. I don't mean a bowl of chili...I mean an entire pot of chili. Use with caution! This is not a food...it's a food additive. Why is it made? Ask yourself this question first: what is the human condition?

Heat: *****
Flavor: *
My Review: 6.5/10

A good review for shock factor and making other foods hot, but otherwise not made for human consumption. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Video Kaboom: Russell vs. Buffalo Cantina Seppuku Wings Challenge


Cajun Bayou: The official favorite Louisiana Hot Sauce of Good Hurts

Apologies for the 10 day gap in reviews...the GoodHurtsTron5000 needed to be taken out behind the woodshed and "corrected." Now I have a new Mac and nothing to stop me from communicating with the outside world. Please be patient...the video of my toppling the Buffalo Cantina wing challenge and losing a piece of my soul doing it will be up soon!

Like UFOs in our skies, Louisiana hot sauce has plenty of people who claim to have seen the best evidence out there (of flavor, heat, and other taste mysteries) that a particular brand is really amazing. Like UFOs, fleeting samples of the stuff come in and out leaving hot sauce fans to wonder which kind really proves that the stuff can hold a culinary key to the future in a world where hotter and hotter insanity sauces are landing every day. Like UFOs, Tabasco is the Roswell incident, the benchmark Louisiana hot sauce with time on its side and the widest base of believers. And like UFOs, this grainy photo was the only one I could find of a rich, shiny sauce that I believe can trump the countless other sauces like it. Floating between a Louisiana and Picante sauce (a la Salsa Huichal, Cholula, and others) this sauce is worth investigating.

Let's Look at the Facts: My best friends in the world at Original Juan's can count this sauce among their wide variety of interesting hot sauces. And why not? It's a sauce that enters a whole other division of hot sauces...one filled with similar flavor but possibly the widest fanbase. It's pretty simple...created from a cayenne pepper mash, in which the red peppers are crushed up and left in a (usually enclosed) vat of vinegar and aged, this sauce can boast that the only thing it rests on is its fresh cayenne flavor, since there are no additives or preservatives and no sugar.
For a company that uses such creative packaging, Cajun Bayou keeps it simple: simple package, simple label, and simply effective.

Good Hurts: What can I say? This is a hot sauce meant for flavor, not knock you socks off heat. I would be interested to see a really hot Cajun sauce someday...but I dream. For now, this sauce has almost no heat, even for those of especially weak spice constitutions. This is a sauce for the elderly and babies as well as anyone who wants to explore the endlessly similar corridors that Louisiana sauce offers: salt, cayenne pepper, and vinegar. Flavor is really what's important in this hot sauce.

Flavor: This is a special sauce because the first thing the pops into your mind when you eat it won't be "tangy!" Tabasco, Frank's Red Hot, Trappey's, and other heavy hitters in the Louisiana industry have sauces that have a tart jolt of salty vinegar at the beginning, but this one is much more understated, pushing it close to the smoothness of Cholula and its Picante family members. It's also very vinegar-y, though, which means that it's going to be really good with something starchy and not very acidic. I think this sauce is ideal for a lot of foods you might not otherwise want to end up puckering up for by using too much of the other guys' sauces.

Availability: This sauce is on their website, of course, but don't expect to find this sauce in too many grocery stores worldwide. While Original Juan's has some decent distribution, this sauce might have too much competition to get it in stores where Original Juan's other, well, original products can shine. If you find it, I recommend it thoroughly. If not, it might be worth ordering if you're sick of being let down by the too-salty grind.

Good for: This is the shining point of this sauce. What Louisiana sauce lacks in heat, it makes up for in versatility. This sauce is no different. Pour it liberally on pizza, pita chips, fries, or my personal favorite, kettle chips, for a deep south take on the classic British chips n' vinegar. The salty sauce isn't too tangy to overpower your favorites, but adds a tasty savory kick. I could eat bowl after bowl of kettle chips and this sauce if I didn't care about my pesky liver and completely pickling it.

Heat: 1/2 star
Flavor: ***
My Review: 7/10

As far as Louisiana hot sauce goes, this is as good as it can get. Don't forget to watch the skies...er, the swamps, for the latest and greatest from the wide world of cayenne.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Pain 100%: Nature's brutal wrath, one drop at a time

In a world of so many hidden messages, many obfuscated further by carefully crafted rhetoric, bright, catchy images, and downplayed pratfalls, it's refreshing to know that Original Juan's, the most important name in Kansas City, has banged out an all-natural hot sauce for the organic hot freak in your life. What they've come up with definitely isn't for the feint of heart, but should be embraced by true pepperheads looking for a chemical-free fix of fire.

Let's look at the facts: Located in the "Meltdown" section of their hot sauce area of their site, Pain 100% is a simple take on habaneros, some of the hottest peppers under the sun. While the effects food additives (like thickening gums) are sketchy and blurred, Pain 100% boasts all natural ingredients, though some of its spices could benefit from some elaboration. This sauce is all about the raw power of the habanero, and all other spices and flavors come second. No frills, no gimmicks, and no kidding around: this sauce is thick, bright, and hot.

Good Hurts: The raw habanero is hot as hell, and this sauce is packed full of raw seeds and the orange-red color unmistakeably associated with the pepper. This sauce packs a wallop, too, and will definitely be too much for regular people looking to pep up a burrito. This is a sauce that toes many lines: after a few mouthfuls, you'll be aching bad; it's not hot enough, however, to just be a food additive. The real truth of this sauce --which is lip-burning and tongue titillating to its very core--is that it's a hot freak's standard hot sauce. Simple, habanero-rich, and thick, this hot sauce is one made for people who want to dump it on heavy and sniffle, weep, and cough their way through their favorite foods.

Flavor: The sparse ingredients say a lot: habanero peppers, water, and the Earthy garden zest of fresh tomatoes in the form of thick (there's that word again) tomato paste. Lastly, the label adds, are "salt and spices" and "natural pepper flavoring." Whether or not this is extract or actual ground up peppers remains unsolved. Whatever the spices are, they are all but whispers between waves of intense, lingering heat.

Availibilty: Besides rockin' the KC, Pain 100%, along with a number of other exciting Original Juan's sauces (no, they don't pay or sponsor me. They just make damn good sauce) are surprisingly available at many finer groceries and gourmet food stores.

Good for: Because the habanero is such a sharp, acidic pepper, it really overwhelms a lot of other flavors. This sauce is best accepted for what it really is: an all-natural habanero showcase. Not hot enough to destroy your soul, but hot enough to really make the rest of your meal a tear-jerking expressway to habanero hell, Pain 100% stands in an interesting place. It's best to just pour over pizza, burritos, rice, or other starchy foods that won't grind up against the power of the habanero.

Heat: ****
Flavor: **
My Review: 8.0/10

A solid, simple habanero sauce for hot freaks to slather recklessly and for food adventurers to have an organic good time gettin' burned.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Seppuku Challenge at Buffalo Cantina completed! Why did I do it? A letter from the editor

Dear Good Hurts readers,

I'm not one to try to talk down to an audience, and I'm not one to try to use a hot sauce review blog to lay out intertextual puzzles and connect-the-dots meaning(s) between images and representations of peppers and what it says about life and the universe as we know it.
I will, however, say that the picture I used for an editor photo here does look an awful lot like a complex labyrinth and is fitting for my experience on the night of January 2nd. That's the night I went to Buffalo Cantina in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and completed the Seppeku challenge.
The serrano peppers, fresh habaneros, and pour after pour of fine-ground red pepper is negligible in the face of a (not so) healthy capfull of habanero extract. Think about how delicious vanilla extract smells, but how awful it tastes. Pepper extract is used in commercial pepper sprays and even mace of bear spray. The stuff isn't really meant for consumption.
With a group of 6 friends cheering me on and dozens more concerned back in Iowa, I tore into the toughest physical challenge of my life. 12 wings drenched in killer Seppeku sauce, needing to be completed in 3 mere minutes. After 4 wings I couldn't taste anything. After 7 I couldn't swallow. With tears in my eyes and a burning charred throat, I powered down the final three wings in the last 30 seconds and tipped my chair over in victory. The thrill was short lived, however, as I downed half a gallon of milk and cup after cup of water (note to spice novices: never drink water to relieve pepper pain. It just pushes the spice further across your tongue and offers temporary relief. It's like struggling in quicksand). What followed was a ringing in my ears and horrible agony just beyond the layer of skin I call my face while an uncomfortable silence fell over the restaurant.
The stomach ache afterwards was the worst, though, and for a few minutes I wondered if I would ever really feel OK again. It was a like I had a brick covered in glass dust wedged between my sternum and intestines, simultaneously cutting my innards and blocking the ensuing flow of blood. I never vomited, but I did sleep from 1 to 5 AM, intermittently waking to go into the bathroom in brutal stomach pain. At 5, I realized I wasn't going back to sleep. I had a plane to catch home and needed to be up at 6. But as I watched the sun rise over the small buildings in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn and cut ashen lines from the cables of the Verrizano Bridge, I came as close to a reconciliation with mortality as I think I can ever come.
I did the challenge because I wanted to realize my mortal boundaries as best I can in this lifetime. I'm not in good shape, and training for an athletic contest and succeeding might take me a long, long time. But I have a high threshold for pain, and I really pushed it. I would say that completing spicy food eating challenges is fanfare for the average person looking for a rock-star rush: a restaurant cheering you on, an endorphin rush to succeed, and a brutal capsicum-induced crash. That'd be the rock star OD'ing after their big show.
The Good Hurts editorial team (read: my girlfriend) is hard at work on compiling the footage into a magnum opus video. Until that's up, enjoy the sauce reviews and our twitter page.

Happy New Years,

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Queen of Farts: Live the medieval war between sweet and salty

If you love blasting violent explosions out of your ass, you might want to just cut out the hot sauce middle man and do what the lowliest lifeforms on Earth do.  For the rest of us, there's Queen of Farts, a goofy sauce whose silly name and bottle art may deter normals from understanding the complex war of flavors happening under the innocent plastic cap. Is this Queen worth bowing down to? Will she ever learn to control herself?

Let's look at the facts: The second I found this sauce, I said to my girlfriend, "I bet a goofy guy in a pepper Hawaiian shirt made this sauce." True pepperheads can see each other in our fiery dreams. Sure enough, friendly CaJohn of Columbus, Ohio states: "CaJohns is about getting together with friends and family, enjoying great stories and lots of laughter over some delicious fiery food. We hope our hot sauces and fiery foods help you make your gatherings even more fun!" If you're not interested in swapping stories of lives and times in the gaseous monarchy, CaJohns makes tons of cool looking sauces for true pepperheads. It's refreshing to see such a down home business with such variety. Clearly, Queen of Farts is about fun, plain and simple. Funny name, funny bottle. Niche market. I found the sauce in an "As Seen on TV" store. It's a funny stocking stuffer or gag sauce for the hot freak in your life, but I believe there's more beneath the surface. Combinations of some of my favorite hot sauce traits are all under one cap, but they battle each other a bit more than they may need to.

Good Hurts: This sauce promises a "gentle heat, enjoyable for everyone." This is one of the sauce's highest points. It's not too hot, so even though it's clearly made for hot sauce aficionados, friends and family can gather round and sample it without worrying about severe face peeling or ass blorting. It's a comparable heat to a big gulp O Tabasco sauce. Hey, the world only needs a handful of things like Blair's 10000 skrillion reserves or Pure Cap.

Flavor: Like many wars between feudal kingdoms, this hot sauce's polarized flavors constantly try to scale one another's moats and co-opt their territories. Papaya, guava, pineapple, passion fruit, and banana. Lemon, passion, and guava fruit juices. There's no reason this sauce shouldn't be the sweetest heat in all ye lande. However, the savory armies of salt, garlic, white vinegar, and, leading the charge, curry, put up a formidable fight against insurmountable odds. In between this war is the fair maiden habanero. Curry is the most powerful flavor, so you get a little sweetness after what tastes like a yellow curry. However, it's not the tropical blast it probably could be. So much fruit is hidden by the thick armor of vinegar, salt, and curry. It's a hybrid of the Babysauce and Curry Fire made by the Peppermaster, but the two don't seem to blend as naturally as mere mortals may dream.

Availability: CaJohn's good ol' website has this sauce and more at your beckon call. But guess what?!?!??!?!?!?!?!?!???!??!?!?!?!?!?!?!? This sauce has Christmas miracle-like distribution. Novelty stores and As-Seen-on-TV/gourmet chef stores. If you can find a food-friendly outlet store, you might get lucky and find this sauce.

Good for: I think it's best with rice dishes, since it seems very curry like. And the curry is good! But it's not the sweet treat you might think it is. Indian food, especially yellow curry, would work with this sauce, too.

Heat: *
Flavor: ***
My Review: 6.9/10

It's a tasty curry sauce, but this Queen may need to lighten up on the farts and "let them eat fruits."

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Tabasco Sauce: A special Christmas review of the All-American hot sauce

New Years is a time to reflect upon one's year; recognizing flaws you want to fix and new ground you want to cover often paints the landscape of the start of another all-too-short 365 days. 2009 was a good year for Good Hurts. It started! Sauces were eaten. (A) Reviewer(s) went to bed sore-stomached and smiley-faced after long nights of sampling. But Good Hurts has missions:
-To become the definitive hot sauce review site.
-To develop our own special blend of 10/10 sauces.
-To sign a hit TV show deal (hopefully right before Jersey Shore comes on...can't miss a second of Snooki's foppish antics).
Most important of all:
-To remain completist, never elitist.

In keeping with the spirit of America's favorite holiday, Christmas (besides, perhaps, the Superbowl, or Thirsty Thursday), Good Hurts prepares for a great 2010 with the hot sauce that defines a nation: Tabasco.

Tabasco sauce is a watery, light red Louisiana style sauce. That means big vinegar, Tabasco/cayanne peppers, and salt, salt, salt. And after vowing many times not to review sauces like this, why do they keep showing up on Good Hurts? Here's why: Tabasco has transcended the pantheon of excellent hot sauces; it's traversed the hierarchy hall of hottness. Tabasco has become an iconic hot sauce clearly symbolic of the American dream, intertwined more with our values, history, and  consumer culture than it is a regular ol' hot sauce from Lo'sianna.

Let's Look at the Facts: I can't rewrite their mind-blowing history page...I just don't have the time or web design doller$. But you really should check it out. Long story short: The McIlhenny Company started making the hot sauce in 1886 to spice up the reconstruction South's bland food (haha, it's never too late to rise again. -Ed.) Edmund McIlhenny, a banker, aged his Avery Island, LA crushed red peppers in a "mash" with salt. After 30 days in crockery jars, the mash was mixed with French white wine vinegar (they use distilled white vinegar like most Louisiana sauces now) and aged for another 30 days. Boom! Tabasco sauce, the first major commercial hot sauce, was born. Please note the ties to the class-rising, multi-chance American dream of finding passion in unconventional places between the hardscrabble lines of life in our free-market democracy. Paul McIlhenny, the 6th in a line of McIlhenny company presidents and Avery Island residents, runs the company today. But beyond the mild heat and tangy flavor lies the secret of its success: unmatched longevity and drive to be the best...perhaps it isn't the hottest or best tasting, but it's everywhere and it worked hard to get there. It's the story of so many American business juggernauts: a website designed to look young, fresh, and like a vibrant concert also contains a long section about the antiquated tradition and steadfast adherence to unchanging recipes and business values. Like Coca Cola, Tabasco pioneered an entire food industry and has reinvented itself again and again to change with the times. They build their image in the long shadow of their own American mystique: a family with dreams, land to cultivate, and traditional beliefs. Most importantly, Tabasco is everywhere. Like any die-hard capitalist company, Tabasco slaps their name and product any and everywhere, as a great way to learn about something is repetition, repetition, repetition. If you're reading this site, you have probably eaten Tabasco sauce.

Good Hurts: It's actually spicier than you might assume. Even the most cynical and stone-hearted of pepper freaks can dump gallons of the sauce on a single bite of food and get a back-of-the-throat heat. This humble editor must admit that the main reason for this review is a Christmas with my girlfriend's mom, who doesn't keep any hot sauce in the house. Yet my heart grew three sizes when I poured a generous puddle onto a single corn chip and could feel the burn I've nursed in my mortal mouth since I founded this site. Is it as hot as the killer world of death running the hot sauce niche today? No way. But it is a hot sauce! There IS a heat.

Flavor: Tabasco is really tangy. I actually think that its flavor has a lot in common with its place in the legendary lore of American foods. The proud USA is still a tad over 230 years old, having split from the Brits who colonized our country. Notice that those Brits can't get enough of vinegar and salty foods...from Fish n' Chips to Marmite and Vegemite,  salt and vinegar go hand and hand. Here in the USA, McIlhenny developed a sauce down south with a comparable vinegar tang that pairs well with the mild sweetness of cayanne pepper and fresh Avery Island salt. While the image and ubiqitousness have huge hands in the Tabasco brand, flavor--and ties to down-home Louisiana, Southern spice, and stringent, painstaking hand-crafted tenderness--is just as important. This is America's loud answer to salty foods across the pond: tangy zings and spicy exclamation points, even if they aren't hot enough for true hot freaks.

Availability: This is probably the first and only time I'll ever say this: This sauce is available everywhere. Grocery stores. Gourmets. Gas Stations. Restaurants (I've even seen it in some dumpy Chinese joints). This sauce is literally everywhere. The hot sauce world's answer to Coca-Cola is cheap and easy. They even developed their own little hierarchy of various flavors and online-exclusive "special reserves." Because Tabasco is older than any person on Earth and has been successful for longer than most political regimes are in place, their name will always lend itself well to the masses. According to their website, "Tabasco" is a word of "Mexican Indian origin believed to mean 'place where the soil is humid' or 'place of the coral or oyster shell.'" For many, "Tabasco" means "hot sauce."

Good for: Tabasco originated something I think is a brilliant concept: it says that it's good on everything and actually lists all the foods it's good for. Pizza, salads, eggs, subs, steak, chili...the list goes on and on. You can even download recipes using the sauce onto your ipod. Topical! As a card-carrying spice beast, I have to say that this sauce is remarkably good for everything because of its generalist nature; not too hot, not too tangy, not too salty, not too sweet. I prefer to diversify, adding different hot sauces to different foods, but I would never turn down the salty zing of Tabasco on my eggs. This sauce is made for regular Americans by not-so-regular Americans working and living on Avery Island who'd probably like you to believe they're down-home folks just like yourself. They are actually factory workers and CEOs.

Heat: *3/4
Flavor: **3/4
My Review: 5.5

As a poet, I can compare Tabasco hot sauce to Walt Whitman. I hated him growing up! I hated him as a poet obsessed with the avant-garde! But as I matured as a man, I began to understand the significance of Whitman's place in poetry. His "collective consciousness" and lesson-like stream of realizations was instrumental in the development of the poet's creative, off-the-cuff comprehension and analytical approach to writing and the world. Tabasco's collective consciousness appeals to the little part of EVERYONE that loves spice, but some of our little parts are actually pretty big.