Review – Espresso Bean Balsamic BBQ Sauce
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You may have read my review of the Queen Creek Olive Mill, a cool local attraction. I was there picking up a gift a few weeks ago and saw some BBQ sauce that I really had to try!

Coffee (espresso) is one of my favorite flavors when it comes to barbecue. I love it in sauces, and I especially love it incorporated into rubs, so I was anxious to give this sauce a try.

It was amazing! You get the deep, rich notes of espresso – they weren’t stingy, but it doesn’t overpower the sauce either.I also loved the tangy, swirling flavor of balsamic – those 2 flavors are the perfect partners! This sauce has exactly what I enjoy – complexity. It’s cool t take a bit of something and have a whole bunch of different flavors bouncing around in your mouth!

The sauce is thick, with some chunks in it too – this isn’t some goop that was pureed to death.It is a great consistency, and very flavorful. I have used it on pork, on chicken and even in some sandwiches!

Although the Queen Creek Olive Mill is a local attraction, you can absolutely buy online too! Visit their store – I guarantee you could spend an entire morning or afternoon browsing online just like you could at their real store in Queen Creek! You can learn more about their great sauces here: Herbs, Spices & Sauces

Food Porn
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As I wait for some more interviews to wrap up, and some more products come in for review, it occurred to me that I have made some pretty tasty stuff over the years!

Salsa Maya – A Review
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I review a lot of good products on this site. As a matter of fact, regular followers of The Dry-Rubbed Rat may be a bit suspicious regarding the fact that I have never posted a bad review. Well, there are a couple of reasons for that. First, due to time constraints, this site gets the lowest volume of content, of all my sites. I just am not pushing a ton of product reviews here. Second, I’m pretty selective on what products I review. I try to reach out to companies who have interesting and/or yummy looking products.

All that to say that Salsa Maya may just be the most interesting, the hottest, and the most flavorful product I have reviewed yet. Salsa Maya is an habanero aioli and it’s amazing.

I’m gringo through and through, born and raised in eastern Canada. “Spicy” to me used to be “salt and pepper”. Having lived in Arizona for nearly 17 years though, my palate has toughened up and I usually choose “medium” spicy – whether it’s Thai food, Mexican, or whatever. Habanero anything is a bit intimidating to me. That being said, I was intrigued. I reached out to the folks at Salsa Maya via their Facebook page and pretty soon Victoria Gonzalez kindly had a bottle on the way to me. I had a feeling about this, and couldn’t wait to try it. Honestly, my first taste was mixed in with a little bit of plain jasmine rice my wife and daughter had cooked up for something else. I was hooked!

Photo courtesy of Salsa Maya

The flavor profile in Salsa Maya is very complex (to me). My wife and I had a discussion at the dinner table. I said “I love this stuff, but I’m not sure I can describe it”. Make no mistake, it is hot. But it’s not overwhelmingly so. The garlic and the creaminess of the aioli smooth out that heat so it’s not simply hitting you in the face. If you’re an aficionado of hot stuff, you’ll like this. If you can handle up to “medium” in the spiciness category, I think you will be able to enjoy this too. There are a ton of flavors bouncing around in this smooth, creamy heat. I’m loving it honestly, and using it on everything.

I made a fried egg and pastrami sandwich today (my “cheat” meal for the weekend) and smeared it all up with Salsa Maya, My wife mixed it in with tuna the other day to make a tuna salad sandwich. This is gooooood stuff….

Wondering what you’d do with it? Salsa Maya has taken some of the mystery out of that conundrum by providing a recipe page on their website along with product info, nutritional values (calories and all that stuff) and some pretty interesting information about the health and dietary benefits associated with habaneros.

I’m really looking forward to seeing how many different things this will work with. I think I’ll be ordering some more soon. If you’re looking for something hot, or something different, or something that pairs well with everything from steak to fish to sandwiches – I really, really recommend you try some Salsa Maya.

Thanks again to Victoria – look for a company profile and interview coming up in the future.

Checking In With The Lady Behind Vaquero’s
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Hopefully you read my review of Vaquero’s Dipping Sauce awhile back. My family has been loving this sauce and trying it on everything! I’m always curious when I try a new product to learn “the story” behind it. A big “Thank You” to Michelle Sassen for taking the time to answer some questions!

1. So how long have you been doing this?

I have been making this sauce for years! I can’t really remember exactly when it started. I’m not a chef, foodie, or anything special. I just grew up in the sticks where we learned to make do with what we had on hand. Glean all you can from people, magazines, and the internet then use it and adapt it to your advantage. My husband had hounded me for years to bottle it and to take it to market. I resisted. He finally wore me down in March 2011. After much research and development, we were able to finally run the first production batch of 2000 lbs. on 3/2/12.

2. How did you get started?

I was verbally given an unclear recipe that was emulated from Mustard’s Grill in Napa Valley. By unclear I mean that to me it was unclear. I didn’t know what “BBQ spices” were so I grabbed Montreal seasoning out of my cupboard and used that and when the recipe said that the chilies were ground in a coffee grinder giving it “just a hint of coffee”, I decided I certainly wasn’t about to cross contaminate my coffee with chili by using my coffee grinder to grind the chilies, I just scooped the freshly ground coffee directly into the sauce. Chilies were ground in the old coffee grinder set aside for spices only! I played around with the ratio until I finally found the perfect sauce.

3. How are sales going?

Considering the time I have had to put into it, surprisingly well. During this whole process of bringing Vaquero’s to the mass market, my husband had a motorcycle accident which put much of our lives on hold and has given our lives quite a few ups & downs. Our customer base is mostly in small local stores in Mendocino County where we are based, on our website, a friends pecan farm stand/online (Superior Pecans), and online with Bourbon & Boots.

4. What was the biggest surprise/challenge getting this to market?

The biggest surprise to me is that so many people like it and are willing to buy and/or sell it.

The biggest challenge getting this to market as a complete newcomer to the food business is learning how to do so while doing the bookkeeping for my husband’s business and working 30 +/- hours a week for a physical therapy office.

5. Are the other sauces or products in your future?

Yes! I have a mild version for those who don’t like it as spicy, an Asian Fusion sauce where east meets west, a Vaquero’s BBQ rub based on the sauce, a Smokey Montreal rub which I stumbled on while creating Vaquero’s BBQ Rub, and what my youngest daughter has named “MOMtreal” rub which is my personal version of Montreal. Unfortunately, as many know – it takes considerable time, research, and funding to get each product to market. I have everything past the research and development level. Nutritional values are ready. Art work is in progress. As for funding, well I haven’t been able to do just yet. I have high expectations that in the not too distant future I will be able to bring all my products to the public.

6. What’s your favorite recipe or use of your sauce?

I personally, eat, drink, and sleep this sauce. But I love it on chicken. Barbecued of course and with EXTRA sauce in a small dipping bowl to dip prior to popping it into my mouth. I also love pulled pork (or chicken) sandwiches.

DRR: Thanks again to Michelle for taking time out to tell us more about the story behind Vaquero’s. You can visit their website here: VAQUERO’s WEBSITE. I can’t wait to try the other goodies that Michelle has in store for us!

Product Review – 8th Wonder Spice
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I really need to thank Andy Krish from 8th Wonder Spice for sending me some of his amazing spice blend to sample.

Adding on to the story of the 7 Wonders of the World, the 8th Wonder website states “…8th Wonder Foods continues this tradition with a unique and delicious spice blend that is a monument to epicurean excellence.

Perfected over time, 8th Wonder Spice Blend combines 17 natural ingredients, including cocoa and coffee to create a unique, full-bodied seasoning that compliments all foods.

As a rub, 8th Wonder redefines the standard of taste for steak, ribs, chicken and seafood.

As a seasoning, 8th Wonder Spice Blend transforms tacos, chili, soups, sauces and stews into gourmet masterpieces.

No matter how you use it, the unique flavor of 8th Wonder Spice Blend will enhance the taste of all your favorite meals.”

This spice blend rub comes in a cool container. It smells fresh, and is ground to a fine texture for sure, but it does have some coarse bits in it too. It smells amazing. Now, I have never been to Morocco, but that is the first thing I thought of – exotic, far away north Africa. You can smell hints of the coffee and cocoa for sure, but there is a ton of other stuff in there too. Now to taste it!

The first thing I tried it on was wings in the smoker. Now to be fair, I had never done wings in my smoker before.

Fast forward to the final product… they tasted good, but my execution was poor. After I had smoked the wings, I didn’t (couldn’t) get the temp up high enough to crisp them. Next time I will finish in a hot oven.

Even though my wings failed on technique, I was hooked on the flavor. I have since tried 8th Wonder on steak, on fish, and I even cooked lentils with it the other day.This is a unique, flavorful product and everything I have used it on has tasted amazing. I really would recommend it whether you are smoking, grilling or ummm… cooking lentils lol

I circled back with Andy to chat about the product.

What are some of your favorite recipes? (I did tell him about my epic wing-fail)

I really love 8th Wonder Wings but I grill them and then slow roast them off to the side so they get crispy and well done. I can see how simply smoking them would not crisp them up. Don’t give up though. Try 8th Wonder on something else. I truly love a steak, seasoned with 8th Wonder and then grilled over a hot fire. There are so many ways to use it though, it’s hard to know which one is my favorite. 8th Wonder Sugar and Spice bacon is awesome. 8th Wonder Crab Pie is delicious. 8th Wonder Tacos, Fajitas and Quesadillas are great too. Look at the recipe section on my website and I’ll send you a few more.

How long have you been in business?
We have been selling 8th Wonder for about 6 years although we have been making it for about 20 years. Friends and family always loved it and some of them encouraged us to sell it. We kept our full time jobs and started marketing 8th Wonder in our spare time. It has been selling quite well recently so it is like having two full time jobs. (My regular job is as a prop master or set decorator on television and feature films. I used to be a kitchen manager and chef.)

How did you come up with the recipe?

The recipe started as a basic rub and seasoning that I used in a restaurant in Raleigh, NC in the 80′s. My daughter and I modified it and tested it until it was just as we wanted it. As a family secret, we included cocoa as the one secret ingredient known only by us. One day, when friends were enjoying some 8th Wonder Wings, my son excitedly told everyone at the table that it had a secret ingredient and that the secret ingredient was cocoa. He knew right away that he had spilled the beans and his sister was upset with him. He was mortified as we assured him it was okay and that we would come up with another secret ingredient. We did, but we didn’t tell him that it was coffee. It was years later when he was helping to package it that he realized the secret ingredient was coffee. We can’t keep ingredients secret any longer so now the world knows what makes 8th Wonder so unique and delicious.

Is this a rub? A spice? What are some of the best uses?
8th Wonder is a rub and a seasoning. It can be used on anything grilled and it can be used as a seasoning in dishes as diverse as meatloaf, seafood boils and seasoned nuts. I call it an all purpose spice blend because it has so many uses and tastes great on virtually anything.

Are there other products in your future or do you think you’ll stick with this one?
Right now 8th Wonder Spice Blend is our only product. If our plans work out we want to release a smoked 8th Wonder Spice Blend, an 8th Wonder French Fry Seasoning and maybe an 8th Wonder Steak Sauce or Spicy Ketchup.

Again – if you’re a foodie, or a pit master, or a backyard grilling enthusiast looking for something really different, I really encourage you to try 8th Wonder Spice. This spice is so versatile that I can’t wait to keep trying it in different things. The sky is the limit!