The past year has made one thing abundantly clear: Everyone needs a hobby.
When all you have is time and nowhere to go, a hobby gives you a much-needed sense of purpose with a mindless distraction. And sometimes that mindless distraction becomes a passion, meant to be shared with your fellow enthusiasts.
It doesn’t have to be something crafty, either, like building bird houses or restoring classic cars. It can be collecting. It can be experiences.
And sometimes, it can be a blending of passions.
I’ve always considered myself somewhat of a hot sauce connoisseur, with a bullpen of colorful bottles in my fridge at any given moment. I truly believe that hot sauces are an elixir for bland food; the simplest way to inject flavor magic into the most basic of meals without a lot of culinary heavy lifting, from hummus to scrambled eggs.
Because variety is the spice of life, I’ve gotten really into collecting artisan hot sauces over the past couple months. It’s fun to build a collection of hot sauce bottles recommended to you by friends and pair with dishes to find the perfect combination – like a hot sauce sommelier.
The hot sauce world is very similar to the world of craft beer, coffee, and whiskey – some incredible flavors are being crafted and bottled, with unique labels to find their own niche. Customers are no longer beholden to what’s available in the condiments aisle at the grocery store.
IE: Scarlet Fire Hot Sauce, a new label created by Berkeley-based chef Marla Simon.
Deadheads will instantly recognize the name, a reference to two iconic Grateful Dead songs that are almost always coupled together in a setlist. Scarlet Begonias and Fire on the Mountain are beloved jam vehicles in the Dead’s songbook that often leading to spicy improvisational moments, with a smooth, jammy segue between anthems.
Scarlet Fire captures the spirit of the song in a hot sauce flavor – it’s a vinegar-based sauce with a unique blend of fresh chilies, including Fresno, habanero, and Thai chiles. It’s not overwhelmingly spicy, but still manages to add a pretty nice kick when needed. It can be added to practically everything for a kick – mac and cheese, bloody marys, wings, pizza, burgers, etc.
I’m particularly fond of sauces that feature Fresno chilies – These peppers look like jalapeños, yet are hotter on the Scoville scale and have a delightful flavor of their own – sweet, yet a little bit smoky too.
Scarlet Fire Hot Sauce is vegan, gluten-free, and made without any added sugar, so the sauce can be enjoyed by pepperheads everywhere.
Scarlet Fire’s label was hand drawn by Jim Pollock, the graphic designer behind many beloved and collectable Phish concert posters. It’s a nice little wink and nod to the jamband world.
Check it out if you’re into one-of-a-kind, small batch hot sauces.
Makes a simple yet thoughtful present for any foodie jam band fan in your life.