This Sh*t's Delicious

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[Cool Sh*t] The Mother of All Hot Sauces–aka How to Get an Anal Ring of Fire & Love it

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IMG_0006In my ever expanding quest to find the best and greatest hot sauces, I have sampled many a generic department store hot sauce – everything ranging from Frank’s Hot Sauce to Colon Cleanser – only to face constant disappointment. Most hot sauces found at Co-op, Safeway, or Superstore are usually either a) not hot enough, or b) are just too bland – they simply don’t pack the emotional punch. The only hot sauce to date that I can respect (and that can own my ass) is that Sri Racha hot sauce that gets commonly served at the pizza-by-the-slice places. But even then, my body’s gotten so used to it that I no longer experience the coveted anal ring of fire.

On my way back from ‘boarding at Lake Louise last week, I had the sudden brain flash to stop off at the Grizzly Paw to stock up on some delicious local, hand-crafted sodas and beers. As I walked into the store, I got momentarily distracted with all the cool Grizzly Paw merchandise. Turns out it was a serendipitous distraction as my eyes immediately gravitated to the “hot sauce” corner. “What’s this?” you say. Since when did The Paw start selling hot sauces? I don’t know, but did I really care? With awesome titles like “Acid Rain” and “Grumpy Bear”, I couldn’t resist taking a look…

To be honest, I was pretty sceptical: after years of disappointment, I roll my eyes at warnings like “This hot sauce is extremely hot. Use at your own risk.” Really? I bathe in this shit, biaaatch, I am pretty sure it’s not that fucking hot. Nevertheless, I turned over the hilariously titled hot sauce called “Alberta Crude” to examine the ingredients: tomato paste, jalapeno peppers, habanero peppers, peri-peri peppers…wait what? Habanero peppers? Surely, you jest? My eyes deceive me…

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But, no, it turns out my eyes hadn’t deceived me. The ingredient list indeed contained habanero peppers, one of THE highest ranked chilli peppers on the Scoville Heat Index. The HI on these babies range anywhere from 325-570,000…and I finally found a hot sauce made out of them.

I was pretty excited at this point, to say the least. I took a look at the other offerings and settled on “Mother of all Hot Sauces” as my second choice. This one had even more AWESOME warnings like “Not for people with heart or respiratory problems” and “Give yourself a natural high…without working out or pumping iron!!”

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YES.

I sped home and eagerly opened up the bottles. My initial instinct was to dump a whole bunch of Mother of All Hot Sauces (MoAHS) on my samosas, but common sense prevailed. You respect the habanero, no matter how much heat you think you can handle. So, I dropped a dash of MoAHS on a spoon and gave it a taste…

SH*T! THIS FUCKING SH*T IS HOT! My mouth and throat started burning instantly. I could feel sweat pangs forming on my forehead. My eyes started watering slightly and I felt the onset of a small headache. And this wasn’t the kind of heat that goes away after an instance. It stays with you, burning a hole in your throat and stomach. You don’t drink water to quench heat like this – you have to go straight for milk or yogurt!

Unfortunately, MoAHS is so hot that your taste buds can’t really process any other flavours – your brain just gets overwhelmed by the sheer intensity of the heat. This isn’t necessarily a pleasant sensation (as you might have figured out by now), but it is worth the $5 I spent on the bottle. I suspect that as my taste buds eventually get used to the heat, I will start tasting the other inherent flavours present in this potent creation.

Next up was Alberta Crude. The warning signs on the label were slightly less frightening: instead of being “extremely hot”, this one was only “very hot”. Haha. I tried this one by itself as well and was actually rather pleased by its mellow (er) heat index. My taste buds could detect hints of other flavours – the overall effect was that of a smoky, sweet BBQ sauce with more kick to it than a regular BBQ sauce. It went really well with the samosas I had at home, especially as the tangy notes in AC were reminiscent of tamarind chutney that samosas get traditionally served with.

Overwhelmed by how awesome these hot sauces were, I sat down at the computer to do some research on the interwebs. I knew that The Paw didn’t make the Hatari brand of hot sauces; their selection was limited to the beer-infused Grumpy Bear brand that they made in-house. Turns out there is an entire website dedicated to these hot sauces. This isn’t some mom & pop operation, it’s actually an entire line of hot sauces, bbq sauces, and dried spices that you can buy online or at retailers. BUT best of all….

IT’S ACTUALLY MADE IN CALGARY! What the what…?!IMG_0030

Turns out “Sam”, the owner of the Hatari Bros. brand, was born in Africa, but eventually settled in good ol’ Calgary, Canada for some reason and has been pumping out his potent creations throughout Canada and US. Even the name “hatari” is a Swahili reference to a chilli pepper discovered in South Central Africa…though I wasn’t able to find any references to this particular hot pepper in my quick 1 min. Google search. Also, Acid Rain, which is one of the milder hot sauces, was actually an award winner at the Fiery Food Challenge, 2000. Damn, Hatari Bros. hot sauces have been around since then? #fail.

The next morning, as I was peeing, I felt a tinge of burning sensation at the tip of my penis. All was good in the world again. Order and balance had been restored. Although slightly peeved that I didn’t know about such an epic creation right in my own city, I am nonetheless proud that some of the hottest hot sauces known to man are made in Calgary!

Good eatin’!

-Kiran

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Review of Los Chilitos Taco & Tequila House

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The early spring winter storm that had Calgary by its balls finally blew over leaving behind a nice sunny day. I had been eyeing Los Chilitos on 17th Ave for a while now, primarily because I am a huge tequila fan. Richard hadn’t had lunch yet, so it didn’t take too much cajoling to get him to relinquish his right hand…off the computer mouse…and come join me on this beautiful afternoon.

Walking into Los Chilitos is like being teleported to a casa in Mexico (maybe one that fancies gaudy decorations -Richard). This restaurant has arguable been the most successful of all ethnic eateries in capturing the essence of the home country. The tiny interior itself was a nice mixture of kitschy and cool – the favourite by far was the portrait Jonathan Goldsmith of The Most Interesting Man in the World fame.

Los Chilitos was surprisingly busy for a Sunday afternoon. There were only two waitresses serving all the patrons, and it was clear they were understaffed – it took our waitress a good 10 min. just to take our drink orders and we caught her taking drink orders from patrons who were seated later then when we came in.  Not cool.

IMG_0173.CR2As this was a “tequila house,” we decided to go with straight shots of tequila like the locals do in Mexico and chase it down with sangrita – a mixture of fruit (and vegetable) juices that varies in recipe across establishments. According to the menu, everyone outside of Mexico who shoots tequila with salt and a lime wedge is a bitch and only worthy of denigration. Lesson learned.

 

IMG_0175.CR2It was hard to choose from the large selection of blanco, anejo, and reposado tequilas offered on the menu (there are 25!), but we both ended up ordering reposados, which is essentially tequila that has been aged for a minimum of 2 months (but less than a year) in oak barrels. Being a big fan of tequila, the prospect of trying out something sweeter, more complex, and subtler in taste appealed to me, and I wasn’t disappointed. The only disappointing part was the sangrita, which quite frankly, was probably V8 and nothing more.

Food

IMG_0182.CR2Being only the two of us, Richard focused on ordering the main course, whilst I focused on the appetizers and dessert. The two items that caught caught our attention right away were “Jalapenos Rellenos” ($6.95) and “Totopos.” The former was an interesting take on stuffed jalapenos. These jalapenos were cut in half and stuffed with a mixture of beans and goat cheese, instead of the standard cheese stuffing, and topped off with a generous drizzle of honey-chipotle dip and toasted almonds (tasted more like peanuts to me -Richard). Cutting into the jalapenos created a sweet-savoury gooey goodness of goat cheese, beans, and honey-chipotle sauce  – pretty hard to say “no” to. However, the almonds added little in the way of taste, except to add an additional dimension to the texture. Also, the runny goat cheese was weird as it oozed more like water instead of being thick and creamy.

 

IMG_0197.CR2Next up was the Totopos which was tortillas served with pico de gallo with optional sides of guacamole and four salsa samplers ($9.95). Unfortunately, while tasty, the pico de gallo was just not on the same level as when had in Mexico. This was disappointing as it is a hard dish to screw up – the secret lies in the quality and freshness of vegetables. Same went for the salsa – while good, the samplers simply didn’t have the oomph that I was expecting. However, that said, their take on the concept of salsa was interesting and warrants further consideration.

Richard’s Take

First thoughts – the sangrita totally surprised me, as for whatever reason I was expecting sangria (fruit punch with wine), but this one was definitely more on the savoury side (like a Caesar).  I quite enjoyed the Aha Toro reposado, which was smooth and sweet when sipped – pretty decent for a budget tequila.  I was rather tempted to order the taco sampler – which comes with one taco filled with each of tIMG_0187.CR2he 7 different meats on their menu – but ended up settling for just the regular taco plate (4 tacos).  I still wanted to have some variety though, so I ordered carnitas (pulled pork), chorizo (sausage), mixiote (chicken and prickly pear!) and pastor (adobo pork and pineapple).  The meal came out in a reasonable time given the number of full tables, and the food certainly looked fantastic.  Unfortunately, the taste of the food was mixed – though the tortillas were nice and soft (to the point of almost falling apart) and the cilantro fresh and flavourful, the meat was rather dry across the board.  I was surprised that even the chorizo seemed dry as normally it would be on the greasy side.  The rice and beans ended up being quite good (and I’m not normally a fan of beans), with just a nice touch of heat to add some depth.

Dessert – KiranIMG_0221.CR2

To round off the meal, I ordered the very Latin tres leches cake ($6.95; literally, “three milk cake”). While the origins of this dish are disputed, the gastronomical brilliance of combining evaporated milk, condensed milk, and heavy cream cannot be. Having had home made tres leches in the past, passing up on an opportunity to try Los Chilitos’ home made version seemed egregious. Biting into the cake, I was immediately struck by the moist and fluffiness of the sponge cake. It was sweet, but not overwhelmingly so. The only complaint would be that it was unevenly moist – some regions of the cake were super moist and  sweet, whereas others were not as soaked.

Summary

Los Chilitos has all the right things going for it – great location; authentic ambiance; and great choice/variety in food and tequila. The only let downs, albeit major ones,  were the service and consistency of the food. While food was great, it wasn’t the greatest and left us lacking for more. In terms of value, I paid the same for the trio of tequila, appy’s, and dessert as Richard did for his main course, so it’s certainly not cheap on the wallet. Overall though, it is definitely a place worth visiting again, especially to sample their tequilas.

Ranking

Ambience 5/6
Service 3/6
Plating 4.5/6
Taste 4/6
Authenticity 4/6
Value 4/6
Overall 24.5/36 = 68%

Los Chilitos Taco and Tequila House on Urbanspoon