Not too long ago, James and David came down to my neck of the plains (not woods, because we hardly even have trees) for the Marina Market Days event. Well, in addition to stuffing me full of delicious candied jalapenos, James pointed me towards a vendor hiding in the back corner of the marketplace. He knows my tastes pretty well by now, and mentioned that there was some sort of garlic sauce back there. Naturally, I checked it out. It was then that I met the folks from Hair of the Dog, a Fulton-based manufacturer of salsas, spices, and hot sauces, among other things. Though I certainly had some options, I settled on a bottle of their Garlic Serrano hot sauce, because serrano peppers are pretty much my go-to guys for great flavor with mid-level heat. I’ve been looking forward to trying this, so hopefully it lives up to expectations.
Habanero & Serrano Peppers, Garlic, Vinegar, Lime, Salt
This is kind of a surprise. I’m not sure what the habanero to serrano ratio is in this product, but the fact remains that both peppers co-occupy the first ingredient slot. Yet, as you can plainly see, the word “habanero” is not in the name. It would seem fair to warn people who are expecting serrano-level Scoville ratings that they’re actually getting some habanero peppers in there, but I guess they technically accomplish that warning by putting both peppers in the ingredients. Still, it’s my job to read these things, but I cannot help wondering if the average consumer would do the same. Then again, would the average non-chilehead consumer even be shopping at a hot sauce table? I suppose not.
I finally get to review something that isn’t a standard orange sauce! On the contrary, this stuff is kind of a weird light yellow-green color. It also has pulp and seeds floating around in it, which is a great sight I haven’t beheld in a while. With all that pulpy goodness, though, comes a need to shake this sauce rather vigorously, or else the components will stay separated, leading to a thin, liquidy layer on top.
Smell and Taste:
Notice the vinegar in the ingredients list? Well, you’ll definitely notice it in the smell. It’s not overpowering or offensive, and you can smell the garlic and peppers in there as well, but Hair of the Dog has no qualms about reminding us that this sauce contains vinegar. I have no problems with that anyway, especially since vinegar isn’t the first ingredient. Besides, the vinegar flavor is barely noticeable. Instead, there’s an incredibly bold pepper and garlic combination. I’m having a hard time distinguishing the two different pepper flavors, and this doesn’t quite taste like other purely serrano sauces, but the combo works so well that I’m not going to complain.
I have a confession to make. There’s a part of me that, despite my high hopes for this sauce, wanted to dislike it, or at the very least be disappointed with it. This isn’t a bout of masochism that I’m fighting; rather, it just seems to me like I’ve been giving a lot of high ratings lately. Heck, I pretty much expected that I wouldn’t like Hair of the Dog’s offering, because there’s no way that I could have the great fortune of reviewing so many stellar products in a row, right? Well, I was wrong. Hair of the Dog’s Garlic Serrano is absolutely delicious, and it packs a powerful punch. Since we’re dealing with habaneros, not ghost peppers, the heat is immediate; I’m pretty sure my tongue was burning before I even tasted the stuff. This is one Mean sauce. It’s also a Notable sauce, as the garlic and serrano/habanero combo works so incredibly well together.
I’ve found that a lot of dishes can benefit from a little bit of garlic, so go right ahead and throw this on whatever you can find. Just keep in mind that the flavor on this Garlic Serrano sauce is far from subtle, so you won’t really need too much sauce for one dish.
Hair of the Dog’s labels feature their own canine-inspired heat rating, with eleven different ratings ranging from the weak “Yip” to the super-hot “Aye! Chihuahua.” The Garlic Serrano rates a “Yelp,” which is the fifth hottest rating the label mentions. Considering this one rates a Mean in my book, I’m really curious, so I’ll go ahead and throw this out there. If anyone from Hair of the Dog reads this, I would love to review a product from the upper extremes of your own personal rating scale. Seriously.