Spice Route Vol. 2

To more jaded eyes, globalized cuisine might look like a river of Golden Arches stretching Vegas to Varanasi, but those waters flow both ways — it means a Big Mac by the Ganges, but it also means being able to find a damn fine curry on the Strip. Time was, folks would kill for a peppercorn, and who could blame those stoic Middle Ages sufferers, choking down their stale bread and warm beer? Fleets were launched, caravans dispatched, and today, our spice racks runneth over, and we don’t have to saddle up the camel train to resupply. Still, as easy as spices are to find — once, each clove took a months-long, seven-thousand-mile trip from Indonesian forests to British plates; now it’s floating in your corner-store autumnal latte — the best still come from the farthest corners. Rarity remains, and it makes the richest seasoning. So we scoured the markets to bring you the best, and spiciest, fare we could find. The world might have gotten smaller, but thankfully, if you shop right, it can still taste pretty big.

Tommy Tomatillo Salsa // Karma Sauce Company // Rochester, NY

Rochester. Home of the Garbage Plate and one of the preeminent sauce and salsa makers in the country. Not just our words, Karma Sauce Co. took home a staggering 24 awards from Zestfest (think Oscars for Hot Sauce). This seasonal salsa will wake up a dish of scrambled eggs, take your hot dog to new heights or make shrimp tacos sing. Tommy Tomatillo is made with 100% estate-grown heirloom chiles, tomatillos and tomatoes. Need more Karma? don’t sleep on their Funken Hot, Chipotle Mustard or Cherry Bomb Sauce.

Maker Take:

“Karma Sauce’s founder and sauce expert Gene Olczak has expertly designed each recipe so that every bottle of Karma Sauce is unlike anything you’ve ever tasted. So if you’re tired of forgettable meals and want to return to meals that matter, you’re one step closer to finding the secret sauce that gets you there.”

We don’t squawk “Award Winning” for nothing, here is some hardware for Tommy Tomatillo Salsa:

  • 2016 Fiery Food Challenge Winner — Salsa: Medium
  • 2016 Fiery Food Challenge Winner — Best New Product
  • 2018 Fiery Food Challenge Winner — Salsa: Verde/Tomatillo
  • 2019 Scovie Winner — Salsa: Verde
  • 2020 Fiery Food Challenge Winner — Salsa: Verde/Tomatillo

Serrano Hot Sauce // Yellowbird // Austin, TX

Bad hot sauce is good for little else than masking bland burgers or, if your tastes run masochistic, stripping paint. You either drench, or use a single drop. Good hot sauce, though, is transcendent. It heightens instead of hurts: Its spice sharpens senses, so flavor burns all the brighter. Hellish heat can feel like heaven too. Just think of the sizzle of sitting a little too close to the campfire on a cold night. And that’s Yellowbird. Perfect anywhere, mind-blowing on a BLT: Drizzle on the pork before you bake (350 for 15 minutes), top with veggies, serve on crusty bread, and take comfort in the flame.

Scoville Heat Unit Rating (SHU) 1,600–6,160

4 Quick Uses:

  1. Spice up pulled pork.
  2. Heat up huevos (add to scrambled eggs).
  3. Toss with butter for a quick wing sauce.
  4. Dash it in a drink like this Yellowbird Michelada Recipe Here

5. Candy bacon in Serrano sauce like this Candied Yellowbird Bacon Clubhouse Recipe Here

Carne Seca Limon Con Chile // People’s Choice Jerky // LA, CA

From an unlikely *ranchería* (downtown LA) but a no-surprises pedigree (a four-generation Angeleno butcher dynasty) comes this extra-traditional Carne Seca. Whole cuts, marinated, slow-cooked (and we mean sloooow, *hombre* — five hours at least), gets transformed into a cure-all, perfect for snacking on or stirring into any dish for a stampede of flavor.

Meet Mark. He’s the 3rd Generation owner here at People’s Choice Beef Jerky

Recipes?

Chai Spice Chickpea Butter // Field Trip Snacks // Brooklyn, NY 

In the last 8 years, Mantry has been on a tireless search to find all great food innovations well before trends hit the mainstream. Before avocado toast and chia seeds flooded the market, you could trace their epicenter to a small cafe in Sydney, Australia. Well, Field Trip Snacks has launched a new frontier in spreadable superfoods. Harnessing the health benefits of chickpeas with the convenience of PB, Field Trip is going all Elon Musk innovator mode on nut butters. Even the flavors are creative, this Chai Spice gets inspiration from the ubiquitous cups of fragrant tea served across India. Spread on toast, scoop into an almond milk and banana smoothie or sub it for tahini for a killer sauce to put on grilled meats or roast vegetables. Spread the word, Chickpea Butter is here to stay. 

Mexican Chocolate Cha-Chas // Lark Fine Foods // Essex, MA

These Essex bakers call their decadent wares “cookies for grownups,” and while we’ll raise a Oreo-crumb-dusted finger in protest that adults can’t binge like the best sugar-mad kids, we must agree that while storebought sweets work in a pinch, real cookie comfort is rarer. It comes, if not from mom’s homemade, than from the next best thing: these cravable cookies from Lark. Good cane sugar for your sweet tooth, Mexican chocolate and a hit of cayenne to kick things up for yes, your grown-up tastes. They go as good with a beer as they do in a blender with ice cream and milk for a cookie shake. 

Mocha Bar // LetterPress Chocolate // Los Angeles, CA

We’ve spent the past 8 years scouring high and low, searching for the most delicious chocolate in these 50 states and Letterpress is right up there with the cocoa kings. Small-Batch? Check. Bean to bar? Check. Cool collaborations with other badass artisan makers? You betcha. Case in point, Alibi Roasters teaming up with these LA legends to produce the perfect bar for people who love coffee or chocolate or both. It’s worth mentioning we are not the only super fans… 

Press:

LA Times digs it, Eater loves Letterpress and owner David Menkes and team has won a coveted Good Food Award

From The Maker:

“Unlike most other chocolate companies, we’ve meticulously roasted and stone-ground our cacao beans ourselves and brewed Alibi’s coffee with cocoa butter at just the right extraction temperature, infusing the coffee rather than grinding the coffee beans in. The result is much more balanced, and honestly the best coffee bar we’ve yet made.”

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