Of course I was sad that we didn't get to celebrate our Restaurant Awards as we usually do this year. I always look forward to our annual celebration of the city's food scene and all the fun things that come with it: helping edit a nice big juicy issue of the magazine, the beautiful food photography and hearing all the hot industry gossip from my favourite chefs at our awards party.
But in all honesty, it may be a good thing this year's party had to move to an online event... because I was still recovering from the 2019 Restaurant Awards, when I agreed to interview a bunch of chefs for a video series while eating hot sauce.
At the time, it seemed like a good idea. I love spicy food! I will go to town on a bowl of raw jalapenos, only stopping when my face starts to throb in an alarming, "should I go to the doctor?" way. But when videographer Mark Philps showed up to Di Beppe's to film, armed with a collection of hot sauces named things like "Habanero Suicide" and "Satan's Butane Face-Melter," I realized for the first time that not all heat is created equal. These bottles were hot, yes. But they also actively ruined Di Beppe's beautiful pizza. And also probably my stomach lining. It was... a rough day.
So when Seamus Dixon, Vancouver-based co-founder of Brgr Brgr, got in touch to say he'd been working on a pretty spicy idea of his own—Saus, a hot sauce with a mellow, slow-building heat that uses coffee and actually (gasp) cares about creating a depth of flavour—I was intrigued. Made with a handful of ingredients (harissa, urfa biber, espresso, and then some) and packaged without even one flaming skull on the label (does the International Hot Sauce Council know about this?!), it looked like, you know, real food.
And after several very official rounds of testing, I'm here to say: if I had to do my VanMag Restaurant Award hot sauce interview video again, this would not be what Mark would have chosen for maximum effect. I wouldn't have cried. The pizza would not have been dramatically ruined. No chefs or restauranteurs would have suffered for comic effect. We would've just enjoyed a nice meal with some pleasing, flavour-packed-but-non-distracting heat. Not exactly compelling video content, I'll admit... but my taste buds would've been happier for it.
So until the next Restaurant Awards and stunt journalism opportunity comes along, I'll be drizzling this on my eggs, adding a splash to my curries, going in for the dip with some roasted cauliflower, or trying any of the Saus-recommended recipes. And, with a "shop local" mantra in mind as I'm holiday shopping this year, probably tucking a bottle into the stockings of my foodie relatives. I might even call it the "hottest" gift of the holiday season. (If you think that joke is stupid, please blame Mark. I think he gave me hot sauce poisoning last year.)
Order online, $19.95 at saus.ca