Monday, March 20, 2017

Gringo Bandito Hot Sauce

A Spicy Piece Of Americana

I've always had a love-hate relationship with hot sauce.  Historically speaking, every experience I've had with the aforementioned condiment ended with me curled up in a dark corner of the room frantically searching Web MD to see if a human being can live a full life without a fully functioning colon.  Seriously, it ain't pretty.

Don't get me wrong, I like hot sauce.  I really do.  I like the flavor of the peppers, the richness of the spices, the tang of the vinegar, and the way it can add zest to a common everyday meal.  But that's not enough for me.  I have a dream.  My dream is to be able to say I love hot sauce.  Unfortunately, there is one specific thing that keeps me from saying that sentence out loud.  The heat.  Yes, I am aware of how crazy that sounds.  I mean, the word HOT is literally half the name of the product.  In my defense, there is nothing worse than the mind numbing, raging, and never ending level of heat that accompanies most commercial brands of hot sauce.  The kind of heat that no amount of ice or soothing beverages can erase.  It's especially disheartening when that level of heat is derived from a product that is meant to add flavor to your meal and not take away from it.

When representatives from Gringo Bandito contacted MenuManiacs to sample their products,  I said yes immediately because I'm a food blogger.  However, my past issues with hot sauce made me a little nervous so I figured I should ask for help with this endeavor.  I recruited about 10-15 people to participate in a hot sauce tasting, and they gave me great feedback.  I also sampled Gringo Bandito's products myself, and I am happy to say I survived with my colon intact. 

Gringo Bandito Hot Sauce Tasting

The Products

Gringo Bandito has three varieties of hot sauce:  Original Red, Green, and Super Hot.  There are several key elements that make Gringo Bandito's products so successful.  They focus on great taste over pure heat as a way to increase both the flavor and enjoyment of food.  They use hand chopped peppers.  They are all natural and contain no preservatives.  Gringo Bandito appeals to health conscious consumers by using 70% less salt than their competitors, they are Paleo diet friendly, and they are Gluten free.  

If that's not enough to pique your curiosity, I urge you to buy a bottle just to read the nutrition information and label, if for nothing else.  I'm not sure who's responsible for the verbiage on those labels, but I want to give that waggish and witty marketing maestro a low hug.  You know, in the least creepy way possible, of course.

Results Of The Tasting

The reviews of the tasting were interesting and varied.  There was an overwhelming amount of positive reviews with the most negative comment being something along the lines of "not my favorite but still good."  I think that's pretty darn impressive if you ask me.

Original Red

Original Red is a mild sauce best used for adding flavor to your favorite dishes.  Made from habanero, jalapeno, and red Japanese chilies, this was the favorite sauce overall.   People praised the aroma, the taste, and the deep flavor profile of the sauce.  There were several suggestions of having an Original Red Mild and an Original Red Hot.


The Green sauce is made from unripened habaneros instead of tomatillos and although it is considered mild, it is a mid-level hot sauce with a little more heat than Original Red.  Gringo Bandito considers this a "niche hot sauce" for those people looking for a unique type of green sauce.  This sauce had the most varied comments.  Many people called it the most "versatile" sauce, and the most compelling observation was the fact that it was viewed as the best sauce to cook with but not necessarily the best sauce to add to your already prepared food. 

Super Hot

The Super Hot is made from Jolokia Ghost peppers and Scorpion peppers.  There are no additives so although it is spicy, it still maintains the flavor.  Don't be afraid of this sauce, people.  Although it is the hottest sauce they sell, it is still consumer friendly.

That being said, there was a lot of bribery involved in getting people to try the Super Hot.  Mainly because people share my fear of the heat level that comes with a product labeled Super Hot.  I'm happy to say the reviews were quite positive.  Aside from the occasional, "Whoa!" and "As soon as I stop hiccupping, I'll report." there were several people that stated the Super Hot was their favorite.


After the tasting, there was a 50/50 split between people who thought The Original Red was actually hotter than the Super Hot.  In my opinion, I believe there is a distinct difference between spice and heat.  When I tried the Original Red, the initial rush of heat was intense but the heat faded quickly.  Also, I felt the heat was derived from the spices more than the peppers themselves.  On the other hand, the first taste of the Super Hot was packed full of the richness and earthiness of the peppers.  The heat built slowly in a kind of secondary wave and lingered for a considerably longer period of time.  My ah-ha moment regarding the Super Hot sauce was the fact that even though it was a very hot sauce, it was tolerable.  No heartburn.  No stomach ache.

This is why I believe Dexter and the rest of the peeps at Gringo Bandito have accomplished what they set out to do -- successfully prevent the heat level of the sauce from overshadowing the vibrant flavors of their three sauces.  Well done, Gringo Bandito!

Surprisingly, I was able to handle the heat of their sauce without pain or misery.  That is everything I've ever wanted in a hot sauce.  In fact, I have since used Gringo's sauces on a wide variety of foods.  I use it to make my tuna fish salad, I use it on burritos, and I've even been known to sprinkle it on plain popcorn as a snack when I curl up on the couch to watch Idle Hands on Netflix. (See what I did there, Dexter?)

The Company

Gringo Bandito is the brainchild of Dexter Holland, the vocalist and rhythm guitarist of the multi-platinum punk rock band, The Offspring.  The band has released such hits as Self Esteem, Pretty Fly, Why Don't You Get A Job?, and Gotta Get Away.

Dexter grew up in the Southern California area where the Hispanic culture was a large part of his life.  He loves the Mexican culture, and what would Mexican culture be without fantastic food.

So why hot sauce?  Dexter wanted to do something fun.  He's a bit of a hot sauce aficionado and over time, he came up with a recipe that he really liked.  As he says, "What kind of company should I start?  Life's too short to make socks."

Today, after more than a decade of making hot sauce, Dexter and the rest of the Gringo Bandito team stay motivated by keeping things interesting and fun.  They built their brand to make quality hot sauce for consumers that appreciate the Mexican culture and food as much as they do.

They have many exciting upcoming plans for the company, and they are currently focusing on increasing their retail distribution across the country.  Currently, Gringo Bandito is in over 7000 stores and is growing at an incredible rate.  They can be found in Whole Foods, Kroger, Albertsons/Safeway, and can be ordered on Amazon.  Wahoo's and Chronic Tacos serve their sauces at all locations as well. 

The one thing they want people to know about Gringo Bandito is that even though they are a relatively small company based out of Huntington Beach, California, they take great pride in their community.  They are influenced by the Mexican culture and they try to lock that authentic taste in their sauces.  Their one goal is to make full bodied hot sauces which are known for their quality taste over their heat level.  

That sentence alone is what allows me to finally say the following out loud: 


There, I've said it and I feel better for it.

So, what is Dexter's favorite hot sauce?  Here's your answer.  "Well, obviously I started Gringo Bandito and I love all our hot sauces.  The Super Hot is my favorite at the moment, but I'm a hot sauce fan.  That's why I got into this.  It doesn't have to just be Gringo.  I don't say stuff like our hot sauce is great and everyone else's sucks!  I love most Mexican and Caribbean style hot sauces and I think there's room for it all."

I would like to thank Dexter and all the folks at Gringo Bandito for giving me the opportunity to try their products, and I look forward to watching your business grow.  Rumor has it there is a taco seasoning in your future, and I can't wait to see what new products you crazy kids come up with next!

Photo Credit - Ben Reutter

Tracy Schroeder is a blogger for MenuManiacs and author who thrives and survives in the great state of Colorado. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Angelic Imports - GOUFRAIS

Gerade über die beste Schokolade überhaupt !!!

Once again, we first discovered Goufrais and the gang at Angelic Imports at Choctoberfest a few years ago.

Not only are they a local Colorado company but they are also a Veteran and woman owned business!  It's like the perfect storm of awesomeness!  Angela and Tonya are amazing people with an even more amazing product.

There isn't much to say about this company and their product except it's perfection.  The quality and creaminess of the chocolate is incredible.  The product itself is a cross between a truffle and a chocolate meltaway with an added bonus of a rich, cocoa powder dusting.

That description really doesn't do it justice.

Actually, it's like the universe extracted the adorableness from kittens and puppies, the perfection and innocence of the angels, and the abs of Channing Tatum and then mixed them all together in a martini shaker over crushed ice and served it in the beauty of the grand canyon with a 24 karat crazy straw.

Somehow that doesn't work either.


Maybe it's best to have the owner Angela Burth, PhD and retired Colonel of the United States Air Force describe the company and product with...

Five Questions From The Maniacs...

1.  What inspired you to start this business? 

Goufrais is an exceptional product loved over in Germany and all over Europe, especially by the US military.  It wasn’t available in the United States and I decided to change that.

2. What keeps you motivated?

I like building and developing ideas, organization and tackling problems and have so since I was young.  Goufrais puts a smile on people’s faces and the responses are amazing and fun.  The stories that we hear and the Thanks we get for bringing Goufrais to the USA are awesome an rewarding.  For example, this holiday season one family ordered so that they could remember their son lost in February who always sent them Goufrais from Germany.  They thanked us personally for making Goufrais available.  A couple of years ago I was called Colonel and soon thereafter Doctor when I finished my PhD.  Now when I walk in the room smiles ignite and everyone says The Chocolate Lady is here.  I think I got a promotion!

3.  What are your plans for the future?

Continue to develop representation for Goufrais across the country to make the product sustainable in the U.S.

4.  Why Chocolate?

Goufrais provides something amazing that wasn’t available here in the U.S.  As I suggest on my website, I’m not even a chocoholic!

5.  What does "Goufrais" mean?

Goufrais is the unique brand name developed by the manufacturer.  He wants the connotation of the name Goufrais to reflect  the “silky smooth cool treat”

Be sure to visit their website and place an order today.  They will ship the product on ice anywhere you would like it to go.

To Angela and Tonya and all the rest of the women at Goufrais, we thank you for all you do.  We look forward to seeing you at next year's Choctoberfest.

To all our Maniacs out there, we here at MenuManiacs wish you a very Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Colt And Gray

The Meats Are The Cure For The Common Vegan.

(Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

photo courtesy of Miss Rio Photography
Numerous times, we have passed Colt and Gray on our way to other restaurants.  Every time we drive by them, we made a wish to the food gods that we would choose them for the next month's restaurant.

Well, wishes do come true, kids.  That's right!  We selected Colt and Gray!

Named after the owner's two sons, Colt And Gray is known for both their charcuterie and meats.  This is for good reason.  In the basement, they have their own butchery and because of this, the meat is fresh and flavorful.  They call it Viande and the very kind manager, Ben, was gracious enough to give us a tour.

photo courtesy of Miss Rio Photography
The menu is split into several sections:  snacks, smaller plates, entrees from the butcher, and sides. 

One of the most unusual snacks was a cashew, bacon, caramel corn.  Smoky and sweet, it was delicious.  In addition, we tried Lamb Tartare and Sweetbread which was also made from lamb.  Typically Sweetbread comes from cows so it was an unusual choice for a Sweetbread.  For those of you that do not know what Sweetbread is, buckle yourselves in.  It is brains.  Yes, brains  I guess that makes us zombies?  Or should we just go with the saying, "You are what you eat"?

photo courtesy of Miss Rio Photography
Well, I think I'll go with the second one.

(OK, so sweetbread is actually a culinary name for the thymus or the pancreas but it's something of a food urban legend and people think they are actually brains so we'll just go with it.) 

We had a smattering of all things meat.  Ah, heaven.  (So sorry to our Vegan Maniacs out there.  We still love you.)  Carnivores rejoice!  You have a home at Colt and Gray.

photo courtesy of Miss Rio Photography
Our rather large group enjoyed Mussels, Clams and Octopus, Moroccan Lamb, Roasted Chicken, Duroc Pork, Hudson Valley Duck Breast, and the Dry Aged Prime New York Strip.

Some of the noteworthy sides were the crispy rosemary potatoes served in a little cast iron crock.  Crispy and delicious!  Yummy!

photo courtesy of Miss Rio Photography
There is another bar area downstairs called Ste. Ellie.  The owner of Colt and Gray also had a daughter that needed something named after her as well, I mean, it's only fair.  Therefore, Ste. Ellie was born.  We will be visiting them sometime in the future.

Now, let's talk desserts, people.

We tried a variety of desserts that included Apple Crumble, Pot of Cheesecake, Sticky Toffee Pudding, Ellie Torte Chocolate Cake, and various homemade ice creams were among the fare of the evening.

photo courtesy of Miss Rio Photography
The ambiance was wonderful.  An excellent spot for date nights, the restaurant is full of low lighting, fireplaces and candles, a spacious bar area, and a cozy, subdued atmosphere.

The uniqueness of the menu and quality of the food warranted the awarding of the coveted Golden Spoon.

Colt & Gray Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
The Officially Unofficial Voting Legend
Take it with a grain of salt, we're not professionals.
Awesome place, we’ll shovel more food in our face!
It was good. We’ll take another stab at it.
Didn’t make the cut.

Sunday, November 20, 2016


Where Science Is Delicious!!!

Variety Plate
We were first introduced to The Chocolate Lab at Choctoberfest in 2015.  We purchased and sampled several of their delicious truffles and enjoyed them immensely. 

This year we were lucky enough to see them again at the aforementioned Choctoberfest and were invited to visit their new storefront on East Colfax to experience a tasting with the owner and "Chief Mad Scientist" Phil Simonson.

Triple Truffle Pie
They day we took part in the most glorious of all science experiments known to humankind.  Yes, we are talking about CHOCOLATE.  Besides an amazing assortment of truffles that included such flavors as salted chocolate caramel, salt and pepper, and brown butter and sage, we were able to taste the Triple Truffle Pie with Whipped Mascarpone and Raspberries, Toasted Coconut Clusters, Glazed Pecans with Dark Chocolate, and Cashew Toffee as well.

Creme Brulee
We wanted to know how Phil, a gentlemen who was never all that fond of chocolate in the first place, learned to love it so much that he has created an incredibly successful Colorado business. 
And that leads us to ....

Six Questions From The Maniacs...

1.  What inspired you to start this business? 

I have always yearned to work for myself.  It just took me several years to find a niche concept.  This business was inspired by my friends and family.  Seeing the reactions to the chocolates, and them constantly asking for more caused me to go into business.  

2. What keeps you motivated?

The enjoyment my customers have on their faces when they consume my products.  Without them, I would not have a business.  

3.  What are your plans for the future?

Glazed Pecans with Dark Chocolate
This is an awesome question.  Eventually I would like to see my business grow into several locations where we serve food as well as provide our chocolates and other treats.  

4.  Why Chocolate?  

Love.  My husband is the creator of the truffle recipe and gave me a box of truffles for our first valentines day.  As our relationship grew, he taught me the recipe and we slowly started the business.  Now, almost 7 years later, it's the love of making my customers, staff, friends and family excited about the crazy creations I get to do.  

5.  What is your favorite product and why?

This is a hard question for me.  I have so many products that I enjoy, even for someone who doesn't really like chocolate.  For truffles, I can't tell you my favorite because they change.  The more creative I get with things, such as the hatch chile, roasted street corn and cotija cheese, the more I want to eat chocolate.  

6.  What is the one thing you want people to know about your business?

Chocolate Carmel Filled Raspberries
Just one?  hmmm....  hand-crafted, creative flavors, no artificial ingredients or preservatives.  
The Chocolate Lab's products are a testament to how hard Phil works to create his amazing chocolates.  The store is directly across from City Park at 2504 E. Colfax Avenue and is open from 11am to 9pm Tuesday through Saturday, Sunday 11am to 7pm, and Monday 12:00pm to 5pm.   They will cater events both large and small and you can even ask for a truffle flavor to be created for you if you are feeling saucy.  Truffles and all other products can be purchased online and shipped cold anywhere you would like them to go.  Be sure to visit their website and like their Facebook page to keep up with the latest news and get details about their upcoming events.

Thank you so much to Phil for his hospitality and time.  We enjoyed getting to know you and look forward to seeing you soon.  Keep up the good work.  It's businesses like yours that make Colorado proud!

Photos courtesy of Miss Rio Photography

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Satchi Fudge

"Oooh fuuudge!"

 - Ralphie Parker, A Christmas Story

MenuManiacs was first introduced to Satchi Fudge at the very first Choctoberfest back in 2013.  It truly was love at first taste.  Aricia and her son, Scott are some of our favorite people at this event and their enthusiasm for what they do only adds to our love of everything Satchi.

The one thing that makes Satchi Fudge so different is the texture and quality of their product.  All of us are used to traditional holiday fudge.  They kind that is basically a dry, overly sweet, hunk of chocolate that is good in theory but after a bite or two, leaves a bad taste in your mouth and often a bad feeling in your tummy.  That is 100%, definitely NOT the case with Satchi.

Image courtesy of Satchi Fudge
Satchi sells fudge in a jar which is exceptional.  The fudge itself is creamy and smooth and is fabulous on everything from toast to fruit or as a stand alone treat.  They do sell fudge bars as well which are as moist and delicious as the jar form.

Because they are such a wonderful Colorado company, we asked Aricia to answer some questions about her business and products. 

Ladies, Gentlemen, and Maniacs of all ages, we would like to introduce something new to you all.
It's a little something we like to call...

Six Questions From The Maniacs

1.  What inspired you to start this business?

Scott was 15 and considering what he wanted to study in college. Business interested him, but he wanted to try it out before committing to a major. Our family tradition is to bring fudge to friends and neighbors and people are always asking where they can buy it. So we created a business plan, studied other businesses for "best practices" and spoke with mentors. And we were so inspired by what people were doing! Not only were they bringing really great products to market with a lot of integrity, they were working to help other businesses succeed and doing good in the world. We created a model that combined the best qualities and values and everything grew from there. We entered the Colorado Chocolate Festival's contest about two months later and to our happy surprise, we won "Best Fudge in Colorado." Since then, we've won each time we've entered and Satchi has gone from an academic exercise to a real business.

2. What keeps you motivated?

Both Scott and I really love learning new things and running a business provides new opportunities every day. We've had the opportunity to learn from some amazing mentors, business experts and chefs. Scott's a junior in business college now and Satchi provides a canvas for him to try new ideas. And, of course, we love trying new recipes. As Scott was growing up, our favorite vacations were cooking weekends we attended with the most talented chefs. So we love our time in the kitchen. Most of all, though, the people we meet keep us motivated. People are so great and they respond so well to our product.

3.  What are your plans for the future?

We have lots of dreams! We'd like to find more businesses to grow with - whether those are shops and stores, farmer's markets and shows or individuals who make really great products. We also want to partner with more non-profits that are working to help kids. One of our guiding principles is to build good will, so we like helping people who are doing great things in the world. We've enjoyed donating to groups like Broomfield FISH, Be Mindful - a group that helps homeless kids in Denver (among other things) and Jhamtse Gatsal - a school in India that helps abandoned children. So many people are doing such outrageously incredible things and when we help, we get to be a small part of that.

4.  Why Chocolate?

Chocolate is just magical. Growing up, I always wanted to work as a candy maker so for me, it's a dream come true. Our fudge is inspired by an old family recipe. To be honest, it wasn't really Christmas until the fudge from Aunt Ruth Alice arrived and I wanted to share that joy and happiness with other people. It's near and dear to my heart so we use a blend of the very best chocolate and cocoa. We also use custom blended oils - made for us by another small family business. And when our customers ask for something, we do our best to try and create it. I love that Satchi creates customers for life. So many of our customers have become friends because we get to see them so often!

5.  What is your favorite product and why?

I love our Peanut Butter Chocolate fudge. It's just really smooth and rich and so incredibly satisfying when I want something sweet.  I'm known to snitch a bite of the Salted Caramel Chocolate when we're making that recipe too! 
My favorite one to make is our Chocolate Butterscotch Toffee because it just smells so yummy.

One of my favorite endorsements was from a personal trainer who said he loved telling people about my fudge because a small amount totally satisfies their chocolate craving.

6.  What is the one thing you want people to know about your business?

We'd love to see you at one of our shows or farmer's markets and if you can't make it, please stop by Satchi Ananda Wholesale Candy Company - Best Fudge in Colorado If people want to see what we're up to, they can "like" our Satchi Fudge site on Facebook.  That would mean a lot to us.

Coming up, we'll be at the Colorado Country Christmas, The Athena Festival and at the Alles Gute booth at Christkindl in Denver. Please stop by and say hi! We'll save a taste (or two) of fudge for you!

Satchi Fudge is simply awesome!  If you are looking to treat yourself or find a Holiday gift for those people who have everything, give Satchi a try.  You won't be disappointed.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Choctoberfest 2016

Whole Lotta Choco-Latta...


This is truly one of our favorite festivals.  Seriously, we fast for two days.  It's that awesome.  We really love it.  There's chocolate everywhere.  EVERYWHERE.  Ahh, Choctoberfest.

This year, the third annual Choctoberfest was held at the Arapahoe County Fairgrounds.  We really liked the new location because there was a lot more space and a lot more chocolate.

Did we mention the chocolate?

Our good friends at Satchi Fudge, Stewart's Crumpets and Confections, and Goufrais were there again this year and we were introduced to several new companies such as The Chocolate Lab and The Animas Chocolate Company.

As always, Choctoberfest was a huge hit and seemed to be a great success for the vendors.  Seeing so many Colorado companies in one building made our hearts happy.  We were just so giddy with joy, or sugar, or a little bit of both.

There are several Chocolate festivals throughout the year here in Colorado, the next being the Holiday Chocolate Festival at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs on December 2nd and 3rd.  Be sure to check their website for more details about this exciting event.

As usual, in addition to vendor booths, there were chocolate pudding eating contests, wine and chocolate pairings, beer and chocolate pairings, and cider and chocolate pairings. The latter being paired with Stewart's Highland Crème (you know we love you guys). 

Cider and Chocolate Pairing
Choctoberfest is a must for anybody with a sweet tooth.  If you are interested, be sure to like Colorado Chocolate Festival's Facebook page for the most up to date information on events and all things chocolate throughout the year.

To all our friends at Choctoberfest both new and old, it was great to see you all and we are so happy for all of you.  We wish you nothing but success and we will see you all next year!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Mustard's Last Stand

Good Dog!  Such a Good Dog!

Mustard's Last Stand has been celebrating their love of Chicago style hot dogs for over 30 years.  They have two locations, one in Denver and one in Boulder.  For this outing, we visited the Denver location at 2081 S. University Boulevard.

Mustard's offers a lot more than just hot dogs.  Their menu is packed full of other items like hamburgers, sandwiches, Italian fare, vegetarian options, a gluten free menu, kids meals, and The Ditka 1/3 lb. Monster Polish.

Our favorite thing about the restaurant was that they offered three sizes of French fries:  taste, small, and large.  So many times we order a sandwich only to face a huge pile of fries.  We here at MenuManiacs have a strict, no fry left behind policy so the fact that we can choose the amount of fries we consume was a great find.

Another thing that impressed us about Mustard's was the fact that each order is cooked fresh.  A lot of hot dog eateries have the dogs pre-cooked in a tub of hot water.  They don't do that type of thing here and you can taste the difference.

Although Mustard's Last Stand celebrates all things Chicago, it is very loyal to the state of Colorado.  They use many local companies such as Steele's Meats in Lafayette, Continental Sausages in Denver, Boulder's Breadworks, and Udi's Gluten Free products.  We love that!

We ordered the Polish sausage with tomatoes and cheese as well as a Chile cheese dog.  The Polish sausage was cooked to perfection.  It was juicy on the inside, crispy and charred on the outside.  Delicious!  The Chili Cheese dog was excellent and the chili was flavorful without being overly spicy.

There is a seating area inside and a large patio outside.  They have a small parking lot and street parking is available if you can find it.  The restaurant is a diner setting so if you are looking for a delicious, quick meal, Mustard's Last Stand is a good place to go.  Also, if you can't make it to the actual restaurant, Mustard's can be ordered through GrubHub.

Sometimes, you just need a good dog.  When the mood strikes you, try Mustard's Last Stand because they are worth the trip.  For all the good food and service, we give Mustard's a fork.  Thank you to the entire staff for a fun afternoon.

Mustard's Last Stand Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Officially Unofficial Voting Legend
Take it with a grain of salt, we're not professionals.
Awesome place, we’ll shovel more food in our face!
It was good. We’ll take another stab at it.
Didn’t make the cut.