Tuesday, July 15, 2008

REVIEW: Smiling Ed's Hickory Cajun

Smiling Ed’s Hickory Cajun Sauce


Quality ***** (5 out of 5)
Appearance **** (4 out of 5)
Packaging *** (3.5 out of 5)
Aroma *** ( 3.5 out of 5)

In an odd way, Smiling Ed’s products are why this site exists. It’s not a big deal and it’s certainly not a large amount, but I actually lose money running the Home of BBQ. There are no money making aspects at all. The site is a labor of love and the work put in on the updates and outreach is done in the interest in promoting something I’m fond of. One of the many highlights (‘cause let’s be honest, I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy it) is being able to bring attention to products that you would enjoy that you don’t find in your local grocery.

Smiling Ed’s exemplifies the excitement in finding a ‘hidden BBQ gem’. I hope that in five years they will be in stores from Maine to Texas, but for now I suggest that you hop on over to their site and place an order.

I had corresponded with the owner a few times and we frequent some of the same BBQ related forums, but I had no idea what a huge role serendipity played in the development of Smiling Ed’s Sauces. The story behind the sauce is as interesting as the sauce is delicious, and that is quite a claim.

The sauce comes in a 14 oz. glass bottle. As has been mentioned before, sauce will typically come in one of three different types of bottles. Plastic bottles will have minor variations, but are mostly of solid construction and do their job well. Glass bottles on the other hand typically come in two different styles, thin and flimsy or solid and well made. The hierarchy of sauce bottles should be thin glass on the bottom, plastic in the middle and solid glass on the top. Smiling Ed’s uses quality glass bottles for their sauce.

The labeling is idiosyncratic enough to stand out on a shelf, but it’s not overly busy. The photo on the label is supposed to, I assume, be of Smiling Ed. He has the look of a chow cook or a prospector and the image fits the medium well.

The sauce coloring is a light red, which promising. There are certain tell-tale signs of mass produced, sub par sauces. The thick viscosity, dark red coloring without variation and the overly sweet aroma is indicative of an overly processed sauce that utilizes high fructose corn syrup and artificial colorings.
The sauce is not spicy, but it’s not mild either. It offers a very enticing lingering taste. The flavor of the sauce doesn’t overwhelm the meat, but it doesn’t exactly blend into or enhance the meats flavor. It adds a second, distinct flavor that doesn’t detract. The sauce is sweet without being cloying and the hickory flavor provides just enough distinction to separate Smiling Ed’s from other excellent sauces.

The aroma is sweet, but not overly so. It doesn’t offer much in the way of the hickory flavoring, so the aroma is not fully representative of the flavor profile.

I have tons of BBQ sauce in my home at all times. I purchase lots of sauce, friends give me their favorites to try and manufacturers mail me sauces to review. This results in me having more sauce than I can consume in a lifetime. I try to give away as much as possible to people that I believe will enjoy it. On the other hand, I’m not entirely altruistic. Some sauces are kept in my ‘private stash’. Smiling Ed’s Hickory Cajun sauce is in there. It should be in yours too.

Let me be even more forceful in my recommendation. If you try this sauce and you don’t like it, send me an email. If I have any sauce on hand (and I almost always do) you can send me the unused portions of Smiling Ed’s and I’ll mail you some of what I have here. That’s a pretty crazy offer and I make it because I believe that I won’t have to go through with it.