Fire Roasted Pineapple Salsa // Zukali // Plano, TX
If the first cro-magnon to toss a mastodon shank on the fire thought he was smart, consider the moment of Newton-esque brilliance that brought us grilled fruit: a pineapple slice falls in the flames, and summer food is forever transformed. Inspired by the caramelized wedge atop traditional tacos al pastor, from the Texas plains comes an eminently spoonable, dippable, add-it-to-anything sauce of roasted fruit, cilantro, and mellow chilies.
Olo’s Chipotle // Olo Foods // Seattle, WA
Sure, you can buy the dried peppers, toast them in cast-iron, heft out the molcajete, mash them till your manos ache — and then avoid touching anything, er, sensitive for the rest of the night. Or you can crack a tube of Olo’s. Dial in the heat — two teaspoons is about a full can of chilies — smear it straight, or mix a dollop with mayo to spread on fresh-grilled ears for a classic elote.
Chipotle Adobo Jerky // Three Jerks Jerky // Venice, CA
Those unlabeled tubs at western fill-’er-ups bristling with spicy snacks are a road-trip staple, but one thing’s for sure: the meat therein’s a mystery. Not so with Three Jerks. Their lean, flavorful, buttery smooth jerky is all top-notch filet mignon. That highfalutin cut comes down to earth, though, with a gritty, Mexi-Filipino mix of smoked peppers and sweetly puckering, vinegary adobo.
BBQ Infused Honey // RogersMade // Chattanooga, TN
The husband-and-wife team behind RogersMade stocks an eclectic mix of handmade goodies from their southern artist and foodie friends, from soap to soda, but our favorite has to be their line of Bee in Your Bonnet honeys: locally foraged golden goodness infused with a whole hive of flavors, like this one, spiked with pepper, tomatoes, cider vinegar, and hickory smoked sea salt. While it might not fly in your sleepytime tea, it does wonders for — trust us — a nacho platter. Pile chips, chicken, corn, and cheddar on an oiled tray, bake until melty, and top with cilantro, cotija, and a lengthy drizzle.
Azteca Hot Cocoa // Cocoa Santé // Concord, MA
Started by a pair of moms looking to satisfy kids’ sweet teeth and parents’ consciences at the same time, Cocoa Santé tucks you in with a better nighttime cocoa: organic beans from small co-ops and lightly processed, natural milk powder. Their Azteca blend adds vanilla, cinnamon, and the spicy glow of chipotle peppers. Mix a package of cocoa with a splash of añejo tequila, top with whipped cream and a cinnamon stick, and throw another log on the fire — you’ll want to stay up and savor this.
Honey Chipotle Peanut Butter // Eliot’s Adult Nut Butters // Portland, OR
As morning-after stains attest, we’ve been known to, in a drunken pinch, squirt Sriracha on our late-night peanut-butter toast. Delicious? Yes. Debauched? Assuredly. Here’s maturity in a jar. Cleansed of sugars and other artificial fillers, it’s a step up from kid-friendly spreads; made with deeply spiced chipotles and healthy honey, its rich chew and lingering burn makes a PB to savor, not smear on your PJs.
Berry Pasilla Jam // Primo Specialty Foods // Denver, CO
Peanut butter and jelly: the ultimate stuck-at-home quick snack. Why mess with something so simple? Indeed, we wondered as much, until we tried Primo’s jam. Sweet-tart rasp- and blackberries brighten the wintry dark; the soothing, slightly smoky burn of pasilla peppers warms the heart. A jam no sandwich can contain — let it shine, unadorned, beside a sharp sheep’s milk cheese.
Garlic Green Chile Pistachios // Eagle Ranch // Alamogordo, NM
New Mexico’s oldest and largest orchards turn days of desert sun into nature’s perfect packable protein snack — the ever-nutritious pistachio. Ditch the cocoa-covered peanuts and over-salted almonds, and stuff your saddlebag with these, flavored — of course — with the state’s famous chile. Just be sure to pick up your shells, lest a hungry trail bum raid your private stash.
Roasted New Mexico Green Chile // Santa Fe Ole // Santa Fe, NM
Some states have a smell (Cali smog); others a drink (Kentucky bourbon) — but nowhere claims a flavor like New Mexico owns the chile. And not just any pepper: the legendary Hatch Valley green chile, that sweet, spicy, smoky pod, sliced, sauced, and slathered over everything there from nachos to noodles. Flame roasted, salted, zested with lime and packed into jars, this salsa is a travel-friendly taste of Taos. Our favorite application: A few spoonfuls heated and stirred with scrambled eggs, then piled on a griddle-hot tortilla.
Machaca // People’s Choice Jerky // Los Angeles, CA
From an unlikely *ranchería* (downtown LA) but a no-surprises pedigree (a four-generation Angeleno butcher dynasty) comes this extra-traditional dried, shredded beef, the secret to many a sauce and scrambled *huevo* north and south of the border. Whole cuts, marinated, slow cooked (and we mean sloooow, *hombre* — five hours at least), get pulverized into a rich, spicy, filling cure-all, perfect for snacking on, jerky-style, or stirring into any dish for a stampede of flavor.
Chipotle Barbecue Halfpops // Halfpops // Bellevue, WA
For you popcorn fanatics, craving the partially popped, crackling crisp kernels at the bottom of the pot, Halfpops are exactly what they sound like: half-popped popcorn. With an echoing crunch and high-decibel taste, these munchies make regular-old popcorn taste, and feel, and airy as packing peanuts. They hold up so well, in fact, you can mix the nuggets into soup, a salad, over your ice cream (trust us). Or, since you’ve no qualms about scraping the pot, snack ’em straight from the bag.
Mole Poblano // Hernán // Del Rio, Texas
The epitome of so-wrong-but-so-right flavor combinations, spicy chocolate mole sauce is rumored to have been invented centuries ago by an industrious gaggle of Mexican nuns, raiding the pantry to feed a passing archbishop paying a surprise visit to their convent. Should your own guests arrive unfashionably early, the only thing your pantry needs is this jar, and a bag of chips. Hernán’s take on the traditional sauce is a savory, spicy-sweet blend of twenty eight different chiles and spices, plus chocolate, nuts, raisins, and piloncillo, an especially rich kind of Mexican unrefined cane sugar. While your guests dip and munch away, whisk up a saucepan of water (or better, stock), add a scoop or two of mole and simmer cooked chicken or veggies for your taco filling.
Pickled Red Onions // Pernicious Pickling Co. // Costa Mesa, California
SoCal-made by a couple of transplants (one Mississippi, the other, England), Pernicious is anything but evil; the name’s ironic, the pickles are classics — veggies and vinegar, simple as that. These neon-pink slivers not only give your taco a burst of color, but a sharp spicy edge to slice through the meat. Should a platter of steaming stewed pork seem a tad indulgent, even for a midnight munchie, they’re also a repentantly tart kiss of health. Onions are a veggie, right?
Jalapeño Chips // Deano’s Jalapeños // Hardwick, VT
First tested at Doehne “Deano” Duckworth’s Cactus Café in Stowe, Vermont, these chips are like your lodge-standard apres-ski pepper-topped nachos, without those pesky tortillas (or gloopy, questionably-tinted cheeze). Simply sliced peppers, fried and dusted with all natural cheddar. Besides the obvious (right outta the bag, on the lift or in the deck chair), they make a great crunchy, kick-in-the-tongue topping for a breakfast taco of scrambled eggs and fried sweet potatoes.
Habanero Sauce // Yellowbird // Austin, TX
Some hot sauces are pure white heat, nothing but burn. Save those scoville-spiked scorchers for bar bets and paint stripping. This is a salsa worth savoring. Instead of high-octane peppers like the infamous ghost chile, this Austin-made hot sauce uses the humbler habanero, amping up its bright fruity undertones with an additional spritz of tangerine and lime juice — and its color with a blend of carrots. It’s perfect on tacos, but mellow enough for a michelada.
Mexican Hot Chocolate Walnuts // Old Dog Ranch // Bellota, California
This San Juaquin county farm has been shaking down and shelling walnuts for five generations — they know their nuts. Walnut trees can live for centuries, but times and tastes change, which means this Old Dog has some new tricks. While dad runs the farm, his daughter turns their buttery, rich, omega-3-packed nuggets into even tastier (and even more irresistible) flavor bombs like these Mexican-inspired morsels, dusted with rich cocoa, warming cinnamon, and a zesty pinch of cayenne. Trendy, but traditional: the ranch still grows, dries, and grinds the peppers themselves.
Pork Clouds // Bacon’s Heir // Atlanta, GA
You say your beloved underdogs will win when pigs fly? Get ready for liftoff. These are the fluffiest, crunchiest *chicarrones* we’ve ever seen — the porky puffs practically float on air. The Georgian maker’s method is a Wonka-like secret, but involves kettle-cooking hand-seasoned salt-cured pig skin in good-for-you virgin olive oil — no goopy, deep-fat fryers here. So even if your team stays grounded, you can gorge away your suffering guilt-free. There’s always next game.
Dry Cured Chorizo // Aurelia’s Chorizo // Boerne, TX
Chips and dip is the commercial of the Superbowl spread: the extra that outshines the star, the side dish that trumps the entree. When done right, at least. How? Instead of studding your cheese dip with dried out bacon bits, try this: Full-cut pork shoulder (no fillers), aged a full month with freshly mashed garlic and fine, smoked paprika. Fry some slices with a few cloves of garlic, then stir into a couple cups of shredded cheese — a mix is best, like spicy Jack with a creamy mozz or Oaxacan. For some bonus special effects, pour the dip in a cast iron skillet and pop under the broiler for a smoky char.
Smoky Black Bean Dip // La Esquina // New York, NY
Nothing says southwest like smoky black beans, but nothing says smoky black beans like a particular Lower Manhattan taqueria, the once-secret, now cult-hit La Esquina. Literally, “the corner” — and indeed, a hole in the wall on a tiny, triangular SoHo intersection — the best part of this spot isn’t the tacos (though they’re incongruously *riquísima* given its gringo digs), but their sides: grilled corn, plantains, and especially these beans, a little smoky with a slight serrano edge, which you could order by the cup, topped with crema fresca. Now, their *casa* becomes yours — from Mexico via the Big Apple, but for all your guests know, *abuela’s* secret recipe.
Chili Spice // Oaktown Spice Shop // Oakland, CA
Leftover turkey screams sandwich — and there’s nothing wrong with going classic. But for a bit of a twist, turn that bird into a bone-sticking bowl of chili by simmering some slices with tomatoes, beans, a bit of garlic, and a dash of Oaktown’s special spice blend (Santa Fe or Regular). Got a bowl of mash at hand? Top a ramekin with a scoop or two of potatoes and bake to brown for a shepherd’s pie worth selling the flock for.
Chipotle Lime Peanuts // Bees Knees Food Co. // Chicago, IL
Appetizers are more than just a way to quell anticipatory grumbles as your guests await the spread to come — they’re your first impression, and stale party mix is like a limp handshake. Upgrade the bar snack with a pop of lime, kick of cayenne, and the building burn of chipotle, to keep the cooling cocktails flowing.
Imperial Dry Cured Chorizo // Pata Negra // Gloversville, NY
Named after Spain’s famous acorn-fattened black-hoofed pigs, Pata Negra brings the best of Andalusia to the foothills of the Adirondacks: high-grade hams, authentic Iberian pimentón, and a languorous five weeks’ aging (if the Spanish know anything, it’s the glory of a good nap). Snack on slices as a tapa while the grill heats up, and if there’s any left over (we doubt it), wrap in foil with potatoes, onions, and a splash of aceite and grill for a juicy, bacon-rich potato salad.
Jalapeño Wild Pacific Albacore // Island Trollers // Whidbey Island, WA
For generations man has relied on canned tuna to merely hold him over. Captain Larry Mason moves the pantry staple from last resort to lead role. Sustainably caught by American fishermen off the coast of Washington State, Larry and his crew have had a top-notch commitment to quality for 37 years. The result? An impeccable can of sashimi grade albacore, gently marinated with fresh Jalapeno, that becomes the basis for a the Tuna Sandwich that will change your idea of well…the tuna sandwich (Recipe: Mantry.com)
Green Chile Cheddar Brew Bread // Soberdough // Nashville, TN
It’s easy to get mystified by baking, but Soberdough has simplified the process to three steps (on the bag) and you get creative control over the beer. Jordan at Soberdough recommends a Pale Ale or American Lager. We recommend the near bulletproof plan of getting a 6-pack, drinking five and putting one in the bread. Fresh out of the oven, smother it in butter and honey or Fuego Salsa.
Fuego Salsa // La Fundidora // Williamsburg, NY
Mexico City may have little in common with Williamsburg but thanks to La Fundidora they share sublime salsa. Founders Lorena, a Mexico City expat and her husband Vitali set out to revive the lost art of small-batch, traditional salsa making. That means ground down ripe tomatoes are combined with a hefty dose of tomatillos and select guajillo and arbor Chilies. Take a shortcut to tasty by tossing in your scrambled eggs or swipe a piece of Green Chile Cheddar Brew Bread through it.
Thai Basil Jalapenos // Gordy’s Pickle Jar // Washington, D.C.
Your Jalapeno experience is most likely minimal, maybe a half eaten can once occupied the back of your fridge or they were an after thought atop a taco. We were in the same boat until Gordy’s rock it. Packed fresh, these jalapenos are infused with the herbal, citrus notes of Thai basil. Listen, Thai-Mexican fusion is dicey territory but throw these on a plate of Nachos doused in some Apinya chili sauce and we promise you won’t regret it.
Thai Basil Som // Pok Pok // Portland, OR
Andy Ricker has done for American Thai Food what mall food courts haven’t. His Portland joint Pok Pok, which recently set up outposts in NYC is helping properly introducing America to Northern Thai Cuisine. People flock for his fiery, fragrant dishes armed with authentic flavors foreign to the ubiquitous take-out variety, washing it all down with refreshing gulps of Pok Pok Som which is served in all of Ricker’s restaurants. Ricker suggests 4:1 soda to Som or nab our unauthentic Thai Basil Margarita recipe at Mantry.com.
Sriracha Lime Jerky // Dried & True // Venice, CA
It’s no secret that Sriracha rules the sauce stratosphere of late but few people know the Rooster is named after the coastal city of Si Racha in Eastern Thailand. Matt Lauster proves he has one of the best jerky recipes in the bag using 100% USDA-certified American Beef and cutting the chili hit with fresh lime. Call the audible and send Jack Links to the bench for this perfect teammate to a Pok Pok Som Cocktail.
Butter & Scotch // Green Chile Margarita Corn // Brooklyn, NY
There’s small-batch and then there’s making every single batch on a tabletop popcorn maker in a makeshift Brooklyn kitchen using Hatch Chile peppers smuggled in from New Mexico. Due to Butter & Scotch’s tiny production capacity, we had to wait a couple months to feature this product..however we suggest you tear into this bag before anyone else in the house gets a crack at it.
NW Elixir // Verde Hott // Portland, OR
Toss on a blindfold and walk the streets of Mexico City and you’ll find a life altering taco faster than a peeking cheater can hit a piñata at a birthday party. Part of the reason is properly made Salsa Verde. This revelation of roasted tomatillos, fiery serranos and fresh cilantro is traditionally mashed up in a molcajete (a mortar and pestle made of volcanic rock) and is a staple at most street carts south of the border. Up in Portland, Chef Andrew Garrett took a swing at replicating the stuff and has since cornered the market on mind blowing US of A Verde.
Just Cook // Ancho Rub // San Francisco, CA
Despite the proliferation of Old El Paso dust packets in households across America, 50 year old Scott Lucas decided to leverage 20 years of software sales experience and take a stand. Wait, what? A software guy making spice rubs? Yep, like the quiet kid in the corner of the class that secretly knows Karate, Scott has a knack for kicking things up. Ground ancho chiles (the dried version of a poblano, which originated in the Mexican state of Puebla) are cut with smoky chipotle and aromatic orange peel. Just rub on chicken or snapper, grill and toss in a tortilla with a stripe of Verde. Tasty and easy enough to execute after one too many tequilas.
Liber & Co. // Texas Grapefruit Shrub // Austin, TX
It can be tough to remember that tequila expands beyond the cuervo soaked college kids of Cancun and neon green blended slushies, but the “Paloma” is worth its salt. Traditionally, a combo of tequila, grapefruit soda and lime in a rimmed glass and more popular than margaritas in many areas of Mexico, we sub in Liber & Co’s Grapefruit Shrub. A shrub is an infusion of fruit, vinegar and sugar that traces back to American colonial days and a couple Texan boys pay tribute to their hometown grown Rio Star grapefruit with this one. Mix with soda for a fresh-off-the-tree brightness that’s fit to wash down any plate of chorizo and eggs (Paloma Recipe: Mantry.com/recipes)
Fiddyment Farms // Chili Lime Pistachios // Lincoln , CA
Recently turning 90 years young, David Fiddyment has definitely shelled a pistachio or two in his day and is not the gent you want to find yourself in a thumb war with. But you are going to want to get your hand on a cerveza and start chasing swigs with these zesty gems. A popular Oaxacan bar snack (traditionally roasted in pork fat) lime and chile flavored nuts can also be bartered off vendors throughout Mexico. We’d like to cheers this pistachio pioneer on 30 siesta-less years of growing, roasting and packing premium pistachios on his family farm in the heart of California.
Olive & Sinclair // Cinnamon Chili Bar // Nashville, TN
The Music City knows a thing or two about duets and producer Scott Witherow allows fragrant ceylon cinnamon and a hint of cayenne heat to play off each other in this handcrafted number. A recipe sampled from the Aztec and Mayan people, who would grind cocoa with spices and chile, Scott starts each bar off with whole beans that are slow roasted and stone ground. Around his tiny factory, Scott (who has a Grande diplome from the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Academy) makes sweets with a distinctive Southern twang. Buttermilk White Chocolate?` Smoked Brittle? No need to find a golden ticket to celebrate.
Aurelia’s // Dry-Cured Chorizo // Boerne, TX
One of the most memorable parts of eating your way around Mexico are the breakfasts. Waking up steeped in a morning fog from one too many foamy beers the night before, it seems as if Mexican food was devised with a hangover in mind. Stumble up to any roadside stall and within minutes appears a plate of nourishing beans, sizzling eggs and garlicky chorizo all adorned with fresh pico de gallo. In a small town an hour north of Austin, Leslie Horne makes some of the best dry-cured chorizo in America, packing similar punch to the fresh Mexican variety. Slept through breaky? Nothing says ‘¡Vamos!’ at kickoff like chorizo nachos (Mantry.com/recipes)
Rancho Gordo Beans // Napa, CA
You may be wondering why the hell we chose to include dried beans, well Mantry believes in treating guys like home cooks not cavemen. Although it would be easy to offer an endless assault of jerky and convenience store cuisine, we frankly think you’re better than that. Also, these beans are world-class stalk popping up at the 3 Michelin Star French Laundry Restaurant and on the esteemed Saveur Magazine 100 list. In cooking, they are Aurelia’s perfect one night stand. Visit Mantry.com for a dead simple Bean and Chorizo soup recipe that can double as laid-back dinner date or hearty hangover cure.
San Angel Mole // Los Angeles, CA
Typically you’re gonna wanna steer clear of products with 25 ingredients, however Tim McCarthy’s San Angel Mole is a rare exception. In Mexico, Mole is most common in the central and southern regions of Puebla and Oaxaca, where seven unique versions of the sauce originate utilizing ingredients such as pumpkin seeds, chili peppers and dark chocolate. In America, nobody in their right mind should trust a guy named Tim to replicate this authentic sauce, but don’t sweat it. This Gringo worked his way around some of LA’s most respected kitchens and uses his wife Florence Guerrero’s family Mole Negro recipe. Do the “wa-ha-ka” buy grabbing the recipe off the side of the jar or more at Mantry.com
Hernán Hot Chocolate // Del Rio, Texas
Stone ground by local artisans in the Mayan Region of Chiapas (an area known historically for nailing cocoa but not calendar predictions) HERNÁN offers the opportunity to experience this regional specialty without having to do all that smuggling stuff. Take a pass on those powder packets and melt one square in a cup of hot milk. Authentically, a Molinillo (wooden whisk) is used, but the American variety or blender will get that frothy finish you want. Try with a nip of your favorite liquor, like completely un-authentic Frangelico.
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