Mohawk Bend chef Erick Simmons will be out of town this night, but the very talented chef Adam Levoe from sister company The Pub at Golden Road Brewing will be at the cooking helm for the evening.
Expect to be filled with all manner of delicious vegan Sriracha treats for just $25 per person. Drinks—full bar, wine, plus a whopping 72 craft beer taps—are additional. Come hang and grub and maybe buy a book if you’re feeling extra generous?
Ninja Squirrel Sriracha: review & interview with creator
Whole Foods Market has just recently entered the Sriracha game with its own version of the sauce—Ninja Squirrel Sriracha—that’s available exclusively at Whole Foods locations around the country. Naturally, I wanted to give it a taste, so I got a bottle (or two or six) and also got to interview its creator about its origins!
Ninja Squirrel Sriracha is the brainchild of Derek Sarno, who is both the Senior Global Chef at Whole Foods Market and one-half of the fraternal duo that runs the popular plant-based vegan community Wicked Healthy Food (along with his brother/cookbook author extraordinaire, Chad Sarno). I met Derek a few years back while judging the Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival (which I’m doing again this year… 8/24/14!) and we’ve remained buddies since, so I was especially stoked to learn he was working on his own Sriracha recipe!
As for the taste… it’s delicious! There’s a really nice heat that hangs out for a minute or two without being overpowering. The ingredient list calls out a red jalapeño puree, a nondescript “red chili puree”, and a habanero pepper powder, the last of which I suspect may be what leaves the nice lingering spice. Regarding the chile blend they went with, Derek notes, “I was looking for hot, yet palatable, sweet, twangy, and delicious. It took trial and error to discover what worked.” The other winning quality of this Sriracha is the pronounced garlic flavor, which comes right to the forefront of the sauce’s profile once the initial heat burst starts to wane, and it all balances really nicely.
Thankfully, Derek was also happy to shed some light on how Ninja Squirrel Sriracha came to be; check out my e-mail interview with him below!
Derek Sarno—creator of Whole Foods Market’s Ninja Squirrel Sriracha—out in the field
How did Ninja Squirrel Sriracha come about? "Honestly, Ninja Squirrel Sriracha came about after I approached the Rooster company Huy Fong and they didn’t want to produce a modified version without preservatives for Whole Foods. Being the fanatic that I am, I had to find a way to produce one without preservatives and that is up to par with our quality standards for ingredients.”
How did you finally get it to the final formulation? "Not too long. After several trials and tastings, we landed on what worked in maybe a few months."
What was the inspiration behind the name “Ninja Squirrel Sriracha”? "When I was a kid, we had cut a tree down in the yard and we soon discover some baby squirrels in it. The momma squirrel had come and taken all but one of the little guys and after a while, we realized she wasn’t coming back for this one… so I scooped him up and took care of him. Nursing and feeding him with little baby bottles until he grew big and strong. We named him ‘The Gooch’, after the bully in Diff’rent Strokes; he was the original Ninja Squirrel and the inspiration behind the theme.”
How would you compare it to other Sriracha brands on the market? "We’ll have to let the people decide. I’m pretty partial to our brand for obvious reasons, and being clean and non-GMO is a huge part of that.”
What are your favorite things to do with Sriracha? "Well, Randy, you know me pretty well from following social media outlets and food postings… and I think it’s more appropriate to ask: ‘What are things you might not actually put Sriracha on?’ That’s a tough one considering my newest thought is to do a Sriracha toothpaste! I bet you’d like it.”
Where and when can people find it? You should be able to find it in every Whole Foods Market, and if it’s not in your store yet, it will be. It’s rolling out nationally and is exclusive to WFM.
Disclosure: Sample bottles were provided to me at no cost. I received no compensation for this post. Derek is a friend, and I am a former employee of Whole Foods Market, but that did not affect my decision to profile them nor did it bias my opinion/review. (I actually got fired from Whole Foods… funny story I’ll have to share sometime!)
Attention fellow SoCal Sriracha fans! There will be a hearing at Irwindale City Hall on Wednesday, February 26 to address the alleged odors coming from the Huy Fong Foods plant. Fans of Huy Fong Foods and its iconic Sriracha hot chile sauce are encouraged to attend the meeting to show their support. The company has maintained that there is no odor being emitted, posting a banner outside of their factory that reads: “No Tear Gas Made Here”, and offering free tours to fans who’d like to see ”how [their] Sriracha is made and how delicious it smells”.
SAVE SRIRACHA! Rally — Wednesday, February 26 at 6:30 p.m. Irwindale City Hall 5050 N. Irwindale Ave., Irwindale, CA
Resolution No. 2014-07-2667
A resolution of the City Council of the City of Irwindale California, declaring its intent to conduct a public hearing on February 26, 2014 at 6:30 pm at the city council chambers, Irwindale City Hall to determine whether any noxious, irritating or offensive odors [allegedly] emanating from the Huy Fong Foods, Inc. facility at 4800 Azusa Canyon Road, Irwindale, California constitutes a public nuisance.
If you order a signed copy of either Sriracha cookbook between December 1 and December 25, 2013, I’ll donate 100% OF MY PROCEEDS from the sale on Amazon to Food Forward, a North Hollywood-based charity whose mission is to rescue and donate fresh local produce that would otherwise go to waste. Over 1.7 million pounds of food has been gleaned since 2009, which goes to local food pantries, helping feed over 40,000 hungry Southern Californians each month. (The recent L.A. Sriracha Festival I co-hosted with FoodGPS.com raised $2,500 for Food Forward and I want to keep that momentum going!)
Wanna get in on the action? Want to get a signed cookbook and help get some well-needed funds to a wonderful charity? Simply buy a copy via these links:
Then, contact me immediately after ordering using Amazon’s buyer-seller messaging system to let me know the name and any note you’d like to have included. Then, I’ll stick it in the mail and have it on its way to you ASAP!
Thanks for the continued support, and for helping one of my favorite non-profit organizations! Happy holidays!
The Los Angeles Timesreports that residents of Irwindale near the new Huy Fong Foods factory have lodged complaints about headaches and burning eyes, which they allege are the result of the emissions coming from the hot sauce production facility.
"The city of Irwindale filed suit in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Monday, claiming that the odor was a public nuisance and asking a judge to stop production until the smell can be reduced.”
I visited the factory a few weeks back with my friend Josh Lurie from FoodGPS.com, and while we could definitely smell the Sriracha being made once we stepped inside the factory’s production areas, neither of us noticed any such aroma outside the facility. In fact, I remember the smell being much more apparent from the outside of their previous Rosemead location, and I always loved rolling my windows down as I approached.
We’ll see what happens as the story progresses, but I’m hopeful that it doesn’t halt Sriracha production or cause any delays. Huy Fong Foods relies on fresh chiles for its Sriracha—100 million pounds’ worth this year—which are all grown by Underwood Family Farms. They are trucked directly to Huy Fong Foods from the farm, and are washed, processed, and turned into hot sauce immediately, at the peak of their freshness. Harvest season for their jalapeño hybrid peppers is almost over, but they still have plenty more deliveries scheduled which will help ensure supply for next year. An action by the court could cut into that supply.
Talking Sriracha on KCRW’s “Good Food” with Evan Kleiman
It was an absolute thrill and honor to be on “Good Food”, a most excellent radio show that focuses on… you guessed it… food! I’ve long been a listener of the program, and when host Evan Kleiman and producer Gillian Ferguson invited me on to discuss the two Sriracha cookbooks and the L.A. Sriracha Festival, I was nothing short of elated.
I cover: proper pronunciation, differences between Thai Sriracha and American Sriracha, some of my favorite things to cook with Sriracha, a little history behind the books, and of course, more info on the L.A. Sriracha Festival. (Huy Fong Foods’ founder and Sriracha creator David Tran will be there!)
Join me and a bunch of people with exceptional taste at Chloe’s, the semi-private club at Golden Road Brewing in Los Angeles. We’ll have tasty grub and splendid beers to fill your mouth-hole, and sweet bluegrass tunes to serenade your ears.
Try some of the following dishes from my book expertly prepared by Golden Road’s Executive Chef Adam Levoe:
Not Your Mama’s Party Mix
Southeast Meets Southwest Lettuce Cups
Burning Thai Bruschetta
Jackfruit “Pulled Pork” Sammiches with Pickled Red Onion
Beer Battered Fried Avocado Tacos with Sriracha Curtido
The event is free to enter; food and beer are available for purchase à la carte. There will be a list of suggested Golden Road Beer pairings and a TBA Sriracha-infused DESSERT. Stay tuned for other rooster sauce madness…
The Veggie-Lover’s Sriracha Cookbook Release Party Tuesday, July 2, 2013 — 6 to 11 p.m. Chloe’s at Golden Road Brewing 5410 W San Fernando Rd., Los Angeles