John Sauchelli, the talented pastry chef of Maritime Parc in Jersey City, and his boyhood buddy, Austin D’Almeida, just won the Screaming Mi Mi Award at the Third Annual New York City Hot Sauce Expo for their Jersey Barnfire Black Garlic hot sauce.
That award earned them second place in the “Best Released in 2014” category.
“That was a huge deal for us,” says D’Almeida, owner of Jersey Barnfire.
When you consider that 50 vendors competed in person and hundreds of others around the world shipped their sauces to the event, well, yes, it is a huge deal.
D’Almeida, 35, started the hot sauce company with Sauchelli, 36, a pal from their days growing up in the Caldwell-Cedar Grove area in Essex County. The two lost touch after Sauchelli entered the New York Restaurant School and D’Almeida began training for his day job in heating and air conditioning.
In 2012, they reconnected on Facebook. Both happened to be living in Sussex County: Sauchelli in Newton and D’Almeida in nearby Wantage. Sauchelli visited his old pal’s home. D’Almeida showed him his “salsa garden,” full of tomatoes, peppers and cilantro. They decided that in the fall they would make hot sauce from the peppers left over from the salsa making.
Thus Sauchelli went, as his friend puts it, from “the sweet to the heat.”
The hot sauce came out pretty good. Of course, “everybody thinks their stuff is great,” says D’Almeida. They gave bottles away as Christmas gifts, but told the recipients that if they wanted more next year, they’d have to pay for it.
“They all came back with money,” he says.
With that encouragement, they filled 120, 8-ounce bottles with their hot sauce, brought them to a local farmers’ market and sold out in three hours.
Last year, Jersey Barnfire teamed up with Obis One, a Pennsville grower of rare organic black garlic, to bottle a new specialty sauce. “It was like lightning in a bottle,” says D’Almeida. “It was really, really good, because we’re not just about heat, we’re about flavor. Hot sauce shouldn’t mask or cover up bad food; it’s supposed to make good food taste even better.”
Black garlic, when aged and fermented, has the consistency of dried fruit, lending both sweet and savory elements to whatever it is used in.
In conjunction with the expo, Jersey Barnfire has launched two new hot sauces: Ginger and Carolina Reaper Salt.
The sauces can be purchased at jerseybarnfire.com for $9.99 to $11.99. They are carried at a number of local markets, including:
The Meat House – Summit
Fossil Farms – Boonton
Mini Mac Farm – Long Valley
Market House – Westwood
Denville Meat Shop – Denville
Better World Market – Somerset
Liberty Landing Marina – Jersey City
Sussex County Food Co-Op – Newton
Obis One – Pennsville
Incrediballs Food Truck – Jersey City
Hayek’s Market – Newton
Jersey Artisan Distilling – Fairfield
Sussex Meat Packing – Sussex
Green Village Packing Co. – Green Village
“I’m growing over 20 varieties of hot chiles,” says D’Almeida, “from milder habaneros to Ghost, Scorpion, Carolina Reapers and some exotic super-hots like the Brain Strain, which resembles a blood red brain.”
Jersey Barnfire is working on summer sauces such as Strawberry Scorpion and Roasted Peach Habanero, showcasing Jersey fruits at their peak. Future products may include infused sea salts and snacks.
“Our intention,” D’Almeida says, “is just keep making spicy stuff.”
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