Denny Mike's Spice Rubs

Maine may not be prime BBQ territory, but DennyMike has made it his mission to show that the Pine Tree State can produce quality "Q". DennyMike fell in love with Texas style BBQ in the 1970s and went on to expand his love and knowledge of "Q" in the subsequent years.

In 2002, he turned his love of "Q" into Denny Mike's Smokehouse BBQ & Deli. Though DennyMike's features several different styles of BBQ, Texas "Q" is still the emphasis. In addition to the restaurant, DennyMike also produces a wide variety of all natural,  small batch sauces and spice rubs.

BBQ was a prominant feature during our recent trip to Michigan. I used the vacation as an oppurtunity to test several new products on a variety of people. During the trip, I used three of DennyMike's signature spice blends.

On day one of our trip, we smoked chicken thighs with mesquite wood. I used DennyMike's Chick Magnet rub for all of the chicken. The Southwestern flavor blend, combined with the mesquite wood smoke gave the chicken a bold, authentic Texas flavor profile. It seemed to go over well with the host of Michiganders we were feeding.

Later that week, the family gathered for a low country shrimp boil. We loaded a 60 Qt. pot with corn, potatoes, smoked sausage and a mixed bag of seafood. We used DennyMike's Fintastic seafood seasoning (combined with Old Bay) in the boil. I also seasoned the food with the Fintastic blend after pouring onto the table. Fintastic is a salt and citrus blend that works well with almost any seafood. It was excellent on the shrimp and even added good flavor to the corn and potatoes.

DennyMike's Pixie Dust also came in handy when it came time to smoke pork ribs. I prefer a sweet rub for pork ribs so I combined the Pixie Dust with brown sugar and seasoned the ribs generously. Pixie Dust is mild, all purpose blend with a lower salt content than many BBQ rubs. It worked nicely when paired with the brown sugar as I prefer not to use much salt in my rib rubs. Pixie dust doesn't have a bold enough flavor to stand up to flavorfull meat cuts or sauces, but would work well as a flavor enhancer for chicken or vegetables.

For additional information about DennyMike's (including how to order their products) click the title of this review. Be sure to also check the "Product Reviews" page to see how DennyMike's rated.

Big Dave's Honey Chipotle BBQ Sauce

Big Dave's (Holtwood, PA) is a small operation founded in 2009. After first preparing sauces for a local restaurant, Dave decided to bottle and sell his Honey Chipotle BBQ sauce and his Peach N Pepper Jam to the public. This year, Big Daves' introduced two more products: Strawberry Jalapeno Jam and Wild Fire Sauce.

Big Dave's was quick to respond to my email invitation and sent a bottle of both the Honey Chipotle BBQ Sauce and his newly introduced Wild Fire Sauce. I was particularly looking forward to the Honey Chipotle BBQ sauce. Honey and chipotle are both flavors that are near and dear to my heart. They are a common flavor combination in the world of BBQ because the sweetness of the honey balances the smokey spice of the chipotle peppers so nicely.

Though many companies feature honey chipotle products, I've never had a sauce that blends the flavors better than Big Dave's. The initial flavor is sweet, but never too sweet. The honey is never allowed to dominate. Likewise, the following chipotle spice adds just enough contrast without being overbearing. The flavors are bold enough to stand up to any meat or spice rub, but just tame enough not to over power them or scare off any potential tasters.

I gave Big Dave's Honey Chipotle sauce a thorough test (mostly because I enjoyed it so much). I tried it on ribs (both beef and pork), pulled pork and smoked chicken. It was also used in tandem with a variety of spice rubs. Each time, the sauce was exceptional. The medium thickness (similar to Bone Suckin) made the sauce versatile enough for just about any application and the flavor was good enough that I wanted to use it for every occasion.

I've been fortunate enough to sample several quality sauces over the last several weeks, but Big Dave's stands alone thus far. For my personal taste, Big Dave's hits all the right notes. It also drew rave reviews from my co-workers. The only negative I can see about Big Dave's is their relative lack of availability. I've been unable to find an online retailer that sells Big Dave's sauce. I hope that changes soon. Katie is an understanding woman, but driving all the way to PA to buy BBQ sauce may be where she draws the line.

I emplore you to seek out Big Dave's on Facebook. Ask where you can find their Honey Chipotle BBQ sauce and tell them that The "Q" Review sent you. In case you haven't figured it out already, you check out my rating for this product on the "Product Reviews" page.

Tasty Lick's Spice Rubs

Tasty Lick's BBQ products are the concoctions of an interesting guy named Fred. Fred Bernardo, aka Smokin Guitar Player, is the owner of Fred's Music and BBQ Supply in Shillington, PA. Fred's sells a wide variety music instruments as well as BBQ and grilling products, including Tasty Lick's rubs, sauces and salsas.

Fred was kind enough to send me several different samples of his spice rubs. The first one I used was the Red Eye Red Meat Rub. I had a beautiful NY Strip that was in need of some love so I brushed the it with olive oil and coated both sides with the Red Eye Rub. The sample packet was just enough to liberally season both sides of the 13 oz. steak. I let the steak chill and the spices rest for about eight hours.

After a few minutes on a hot grill the steak was perfectly seared. The rub created a nice crust on the exterior. It's not a sweet spice rub so it didn't burn when hit with the high heat. The flavor was incredibly savory. There was just the right amount of salt content. I can say, without hesitation, that Tasty Lick's Red Eye Red Meat rub is the best steak seasoning I've ever used. It's also the first sample that I've received that made me say, "I have to buy that." I will be placing an order soon and buying it in bulk.

Steak seasoning isn't the only thing that Tasty Licks does well. I used their Ribit Rib Rub and Smokin Good BBQ rub on two racks of beef ribs. Each sample pack had just enough to cover a rack of ribs. The rib rub is reminicent of a Memphis style dust. It has an underlying heat that would be great for dry ribs. However, the flavor still held its own when the sweet honey chipotle sauce was applied.

On the second rack of ribs, I used the Smokin Good BBQ rub. This rub was a mild all purpose spice rub. This rub is a typical BBQ rub with a sweet and spicy balance. None of the flavors are overly strong. It's merely intended to accent the flavor of the meat. Once the hot BBQ sauce was applied, the flavors of the rub were almost completely masked.

Tasty Licks has several more spice rubs in their catalog in additon to the three I mentioned. Rubs specifically made for Brisket, poultry and pork each feature unique flavor combinations. I still have a couple more to try myself.

Click the title of this review to view the Tasty Licks webpage. You can also find them on Facebook. As always, Tasty Licks' product ratings can be found on the "Product Reviews" page.

Stonehouse 27 Dates and Tamarind

After a positive experience with Stonehouse 27's Tamarind and Garlic sauce this weekend, I decided to try their Dates & Tamarind sauce last night. I again had to rely on the Stonehouse 27's website for instruction. I'm fairly confident that I have never eaten dates. If I have, I have no recollection of the flavor. recommended simmering pork chops in their Date & Tamarind sauce so that's exactly what I did. I browned some bonless loin chops in a bit of olive oil and poured the jar of sauce over the chops. I added some sauteed mushrooms, covered the pan and let the meat simmer for several minutes.

This sauce was very different from the Tamarind & Garlic sauce I had on Saturday. In fact, it was much different than anything I've ever had. I had a very hard time placing the flavors that I experienced. The Stonehouse 27 label isn't much help either. For obvious reasons, it simply reads "spices" in the list of ingredients.

Katie and I both sensed some sort of Christmas spice (cinnamon and/ or nutmeg), but couldn't agree on which one. In comparison with many of the sauces that I've tried lately, I wouldn't call this a sweet sauce. However, the dates do provide a degree of sweetness. The initial flavor is also backed by the Tamarind flavor and some contrasting earthy ingredients as well. The Dates & Tamarind sauce also has a sneaky spice that I didn't even notice until I'd finished eating. Though not extreme by any measure, there is a certain degree of heat that seems to add punctuation to the flavor.

I found the flavors of this sauce as complex as they were unusual.  As far as my personal preference, I'm still a bit hesitant to recommend it. This sauce is definitely not for everyone. However, if you're someone who has a diverse palate and typically enjoys Indian food, this may be perfect for you.

Like all Stonehouse 27 products, the Dates & Tamarind sauce is made with the highest qaulity Indian inspired ingredients. I appreciate the fact Stonehouse 27 is making Indian flavors more accessible and easier to use. If you missed it, please check out my review of Stonehouse 27's Tamarind & Garlic sauce. To find Stonehouse 27's products in a store near you, click this link. You can also find them on Facebook. As always, Stonehouse 27's Dates & Tamarind sauce rating is listed on the "Product Reviews" page.

Kozlowski Farms Apricot and Mango Roasted Chipotle Grilling and Dipping Sauce

The story of Kozlowski Farms' (Forestville, CA) origin is pretty remarkable. Their love of food and family grew Kozlowski farms from a simple apple orchard to a premier source for hundreds of gourmet products. 60 years ago the Kozlowski family purchased land in the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County and planted a variety of apple trees. Since it takes seven years for the trees to mature and produce good fruit, the family planted berries in the orchard as well to yield a quicker return.

Thus sprung the idea for producing gourmet food for the public, not just family. With so many fresh resources on the farm, the Kozlowki's began producing baked and canned goods as well as gourmet grilling sauces. Ahead of their time, the Kozlowki's were some of the first food producers in Sonoma County to go organic in the early 80s. Today, Kozlowski farms has a catalog ranging from homemade pastries to fine wines. Everything with a Kozlowski label on it comes right from their farm.

When I found Kozlowski Farms online, I was intrigued by their "California Style" BBQ sauce. However, when the samples arrived at my door, I was happy to see that the good people at Kozlowski Farms had also included four varieties of their chipotle grilling sauces.

The first sauce that I sampled was Kozlowski Farm's Apricot & Mango Roasted Chipotle sauce. According to the accompanying literature, the sauce was great for grilling or dipping. When I first cracked the seal, I was surprised by how smokey the aroma was. The liquid smoke scent really stood out. I poured a bit of the sauce into a bowl for sampling. The sauce is very thick, nearly as thick as fruit preserves. The initial taste is also reminiscent of preserves. It's sweet and fruity. However, it's followed by the smokey chipotle heat that helps balance the sweetness.

I first used the sauce as a dip for fried chicken strips. It made a fine dip. The flavors blended well with the salty batter of the chicken. I used the remainder of the bottle for some homemade meatballs last night. I simmered the sauce for a couple of minutes which thinned it out a bit. I then poured it over the meatballs. I thought the sauce was excellent with the meatballs (half turkey / half beef). It was similar to sweet and sour meatballs, but with smokey finish.

The fruity sauce may be a bit too sweet for some (like my wife), but I'm a sucker for sweet sauce. Kozlowski Farm's Apricot & Mango Roasted Chipotle sauces make an excellent dip or sauce for meaty h'orderves. I only hope the remaining Kozlowski Farm's products are as good as this one was.

To learn more about Kozlowski Farms, click the title of this article. You can also find them on Facebook. Be sure to check the "Product Reviews" page to see how the Apricot & Mango Roasted Chipotle sauce stands up against other sauces.

Turkey / Beef Meatballs with Kozlowski Farm's Apricot & Mango Roasted Chipotle Sauce

Stonehouse 27 Tamarind & Garlic Sauce

The "Q" Review is getting exotic. This weekend, we explored a taste of India with the help of Stonehouse 27's Tamarind & Garlic sauce. Stonehouse 27 (Germantown, TN) is the proud maker of all natural Indian inspired gourmet sauces.

I was admittedly hesitent when I first received the Stonehouse 27 products. I'd only previously had one experience with Indian food. Katie and I once stopped at a cheap Indian buffet after church. Without going into too much detail, I'll simply say that we left the restaurant within ten minutes of entering and headed to the McDonald's drive-thru.

Since I have no experience using Indian flavors in my cooking, I really wasn't sure what the best application for Stonehouse 27's sauces would be. They all contained ingredients that you won't find in my pantry. After reading the labels, I really had no idea what type of flavor to expect. Thankfully, Stonehouse 27's website provides plenty of suggestions for using each product.

Using the advice of Stonehouse 27's website, I marinated two pounds of large shrimp in 3/4 of a jar of Tamarind & Garlic sauce for four hours. I then grilled the shrimp for a couple of minutes on each side and plated them with rice and steamed peas, pouring the remainder of the sauce over the shrimp.
Before using this sauce, I had no idea what tamarind was or how it would smell and taste. My initial reaction to the aroma of Stonehouse 27's Tamarind & Garlic was that is smelled like a mild chile. The flavor was very earthy, but a little less bold than I had expected. In fact, it was pretty mild. I suppose the word "mild" being printed right on the label should have clued me in, but I still wasn't entirely sure what to expect.

Tamarind & Garlic sauce was a nice change of pace from our normal flavors. It accented the shrimp well, but did not over power it. Stonehouse 27 has a variety of suggestions for using their sauce. It can be used as a simmering sauce or even a dip for vegetables or pita bread. In my opinion, it is best used as a marinade. It worked well for shrimp, but could be equally good on chicken.

Stonehouse 27 is slowly starting to change my opinion of Indian food. It may be a bit out of my comfort zone, but they make a quality product using the highest quality ingredients. I have two additional Stonehouse 27 sauces to sample: Dates & Tamarind and Cilantro & Coconut. I have no idea what to make of those flavors, but I'm confident they'll be every bit as good as the Tamarind & Garlice sauce we tasted tonight.

To learn more about how to infuse Indian flavors into your cooking using Stonehouse 27 products, click the title of this article. For my North Carolina readers, Stonehouse 27 sauces can be found locally at Food Lion. For everyone else, click this link to find a retailer near you. You can also become a fan of Stonehouse 27 on Facebook.

Don't forget to check the "Product Reviews" page to see how Stonehouse 27's Tamarind & Garlic sauce rates.

Bacon Hot Sauce

Bacon Hot Sauce (BHS) was born from two ideas: 1. "Bacon makes everything better." 2. "Hot sauce makes everything better." According to their website, BHS is the invention of friends who were hanging out together on a Sunday morning craving eggs, potatoes, bacon and hotsauce. It's not difficult to picture the scene. Guys laying on raggedy furniture in the clothes they wore the night before. Empty beer cans littered throughout the apartment. A stale, musky haze lingering like a cloud above each man (all conjecture on my part, of course). It's a familiar scene for many.

Whether or not this is the actual origin of BHS, it makes a good story. I love the BHS concept. On the surface, it seems like a winner. I love hotsauce. I really love bacon. Who doesn't? I really wanted to love this sauce.

Alas, what seemed like a perfect combination produced one of the least enjoyable tasting experiences I've ever had. First, though, let me address the aroma. Food produced for human consumption should never illicit comparisons to Purina brand products. However, that was the first thought that entered my mind when I took a whiff of BHS. I suppose there was a "bacon like" aroma, but I think it was much closer to Beggin Strips.

Smelling BHS lowered my expectations greatly for the taste, but I would wager that Beggin Strips are more palatable than BHS. Again, I sensed the "bacon like" flavor, but it was completely overpowered by a brackish chemical taste. Because I don't make a habit of tasting household cleaners, I don't have much to compare it to, but it was harsh and unnatural. To describe my feeling about BHS to my wife, the best way I could come up with was saying, "It tastes like science."

Perhaps it's becuase I've eaten nothing but all natural sauces for the last couple weeks. Or, perharps I got a bad bottle. Whatever the reason, Bacon Hot Sauce completely missed the mark with me. While the sauce provides a fair amount of heat (About a 7.5 on a 10 point scale), the flavor is just too strange to overcome.

If you're still intrigued by the novelty, don't let this review dissuade you. By all means, give it a try. If, however, you're looking for a quality hotsauce to enhance the flavor of various foods, you can do much better than Bacon Hot Sauce.

Rating: 1 Star *

Bone Suckin' Sweet Hot Mustard

I'm normally not a mustard guy. I rarely put mustard on burgers or dogs. For the most part, I've also steered clear of mustard BBQ sauces. However, when Bone Suckin sent me a jar of their Sweet Hot Mustard sauce, I decided it was worth a try.

Regular readers of The "Q" Review will remember that the original Bone Suckin BBQ sauce is one of my absolute favorites. Bone Suckin has an unmatched reputation for quality BBQ sauce. So, despite my general distaste for mustard, I decided to use the sweet, hot mustard on grilled chicken drumsticks for our annual summer BBQ.

Bone Suckin' sauces are all natural. You won't find extra preservatives or high fructose corn syrup in any of their products. They sweeten their vinegar and mustard blend with brown sugar and molasses. It's even given a kick of jalapeno for spice. The thick texture is comparable with other premium mustards with the addition of visible jalapeno pieces.

I brushed the mustard on grilled chicken legs for this weekend's BBQ. I was pleasantly surprised with the flavor. It was also praised by our guests. Bone Suckin's Sweet Hot Mustard may be a little too spicy for children (or wimpy adults), but I felt the heat level was just about right. It's on par with a typical medium salsa.

Though the mustard worked well as a glaze for grilled chicken, I'm not sure that was the best application for the sauce. After tasting Bone Suckin's Sweet Hot Mustard, I would recommend it be used as a condiment or a dip. I may even put some on my hot dogs and hamburgers in the future. I won't say that I've been transformed into a mustard lover, but I'm certainly fond of the Bone Suckin' product line.

Bone Suckin sauces can be found at fine retailers all over the country. You can also purchase it online directly from source. Check out their website to view additional Bone Suckin products and recipes to put them to use.

Rating: 4 Stars ****

Stage Coach Sauces Bona Fide Barbecue

Stage Coach Sauces (Palatka, FL) was the very first company to respond to The "Q" Review's Great Email Campaign. Stage Coach generously sent bottles of all four of their sauces to be reviewed. A little online research revealed that Stage Coach has a history of generosity. A portion of the proceeds from every bottle sold is donated in support of breast cancer awareness. 

Another area of pride for Stage Coach Sauces is their commitment to quality natural products. All four of their sauces are corn syrup, MSG and preservative free. They are sweetened with natural ingredients like brown sugar, molasses and citrus.

Since Stage Coach was so quick to respond to The "Q" Review's request, I decided to feature their Bona fide Barbecue sauce on the ribs at our annual summer BBQ. I used every last drop of the 16 oz. bottle to glaze six racks of ribs. The thickness of the Stage Coach sauce was perfect for brushing on ribs. It's thinner than a Sweet Baby Ray's, but thick enough to stay on the meat.
Bona fide Barbecue sauce's flavor was nothing like I had anticipated. I read a review from and completely agree with their take. The Stage Coach name and logo create expectations of smokey Western flavors. In reality, the flavor is sweet with a mild citrus vinegar zing.

Our BBQ had a mix of Yankees and Southerners. The Stage Coach sauce seemed to suit the palate of just about everyone. The flavors are mild and appealing, making it a great sauce to serve to a large group with potential finicky eaters. Though you may detect a hint of spice, Bona fide Barbecue sauce is also kid friendly.

Stage Coach Sauces' Bona fide Barbecue sauce turned out to be a good choice for this weekend's ribs. I only wish I would have had some leftover to try on different meats. On the bright side, I still have three other Stage Coach Sauces to sample and review. I've already been brainstorming how I want to put their Carolina BBQ, Red Ruby Garlic and Steak Sauce to use.

To learn more about Stage Coach Sauces, click the title of this blog. You can also check out Bonafide Barbecue's rating and see how it compares to other sauces on the "Product Reviews" page.

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