Since Kansas City doesn’t follow national trends, but often helps set the pace, we went around town and gathered an array of condiments for an informal tasting panel. Readily available in supermarkets and at specialty stores (many are online, too), these nine condiments appealed to us as meal savers — sauces or spreads that could rescue a bland chicken breast or pork chop and give it new life, infuse scrambled eggs with some sass or elevate a piece of grilled fish.
We invited seven people with opinionated palates (and refrigerators brimming with interesting sauces and condiments) to try the nine made-in-KC products. These people, including 12-year- old Noah Belcher, enjoy food, dining out in KC’s ascending culinary landscape and experimenting with new products to enhance their home cooking.
The lively group gathered around a large conference table and, between dipping, spooning and spreading condiments on crackers and crudité and scribbling tasting notes, they exchanged, among other things, cooking tips and trends, personal flavor profiles, favorite recipes and condiment pairings.
There were no winning or losing condiments that emerged from this taste test, just honest feedback from the enthusiastic panelists on how they might use a particular sauce in their personal cooking and what they liked (or didn’t like) about each product. Like any group tasting, there were some wildly divergent opinions.
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Amigoni Urban Winery Vino Ketchup
Tangy, wine-infused (using Amigoni Urban Winery’s Cabernet Sauvignon), thick ketchup.
Food Pairings: Burgers; glaze for meatloaf; in a cocktail sauce for shrimp.
Tasting notes: “Great vinegar sharpness and sweetness”; “Delicious. Love it.”
Suggested retail: $7.99
Born with Seoul Gochujang Sweet & Tangy Sauce
Mild kick; red peppers, fermented soybeans.
Food Pairings: Veggie dip; stir-fry sauce; salad vinaigrette; spring roll dipping sauce. Recipe ideas at bornwithseoul.com.
Tasting notes: “Would marinate shrimp in this and use as a ketchup substitute”; “Will use as a ketchup substitute”; “A little too sweet for me.”
Suggested retail: $8
Boys Grow Avocado Hot Sauce
Jalapeño and avocado combine with spices for a decidedly different hot sauce.
Food Pairings: Great sauce for enchiladas, tacos and tamales; add to a Bloody Mary or guacamole.
Tasting notes: See “The perfect stuck-on-a-desert-island condiment” box.
Suggested retail: $4.29
Boys Grow Tzatziki Salad Dressing
Cucumber, dill, not as thick as traditional tzatziki.
Food Pairings: Salad dressing, falafel dipping sauce, gyros.
Tasting notes: “Would use on a Greek salad”; “Expected stronger cucumber flavor.”
Suggested retail: $4.99
Hot Helga Nordic Mustard:
Chunky mustard reminiscent of old-fashioned mustard and relish with a hot and sweet kick.
Food Pairings: The usual suspect: grilled hot dogs. But also great for dipping pretzels, veggies and chips and as a marinade for pork, chicken and fish (mix equal parts Hot Helga and balsamic vinegar). Recipe ideas at helgafoods.com.
Tasting notes: “I like the chunkiness”; “Lots of applications for this — even in homemade salad dressing”; “Great on grilled hot dogs”; “Late heat. Love relish and mustard combination.”
Suggested retail: $5.49
Macho Mayo Roasted Green Chile Dippin’ Sauce
Creamy, with zesty green chile kick.
Food Pairings: Deviled eggs, pasta salad, Parmesan-crusted chicken, broiled tilapia. Recipe ideas at machomayo.com.
Tasting notes: “Add to deviled eggs fillings or pasta salad”; “Maybe as a sauce on something with Mexican flavors”; “Too hot for my taste.”
Suggested retail: $4.99
Macho Mayo Roasted Jalapeño Dippin’ Sauce
Creamy, with bold jalapeño bite.
Food Pairings: Sandwiches, veggie dip, breakfast sandwich with fried eggs and ham. Recipe ideas at machomayo.com.
Tasting notes: “I like spice, but this was too hot for me.”
Suggested retail: $4.99
Tasty Thai Sweet Peanut Sauce
Peanut — and more peanut — with a sweet (but not cloying) finish.
Food Pairings: Dipping sauce for spring rolls or Thai-style satay. Add vinegar to make a tangy salad dressing. Recipe ideas at kctastythai.com.
Tasting notes: “Spicy yet approachable”; “Would be great on soba noodles and as a spring roll dipping sauce”; “Interesting texture, like apple butter. Delicious.”
Suggested retail: $4.99
Zim’s Sauces Mild Bufsas
Imagine Buffalo-style wing sauce meets Kansas City barbecue sauce and you’re on the right track.
Food Pairings: Drizzle on tacos and grilled fish; stir-fry; grilled shrimp and chicken — and of course, chicken wings.
Tasting notes: “Too vinegary for me”; “Nice for stir-fry, grilled shrimp and chicken”; “Nice sour overtones and good heat.”
Suggested retail: $6 for 12-ounce jar (other sizes available — see zims-sauces.com)
Noah Belcher: An aspiring young chef, Noah, 12, grills, bakes and cooks, using fresh ingredients, often posting his creations on Instagram. When it comes to food, he says, “I like what I like.”
Judith Evnen: An adventurous cook and food lover who likes to bake and merge her family’s Jewish recipes into her repertoire. Her father was one of Lincoln, Neb.’s best-known wholesale food distributors for 50 years so Evnen’s education about food and ingredients started early.
Jennifer Janesko: The Kansas City artist and jewelry designer wasn’t a condiments fan growing up. “We sat in a special line at the McDonald’s drive-through because they had to make my cheeseburger special — no pickles, ketchup or mustard. My taste buds have become a bit more sophisticated — but I still don’t use ketchup.”
Sharon Liese: A documentary filmmaker from Leawood whose husband, David, is the household’s official chef and likes to “add things to food.”
Kevin Marsh: A devout from-scratch cook, he planted vegetable gardens at the home he and his wife, Shelly, are renovating in Brookside. “Currently I’m learning about sauces and condiments, and when you can add them to your dish for maximum impact.”
Tom Mentzer: A public relations pro with an affinity for adding zing and zest to dishes when cooking at home with wife, Loretta. “There’s nothing more satisfying than an evening spent in the kitchen — and using KC-made products.”
Nancy Moran: This physician cooks for therapy and dines around Kansas City to complement her knowledge. “I appreciate the artisans who share their talents with us.”
The perfect stuck-on-a-desert-island condiment
Finally we wanted to know from each panelist: If you were stuck on a desert island, which of these nine sauces would be critical to your survival as a food lover? Six of our condiments crusaders wanted to have the Boys Grow Avocado Hot Sauce wash ashore.
Noah: “Love the heat and the mouth feel — silky and smooth.”
Judith: “Although I might not be making tacos, enchiladas or cocktails on a deserted island, which the sauce would be perfect with — I could dream. And Amigoni’s Vino Ketchup. I could make some sort of a cocktail sauce from it for the fresh seafood at my disposal.”
Jennifer: “It’s all the things I love — tart, heat, sweet. Perfect for seafood.”
Sharon: “I could put it on the fish that I would catch in order to survive.”
Kevin: “If you don’t know where your food is going to come from or what it will be, you’d want something like this. Tasty, with just the right amount of heat.”
Nancy: “Spicy, bold flavor would add a kick to a lot of bland food.”