From time to time chefs get busy. And when the purveyor sends something they didn't order, sometimes it sits there. And then it sits some more. And by the time they get around to sending it back, it's like, "Fuck it. I'll just find something to do with this metric ton of habanero peppers."
Such was the plight of Craig Kaiser, a chef with too many chiles on his hands and not enough time. So he pickled all of these habaneros, seasoned them up real nice, pureed the heck out of it, and fed it to staff at family meal. The staff went wild. People have been going wild pretty much ever since.
The stuff is addictive. The trick is in the pickling — the chiles don't get cooked, so the end product is "refreshing," as Kaiser puts it. It came in second in our friendly hot-sauce-off last year (just after Isabel Street Heat, which ferments its chiles).
In that tasting session, we called it "tart, tangy, mouth-watering, and acidic with moderate heat." Kaiser adds "bright and fruity, with a little back kick of cumin and garlic."
It's good, and some of the best chefs in town seem to agree. Already Crybaby Craig's has joined, and sometimes bumped, more recognizable national brands in some 25 restaurants. Expect to see the signature orange bottle in plenty more as the summer progresses.
"It's going really, really fast," Kaiser enthuses. Right now he ticks off top restaurants Tilia, St. Genevieve, Handsome Hog, Nighthawks, Red Wagon Pizza, Cafe Maude, Eat Street Social, and Surly as just a few of his accounts.
Some chefs are taking things further still by incorporating the sauce into menu items. W.A. Frost is using it in creamed greens, and Eat Street social is putting it in the calamari aioli.
"I'm not sure what I've created, but it has become a serious addiction for people. I've received borderline hate mail from people for making them wait too long for their fix."
Avoid having to pen a hate letter and arm yourself with your very own bottle. It's available on store shelves at Lake Wine and Spirits, Pump and Munch at Nicollet and 44th, soon at Lowry Hill Meats, and starting this week online at crybabycraigs.com
Kaiser has hinted at breaking out of the local market in the not too distant future. Get some now and say you knew him when.