When I was younger, I never understood how or why my dad would eat these strange red and yellow seeds on his pizza. When I would try them, my mouth would hurt, and I vowed to never sully my pizza again with this mysterious condiment. As time went by, I realized they were just dried pepper flakes, and I tried them again. What was once a traumatic experience, now was a pleasurable one. I moved on to jalapenos on nachos and Louisiana hot sauce on my Popeye’s fried chicken. My desire for spice grew as time went on as I diversified the foods I ate or went out of my way to try like in Mexican, Sichuan, or Indian cuisine. I eventually reached my dad’s level where my spice tolerance makes my fellow diners shake their head in disbelief. Owners/servers of ethnicities known for piquant food traditions have marveled at the idea of a white person enjoying the same level of spice as they do or perhaps even more so. It has also caused episodes of spice profiling when restaurant owners did not make it spicy enough for my liking even if I requested it when ordering. By consuming spicy foods, I see myself carrying on the family tradition from my dad, but it made me wonder what caused me to develop this desire to consume fiery dishes? According to the Smithsonian and Popular Science, it seems that food preferences are a mixture of nature and nurture. While initial studies thought that genes could make individuals more resistant to the spicy food’s effects on their taste receptors, a recent study showed that more extroverted or thrill-seeking personalities were drawn to spicy flavors. This doesn’t mean that the more adventurous eaters felt the burn less, rather the insular lobe in their brains connected the pain and/or novelty of the taste to positive feelings. This connection of pain and pleasure goes against millennia of evolution where chili plants originally developed capsaicin to deter animals from consuming them.
Thus, this long history of hellish dining brings me to my first meeting with Dave’s Gourmet Insanity Sauce. The label on the front looks fun enough with a little smiling pepper catching some rays under the sun on the beach looking innocuous enough with some shades, a little umbrella, and a cool drink at his side. All is well with the world, or so you would think.
Then you flip the bottle over, and you realize that there was a reason why the smug chili pepper on the front had a devious smile.
Perhaps the part with removing oil stains and wax floors is a bit of hyperbole, but after tangling with this beast in a bottle, I can agree that the second half of the warning label is legitimate. According to Dave’s Gourmet website, this sauce has been the only sauce banned from the National Fiery Foods Show and is recommended for real O.C.s or Original Chiliheads. When I poured a bit of this hell-fire out, it was a thick, burgundy sauce that was like a very thick mole sauce or a grainy buttercream cake frosting. I then made the plunge by tasting the drop, and it felt like a mix of a MOAB drop and a lightning bolt of nostalgia went off in my mouth. The taste was the same or very similar to the extremely spicy, esophagus-closing sauce I had at Onniyure Donkatsu in Seoul. According to chiliworld.com, the main ingredient is red savina habanero peppers as well as pure capsaicin or the active irritant found in chili peppers. It is roughly rated at 250,000 Scoville heat units where as original Tabasco sauce is only 2,000 Scovilles or Frank’s RedHot sauce is only 450 Scovilles. Needless to say, the spice level was overpowering even for a seasoned fire-eater like me, and it lasts for at least 30 minutes after eating. The flavor is kind of bitter due to the high levels of capsaicin extract, and it is better mixed into soups or rice dishes to provide a spicier profile instead of being consumed straight up. This sauce could be considered a biohazard though and should not be trifled with. For example, I found that I started to cough/choke on the sauce’s fumes when washing the sauce off my plate with hot water. Tread carefully, adventurous diners.
Final Score for Dave’s Insanity Sauce
Overall: 6.5/10 This is not your backyard barbecue hot sauce. What it lacks in flavor, it more than makes up for in spice. It is certainly not my favorite hot sauce, but it is definitely a go-to if I’m feeling like having a good sweat while eating.