Russ and Franks Sassy BBQ Sauce (5 of 5)
Discovering hidden gems like this are one of the main reasons I started
doing this website and blog.
Russ and Frank shipped me out three jars of sauce - their complete portfolio of
Mild, Sassy, and Fiery.
And I went straight to Sassy, perhaps because I knew what to expect
from the others. And if you think Sassy sounds funny... well.. screw you, buddy,
cause this is a classic "two buddies drinking beer" story with a happy ending.
Russ and Frank were chronic "searchers" looking for a better BBQ sauce every time
they left town. One night, they were grilling and hanging out on a deck, having
a few beers, when their conversation again drifts into their mutual dissatisfaction
for BBQ sauces. So that night they finally promised to do something about it, and
over the course of the next year, tested between 50 and 75 batches of barbecue sauce.
Since then they've packaged the product, put it in stores, won various awards, and
last year sold about 1500 gallons of sauce. Nice.
OK, enough history - on to the Review!
Well, I gotta say my analytic personality was challenged to find anything wrong
with the Sassy sauce. It hit all the highs and I really couldn't find any lows except
for their weak distribution strategy (guys you gotta get this into the Northeast).
Let's get into it, one by one.
A wonderfully intoxicating blend of tomato, vinegar, onion, and garlic.
Before Cooking Flavor
A really bold flavor - not too sweet - with a lot of complexity and punch. I dipped
bread and crackers into it, and then I wanted more... so I tried some celery and
carrots... and then realized I had no meat in the fridge ready to go. Waiting for
a defrost session was not an option, so I ran out to get some chicken immediately.
Got stuck behind a driver's ed car. Get off the road, buddy! I need some chicken.
Russ and Franks Sassy BBQ Sauce hits the mark on consistency with a sauce that smells,
looks, and responds in a very natural way. Some sauces are way too thick, like sludge,
and when you dig deeper you know they have to be using some artificial thickeners
and sometimes chemicals to achieve that sluggish effect. A great sauce consistency,
on the other hand, moves pretty quickly into the basting bowl or around in the jar,
but leaves a long-lasting smear everything it touches. You can also observe good
consistency through the glass by tipping it at angles to see if you can detect any
real spices in the mix. Here you can see specks of the spices - garlic, onions,
and black pepper - which make up a constellation of goodness.
After Cooking Flavor
Wonderful. Another key to a five star sauce is the ability to retain flavor through
the heat of a grill. A weak sauce will sometimes succumb to the flame and end up
tasting like tomato and sugar. A great sauce transforms into something different,
the heat "activating" the flavors together until you taste something you can't get
enough of. Here, Sassy transcends from a great dipping sauce into a zesty alternative
that will please heat lovers and mild sauce aficionados alike. How is that possible?
I'm not sure. I think they added the right amount of cayenne and black pepper to
add the zest at the end, enough to leave your mouth and lips a bit hot, but not
strong enough to burn. For me, I can't stand eating hot foods that ruin the meal,
so you have to drink water along with it... again not the case here. Just enough
heat to add to the great flavors embedded in the sauce.
Catsup, Molasses, Dark Brown Sugar, Cider Vinegar, Water, Tomato Sauce, Tomato Paste,
Onions, Worcestershire Sauce, Liquid Smoke, Garlic, Cayenne, Celery Salt, Onion
Salt, Black Pepper. Fairly unique use of the top three tomato bases - ketchup, tomato
sauce, and tomato paste. Big bonus for all natural ingredients, as usual. Dark brown
sugar is called dark because it has about 6.5% brown sugar as opposed to 3.5% for
"normal" brown sugar.
Calories per serving 50, Total Fat 0g, Sodium 170 mg, Carbs 14g (sugars 10g).
Marketing and Packaging
Positives: Glass jar, excellent design. A clean, gourmet look and feel.
Negatives: The only negative is that the sauce might be marketed too subtle. Maybe
it's marketing too broadly... If I saw this on a shelf, I might not even notice
it, it's so clean looking. The only possible enhancement I could suggest is to perhaps
test market the sauce under a brand that is a little more in your face towards a
specific group. Picture a guy in a store looking for a new sauce... he sees
Bone Suckin' Sauce next to Russ and Franks Sassy next to
Dinosaur BBQ sauce ... which one is he gonna pick? What about something
marketed towards tailgaters? That's a huge target market...
In the end, this is a great sauce that I am going to miss once the jar is empty.
I'd like to see it in a grocery store near me, but if you want to try it out, you
can order direct from their website below.
Russ and Franks Website