Like a mythical sea monster of olden days, it rose up from the depths of the cooking pot and consumed me. It was surrounded by steam and oceans of piquant goodness as it filled my senses. My life as I know it would never be the same again. It didn’t consume me with wriggling tentacles and octopus arms, but rather with intense flavour and hits of black coffee which left me breathless for all the right reasons. If you can’t tell yet, I’m not really talking about a sea monster. I’m talking about the mother of all hot sauces, produced right here in Cape Town by Black Spot Hot Sauce. Exit the Kraken.
When Calvin got in touch with me a while back, I was giddy with excitement for so many reasons. I’m a serial hot-sauce eater, I love supporting local and as we all know, I’m a total sucker for good branding and pretty packaging. Calvin’s hot sauce promptly ticked all the boxes, but even more than that – what got me really interested – there was a story to be told in every bottle of his red habanero and black coffee hot sauce.
Although Black Spot Hot Sauce is still relatively new in the local hot sauce market, owner and creator, Capetonian Calvin Gentz, has been experimenting with recipes for spicy sauce for years. Dabbling in the kitchen with a few pots of chilli creations resulted into a larger side project in August this year and now he’s starting to reap the rewards for slaving over a hot stove. And to our absolute pleasure, he’s decided to share his makings with the public.
“I’ve always been fascinated with the intense flavours of spicy food, hot sauces and chillies. The allure of the heat and the enhancement chillies could add to food amazed me. No sauce has been able to sate my appetite. The preservatives, sugars and colouring were things I didn’t want in any sauces I enjoyed.”
As a child, Calvin loved hanging out in the kitchen and he recalls many fond memories of helping his mom and gran prepare meals. He quickly came to realise that good food infuses people with happiness. Through his childhood kitchen encounters, his love for food continued to grow.
When he was twelve, he was gifted a Bird’s Eye chilli plant by his gran. Fascinated by the colours and the delicate little flowers of his very own chilli plant, he began growing herbs and other edibles. And that was the start of his life-long love affair with all things spicy.
Standing firm behind his principles years later, the adult Calvin channelled all of his childhood excitement and daydreams into perfecting his hand-crafted Red Habanero and Black Coffee Hot sauce. This resulted in a gluten-free and vegan friendly product with no added sugars. Currently he dons his apron to create micro batches of Exit the Kraken when he’s not doing an 8-5 at the office.
The taste test
I decided to pair Exit the Kraken with my evening meals for the week to see how it complements and enhances normal dinners in a normal household (although mine is hardly normal at the best of times, but let’s go with it!).
I made a simple pasta with a home-made tomato sauce, served with slices of brie, a dressed rocket side-salad and fresh avo. Exit the Kraken took this round easily. The flavourful spice of the hot sauce elevated the humble passata into a red-carpet celebrity. Gently set off against the creaminess of the avo and brie cheese, I ended up using a quarter of the bottle on the first day. Not sorry!
The ultimate test for any sauce – does it go with a burger? I married a soft sesame seed roll and a grass-fed, 100% beef patty, quickly seared in the pan at a high heat. Add some mature white Cheddar, baby cucumber, rocket and avo and I’m pretty much in love. I would’ve happily removed all the other toppings and settled on a bowl of the melted cheese with my hot sauce and a spoon. The tang of the mature Cheddar with the pops of coffee resulted in a very tasty surprise. The sauce was not overpowering at all, and I dressed my sweet potato chips with the remainder of the first bottle.
My signature dish: whole roasted free-range chicken with lemon, rosemary and thyme, paired with scuffed baby potatoes. I almost ate my fingers. The unassuming potato got a new lease on life with Exit the Kraken. But by Day 3 I was hopelessly hooked. And don’t tell me you “don’t do spicy,” because there is a massive difference between “spice” and “spicy”. This hot sauce has spice, without the mouth-numbing burn. It’s fragrant and aromatic, rather than dragon-spitting-fire hot. Next time I want to marinade the chicken with the hot sauce…
We went for a Sunday braai at my aunt and uncle’s house. And yes, you guessed it. I took my Exit the Kraken with, because I’ve been lusting after chops and hot sauce. I was not disappointed. Boerewors, pork rashers and lamb chops can all bow before the king of taste. And how about putting some hot sauce on your braai-broodjie to zhoosh it up into an elegant side?
Where to find Black Spot Hot Sauce
You can find Black Spot Hot Sauce on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Calvin is currently still looking for a resident market to call his base of operations, but have been making guest appearances at The Social Market @ The Claremont and The Second Hand Market in Kenilworth. Give his Facebook page a like to be updated with events, offers or to order your hit of flavour online. He also delivers nationwide. Score!
“Normal” food: 0. Exit the Kraken: 4. I don’t need to say more. Just get your hands on a couple of bottles. They’ll be the most talked about gifts under the tree this year. And this is how you become the talk of the town – your new secret weapon in hosting the best Christmas lunch in the whole neighbourhood! This hot sauce should replace the tomato sauces, the mayo’s, the mustards and the chutneys that clutter your fridge’s shelves. You’ll never need anything else. And if that is not enough, Calvin hints at something new brewing in his pots, but you’ll have to wait for the new year for more spicy details…
Just do it…exit the Kraken!