Every so often I come across a product that I think “nice idea, but I bet the final delivery is lacking.” That happens to me a lot especially with hot sauces and rubs. Everyone is trying so hard to just put out products that so many times the final delivery is something muddled and less than awesome. This phenomenon evidently does not affect the fine folks at Intensity Academy.
I was first introduced to their line at the Houston Hot Sauce Festival in September, but more importantly I met Tom Was co-founder and co-creator of this line of products. Tom told me how he and his amazing wife Michele started Intensity Academy as a part of their love for all things spicy. I sampled a couple of products and quickly nabbed a couple of hot sauces (Hot Squared and Hot Cubed) and some of their Chai Thai Teriyaki. Unfortunately I only had a couple of minutes to sample just a few products before having to run back to our tent since we were cooking ribs for the rib cook off we were competing in for Chile Pepper Magazine.
Later that night I was blessed with getting to sit down and really talk business with Tom and Tracy Carter (JAC’s Tailgaters) and some of their friends. It was there that I really got to understand more about Intensity Academy. If Tom, Michele and crew were a recipe for success in a cook book it would read:
- 4 parts Passion
- 3 parts No Comprised Ingredients
- 2 parts Commitment
- 1 part Perseverance
- Combined for a perfect 10 of flavor
This recipe is the same one followed by every sauce, rub and bbq company I know of that are doing it right. Tom and Michele really have crafted, what is in my opinion, one of the most comprehensive and different line of products available out there today.
Fast forward a couple of months to mid January, I was rifling through my cabinet and literally “clanked” into a bottle and looked to see what it was to find it was that bottle of Chai Thai Teriyaki that I bought back in Houston. I was making some ribs and thought to myself “hmm I bet I could make some pretty bangin’ ribs with that.” So I raided the pantry and pulled out some ingredients to make an impromptu rub with Asian flair to complement the Teriyaki. Long story short those ribs were the hit of the night. They got as much rave review as the Angus ribeye’s I did and that is saying something because those were some of the best steaks I had ever cooked….ever. They were so good I dreamt about them that night and got up at 2 in the morning to raid the fridge for a couple of those ribs. They were GOOD. Stay tuned for more on those ribs in a minute.
Fast forward again about a month and Scott Roberts, blogger extraordinaire of ScottRobertsWeb.com asked me to do an interview with him as part of his Weekly Firecast Series. I agreed and during the interview happened to mention some of personal favorite products that included Intensity Academy and JAC’s Tailgaters. Tom happened to listen to this podcast and messaged me on Facebook wanting the recipe to the ribs. I told him I would have to order more of the Chai Thai Teriyaki so I could formally write it up since I winged it and wanted to do it write if he was going to publish it. I was planning on ordering more of IA’s products anyway since I had been really wanting to try some of their Chai Chipotle ‘Chup and Green Tea Gourmet ever since I saw them in Houston.
Well yesterday I get home to find a HUGE box sitting on my doorstep. I was really taken back by it because I didn’t remember ordering anything that would be in a box that size. So I glanced at the label and saw it was from Tampa, so I knew it had to be from Tom. I wasted no time in ripping into it like a fat kid into a box Duncan doughnuts. I found bottle after bottle of awesomeness and thought to myself that I might as well do a full review series of the product line since, well…I had pretty much the whole line right there.
Being a Friday night it happened to be pizza night at our house. Mike and Debra brought over some thin crust pie from one of more favorite joints, J. Bella’s. As I was putting up the bounty of bottles from IA I spied with my little eye the bottle of Garlic Goodness and thought, “I bet that would work on pizza so let’s give a try.” I was a little bit apprehensive I must admit. Garlic is not one of my favorite flavors. I am pretty sensitive to it and can pick it out a mile away typically and I personally think that it get’s used with a bit of a heavy hand by most. Then I remember Tom mentioning something about there being like 100lbs of garlic in every 50gal batch of this sauce. So now I was flat out worried that I would not like it, but knew I just had to try it because where others fail someone has to succeed and if anyone could pull it off Tom and Michele hopefully could.
So I uncapped the bottle and give the sniff test. All I can say is HOOOOOOOOOOOOLY COW the garlic was so stout smelling that it took my breath. This stuff is so stout I swear you could just wave some french bread over the bottle and have instant garlic bread lol! It is strong, it is pungent, it is GARLIC. You can smell every ounce of the 100lbs of garlic they use in each batch. It so fresh smelling it’s almost dumbfounding. So then a small voice in the back of my head whispered “oh yeah fat boy I bet this gives you some wicked heartburn later.” Irregardless I had to try it. I just had to know did this taste of dark, murky, dank garlic or did IA manage some sort of culinary miracle and balance this into a great sauce?
Next came the plate test. So I poured a nice glob on a white paper plate. A couple of things hit you right off. Firstly the chunks of garlic in there. Second is that this sauce has a enough body not to ooze all over the plate. It expanded a little bit but held the shape you see in the picture. The last thing you notice is what is not as over the top…the intense garlic smell. Out of the bottle the garlic smell is tamed, it is not shocking, it becomes instead pleasant. It smells like you chopped up a fresh clove only it smells even better. If you keep sniffing you can pick up on the vinegar that is in the sauce. Once I smelled this I had to check the label because it wasn’t just plain old vinegar it had something else going on.
Yup, it was Red Wine Vinegar, my personal favorite vinegar next to balsamic vinegar. The ingredients on the list are as straight forward as they come. Nothing you can’t spell, nothing unnatural.
Now came the time of reckoning….the taste test. As always I started with it raw on my finger. No, its not as sanitary or “pure” as tasting from a spoon, but I’m not a hot sauce purist, I’m a realist. I’m real in that I don’t like hot for hot’s sake. I NEVER like heat without flavor and you will never hear me say “the hotter the better” unless we are talking about swim suit models. With the sauce raw on my finger I got an immediate garlic hit and it was a very solid hit, but not in any way dark or murky as I thought it might be. The red wine vinegar does something amazing with this sauce, it allows the garlic to be pungent without being over powering. It is the horn section to the garlic’s p-funk base line…it is the yin to the garlic’s yang. Next you get hit with this sense of freshness and then finally some heat. That freshness note I am betting is from the mix of the red bell pepper, onion and vinegar again. It really makes the sauce have this lighter note in the middle which is great. The heat is all habanero and black pepper. On a heat scale I would say this is about a 3.2 on my scale of 5. 5 being too hot for me. This is a solid heat that bites quickly and dissipates almost as quickly. Overall this sauce is surprisingly good, even for someone who admittedly isn’t overly fond of garlic.
Finally was the food test on cheese pizza. I loaded a fair amount on my slice and man oh man it was good. It was VERY garlic but it was refreshing and unexpected. I didn’t really any intense “heat” notes when I added it to the pizza. So the heat while definitely present when tasted alone, tempers very nicely when added to food.
So where would I use this sauce? Granted I have only tried Garlic Goodness on pizza so far but I can see this being a staple around my house. I could see reworking something like 40 Clove Chicken with it or doing some over the top garlic bread by mixing the sauce with some butter. It could easily be added to ANY soup that calls for garlic. It would go a very long way on virtually any seafood. That hit of garlic with a touch of vinegar would be a welcome addition in something like Shrimp Scampi (great recipe that Michele did). You could very easily make a garlic aioli by replacing the garlic with this sauce and adjusting the amount of lemon juice to compensate for the red wine vinegar. This sauce would be right at home in pretty much any adobo recipe. Something like Garlic Chicken Adobo would be greatly helped out with Garlic Goodness. This sauce in short is at home in ANY recipe that calls for minced garlic. I plan on amping up some stir fry and some Italian dishes we are cooking this next week.
I can’t say enough how impressed I am by the entire Intensity Academy line, but also Tom and Michele as people and business owners. Each product is a jewel on it’s own and needs to be tried. So hit up their site or drop Tom and Michele a note on Facebook and tell them Shane at Draper’s BBQ sent you and you are ready to take some classes at the Academy.
Love, Peace and Pork Grease folks….until next time.