Sparky's Update - The Hot Sauce Boss, Recliners, and AC IV

Holy mother of God.

Fellow mod @mb and I have been discussing hot sauce off and on for several months now, and he very generously offered recently to mail me a bottle of sriracha and Hoy Fong garlic chili sauce. I got the package today, courtesy of Momma Sparky (it's severely icy out and I don't drive, so... yeah, grown ass man getting his mail delivered to him by his mom. Laugh all you want).

First off, I've gotta say, I'm super impressed with the way it was shipped to me. As someone who has had a few objects sent to me broken via Amazon or other marketplaces, this was master class shipping. The two bottles of hot sauce inside had tape around their seals, were bubble wrapped, and placed in a delicate field of packing peanuts, which I again confused for circus peanuts and had to stop eating halfway through the box in order to visit a local hospital. Packing peanuts, you will forever be my downfall! Seriously, it's nice to see the care put into this package, even in something so simple as the shipping materials. Awesome stuff.

For those of you living in the sticks like me, sriracha is this mythical hot sauce of which I hear lots about but never get a chance to try, since local supermarkets carry very limited, very generic forms of hot sauce (here in town, you can only find tobasco, Tapatio, and Cholula). I've been on a quest to try new hot sauces and hot sauce spreads, and it's been a riot, but up until now, sriracha has eluded me. Now, I'd never heard of the Hoy Fong garlic chili sauce, but MB offered to throw it in and mentioned it was really good stuff, so like the greedy, hungry monkey I am, I jumped on the chance to try some.

First up was the garlic chili sauce. I was super curious about it, since garlic's by far my favorite seasoning for just about anything - soups, meat, chili, you name it and I probably load it with garlic. Well, not cereal, because I'm not a fucking monster. Be reasonable. Anyways, let me set the scene for you. There, on my vaguely yellow-cream cheap countertop, scarred from many battles with knives, forks, sporks, and overly hot mugs of tea, sat the bottles of sriracha and garlic chili sauce. Between them, a box of generic brand saltines, a baggie of shortbread cookies from Costco (seriously, Costco Christmas cookies are the fucking best, no joke), and a small cup full of cottage cheese. These were to be my palate cleansers. I'd thought about using the hot sauces on quesadillas, but MB warned me that cooking with sriracha could lead to some pretty horrific (and hilarious) results. Since I didn't want to fumigate my apartment, I decided to just go ahead and man up. Out came... the tablespoon.

Why not a teaspoon? Simple. I'm not a nancy, you nancy.

I lifted the garlic chili sauce to my nose. If my nostrils could purr, they most certainly would have. My stomach gurgled in anticipation - or possibly from SARs. I have no way of really knowing. I dipped the spoon into the waiting vat of garlic chili goodness, and lifted it to my mouth, noticing not for the first time a little bit of drool hanging from the corner of my mouth. By that point, I'm sure there was a little puddle on my shirt from all the salivating. Into the Grander Canyon that is my mouth went the spoon, and I fell in love pretty much immediately. You know Her? This was like that, except with hot sauce and no douchey Joaquin Phoenix in sight.

Seriously, Ho Fong garlic chili sauce is pretty fucking amazing. It's hot, but it's not so hot that it overpowers the taste of the garlic or the chilis, both of which blend together surprisingly well. You'd expect one to dominate the other, but the two flavors seemed to almost alternate, taking turns making my tastebuds the happiest... things on Earth. There wasn't much of an aftertaste either, which is pretty awesome. The last new bottle of hot sauce I tried before this had a horrendous burnt wood taste to it that made me immediately chuck the bottle out. It was well and truly awful. But this, this left a mild taste of chili and garlic in my mouth, with neither causing any sort of residual stinging or loss of taste. For something with a little bit of a kick, that's neat.

Then came cottage cheese, cookies, and a couple of crackers. I'm not going to bore you with those details, except to say BUY ALL THE COSTCO COOKIES. They came in a red tin with no discernible label. Trust me, dudebro, best decision you'll make outside of double wrapping it with that girl with the mouth sores.

Then came time for the sriracha. This was a much bigger bottle, roughly the size of a one liter pop. This was it, the main event, the title fight, the showdown between the immovable fat guy and the unstoppable, seemingly impossible-to-find hot sauce. Someone had to come out on top. I hefted the bottle in one hand and looked at the spoon in my other. I sneered at the spoon, tossed it into the sink, and twisted the end of the bottle open. I aimed it at the back of my mouth hole, and gave it a hefty squeeze.

Nothing. Of course I'd forgotten to take out the little paper-plastic doohickey to open it up. So, yeah, I did that really quick. Round one, sriracha's bottle top - 1, Sparky - 0.

Round two, fight!

I aimed it at the back of my mouth hole (again), and gave it a hefty squeeze (again). This time, glorious hot sauce hit the ol' taste buds, and my mind was a-whirl. Sriracha isn't easily described in basic culinary words, and since I don't know any fancy ones, you'll have to excuse my poor vocabulary here. It only has a mild bit of the taste of ordinary hot sauce - I still can taste some chiles (I forget offhand if chili or chile is the accepted Americanized version - thoughts? I don't think it matters), but they're subdued, in the background. What I did notice - and this is the part that's hard to explain - was a mild... hmmm... sweet smokiness? Smoky isn't the right word here, but it's the closest I can come to describing it. It's a tender, garlicky taste, almost like a spicy broth of sorts. Combine that with the taste of chili, and it's pretty damn good. I can imagine this is the sort of sauce that will see a lot of play on a lot of different meats in my cooking - I'm particularly curious how it will taste as a dipping sauce for chicken as well as a topping for hamburgers, but I've also got this distinct feeling it will go well with elk bratwursts, which I'm excited to try at some point.

So which do I prefer? That's kind of a silly question, since they're both good, but I can't help but think that I liked the garlic chili sauce just a touch better. The sriracha is terrific, that's for damned sure, but the garlic chili sauce nails the combination of heat and flavor that I like so much without leaving me sweating or tasting nothing but the hot sauce. It's something I'm definitely going to stock up on if I see it. It seems like it will go well on a lot of things, but I'm particularly excited to try it on my Tex-Mex foods. I'm practically drooling at the thought of cooking it into some quesadillas or grilled burritos. I must say, both knock my previous contenders of top hot sauce out of contention, though I still quite like both 7 Mares and Zaaschila.

So once again, thanks, MB. This was a ridiculously cool thing for you to do, and my taste buds are in debt to you.

I Own a Recliner!

...and that's pretty much it. Oh, details? Well, as I mentioned in my last blog, one of my planned purchases for the year was to buy a recliner. I had expected it to take a few months, but after I posted an ISO in my local Facebook garage sale/used items page, I was tipped off to a person selling a mildly used recliner for $50. I didn't expect it to be in such great shape, but it is. Mind you, it's a little small, and truth be told, it's not the comfiest recliner in the world, but it's a thousand times better than my old computer chair. I played six or so hours of games yesterday, just sort of basking in its awesomeness - all without any of the pain I've come to associate with sitting in a computer chair for a fraction of that time.

Speaking of games...

Assassin's Creed IV - Some Brief Thoughts

I want to save most of this for a review. But after playing ACIV almost to its end, I've gotta say that I wish I'd played it further before adding it to my Top Ten of 2013 list. It doesn't really hurt anything to be on there, as the story and characters are good enough to merit a mention. But there are a couple of late game missions that are well and truly awful. I never want to have to follow another bureaucrat at a distance again - seriously, fuck that. As awesome as the naval missions are, the tedium of the eavesdropping and foloowing missions drag down the experience so badly that at several points, I thought about giving up on the game. Hopefully, Ubisoft takes its user feedback to heart and actually manages to change up the fundamental gameplay enough to allow for new, more interesting types of on-land missions. Time will tell.

I really, really hate how much some of the ship upgrades cost in terms of cloth and wood. That shit gets ridiculous and tedious fast. Dropping the zeros on some of that shit would have gone a long ways towards lessening my teeth grinding throughout the end part of the game. A quick-find for Templar Hunts would have been super useful too. Oh hey, how about a tool you could buy with in-game currency that allows you to target the nearest object or side quest of your desire instantly? That'd be kind of neat.

If you measure stories by the acceptable Hero's Journey method, the "resurrection" point of ACIV is quite terrific. I'm not going to spoil anything here, but Edward Kenway is a perfectly decent character and that point in the game brought him nearly as high in my esteem as Ezio's outing in Revelations (yes, I claim Brotherhood is still the best game in the series, but I liked Ezio's characterization better in Revelations).

Anyways, I enjoyed most of what the game had to offer, but it's still distinctly stuck in the usual mire of AC problems. At least it's not as straight up annoyingly messy as ACIII was.

And that's it for this week, folks! How's your new year going? Catching up on any terrific games?

Edited by ArbitraryWater

As someone who has witnessed sriracha-related accidents before, you have to be careful with that stuff. I made the mistake of putting a little too much into my stir-fry and... well, you can probably guess the rest. Still a great hot sauce. Oh right, Assassin's Creed. I think it's telling I didn't get super far into the story in favor of dicking around and doing side-missions and pirating and stuff.That alone endears it to me far more than III, which had side missions that were entirely extraneous to the rest of the game.

As for my new year, I've been too busy getting school stuff done to do much in the realm of video games. I have a half-finished Splinter Cell Blacklist blog sitting around, but I only have my computer and 3DS with me at the moment so I'm not sure when/if that will get posted.

Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

@arbitrarywater: Eeeeeeewwwww. Thanks for the heads up. I tend to be pretty liberal with hot sauce and salsa, so that's good to know.

Edited by Mento

My Bioshock Infinite playthrough has been stymied by too many streams from Giant Bomb, Jeff Green and AGDQ. Not that I'm complaining too much; I haven't really hit a point where the story kicks in yet. At some point I'm going to return to my original plan of playing through a whole mess of 2013 Indie games to get myself caught up.

I hope your hot sauce adventures don't lead you to a bad place. I've seen it happen, man. I've seen the PSAs. Junkies clamoring for the newest spicy hotness. Not a good scene. Unless I'm mistaking it for meth again, which one did they base that TV show on?

Posted by Slag

Oh man a recliner is the best. I got an ole lazy boy that has treated me well for longer than I've cared to admit.

Nothing like kickin' back, puttin' the feet up after a long day and firing up an JRPG or something similar where timing isn't essential. Those games play just as great leaning back.

Edited by Sparky_Buzzsaw

@slag: I suspect I will be spending waaaay too much time with Disgaea, Tales, and Final Fantasy with my ass planted in this thing.

@mento: I hear you. This month has been great in terms of quality streaming. I wish I had more time to devote to them.

Posted by MB

@mento said:

I've seen the PSAs. Junkies clamoring for the newest spicy hotness. Not a good scene.

That's pretty much me. Tolerance to hot sauce builds up faster than morphine, and I would know.

Posted by dankempster

As somebody who can't eat anything hotter than a packet of Flamin' Hot Monster Munch, I am both impressed and astounded by anybody who can neck a full tablespoon of hot sauce. You and your stomach have my utmost respect, Mr Buzzsaw.

Glad to hear Assassin's Creed IV makes up for at least some of the mis-steps made by ACIII in terms of a better protagonist and story. I still have a copy of Revelations here that I'd intended to play in 2013, but I feel pretty burned out on the franchise right now and I'm not sure when I'll be able to stomach another go around. A shame, considering ACII is without a doubt one of my favourite games of the generation.

Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

@dankempster: ACIV, unfortunately,, doesn't do much to alleviate that sense of "been there, done that," but the pirating stuff is pretty great. Well, until it isn't - some of the ship upgrades require a stupid amount of grinding and it gets old. The on-land side stuff like hunting is decent, but the on-land missions requiring you to follow or eavesdrop are pure tedium.