dave belasco

Dave's Gourmet

Dave's Gourmet is a company notable for creating and introducing Dave's Insanity Sauce, which for a while held the title of "world's hottest sauce." The sauce is widely distributed through gourmet hot-sauce boutiques and online hot-sauce sites. It is well-known to hot sauce enthusiasts, and is often used as the standard of comparison for flaming hot sauces.

In the United States, a growing interest in hot sauces in general and extremely hot sauces in particular can be dated roughly from the institution of the annual Fiery Foods and Barbecue Show in 1989. The original Dave's Insanity Sauce premiered around 1995 and was one of the first sauces to be made directly from capsaicin extract, allowing it to be hotter than the hottest habanero-pepper sauces of the day. It was the only hot sauce ever banned from the National Fiery Foods Show for being too hot. It has been rated at 180,000 Scoville units, compared with 2,500-5,000 for Tabasco sauce, which, before the 1990s, was the hottest sauce known to the average consumer. Part of the intrigue behind the sauce name (Insanity) was founder Dave Hirschkop’s wearing of a straitjacket at events promoting his products.

(Reported Scoville unit values for sauces vary widely, either as a result of imprecision in the test itself or natural product variation. As a result, Dave's Gourmet does not assign Scoville ratings to its sauces - any ratings in this article are approximate and unofficial.)

The introduction of sauces made from capsaicin extract started an arms race. Dave's Gourmet has since introduced sauces with increasingly greater concentrations of capsaicin under names such as Dave's Commemorative Insanity, Dave's Total Insanity, and Dave's Ultimate Insanity, which has been reported variously as from 90,000 to 250,000 on the Scoville scale and comes with a caveat Use this product one drop at a time." Keep away from eyes, children and pets. Not for people with heart or respiratory problems. Also offered is Dave's Private Reserve which comes in a coffin-shaped package and has been reported variously as from 500,000 to 750,000 Scoville units. His most recent release is a super-limited holiday edition, which is two to three times as hot as his private reserve, and was limited to 200 bottles total, selling for $199 per bottle.

As of 2004, other manufacturers have apparently overtaken Dave's. Products claiming to be pure capsaicin extract are being marketed, with Scoville ratings ranging from 500,000 to 16,000,000 units. Products with Scoville ratings in this range bear warnings that they "must be diluted before use," or "use as an ingredient only," or "for use as an additive, not for direct consumption." This raises the question of whether they should properly be considered sauces at all; some specifically say "this is not a sauce." The fact that many of the extreme products have names or descriptions like "private reserve" and "limited edition" raises the suspicion that they are created mainly for publicity and for bragging rights, and are bought as curiosities and collectables rather than for actual use.

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