A Visit to NW Elixirs: Artisan Hot Sauce in Portland, Oregon

Maker Tour

Who: Andrew H. Garrett
What: Executive Chef/Hot Sauce developer at NW Elixirs
Where: Portland, Oregon

Andrew H. Garrett is the executive chef/owner of NW Elixir's Hot Sauce line, creators of hot sauces with tang, pluck, flavor and heat unlike any I've tasted before. After years in the restaurant business, Andrew's recent turn to all things spicy has set Portland on fire!

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Andrew grew up on a farm in Northern California with home cooking at the center of his family's daily life. His father taught him to fish and hunt; his mother to cook and preserve the bounty from their land. Andrew knows good food and has a deep respect for busy working parents like his own who, despite hectic schedules, managed to get homemade dinners on the table day after day.

Andrew didn't intend to go into the hot sauce business, but after years of working as a professional chef and being dissatisfied by the flavor of many hot sauces, NW Elixirs was born. Andrew's main concern is that most hot sauces are vinegar and salt, which are very one–note in comparison to his layered, fresh sauces. Because there's no alcohol, artificial flavors or stabilizers (such as xanthum gum) in his hot sauces, they hold up to high heat. They are rich and bold, closer to a mole or an enchilada sauce than to Tobasco or Tapatio. The two flavors currently offered are original, redolent with chipotle and a tiny kick of cardamon, and green, a sour/spicy with roasted tomatillos and fresh cilantro. These sauces are the real deal, a total kick in the pants! Your eggs will thank you.

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The Test Kitchen
NW Elixir hot sauce is produced in a commercial kitchen in Portland, Oregon. He does research and development in a downtown cooperative commercial kitchen, KitchenKru, sharing the space with several other artisan food producers. In this environment he can get input and feedback from other chefs and makers. (Sometimes Ben Jacobsen of Jacobsen Salt lends a tasting palate.) Andrew can make up to 40 gallons of hot sauce in a 12-18 hour period.

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The Secret Sauce
Andrew's secret is his dedication to freshness and diversity within the ingredients of his sauces. While testing and developing the two recipes currently available, Andrew sampled an array of chiles with different heat levels, even the illusive, scary, 'hottest chili in the world,' the ghost chile, to determine the best possible combination. The first sauce took 18 months to nail down, the second (the green sauce) a mere couple of hours. It is this precision and dedication to get things just right - flavorful, hot and robust - that make Andrews's sauces stand out above the rest.

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The Business Plan
The hot sauces can be found in many popular restaurants around Portland and are available nationally through Williams-Sonoma. Andrew has partnered with several chefs and local restaurants to offer his hot sauce to customers for dousing eggs, fries and sandwiches, as well as in the kitchen to use as a flavor component. Andrew attends many local food/cultural events sampling his hot sauce for the masses. One such evening involved sampling his hot sauce at the annual "Fire and Ice" Ball at the local science museum in Portland. What a fitting event to taste fresh, outrageous hot sauce, right?

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The Community
Portland Oregon has been an excellent community for Andrew. Most of the city's eaters care about how their food is made and seek the local out whenever possible. So offering a heavenly, unctuous hot sauce to the multitude of brunch and dinner goers couldn't have gone over better. Andrew also cooks a prefix brunch twice a month to engage with eaters and the community in a different way. By doing this, he connects with food, people and conversation — and exercises a different part of his creativity.

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5 Quick Questions for Andrew

1. The one thing you can't live without?
The one thing you can't live without? Water? Just kidding. The one thing I can not live without is fishing and foraging. I guess that's kinda two things. Maybe just a blanket "the outdoors."

2. If you could spend a day with anyone, who would it be and why?
My grandmother. I really miss her, and it would be great to cook for her again. In the professional world, it would be great to spend another day working for Yoshinori Kojima, my mentor. He is an amazing chef and I loved working for him. 

3. What's in your Google reader?
Health benefits of Capsaicin
San Francisco Giants Baseball
Eater Portland
Riffle NW
Best Chefs America
Mr Jeff Macarthy

4. If you won a million dollars, what would you do with it?
Travel to Japan for 3 months, head back west stopping off in Spain to work for 3 months, then back to the States to open a restaurant.

5. What's your favorite thing to sprinkle your hot sauce on?
Oysters. It is the perfect oyster hot sauce.

Thanks, Andrew!

• Visit NW Elixirs online: NW Elixirs

Related: A Visit with Colin of House Spirits Distillery in Portland, Oregon

(Images: Leela Cyd Ross)

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