In the Muni Lot outside Cleveland Browns Stadium there are palates that have evolved beyond the standard ketchup, mustard and Tabasco, and for their grilled chickens and their roasted pigs there is Blaze Gourmet Sweet ‘N Hot Mango, a fruity hot sauce with kick like Lou “The Toe” Groza.
Blaze CEO and DOD (that’s Director of Deliciousness) Cowboy George (that’s what folks in Cleveland call him) said Blaze Sweet ‘N Hot Mango is bottled with the Cleveland tailgater in mind. Blaze’s 6.5-ounce glass flask fits neatly into pockets, of which Browns fans have many when the temperature drops. Cowboy George says the flasks are “reusable” with a laugh that acknowledges that subsequent uses will not involve hot sauce.
Far from the BBQ smoke of the Muni Lot, in my Los Angeles home with a plate of rotisserie chicken in front of me, I opened the bottle and nosed it. When you work at Playboy long enough, you start to nose everything—wine, scotch, hot sauce, even the sex toys (for reasons I dare not try to comprehend).
Although mango headlines the label and scotch bonnet peppers bring the heat, it’s the ginger that jumps out of the bottle. The concoction pours thick, and the heat bites on the tip of the tongue before radiating, striking just the right mix of hot and sweet, in that order.
As with all great art, it was a woman who provided the inspiration. Cowboy George once dated a pescatarian who only ate fish—no red meat or chicken. As a Clevelander forced to choose between his love and his birthright, he did the reasonable thing and looked for a good hot sauce to drown his seafood in, but he couldn’t find one suitable. So he made his own and began selling it along with his other hot sauces in 2009.
Sweet ‘N Hot Mango is now Blaze’s second-best selling hot sauce after Avocado Jalapeño. The recipe remains largely unchanged since the first test batch. The girlfriend, said Cowboy George, eventually “kicked me to the curb,” but he got a bestselling hot sauce out of it, which is a far better deal than the standard loss of half of one’s DVD collection.
As for his unusual name, Cowboy George’s father owned a few horses at Thistledown, a Cleveland-area track. He also went through a cowboy boots phase, which he now looks back on with some regret. Between dad’s ponies and his own footwear, his friends started calling him Cowboy George, and the name stuck.
There’s some history behind the Blaze name as well. It sounds like the obvious thing to call a hot sauce company, but it holds a double meaning. Cowboy George’s mother’s maiden name was Blaze, and his family hails from Blaze Farm, which is on Blaze Road in Pennsylvania.
Where to Buy
Sweet ‘N Hot Mango is available online, at local Cleveland farmer’s markets and food festivals and possibly soon at a grocery store near you. It pairs well with chicken and holds the potential to extend your relationship with your pescatarian girlfriend, at least until the inevitable.