Posted November 9, 2005 by Adam in Reviews

Review: Longbranch Trading Company Salsa Rio Verde

Literally translated, Green River Sauce, this Salsa Rio Verde does actually make me think of a green river in which there sits a Mexican food restaurant serving roasted chicken marinated in a spicy, five-pepper green sauce. OK, that may be a stretch to the visual imagination, but I do like this verde sauce, and I do believe that it is served well with roasted or grilled chicken breasts.

Longbranch Trading Company is a Californian sauce maker. I don’t really know too much about the golden state and its hot sauce heritage, but when I smell the Salsa Rio Verde, I do get the sense that it is a very Southern California product. You can smell that smell – the one of tangy tomatillos, cilantro, and pumpkin seeds. Leave it to California to put pumpkin seeds into a hot sauce. I’m surprised they didn’t throw in avocado.

But enough California bashing. Let’s talk sauce.

Salsa Rio Verde is a blend of five different peppers with an addition of the tangy tomatillos and other spices and nuts. The thing that interests me the most is the tomatillos. Whereas other hot sauces are going for carrots, Longbranch goes for the oft-overlooked tomatillo. The use of this tangy fruit really helps balance the flavor and the heat of the peppers.

This sauce has a sweet and sour smell with a hint of smokiness. Though it’s not touted as a smoked or chipotle sauce, I definitely get the feeling that at least one of the ingredients has been grilled or smoked. I suppose it could be the combination of smells in the tomatillos and nuts, but the scent is just too strong to consider it a coincidence. Of course with me, I don’t mind since I love most things that are smoked.

When you taste this sauce, the bright zip of the tomatillos hits you straight away on the sides of the tongue, which is followed immediately by the heat. Rio Verde may be a green sauce, but most of the green does come from very potent jalepenos, serranos, and roasted green peppers. Oh wait, that answers the smoky question from above. I’d have to assume the green peppers referred to in the ingredient list are bell peppers. And that would explain a slight bitter flavor to the sauce.

The first ingredient on the list is apple cider vinegar, a fact that pleases me greatly. This says that Longbranch Trading Company is concerned with quality and the final outcome of the blend of ingredients. Any sauce maker can start out with plain old white vinegar and end up with a good sauce. But when I see apple cider on the label, I can tell that the company is going for a specific flavor, a specific quality of the sauce that no plain vinegar could achieve.

This sauce may have all sorts of nifty ingredients, but make no mistake, it does bring the heat. This tasty blend of jalapenos, habaneros, and serranos packs a punch, but leaves you craving more.

I wouldn’t consider Salsa Rio Verde a slathering sauce, as the bitterness might taint whatever food you would slather it onto. The label calls is a gourmet sauce, and for once I may agree with the label. Not that a gourmand would really want anything on his or her food that may scorch their throat, but I could certainly see this sauce used in a gourmet way. I tried it on all sorts of foods, from macaroni to scrambled eggs to grilled chicken and chicken burgers.

Where it fared the best was on chicken. I think that verde sauces and chicken are made for each other. Like chocolate and peanut butter, but with sinus clearing power.

I think that Longbranch has a good thing going in this Salsa Rio Verde. It’s a tangy, unique sauce that goes well with many different foods. If they could cut down on the bitter flavor, I could see this sauce winning awards.

Rating: 6 out of 10 chiles
Two thumbs up.