Housemade hot sauces at The Horse & Hound Gastropub in Charlottesville, VATo me, nothing says “we care” like housemade hot sauce. There’s a lot to like about Cholula, Sriracha, or the old faithful Tabasco, but a chef-crafted sauce, lovingly designed to match the style and particular flavor of the dishes it enhances, will or *should* always beat out the mass-produced grocery store competitors.

But therein is the problem. It’s not easy to make a hot sauce with good plate appeal, bringing the heat without sacrificing the flavor. Not running like water, but also not sticking to the spoon like sour cream. Too many sauces are the color of irradiated chile peppers, glowing neon green or red or orange, or they’re neutral and forgettable.

Enter the smoked habanero housemade hot sauce at Horse & Hound Gastropub. It’s at the top of the picture over there, next to otherwise delicious jalapeño-lime and straight-up habanero sauces. Striking all the right notes of smoke, garlic, sweet, tang, and zing!, full-bodied but not overly fluffy, a dollop or two of this mixed into your corned beef hash – maybe the best in town, by the way – will convert even the most devout Tabascoan or Cholulite into a perspiring Horse & Hound evangelist. Now if we could just convince them to bottle it up and sell it…