In the summer of 2004 — pow! — everything changed for Maine resident Wayne Tuohey. Not unlike Marlon Brando’s Kurtz in Apocalypse Now, a mind-altering journey through the “barbecue belt” of the American South fueled Tuohey’s true calling. After he witnessed all that slow-cookin’ majesty firsthand, ’Cue Culture was born.
In stark contrast with other ready-made brands from our northernmost New England state, there’s nothing quaint about these grill elixirs. No sleepy pastel color scheme or pictures of seashells adorn the label. The sauces are a worthy homage to the old gods of Memphis and the Carolinas. For years, the Apricot Habanero Rum barbecue sauce has been a force to be reckoned with. This pulpy, fiery-sweet sauce is a mélange of tongue-tingling flavors. Morsels of apricot are joined by a lace of rum, flecks of shallots, chili flakes, and that hurts-so-good habanero venom. Molasses and real maple syrup smooth out the Scovilles.
For recipes, you can stick with the classics. Paint it generously on slow-smoked ribs, Kansas City–style. Doctor up a pulled-pork sandwich, with Texas caviar (a/k/a black-eyed peas) on the side. Need to venture outside the swine realm? Glaze shrimp skewers until they glisten and serve on couscous for a presentation with punch. Roast chicken is a given. Tap a drop or two on oysters or ceviche, or use it to construct just about the best huevos rancheros you could ever dream up. For authentic flair, try your hand at the curious, quintessentially Southern dish barbecue spaghetti. The Apricot Habanero Rum is so world-rocking, you might never make your way down the ’Cue Culture line — but you should. The Cherry Bourbon sauce is bold and aromatic, like a savory jam. The caramel-hued Raise the Roof sauce gets its base from tamarind and its sass from anchovies and paprika; ’Cue Culture donates 20 percent of this sauce’s proceeds to Habitat for Humanity. Have your philanthropy and eat it, too.
Available for approximately $5.50 (suggested retail) at Whole Foods, Savenor’s Market, and other gourmet markets, or at cueculture.com.
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