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The following post is by Seattle Weekly contributor Chason Gordon.
You tend to take a look at the sauce bottles on a bar when there's a lull in the conversation. But proactively taking stock of sauces would be wise at Hattie's Hat, because sitting between the ketchup and Tabasco is something wonderful called Bonache.
I first noticed the sauce when a friend immediately grabbed it upon sitting down at Hattie's. "You have to try this," he said, leading me to believe he was one of those covert promoters. But I completely understood his enthusiasm after we sopped up a fifth of a bottle with a plate of fries.
The sauce is the creation of Marc Olsen, a longtime local musician (Sky Cries Mary) and Hattie's bartender who's lived in Ballard for years. He sounded a little tired when I spoke to him, which is understandable considering that he's launching a sauce business, working late nights and sending a 4-year-old to Kindergarten.
"It's one of those things I've been playing around with for ages," says Olsen, "and then some friends returned from Belize and were raving about the style of hot sauces down there. The carrot, lime, haberno...all bright, fruity sauces."
Combining these influences with his upbringing in New Mexico, Olsen began experimenting with various ingredients. "I learned about textures and colors and flavors...My wife definitely endured a lot of recipe ideas."
There's clearly a big distinction between making a great sauce at home and deciding to bottle it. "I just figured why the hell not," says Olsen. "I was looking for something new. It's nice to do something creative." Hattie's put Bonache on its tables and the clientele responded with great interest, often asking where they could buy it.
Bonache (pronounced bone-atch) comes in three flavors, in order of heat level: Hatch, Habanero and Socorro. Hatch is a green sauce featuring Hatch chilies and tomatillo; Habanero mixes its namesake chile with carrot; and the Socorro finishes the three-piece band with dried New Mexican chilies, yellow chilies and radishes. All three are fresh and citrusy, and do not overwhelm your precious food. The Hatch, in particular, has an addictive quality which momentarily causes you to consider drinking it (not that I would do that).
"Hatch went through a stretch where everybody was raving over it," says Olsen, "and then I think when the weather got crappier people switched over to the Habanero."
Olsen now makes large batches in the commercial kitchen at Hattie's, wearing a respirator mask to handle the rampant chile vapors. Bonache is currently for sale at Hattie's Hat, Lock & Keel and through bonachesauce.com. He hopes to get it into restaurants and grocery stores throughout Seattle, and who knows from there.
If you're wondering about the name, it was made up by Olsen's 4-year-old son. "We still don't know what it means; it's kind of become derogatory," says Olsen. "He'll just call someone a 'bonache'."
That may catch on too, though I have a little more confidence in the sauce.