On this week’s EAT LA/Off-Ramp collaboration, KPCC host John Rabe and I headed to Vicente Foods to taste relish. Lots and lots of relish. Straight up. Ya, crackers probably would have been a good idea.
All the relishes we tasted are from small L.A. producers like Jim Brown. Some are zippy burger and hot dogs relishes, others are more like chutneys â€” good for serving with cheese and crackers. You can get the full relish taste-off details on John’sÂ online podcast, or tune to 89.3FM Saturday at noon or Sunday at 7 p.m. In the meantime, here’s a little back story to rev up your taste buds.
â€” Jenn Garbee
Nancy Rowland has been making relishes inspired by her grandmother’s days as a Hollywood caterer in the 1940s and ’50s (Doris Day, Max Factor) for more than 20 years. The California relish is really more of a fruit chutney, sweet and tangy and loaded with oranges, apples, strawberries, tomatillos and currants. The Baja is a jalapeÃ±o-spiced tomatillo relish that’s great on hot dogs or burgers, or doubles as a tangy salsa.
This is Jim Brown’s version of the hamburger relish formerly served at Sternberger’s Rite Spot, the diner where Pasadena short-order cook Lionel Sternberger claimed to have invented the cheeseburger in the 1920s. Brown’s is thick, packed with diced veggies and spiced with clovesâ€”sort of like ketchup, all wired up. It’s great on burgers, but it also makes a mean “homemade” Thousand Island dressing (stir a tablespoon or so into 1/4 cup of mayonnaise and add cider vinegar to taste).
Tangy-sweet, with a slight kick and lots of garlic, Vivian Poutakoglou’s carnival mustards are based on her grandparents’ recipes. The former dairy farmers traveled the carnival circuit for nearly 50 years selling hot dogs with their signature mustards. She has a chipotle version too, if you like more smokey heat, but the garlic already has a nice subtle kick.
Warning: This is hot stuff (the first ingredient is jalapeÃ±os). But if you can handle the heat, this gingery, almost tapenade-like relish is a really great one. Let’s Be Frank serves it in measured doses on their grass-fed beef hot dogs, but their recipe for “devil butter” is a great way to stretch the heat a bit while amping up roasted veggies, grilled steak or shrimp, or just about anything.