Move aside, Tabasco: There’s a new spicy condiment in town. When the pandemic forced Albany’s family-owned French restaurant La Serre to temporarily close back in March, co-manager and Saratoga Springs native John Trimble passed his time in its kitchen, concocting a new condiment made from fresh garlic, shallots, chili pepper and blended olive oil. He shared his creation with his friends and family, who loved it. Then, when John’s mother, Anne, decided to close the 43-year-old restaurant down for good this past June, John threw himself headlong into his new culinary project, now dubbed Hot Crispy Oil (HCO).
Though La Serre has now been closed for more than three months, you wouldn’t know it by walking into the place: Its floors are now strewn with boxes, computers and label printers, as Trimble and his team of 10—including his girlfriend, HCO cofounder Maura Kelly—work to ship out bottles of HCO to homes and retailers as far away as Tampa, FL.
So what exactly is HCO? “It’s in a category of its own,” Trimble says. “It’s not hot sauce—it’s more of a flavor enhancer for meals. The most exciting thing about it is the wide range of applications.” While Trimble says that HCO can be used as a pre-appetizer bread-dipper, it’s not a one-trick pony. “It’s something you leave out on your counter and put on anything,” he says. “Literally, almost anything.” That could include brunch-y bites like eggs or avocado toast, but satisfied customers have posted photos of themselves on social media applying HCO to everything from pizza and veggies to even waffles with ice cream. “Every few days, somebody sends me a picture of a new food combination, and I think, ‘Wow, I never really thought about that!’”
If you happen upon some HCO of your own—its available locally, at hotspots such as 4 Seasons Natural Foods, Healthy Living Market & Cafe, Fat Paulie’s Delicatessen and Roma Foods, as well as online—and you’re unsure of where to dab, splash or pour it, you can find inspiration on the company’s website, which features a number of delicious HCO-incorporating recipes (see: focaccia bread, corn salad and crispy feta). For prospective customers who see the word “hot” in the condiment’s name and worry about its effect on their sensitive stomach linings, Trimble says don’t sweat it: “Yes, it’s mildly hot, but it’s just packed with flavor.” And for those that need a little more oomph in their HCO? You’re in luck, too. While Trimble is currently only selling his signature, milder HCO, he says that a new, hotter version is set to be released within the next few weeks. See? Variety really is the spice of life.