Black Market Hot Sauce
Nestled in the foggy hills near Everson, Dan Pike’s house is hard to miss. It’s marked by a towering elephant sign, the mascot of Pike’s Black Market Hot Sauce. Inside, the biting aromas of peppers and spices waft around dozens of bottles ready for labeling, hinting at the seven-year labor of love that was sparked in a little apartment behind an Everson bar. There, Pike’s Cambodian neighbors taught him the magic of using homemade hot sauce as a daily staple.
“When I started making the first batch of the Cambodian Blend hot sauce,” Pike reflects, “I thought, ’This is the best hot sauce I’ve ever had in my life! There’s no way I’ll ever have a hot sauce better than this.’ But now I’m like, ‘Wow, I’m even better now!’ It’s a craft, no doubt.” They sold some of their first bottles of hot sauce out of Herb Niemann’s Steak House in Everson, where Pike is a chef, and the North Fork Brewery in Deming where Pike’s business partner, Jake Miller, works. After getting rave reviews on the sauce’s flavor they knew this was a venture worth pursuing.
Running Whatcom County’s only hot sauce company required the duo to tap into skills they didn’t know they had. Not only are Pike and Miller creative spice-blending masters, they also have their hands in all the logistics and distribution, engineering and innovation of their industrial kitchen machinery, and marketing and branding of the now renowned Black Market elephant.
“Jake called me one day,” Pike recalls, “and said, ‘Let’s put an elephant on it.’ All the best hot sauces have an animal on it—you’ve got your Tiger Sauce and Sriracha Rooster Sauce.” And the elephant is an unquestionable hit. “One of the girls who printed my labels got our elephant tattooed on her arm,” laughs Pike. But Black Market’s dedicated fans know it’s what is inside that bottle that really keeps them unloading this spicy blend on everything from breakfast foods to pizza and soups. Mallard’s Ice Cream even created two special flavors for a dinner fundraiser: Noche Habanero and Habanero Raspberry Sorbet.
So how does Black Market Hot Sauce stand out next to the biggest hot sauce names out there? Pike explains they have always focused on flavor first. The ingredients they put in are as important as the ones they leave out. A lot of hot sauce companies have to resort to using a lot of vinegar and water in their recipes in order to keep costs down, which Pike promises Black Market simply will not do.
They steer clear of artificial colors and preservatives, relying instead on fermentation for preservation. Currently, both the Chili Garlic Lime and the Noche Habanero sauces are fermented.
Black Market has taken the Northwest hot sauce scene by storm. The sauces have earned their place right next to the ketchup in almost every local restaurant in the area, and they’re available in all 20 Haggen stores.
So what’s next for a bootleg-rooted sauce company breaking into the mainstream? Pike is concentrating on introducing a seasoning and rub line by Christmas, as well as a new, even hotter sauce. While this fiery sauce has yet to be named, we were lucky enough to get an exclusive tasting of it. It’s a smoky-spicy blend that’s definitely not for the faint of spice.
Black Market has seen its fair share of ups and downs since its inception, but things are finally falling into place for Pike and his team. Pike and Miller sent us back to our office with boxes of tamales, bottles of Black Market sauce and a lot of hometown pride that this little hot sauce company from tiny Everson, Washington, is surely going to make its mark on hot sauce history.