TURN UP THE HEAT, and meet Tony Stoy!
Who is Tony?
He's the owner of the St. Paul business that produced the best hot sauce in the Twin Cities as ranked by City Pages for the last two years in a row: Isabel Street Heat! He also makes all the hot sauce, sometimes at 9PM after his daughters have gone to bed, because he still has a full-time day job in the car industry. I met with Tony in his production space a few weeks ago, and the entire hour I spent with him was filled to the brim with great conversation and explanations and what was clearly a genuine passion for what he does.
Why did he want to start a hot sauce business?
Tony started making hot sauce in 2005 when his neighbor, who knew Tony cooked a lot, asked if he'd make some hot sauce. So Tony did. The neighbor loved it, the guys at work loved it, and Tony's family loved it when they received it at Christmas that year. Every year after, Tony made more and more hot sauce until finally, in 2014, he and his wife Leslie started selling it at farmers' markets, launched their website, and got picked up by local grocery distributors. "At my day job I work with technicians and service advisors and I'm pulled in a million directions all day," explained Tony. "But with Isabel Street, I just get to relax and enjoy myself."
What makes Isabel Street Heat hot sauce the best in the Twin Cities?
Attention to detail. Tony could have chosen to blend a few simple ingredients, bottle them up, and call it a day, but instead he's cultivated a business in which a great amount of attention is paid to each step of the process. First, the peppers: Tony selected a handful of local growers to grow peppers specifically for him, with hopes that in the next few years ALL of the peppers he uses will be purchased within the state. Then, he carefully ferments the peppers, not halting the process until the desired pH has been reached. You guys--he even uses the salt cap from the pepper fermentation (the layer of salt on top of the pepper mash to keep the oxygen out) to make rubs and brines which he sells online and to local restaurants. From start to finish, it's clear Tony isn't out to just make ANY hot sauce.
Where in the Twin Cities can I find Isabel Street Heat's products?
In some pretty fun and funky places. Like the Grassroots Gourmet booth, the business highlighted in my previous post. Or the gas station at 36th and Lyndale. You can find it in a special batches of sriracha-infused spiced rum at Bent Brewstillery in Roseville, or as a sauce on the cheese curds Curdtown in Plymouth makes. the Or, you can find in as an ingredient in your next Local Crate box, a Minneapolis-based meal mail delivery service that includes locally sourced ingredients and chef-driven recipes. Local Crate--it's also the business Tony nominated for my next post! Stay tuned...