Whether you are cooking a wild food like nopalitos or putting together a Three Sisters soup of corn, beans and squash, the extra indispensable ingredient is chile — the red of a ripe Anaheim, the deep green of a thick-walled poblano, or a brownish crackling dry guajillo. And the place to find chile sauces all ready for your creations is Dena Rupp’s shop, Wild West Hot Sauce, in Traildust Town on the east side of Tucson. Dena is beginning her fourth year in this location.
It is a tiny shop, but Dena carries around a hundred different products and the variety is incredible — I circled several times and found something new to catch my eye each time I passed and re-passed a shelf. Among the amusing offerings are Habanero Potato Chips, Hot Flash roasted green chile paste, and super-hot jelly beans. Ass Kickin’ Peanuts come in chipotle-honey, jalapeno-cheddar and honey with habanero. And of course there are all the delicious products from Cheri’s Desert Harvest. For me, the most unusual product was Frostbite, a completely clear hot sauce made for adding to drinks without changing their color or giving them a foggy look.
Dena buys locally made products when she can. Among those are the Poblano brand of hot sauces that have been made in Tucson since 1924 and Pecan Barbecue Sauce from Sahuarita.