Anyone who cooks classic goodies like dogs, burgers and BBQ, knows the flavor is about more than the cut of meat or the vessel. Condiments can make or break a dish. In a recent quest to outfit retro gift baskets with local goodies, the Retro Planet staff relied on their own experiences. There were tons of choices… but each of these New England originals has a story as distinctive as its own unique flavor.
This dark, molasses-and-vinegar-based condiment comes from a legendary New England lunch stop that’s packed with locals and tourists year round.
Flo’s Hot Dogs is a ramshackle building located on Route 1 in Cape Neddick, Maine that’s been dishing up a unique hot dog experience since 1949. Original owner Flo Stacy set the tone with her spicy homemade relish and equally spicy New England attitude. In 1973, Flo’s daughter-in-law Gail took over the business and kept Flo’s flavor and tone intact.
Hungry customers wait in line (sometimes for up to two hours) to order from a barebones menu of hot dogs, soda, coffee and milk. But the hot dogs are anything but boring: a natural-casing dog with a crisp snap served on a soft, New England-style bun, both steamed to perfection, then slathered with Flo’s Famous Relish. Don’t ask for ketchup unless you also want a tongue-lashing from Gail!
Crusty attitude aside, Flo’s spicy relish is worth waiting for. Sweet like a chutney, but spicy like a chili sauce, Flo’s Relish will get your tongue dancing and your scalp sweating, thanks to a tangy mix of onions, molasses, vinegar, chili peppers and “secrets”. You can use it on its own or mix it with other condiments. Mayo enhances the sweetness and tempers the heat, while brown mustard adds body and kicks up the spiciness.
For barbecues or grill fare, we recommend Flo’s relish, mayo, mustard and a sprinkle of celery salt – just how Flo’s serves it up!
Susan’s Relish the Moment
Susan Parker’s homemade zucchini relish was a family favorite for over 25 years. Based on an old New England recipe that calls for zucchini grown right in Susan’s garden, her relish was so good that her family hated waiting a full year for the next batch. So she decided to do something about it.
In May 2011, the 54-year-old mother of three and former landscaper took her relish to the next level by contracting with a local food producer. After some tinkering with the recipe, a few weeks of nutritional tests and lots of paperwork, Susan’s zucchini relish hit stores in December 2011. Her relish can now be found in about 15 stores in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. It’s been such a life-changing experience, Susan is planning a book about her thrill ride from the kitchen to the production plant!
The product of Susan’s journey comes in original and chipotle flavors. Both are tangy, vinegar-based relishes that go great with dogs and burgers, but you can do a lot more with them. You’ll love them mixed with tuna, on top of baked chicken, or as a salad dressing or dip. The spicy chipotle version warms your tongue with just a little heat that lingers deliciously. It’s become a favorite in the Retro Planet fridge!
Raye’s Mustard is a family business located in Eastport, Maine, the easternmost city in the country. Raye’s races its roots back to 1900, when J. Wesley Raye started making yellow mustard in his family’s smokehouse for the local sardine industry.
Four generations – and lots of mustard later – the Raye family still makes mustard with the same cold grind process J. Wesley used. In fact, the mill is the last working traditional stoneground mustard mill in the United States! (It’s open year-round for tours if you’re interested.)
This video provides a tantalizing look at the stone mill in action:
It’s the cold stone grinding that gives Raye’s Yellow Mustard its sharp, distinctive flavor. More modern methods employ heat that results in flavor loss. Not so with Raye’s and it’s obvious from the first taste. This isn’t some runny yellow mustard you can squirt all over your shirt, either. Raye’s is delightfully thick, with great body and texture.
We didn’t choose to spotlight these condiments randomly. Most of us have made the pilgrimage to Flo’s Hot Dogs or had the relish at company cookouts, so we know it’s awesome; same goes for Raye’s Mustard; and Susan’s smoky zucchini relish wowed us as much as Susan Parker herself.
Have you tried any of these delicious condiments? Have you been to Flo’s Hot Dogs? We’d love to hear your stories!