Dave Bonet doesn’t speak like an angry person, but perhaps that’s because he lets his sauce do the talking.

The fruity, acidic aroma of Dave’s Angry Sauce caresses my nostrils upon entering Bridgeport’s Bessemer Center, located at 2200 North Avenue, where Dave Bonet and his son, Anthony Lopez, are making a batch of Sweet & Savory Scotch Bonnets, one of three available flavors. Compared to the company’s branding, which features a cartoonish Dave blowing steam out of his ears, the founder seems considerably less angry in person, particularly when wearing a COVID-mandated mask; he confesses to having “resting bitch face. It doesn’t matter if I’ve won the lottery or am furious, my face is the same.”

Born and raised in Bridgeport, Bonet grew up in the Puerto Rican community and saw their spicy infused vinegars as inspiration. “As far as making the hot sauce, I learned from my uncle in Puerto Rico. In Puerto Rico they call it hot vinegar, they’d make pineapple vinegar and they’d have chili peppers and onions floating in there. It’s delicious and so good—and he taught me how to make it. That’s where my experimenting started coming in. taking the base knowledge of fermentation and adding my own twist.” Harnessing lacto-fermentation, a salt-and-water-and-time process that kills off bad bacteria and allows healthy bacteria to do their thing, Bonet takes peppers and ferments them for weeks, then blends them with spices and bottles the sauces monthly. Overseeing everything, Bonet says he’s committed to flavor and fresh ingredients, so much so that this year’s difficult growing season for peppers made life difficult for him as well.

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Bonet had been making hot sauce for himself and friends for well over a decade before receiving a round of seed funding in 2018 from CitySeed and Collab’s Food Business Accelerator. The New Haven-based program lasts 10 weeks and provides training in operations, regulatory compliance and other important areas of knowledge for aspiring food businesses, which Bonet passes along to others via his podcast, The Late Night PotLuck Show. He graduated from the program in February 2019 with other gastronomic alums including Filipino barbecue pop-up KAWIT!, soup delivery business Sopa and Vegan Ahava, a food truck that recently opened a shared storefront on Court Street.

Thus Dave’s Angry Sauce was born. Its three flavors of hot sauce range from “medium” to “hot” to “hotter”: Jalapeño Lime, Sweet & Savory Scotch Bonnets and Fire Roasted Habaneros. The Jalapeño Lime starts with a little acidic tingle and blossoms into a fruity body with edge, finishing with a whiff of lime. It doesn’t feel like a “hot sauce” in the vein of tabasco— considerably less vinegar is in play—and could be widely applied to anything that could benefit from sauce. I liked it especially well on tacos and sandwiches, particularly on a bánh mì.

The Scotch Bonnets sauce, Bonet’s original recipe, is much spicier. But it’s balanced by a curl of smoke and an aftertaste of fruity, brined, fermented peppers, somewhere between eating a pickle and munching a scotch bonnet right off the plant. As the sauce lingers on the tongue, waves of flavor land, ranging from sweet to fiery but never devolving into Scoville unit essentialism.

Then there’s the bright red Fire Roasted Habanero, which lives up to its name in more than looks. What I can only describe as charred spice hits the palate almost immediately, flowering like a plume of flame as more subdued smoky notes settle in for the long haul. For a sauce that packs a punch, it’s still just tasty, with great potential in chili, though it could turn any dish into a controlled burn.

Besides the flagship hot sauces, Bonet offers seasonal jams and the occasional barbecue sauce, all derived from that fundamental process of lacto-fermenting peppers. The brine from the peppers—an opaque gold liquid that smells like angry pickle juice in all the right ways—goes into the barbecue sauce. “If I’m not making hot sauce, I can’t make barbecue,” Bonet says. “It gives it the tang.” Being more seasonal, his jams are extremely small-batch. A Strawberry Jalapeño jam sold out quickly this year, and there won’t be any more until next.

Available online via the company website; at occasional farmer’s markets including in Bridgeport, Fairfield and Trumbull; and at small boutique stores like New Haven’s Atticus Market, Bonet’s angry sauces are plucky, pungent and full of unique flavor that helps them stand out from the tableau of small glass bottles on my fridge door. He hopes to find more local establishments to sell his sauces but also wants to maintain his commitment to small batches and big flavors. “I’m not looking to replace Frank’s,” he says, referring to the commercially ubiquitous hot sauce brand, and for those of us who live close enough to get our hands on some Dave’s, that’s nothing to be mad about.

Dave’s Angry Sauce
2200 North Ave, Bridgeport (map)
Website & Shop | Instagram

Written and photographed by Allison Hadley.

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