So, I bought the sauce and began tainting my mental jury before I could even get out of the parking lot. See, I've made more than a few gallons of BBQ sauce from scratch in my day. In fact, it was a bit of an obsession for me for a few years. Along the way, I learned a lot of lessons, and I spread the gospel of fresh-sauce-over-bottled far and wide and made many converts along the way. I drove home mentally working through my mise en place for the dish of sous vide East Coast Smug served over a bed of poached told-you-so that I was planning on sending via FedeX to little Tommie in Yountville, CA. I entered my house, threw down my stuff, grabbed the bottle and removed the top. In went my index finger into the jar and then straight into my pie hole. Then the universe tilted a little to left and then to the right. I know this flavor. Unbelievable. Thomas made spaghetti sauce. And I was happy. Not because he failed, but because he succeeded.
Spaghetti sauce is a terribly inside joke referring to any BBQ sauce made with fresh products. What most of what America thinks of as BBQ sauce is really a gnarly soup of high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, dextrose, xanthum gum, and other things you just don't want to know about. Fresh sauce is tomato product (ketchup, puree, crushed, or other), vinegar, sugars (molasses, dark brown, etc), garlic, Worcestershire, hot sauce, mustard, and you can make it up from there. The consistency is thick and chunky. The color is mostly orange. The aftertaste is a little bitter (I attribute this to the tomato product). It's essentially a red sauce base where you could easily omit the sugars, Worcestershire, mustard and instead add oregano and basil and have spaghetti sauce (hence the inside joke - shout out to Mr. Roberts).
So, when I took that first taste of the Ad Hoc sauce and tasted what I've been working on for years, I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs - I'M NOT CRAZY. THOMAS DOES THE SAME CRAZY SH#T! See, I gave up the fresh sauce thing a couple years ago because it just falls apart on several levels when you really get into it. Fresh costs way too damn much, especially in the BBQ world. When I worked out the costs one time for a catering gig, it came to $30 a gallon. Most commercial sauces run around $10 a gallon. Then, the mouth feel is all wrong with a fresh sauce because you don't have that corn syrup greasing your gullet. Hell yes, fresh tastes better, but it just messes with your head - chunks and whatnot. Then there is the storage issue. Fresh isn't as shelf-stable as bottled. I could go on forever. Fresh sauce requires an unrelenting devotion to the belief that scratch is always better, and that can be a little tough some days and is completely impractical in the restaurant world.
What I can tell you is that after tasting the Ad Hoc sauce, I knew I wasn't some BBQ Don Quixote. If Keller can bring a dollar an ounce sauce to market that tastes like what I've been serving my family and friends for years, then my world in Atlanta isn't so different from Thomas' in Yountville. And that makes me happy. If you need a killer Father's Day gift for your griller in the family, go buy him a bottle of the Ad Hoc sauce. Then when he falls in love with it, send him back here for the recipe. I KNOW how to make this sauce.