Writing for Shop.Dine.Live. has given me a profound respect for the mercantile spirit. I wish I found it sooner. When I was a teenager, I was busy figuring out ways to get girls to like me (I didn’t think of any), playing video games (which didn’t help on the girl front), or just contemplating my navel. Fortunately there are better kids out there than I was.
Nicolai Amende of Mankato is just such a kid. At only seven years old he plunged himself head first into hot sauce — not literally, which would have been excruciating, but rather by trying to fine tune the ultimate recipe for the stuff. It was a trial and error process, a little boy standing on a chair at a kitchen counter fixated on perfecting hot sauce’s flavor and viscosity. One day Nicolai produced a batch that his father believed to be good enough to sell.
A lot of kids get such compliments from their fathers, but the enterprising Nicolai took his dad’s opinion as fact. At the age of ten he founded Nicolai Amende Signature, and started selling his Five Pepper Blend Hot Sauce to his family and friends. Nicolai burned through his entire stock in only a week, at which point he knew he was onto something.
“I have a philosophy when it comes to hot sauce,” said Nicolai, now 18 years old. “It has to balance spiciness and sweetness. You don’t want a sauce that’s so hot you can’t taste anything afterward, but you don’t want it to be so mild that there’s no point to it. People who want a painfully hot sauce? Let them be them, I say, but that kind of sauce doesn’t really complement food like it’s supposed to.
“I also believe in using only non-GMO peppers. Peppers that are grown naturally, without man-made chemicals and fertilizers, have a natural sweetness that’s hard to describe but impossible to miss. All five of the peppers I use are locally and organically grown, and I grow all of my habaneros myself. What kind of peppers do I use? Sorry, that’s proprietary. I don’t share my secrets.
“I currently have five Five Pepper Blend Hot Sauces. My original is the one that started it all, and I like to describe its heat as ‘Minnesota nice’ — you’ll feel it, but it won’t ruin the rest of your day. My chipotle hot sauce is a smoky, savory version of the original, made with peppers that I slow roast over real mesquite. My chili lime hot sauce is perfect for Tex-Mex cooking, with a lush pepper flavor and citrusy twang. My Knaak Attack garlic habanero hot sauce is named after the friend who gives me garden space to grow my habaneros, and is by far the hottest sauce I make — it will have you stomping your feet. Finally there’s my Tsar hot sauce, a tribute to my Russian heritage. Most Americans aren’t familiar with its flavor, but any Russian would immediately recognize it as traditional adjika, a spicy, flavorful condiment that originated in the country of Georgia.
“My plan for the immediate future is to keep getting my hot sauces in more and more stores, and to go to college to study business and accounting. Ultimately, I want to be known as the ‘Hot Sauce King of Minnesota.’ I want Nicolai Amende Signature to be the first thing people think of when they hear about our state!”
Nicolai has a long way to go to beat out Prince, the Vikings, and lutefisk, but the smart kid sure has given himself a heck of a head start. If you would like to see what the future king is currently up to, you can order any of his delicious potions online at fivepepperblend.com. You can also find his bottles at locally owned shops throughout Minnesota!
By David Scheller
Where to Buy Five Pepper Blend Hot Sauce
Blue Skye Mercantile, North Mankato
Dietz Foods, Mapleton
Fiesta Market, Madelia
Hilltop Meat Market, Mankato
Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store, Jordan
Rapidan Dam Store, Rapidan
The Cheese & Pie Mongers, St. Peter
Welsh Heritage Farms, Lake Crystal
Wooden Spoon, Mankato