Philty Milty's Safe Zone
This is the second of four sauces Rickie Cox so graciously provided me to try out. Rickie and Milton Johnson are the duo behind the Philty Milty's brand, creating the business together when the childhood friends found themselves with two disparate problems that had a common solution—one needed a way to earn extra income, while the other had enough cash that it made financial sense to start a company. At first, Philty Milty's operated as a catering business, leaning heavily into the pair's prior experience working in a barbecue restaurant. That venture led to the creation of a barbecue sauce that they began to see as their core product, so they scaled back their catering efforts to focus on the production of just that. Currently two of sauce recipes are available for sale online and in stores around their home locale of Oakland, CA.
A "bold" and familiar barbecue aroma permeates throughout the nostrils on first whiff of this sauce with its heavy handed sweet molasses and smoky character. While the molasses is front and center, it's backed by a pretty hefty amount of sweet tomato ketchup and a strong hit of complex Worcestershire, all working to cement the standard barbecue profile. The prominence of those four main players drown out the smells of any spices that may be at work, including any pepper, making this a solidly sweet sauce going by smell alone.
Thickness & Texture
With its opaqueness and dark maroon color, it's hard to make out any spices in this sauce except for a few black pepper specs here and there. A glossy sheen that reflects the light might also be helping mask the spices in this very smooth sauce that is medium-thick and very syrupy. From a suspended spoon, the sauce falls in a fast, even, and continuous stream that only changes to a few slow drips once most of it has released. The sauce then stops and leaves a medium-thin coating left clinging the silverware whose semi-transparency finally allows you see the small and medium red and black spice specs peppered throughout.
Out of the Jar
The familiar taste of sweet tomato ketchup is what first comes out as the sauce hits the tongue, but it only takes a split second for the molasses to add extra sweetness and depth to the party. Those two traits remain upfront as the Worcestershire makes an entrance and adds a savory complexity, while a slightly pungent liquid smoke and medium vinegar tartness join next to round out the barbecue profile. This remains the full flavor until right when the sauce starts to make an exit and the molasses sweetness ebbs a bit and the spices come out, with a primarily peppery profile that's a combination of a very mild cayenne burn buddied up with a sharp black pepper kick. Those are really minor players though as the sauce stays steadily sweet, tangy, and smoky in the aftertaste.
Slathered & Cooked
This sauce coated the chicken in a medium, even layer that baked down very well over indirect heat. When moved directly over the coals, there was fast and heavy caramelization and only minimal sauce loss. The flavor continued to deliver that on-brand standard sweet tomato barbecue that was experienced out the jar. The changes after being cooked were in the darkened bits, which unfortunately tasted slightly burnt rather than intensely caramelized sugar.
Put to Use
When you take in a spoonful of Philty Milty's Safe Zone, you'll probably have a familiar comforting barbecue experience take hold as I did. What you get is pretty much the grocery store staple profile, but done in a manner with better balance, better ingredients, and without a processed feel. All that taken together will surely make most folks happy and make for some great backyard barbecue, I just wouldn't count on this sauce taken things to the next level as it treads familiar and crowded ground. The fact that the quick caramelization translated into a slightly burnt flavor, dinged the sauce a little in my overall perception, but that doesn't mean it doesn't grill well, it just requires a more watchful eye to ensure you get a thick, glistening exterior instead of a blackened one. Personally, I think this sauce would work best on items cooked at lower temperatures, like a rack of ribs, or used as a condiment for chicken, fries, and such, where the sauce's thick, syrupy consistancy and sweet, tangy character will have the most effect with no possible downfalls.