During nearly three decades as a special agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Ray Roundtree was used to packing heat.
Now, its his Red Devil Hot Links that do that.
The recently retired Oakland native traded a career in law enforcement for entrepreneurship when he founded his passion project, Richmond’s Urban Flavors Gourmet line of sausages, condiments and spices.
“It has been my dream to be an entrepreneur in this ever competitive marketplace,” he says. “I kept my promise to my parents for three decades that I would finish what I started with my career as an ATF agent. It is now time for me to venture into the unchartered waters of my new culinary endeavors ‘one bite at a time.’ “
Roundtree’s family has a heritage of barbecue, as his grandparents hailed from Arkansas and North Carolina, before moving to the Bay Area. Growing up, Roundtree’s family nurtured a small garden at their East Oakland home, growing organic vegetables that made their way into many home-cooked meals.
He took weekend classes at the California Culinary Academy until he was transferred to ATF headquarters in Washington, D.C., where he managed to make time to lay the groundwork for his Urban Flavors Gourmet. When he was promoted to a position in the Oakland office, he took the opportunity to start up his company full bore in 2018. After he retired, he expanded even more with catering and pop-ups. With the advent of the pandemic, though, those ground to a halt.
His products, based on family recipes, can still be enjoyed, though. They’re sold on his web site, as well as in a handful of local retailers. I had a chance to try samples recently.
Three sausage varieties are available: Classic Savory, Half Smoke Mild, and Red Devil Hot Links. They are super juicy, with casings that have a great snappiness to them. They also feature premium ingredients. The Red Devil and Half Smoke are made from prime-grade beef. The Classic Savory is a blend of Black Angus beef and Duroc pork.
The Classic Savory is redolent of paprika, onion, and celery salt — a good all-around sausage. The Half Smoke Mild boasts a wonderfully smoky and peppery taste. The Red Devils — made with red chili, cayenne, chipotle and turmeric — are thankfully not ferociously hot, but pleasingly spicy with throaty heat.
Dollop some of Roundtree’s Spicy Peach Bourbon barbecue sauce on any of the sausages, and snuggle it into a bun, for a satisfying, easy-breezy meal. The sauce — sweet, smoky, and pretty spicy — is a thick, sticky blend of peaches, peach schnapps, whiskey, honey, molasses, and Worcestershire. It would be delicious on grilled ribs, chicken, shrimp or pork chops, too.
Urban Flavors Gourmets also makes two seasoning blends low in sodium: All-Purpose Seasoning, and Sazon Seasoning. The former is a zesty blend of onions, celery, Spanish paprika, lemon peel, garlic, parsley, and cilantro that can be shaken on most any protein or vegetable. The latter is more Spanish-influenced with chile powder and annatto in the mix, giving it a sweet, smoky, and mildly spicy profile.
The All-Purpose Seasoning and Sazon Seasoning, both in 2.5-ounce jars, sell for $4.99 and $6.79, respectively, on the Urban Flavors Gourmet website, along with the Spicy Peach Bourbon barbecue sauce (9-ounce jar) for $7.99.