There was much ado about mustard recently when Republicans (yes, there are a few left), desperate to spotlight any controversy - real or otherwise - connected to a super-popular president, unconvincingly feigned outrage that Obama had the nerve to request a spicy Dijon spread on his cheeseburger.

There was much ado about mustard recently when Republicans (yes, there are a few left), desperate to spotlight any controversy -real or otherwise - connected to a super-popular president, unconvincingly feigned outrage that Obama had the nerve to request a spicy Dijon spread on his cheeseburger.

Beyond wondering when freakin' mustard became an exotic elitist affectation, beyond (as a friend pointed out) noting that Grey Poupon is made by Kraft Foods, beyond feeling confused by and embarrassed for untethered political blowhards, I began thinking about condiments.

See, when it comes to flair-lending flavoring agents, I'm a "big tent" kind of person. So as long as the zesty flourishes don't obliterate the featured player, I say, the more the merrier.

Therefore, in my personal statute of liberty, I say bring me your mustard, your ketchup, your bottled mayos - I welcome them all, and more, into the freedom-loving harbor of my equal-opportunity gobbling mouth.

With this in mind - and cookout season at hand - I decided to profile a few less-conventional condiments that can easily lend sophistication to a simple meal. I'll start with boutiquey versions of familiar standbys and move on to a few racier "dressings."

All have the power to either flatter a bratwurst, perk up a charcoaled fish or even create an interesting dip. You see, at my unbigoted cookouts, the only thing unwelcome (aside from pesky insects) is idiocy - edible, political or otherwise.


Stadium Mustard

A Cleveland and G.A. favorite, it's served in over 100 big-time American stadiums - including Huntington Park. Vinegary and with a quickly dissipating spicy zing, it slices through fatty or greasy meat.

Recommended for: Anything you like between bread, especially pork sausages.

Buy it at: Almost anywhere


Maggi Hot & Sweet Tomato Chili Sauce

Made in India, this is like ketchup with an attitude. Its tangy tomato base is jacked up with chili and a hint of garlic.

Recommended for: Perking up boring burgers or anywhere else ketchup would go.

Buy it at: Patel Brothers, Indian grocery stores


Duke's Mayonnaise

The eggiest, richest and thickest commercial mayo I've ever tasted. It's really tangy, too, and unlike every other big-name mayo, it has no added sugar. Made in South Carolina since 1917, it's a Southern family favorite but is now available at select northern stores.

Recommended for: Potato salad, egg salad and every manner of sandwich - but especially BLTs and (if you really want to get your rebel yell on) that daunting Dixie favorite, the banana sandwich.

Buy it at: Fresh Market


Swad Coriander Chutney

An addictive and explosive version of the green stuff served in Indian restaurants. It has a coconut-fortified, thickish texture and a complex flavor that's tart and fiery with touches of garlic and cumin.

Recommended for: Marinades and stir-fries, tossed onto veggies, brilliantly smeared right onto just-grilled meats or fish, or making a nifty dip with yogurt/mayo.

Buy it at: Patel Brothers, Indian grocery stores


Wei-Chuan Dumpling Sauce

Call it soy sauce with style and backbone. Its deep flavors are soy-sauce salty, but also slightly sweet and they deliver a swift kick of chili heat.

Recommended for: Marinades for fish, pork and chicken, and poured right onto cooked vegetables or seared steak.

Buy it at: Crestview Market, Asian supermarkets


Sparky and Spike's Tangy Pepper Relish

Call it an awesome, all-purpose giardiniera. It's chunky, fruity and spicy and has a background base of mustard.

Recommended for: Chicken, pork or fish, or even "cream cheesed" into a delicious dip.

Buy it at: North Market's farmers market