Notes from the 2nd annual New York Hot Sauce Expo
I’ve been agonising over how to sum up a day of tasting easily over a hundred different hot sauces, wing sauces, horseradishes, bloody Mary mixes and seasonings, and there’s no way I could list them all and recount vividly my reaction to each. So here’s what I decided to do: firstly, here follows a series of observations and highlights of the whole Hot Sauce Expo experience. And subsequently, a Top Five of what I consider to have been the most memorable, and most delicious, sauces. Essentially, these were the ones I felt compelled to take home with me!
Dear reader, I offer you these snippets and observations, by way of summary:
It is possible to build up a worrisome tolerance. The jalapeno-bacon-cheese chips (courtesy of Deano’s Jalapenos) that I bought tasted fairly innocuous when sampled at the Expo. I have since discovered that they have quite a kick! They nonetheless come very highly recommended, and act both as an interesting topping and a handy snack. Although, nothing prepares the human body for the onslaught of the spiciest of the spicy, as my post detailing my brush with the fine folk of Voodoo Chile will testify.
What I considered to be quite unfair was the complete lack of anything on hand to temper the chili heat – no milk, no yoghurt, no other such concoctions designed to calm the spicy beast. There were free cheese samples: spicy cheese. Spicy cheese? Heavens above. For better or for worse, there was always beer, provided by the outstanding Lagunitas Brewery.
People are stupid. But when this stupidity is harnessed for the entertainment of others, it can readily be overlooked. The participants in both the wing-eating and spicy pizza-eating contests of course deserve high praise for their commitment to the cause. By, my lord, what idiots. Braver/hardier/foolisher (delete as applicable) souls than I, for sure. But all’s fair in the name of entertainment, and entertained we were. In fairness though, I suppose the same applies to those who were willing to put themselves through a day of tasting hot sauces in the name of fun, ergo everyone who paid the $12 to get through the door…yours truly included.
It was a great day out, for aficionados such as myself and for the hot sauce novice such as my friend’s mother who, despite travelling 200 miles from New England, didn’t begrudge the fact that she was spending a rare trip to NYC in a room full of nutjob spice fiends, and even looked like she was enjoying herself! That said, it was pelting it down outside – she could have just been happy not to be soaked through. An impressive mix of people of all ages, from all walks of life, in one room, with at least one thing in common (I’m going to assume I don’t have to spell out what that one thing is). A special experience.
The following day, everything tasted weird. Not spicy, just strange. Even water had a bizarre flavour to it. My taste buds had been well and truly annihilated.
All in all, ridiculous. Fun. Entertaining. A learning experience. I certainly feel that I’ve been given plenty to think about, more than I thought possible. After all, it’s just a bunch of sauces made from peppers, right?! Great conversations about cultivating chilies, hot sauce recipe tips, different types of pepper and the nuances of their respective flavours, the merits of sampling tinctures not recommended for human consumption, how starting a hot sauce company wasn’t an obvious career choice, obligatory questions about my out-of-place accent and many more besides. All being well I’ll be there again next year. It might take that long to truly recover.
Ian "Buzz" Burrows