Notes from the 2nd annual
New York Hot Sauce Expo
VOODOO CHILE“It’ll last around ten to twelve minutes”, he said as he produced an unmarked vial from a leather pouch on his belt and proceeded to measure a mere teardrop of sauce on to my outreached plastic spoon. I had already experienced the hellfire of CaJohn’s Black Mamba, the tear-inducing agony of Tom’s Roid Rippin’ Crimson Reaper and the sheer searing scourge of Volcanic Peppers’ Olympus Mons, all of which were well into the millions on the Scoville range. It wasn’t like I hadn’t already spent all day subjecting myself to these and many more intensely hot, though intensely delicious, concoctions. I thought I was ready. But Voodoo Chile’s offering was a different beast altogether. Having sampled a few of their tamer offerings, including the positively delectable Porcus Infernum (bacon-infused hot sauce? Yes please!), it was time to get down to business. I had made it my mission to sample the hottest hot sauces known to mankind. This sort of opportunity didn’t readily present itself all that often.
The man behind the stand couldn’t put a finger on exactly how hot his latest tincture was – somewhere in the 9-12 million Scoville ballpark was his educated guess. He also mentioned that the stuff was not, and probably would never be, available for purchase. He certainly wasn’t doing anything to encourage me that taking a sample was a good idea. Quite the opposite, in fact. That should have served as a more than adequate warning. But no. I insisted: I wanted to go to the “next level”.
|Black Mamba. 6 million of your finest SHUs...|
As I unleashed the sauce upon my taste buds, I felt that unmistakable tingle on my tongue – though without any of the flavours or nuances that, as any discerning hot head would agree, make the whole experience worthwhile. The kind man was talking me through the various stages I’d encounter on my “trip”: two to three minutes of gradually building heat working its way to the back of the throat, followed by a couple of minutes of sustained heat. After which, the spice would spend the next few minutes coming and going in waves, eventually tailing off…as he was describing this experience to me I could feel nothing but pain; my nose and eyes were streaming, my throat throbbing and tightening up to such an extent I was gasping for air. There was a point at which I genuinely thought it was never going to end.
In the midst of all this, and hitherto unbeknownst to me, a small crowd had started to gather to witness what can only be described as total hot sauce meltdown, seemingly taking pleasure in my misadventure. At this point, I hastily took off for the nearest bathroom, hoping to expel the build-up of nasty stuff in my nose and to put my head under the tap for a good few minutes. Alas, no. A queue for the gents. A QUEUE! The well-drilled Brit that I am, I stood patiently in line, desperately trying my best to act as if everything was quite alright, whilst reassuring myself that this is probably one of the few occasions where it is acceptable for grown men to be seen crying in public, and noting that I had reached “the waves” stage: relative relief as the spicy surge abated, only for it to come back stronger each time. My body was shaking. My temperature going hot and cold, sweat rushing down my face, in unison with the snot and tears. A certain numbness had come over me, although I was still in pure agony. The end had to be near – to the queue and to the suffering. And sure enough, it was over just as quickly as it had started. By the time I had made it to the front of the line, my desperation had suddenly subsided, the onslaught was over and the fire in my throat was slowly but surely fading to glowing embers. It seemed to last a lifetime, but a glance at my watch confirmed that around ten minutes had elapsed; my ordeal was over. On to the next one.
Links to these purveyors of fine hot sauces and other such spicy products:
Ian "Buzz" Burrows
Want more? Read Buzz's second report from the New York Hot Sauce Expo...