It may have been a cold and rainy weekend in NY, but, thousands of NYers experienced a brutal heat wave inside the second annual Hot Sauce Expo, held at the Penn Plaza Pavilion. Over 40 vendors assembled to show off their sauces, condiments, snacks and even ice cream, all spiked with varying degrees of heat. To quench the fire (or fan the flames) a section of craft distillers and beer vendors were busy pouring samples of liquid courage for those feeling the burn at this unique event.
VIP tickets included unlimited samples of beer, cocktails and all the samples you wished to try in the main room, filled with enough scoville units to implode the insides of a seasoned sideshow fire-eater. Personally I’m glad I hit up the alcohol portion first or I might not have been able to handle what I was going to experience later on in the hot sauce hall. Bloody Mary’s made from a base of infused Stoli Vodka, Murph’s bloody mary mix, beef broth and bacon were a crowd favorite, along with Clyde May’s Alabama Whiskey and Tirado Gold, a corn whiskey made by a former doctor at the first farm distillery in the Bronx. Sailor Jerry was offering up a pop up barbershop and pin-up make overs along with their Rum based cocktails, one of the most unusual things I’ve ever seen at a tasting.
Armed with a few shots under my belt I headed over to meet culinary pyro Sam, of Zack and Zane’s, a beekeeper with a line of insanely hot sauces, mustard and a line of cream cheese spiked with Habanero peppers. Who would think a pretty little jar with a gold top could make your eyes water? Holy Jesus on a cracker! This stuff packed a punch, one I wasn’t expecting as the creamy texture soon exploded into pure heat. It would be sure to add flavor to any cream sauce or dip, and many recipes are offered up on the web including the devil’s eggs, a dish that would blow the lid off of your next picnic to say the least. Creative use of balance made this a winning booth for me, with products in a range to please every palate.
My favorite of the show was a Portuguese Repolho Relish crafted in West Hurley, NY by Terry Baron of Baron’s International Kitchen. Using family recipes from the Caribbean, the West Indies and Portugal, Terry, a former marketing executive, is heating up the kitchen with marinades, sauces and condiments that I loved. I can’t wait to try her relish with a cheese plate.
Hundreds of samples were available, everything from the mildest of salsa (named girly, girl!), to gasp inducing products with names to match. I wasn’t as brave as some, one young woman who resembled a whirling dervish convinced me to avoid something called Volcano Dust. Clearly not something to try if you’re not up to busting a move or two.
Everyone had great fun at this event, I look forward to next year, I think it will only get better, and now I’ve got a bit of experience navigating my way around the pain to savor the pleasures offered at this event filled with flavor.